Thursday, December 25, 2008

So What About Lerik?

24 December 2008
I realize that many of my posts have been about the inner workings of my mind lately. The reason for this fact is basically two-fold: A) Settling in was hard for me B) Lerik was basically a winter-wonderland the first week. Today is gorgeous and sunny. All the snow has melted in the town leaving only the mountains snow capped. I have enjoyed walking around town still not knowing where anything is, but it is nice to be able to the leave the home compound.
I am slowly growing accustomed to my new surroundings, and the beauty of my new home takes me aback. I know that I will grow to love Lerik and the people here. Already their kindness and smiles have become the little things that make each day wonderful. M____ was my home because of a family, but Lerik will be my home because of the community.
It is literally a 30 second walk from my door to Məktəb 1, but the air always smells fresh and cool. In the afternoon, chickens run around the yard. I can hear children play, loud TVs from the neighbours, and people going about their business. Lerik is surprisingly devoid of cars; they exist, but I don’t see very many. It is nice not to hear cars all the time.
My room is my little sanctuary and is much larger than my room in M____. I have books lining the windowsill, shoes hiding under my bed, and clothes lying on the bed opposite the one I sleep on (still waiting for my wardrobe).
I am moving slowly, taking it all in slowly, and incubating. Things will take a while here but no need to rush. I have two years.
P.S. Yesterday was three months living in Azerbaijan!

Bad At Firsts

24 December 2008
Talked to my parents last night. It definitely was the Christmas cheer I needed for the bizarre holiday season that is both existing and not existing at the same time. Mom asked me how my first week in Lerik went. I told her it was really hard. I wanted to cry. I was overwhelmed. My language skills definitely need a pretty big overhaul. I am still settling in. But, I cried on Sunday, and now I’m feeling a lot better. Things seem a bit more manageable now.
My mom, being the wonderful lady she is, kind of laughed and commented, “Amy, you’ve always been bad at firsts. But once you get past the first, you’ve always done fine.”
I would write about how that’s not true, but it really is. I am terrible at firsts. The first day of school was always terribly stressful. Eleni would always send me for laps around the dorm the first week of school because I would fill up our room with nervous energy. The first language class at Aqua Park left me almost tearing up. Firsts inevitably overwhelm me, frustrate me, and leave me doubting my ability to do anything. And yet, I keep going. Mainly because experience has told me that once I get past the first week things start looking better. (Or maybe firsts are so fleeting that I am already on the second or third before I can turn around.)
So the first week is done, and I am half was through the second week. Things are indeed looking better. So while Peace Corps will be full of many firsts (which will be scary), there will be many seconds and thirds to look forward to.
Next week brings another big first: 1 January 2009. Happy New Years! Luckily that is a first that is always easy to deal with.
Today is my Dad’s birthday. This will be the first time that I ever miss his birthday. But I know he will be surrounded by love today. (And love from Azerbaijan – how many dad’s can say that?)

Candy Game

22 December 2008
To say that I drink a lot of tea in Azerbaijan would be a gross understatement. The majority of the liquids I consume in this country is in the form of hot black tea (and to the shock of most without any sugar added). Side note: I found a package of green tea today, so now I sneak a glass of green tea every now and then. But the prolific amount of tea, my Azerbaijani counterparts and I consumer is not the point of this post. As this post is titled, I want to write a bit about the game the PCVs play when we have tea. I almost want to venture to say that the Azerbaijanis play this game too.
When tea is served, especially to guests, a candy dish filled to the brim accompanies the tea, jam, and sugar. The candy is brightly wrapped mainly in the waxy paper that covers the candy at my grandmother’s house. One can see pictures of squirrels, cows, cats, moons, and (my favourite) lobsters. Opening up the candy wrapper is always a surprise. What are you trying to eat? What will is taste like? Do I really want to try it?
After a couple of rounds with the candy, I normally prefer to refrain from the candy game. I take my chances with the jam. But the candy game is kind of fun. During PST, we would sit around the candy dish daring the other PCTs to try the candy. Of course, when you try the candy you have to describe it. My normal line was, “Not bad, but I wouldn’t eat it again.”
It’s not that the candy was bad. It was just always a surprise. Sometimes, it was amazing. Sometimes, not so much. It reminds me of being at my grandmother’s house and trying the candy; who knows how old some of the candy I ate at Momo’s was.
I am eating a piece of candy while I type this. It’s not bad. I probably would eat it again. But the weird thing about candy here is that it always seems like a limited time offer. I rarely see the same piece of candy twice; maybe it’s a plot to continue this candy game.

