Monday, October 27, 2008

New Life with Host Family

17 October 2008

Still back tracking quite a bit. But here we go. For roughly the past three weeks, I have been living with my completely awesome host family. That’s right, they are cox yaxsi (very good). The two M_____ clusters load all of our stuff onto a minibus, and there is barely enough room for us on this bus. Somehow we stuff ourselves into the bus and we take off towards M_____. Peace Corps does not allow me to give specifics about my location or the location of my friends, so M___ will just have to do. I am sitting next to Sara and we try to take in the abundant landscape of dirt, a salt lake, and what looks like the ruins of houses.

It feels like we have barely been on the road when Khalig announces that we are in M___. We drop Marina off first. Three little boys in stained t-shirts and sandals excited great her. I know I was secretly really glad not to be the first one dropped off. Polad explains to us that he doesn’t really know the area, so Marina’s host brother hops on the bus to help us navigate our new community. Next Josh departs the bus and disappears behind a metal gate. Sara’s house is up the hill behind Josh’s house; however, the road is not completed so Polad, Khalig, Tony, Sara, and I form a mini procession to Sara’s house.

In the background, we can hear a lady laughing at us. M_____ is so muddy, I have to walk around the gravel piles and the mud puddles. We finally get to Sara’s. Her house is sparse, but her host sister seems nice. We give each other a final hug to wish each other courage, and without another word, I leave Sara. I am scared for what awaits me. All my Azeri is fleeing my head as if my brain were on fire. When I get on the bus, Polad announces that I am next on the chopping block. I brace myself as the masrutka starts up again. (It really was a bumpy ride emotionally and physically). With every meter passed, I remind myself that I am doing this to myself.

Arriving at my house, is a bit of a shock. Four little boys are outside the house to help me bring my stuff in. Ok, I can deal with a house full of little boys. I arrive inside and I am completely blown away. I live in a nice, pre-fabricated house. My room is a pale green with curtains, a cute writing table, and wardrobe. I meet my host mom, host sister, and I am still trying to figure out the little boys. Ushered into the living room (which has a chandelier), I am given tea (cay) and we try to make small talk. It is rather pathetic, but oi. Eventually I figure out that I only have one host brother. The other little boys are cousins.

Then I am ushered back into my room to unpack. Gunay (my 17 year old host sister) stays in my room while I unpack. It is considered very rude to leave guests alone, so we awkwardly try to converse. But I can tell I like Gunay. Despite her giving me vocab lessons that frankly aren’t sticking, I like my Ana, Ata, baci, and gardas. They keep telling me about Marina and pointing to her house. I finally understand after supper that we are going to visit Marina.

I bundle up (because it’s cool outside and because I know that Ana would make me bundle up) and hop into a car for a two-minute car ride. Marina’s host dad and my host mom are siblings. I cannot tell you how relieved I way to see Marina. After a whole afternoon of Azerbaijani and understanding very little, Marina was a small beacon of hope where I could be understood and mainly to prevent me from crying.

The next day brought a group trip to Sumgayit to purchase cell phones. It was a horribly rainy day. But it was again nice to have English spoken to me, to have a means of communicating, and to walk around. All of AZ6 told stories of their host families, what their first night was like, and exchanged phone numbers. After trudging around in the sludge, I found going back to my host family not to be so daunting. Polad, my LCF, came in with me to explain to my family that I was a vegetarian and that I do not eat meat (like chicken, beef, fish). Ata was disappointed that I didn’t eat kabobs, but such is life.

Monday off to language class. I was not allowed to walk alone. But apparently neither was Marina. Our host brothers acted like guardians bringing their Americans to school. It was like kindergarten all over again. Thus began the next three weeks of our highly scheduled lives.