One Week In

20 December 2008
Well, I am now officially one week into living at my permanent site. I really can’t lie it has been rather hard. My language skills aren’t overly fantastic, so at times I miss completely what was said. When I am tired, I can barely understand anything. The cold weather completely throws me off. What is this snow? Why are my toes cold all the time? I am missing my American family, my M_____ family, and my friends. I’m very much a schedule person, and right now, I don’t have a schedule. All together with so much more means that currently I am feeling a bit like a fish out of water.
The point of this post is neither to evoke sympathy nor to cry woe is me but rather attempt to give you a version of my reality. Things will not be peachy all the time. I know that, but now I must question why are things not peachy right now.
That answer is easily summed up with this word: me. I am the primary reason that this week has been hard. It’s been a self-wallowing week. And contrary to what you may think, I have allowed myself to wallow this week. Call it an entitlement issue if you will, but I think we are all allowed to wallow for a bit. The bit is determined by the situation. But I think a week has been more than reasonable for the adjustments I have recently made in my life. That all being said a week is enough. Now, I must go out and do what I came here to do: PCV it up.
I once told some friends during PST that on paper I am not a good Peace Corps candidate. On paper, one would think I belong in a lab where situations are carefully controlled, rationally explained, and meticulously detailed. There is a part of me that does enjoy the control, but a larger part of me rebelled against the lab coat a long time ago. (I still mourn for the lab coat from time to time.) I can be easily overwhelmed and painfully shy; the idea of introducing myself into a new community frankly scares me quite a bit.
Back in college, four years ago actually, I met a brilliant woman named Hallie. I must say that I still deeply admire her; she was so vibrant, intelligent, and talented. (We struggled through History of Anthropological Theory together.) Hallie once told me that she was in anthropology not because it was easy for her but because she was interested enough in the field to overcome the challenges. That idea has stuck with me.
If this were easy, would I really want to be a PCV? The answer is probably not. Of course there will be ups and downs, but this is only week one. I haven’t even given myself time to find my groove. (On the flip side, I have given myself time to adjust to my reality.) Right now, I am trying to overcome my largest obstacle in pursuing my own happiness and community integration, which is myself. It is weird when you can admit that, but that means you can still see the forest for the trees, right?
Everyday is like the first day of school, and I am the new kid at a school where everyone has been going to school together since kindergarten. Everyone knows I am the new kid. Some days, it is hard to get out the front door, but today, I am making myself get out the front door. My week is done. Now, back to the real world.


17 December 2008
I have heard Peace Corps in Eastern Europe referred to as the Posh Corps because we don’t “rough it” like other PCVs do in Africa, Asia, the Americas, or a tiny island. Indeed, I have a nice roof over my head, a well-made bed, and even a satellite TV (we catch MTV Turkey). But in many other ways, I know that I am “roughing it” like so many other PCVs.
First: I live in a very snowy region. In fact I do not think that it will thaw out in Lerik until April. This means that when nature calls, I have to go the outhouse. Going to the outhouse in the snow is the most paradoxical thing, I have experienced. You need to bundle up just to drop your pants (or lift your skirt in my case). This morning, I threw on a jacket, headlamp, and hat over my pyjamas to find my way to the outhouse. Do not read the text in the brackets if you are squeamish. [Despite how cold it is getting to the outhouse, it is always surprisingly warm in that little shack. I know that I shouldn’t be too surprised considering the whole structure sits over a compost heap and everything is leaving your body at a supposed 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit.]
When I am done with the outhouse, I again must go through the snow to get back to the house. The next fun part is washing your hands. The reason why I am using the outdoor squat instead of the indoor squat is because all the pipes are frozen. If any water can come out of the tap, it is freezing cold, so my host family had to show me how to hold a 2-litre bottle of water under my arm and direct the water to wash my hands. A fun experience. By this time, my hands feel like ice, and I have to stand over the gas pec in the living room or my bedroom just to feel my hands again.
Second: I am grateful for all the warm clothes I own, but I never thought I would have to wear them all at once. Since moving down South (I always associated going South with heat), I wear three layers. On the top, I wear long underwear, shirt, and sweater; on the bottom, I wear tights, long underwear; and on my feet, I wear wool liner socks and a pair of hiking socks. Don’t forget that I am already wearing a pair of tights. For some reason, I still can never feel my feet in class. I keep changing the foot combination hoping to discover a solution. Current thought is sweat gets trapped in the tights, so leggings will be worn tomorrow.
In fact, the only time I do not wear three layers of clothing is when I am going to bed. Then I wear wool socks and long johns. I sleep in a Peace Corps issued sleeping bag that is rated for -20 Fahrenheit. It is currently my BEST friend. Seriously, I love that sleeping bag. I have not been cold one night in Lerik.
Three: Have I mentioned it snows here? Look, I know some of y’all are from snowy places. That is great, and I admire your ability to deal with the snow and the cold. BUT (my sixth grade history teacher used to say “but” negates everything you said before the “but”) I am from south Louisiana. I went to school in southern California. See a trend. Amy is from the SOUTH. I can deal with hot. Summer in Louisiana is no picnic. It’s hot, and the heat index always says it feels five degrees hotter. It’s humid, so humid that you know you will be drenched with sweat just walking to your car. There are blood-sucking insects. I must be homesick because I think all of those things sound delightful.
It must have snowed at least 6 inches today if not more. It’s fascinating. It’s pretty. And I have no clue what to do with it. It may not be roughing it for some of y’all, but it’s a completely different animal for me. Give me until March. I’m sure I will sound like a proper winter weathered individual by then.
I am sure there will be more to come soon. After all, I have not washed my clothes yet in Lerik. What do you do in a place where you line-dry clothes and there are icicles on the clothesline?

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The end is near?

9 December 2008
Dearest everyone,
This may be the last post for a bit, because of the questionable internet available in Lerik. I know the Internat exist, but internet still remains to be seen. That being sad, do not fear, this is not the end of long Amy rambles. There just may be longer pauses between them.
Tomorrow, I will swear in as a PCV. I finally made it. More exciting is that we all finally made it! All 61 people who came to Azerbaijan as PCT are swearing in tomorrow. This is truly an accomplishment. AZ06 is an exceptional incoming class. I just feel as if everyone is so upbeat and positive. I love that I can have a conversation with anyone in this group of diverse people. I am proud of every one of them because they all have demonstrated strength and dedication to the service we are all about to undertake for the next two years. It would truly be amazing if all 61 of us COS (Close of Service) in two years. For those of you who have an “Amy-coming-home Countdown,” you can start your countdown on 11 December.
Since the last email, I have completed my last days as a Peace Corps Trainee. Language classes wrapped up last week. M_____ 1 enjoyed our last week with our fabulous LCF Polad. I have already begun to miss our almost daily lessons in which we learned the second meaning of words. The Azerbaijani way of communication is often indirect. One word in Azerbaijani can take on several shades of meaning based on its context. Polad would teach us a word, and just when we all became comfortable with the word, he would say, “Second meaning is …” with a devilish grin. Normally, second meaning was something crude or “informal” (as Polad would say). For example: guş (pronounced gush) means bird; second meaning is whore.
Honestly, I have been a bit down because lately everything so many “finals” have happened: Final PST Interview, Final Language Proficiency Interview (LPI), Final Language Class, Final Hub Day. It will be sad to leave the support network that I have created here during PST, but I will admit it is time leave my bubble and get to work. I did not come to Azerbaijan to be a PCT forever. Eventually, I do have to leave the nest.
Final PST Interview went well. I had a nice long talk with my program manager – Gulnara. My assessment reads as such: “Very motivated and positive. Needs to be more flexible.” I love it because I think it describes me perfectly. I do have my freak-out days. Some days, when I am overwhelmed or everything seems to be going wrong, I just need a small meltdown. Everything is bad. Nothing will ever get better. I can spin every situation into a negative one. (It’s a pretty gruesome talent that I possess.) I completely fall apart, but I feel like I need these freak-out days. They normally do not last more than a day, and after a good night’s sleep, I wake up the next day refreshed and ready to pick up the pieces. My poor mother has seen me do this my whole life. I do need to be more flexible, but I feel I will get better with time.
Saturday was the LPI. It was definitely a morning filled with dread. However, how could I do poorly on it, Ana circled burning incense asking Allah to protect me from the evil eye. The exam went really smoothly. Flora old me that I need to work on my verb endings and that I speak well. I do need to work on my endings. I start tripping over them after a while. But it felt wonderful to be done with my exams. Good news: I reached the needed level of Intermediate Low, but I still plan continue to study Azerbaijani at site. I hope to be fluent by the end of my service.
After LPI, Marina, Sara, and I went into Baku for the best falafels EVER. Now whether they were really that good or I just really missed falafels remains to be seen. But for now, just go with the former. (They were really good.) It is so nice from time to time not to stick out all the time. In Baku, one can be anonymous. Well, not completely, but Baku has enough ex-pats to be unnoticed.
Sunday was a great day. Ana and Gunay went to a wedding, and Ata was a work, leaving Tunar and I home alone. I love a good day just to relax. It was a gorgeous day out, and Tunar managed not to blow us and the house up when the little pyromaniac lit the pec. I love my host brother, but he was testing my Azerbaijani vocabulary. Tunar, please put the bottle of benzene down. Tunar, stop adding wood to the fire. Ay, Tunar! My host brother is fabulous because he always talks to me as if I understand 100% of what he is saying. The boy is never quiet. He is always talking or singing. It cracks me up (most of the time). But I have grown quite fond of him, and he always likes to check to make sure that I am coming home for New Years. I will miss him, and I will enjoy how quiet the new house will be.
I feel like I have learned some new things about myself in PST. Well, I guess not all of them are new things, but things that I knew about myself and now must deal with.
1) I need a new system of self-valuation. When I was in school, I continually defined myself through my grades. I was an A student. I was a good person because I made good grades. It is this quality about myself that made that year out of college hard for me. I lacked a process of self-valuation. Grades were not the only method of self-valuation, but it certainly made up a large percentage of my self-value. The bad aspect about using grades is that this is a process that solely dependent on others. After LPI, I always felt as if I could have done better and wanted a higher score (whether or not it truly reflected by language level). I had to question why I needed that higher school to feel better about myself. Was I always unknowingly in a competition with others?
2) This point leads to the second quality I have learned. I need more patience with myself. Point two and point three are not as well formulated as point one because point one struck me first and seemed as if it needed to the most diving into. Peace Corps is not a race. It is a solo journey. If I do not speak perfectly, if I have a bad day, if a project takes twice as long as I wanted originally projected, IT IS ALL OK. Why am I always rushing things? I should be proud of what I have attempted and the progress I have made thus far. Three months ago, I could not speak a word of Azerbaijani. Now I can state simple needs, get directions, and hold limited conversations. That is a large accomplishment. It’s not bragging and won’t kill me to pat myself on the back every now and then. Things take time, and I am the only one apparently keeping score.
3) Again questioning my perpetual desire to rush and do everything (reminds me of Danny Rosenblatt’s class when he discussed the value placed on busyness in America), I want to slow down and enjoy the journey. The destination is not the only think that is important. Many times the journey is just as important as the destination, and every step we take will never be repeated. Rushing around, sometimes I can miss the beauty in the moment. I want to enjoy the moments I have here in Azerbaijan.
This last idea came to me on Sunday when I was wandering about M_____ and enjoying everything about me. I had this inner peace and was honestly just enjoying being lost in my head. Of course, then some dogs started following me and barking after me, so “happy feelings gone.” But the message of enjoying the journey remained.
Next time I write, I will be a PCV. Still working on finding out my new address. I cannot find the zip code.
Just in case, I do not make it to the internet until after Christmas. MERRY CHRISTMAS and HAPPY NEW YEARS TO EVERYONE!!!! If you do not celebrate Christmas, HAPPY HOLIDAYS and HAPPY NEW YEARS!!!! (Equal use of capitalization and exclamation points.) May the season not be tainted by too my commercialism. May you be safe and joyful with your family. And may you remember that someone halfway across the world is wishing you all the best and a happy new year.
Much love,

Monday, December 8, 2008


Confused? Well, so it Tunar (as to why I am taking this picture). Happy holidays from me here in Azerbaijan. I may not be in the states to wish you love, health, and happiness in person, but please know that y'all are in my heart. 2008 has been a roller coaster of a year, and I am grateful for everyone who has seen me through my ups and down. From the great times to the pis times, I am blessed with many wonderful people in my life.
So peace on earth, and all that other "hippie" stuff that you know I like. We can all accomplish things bigger than ourselves. If we want to see change in the world, we must first change ourselves.
Merry Christmas!
Happy Birthday, Daddy! (Dec 24)

Isn't she cute!

This is my cousin Fatima. She is my deyi qizi (my mother's brother's daughter). She is so adorable. She is 7, talks to me like I understand everything she is saying, and just fun to be with. I let her play with my headlamp during the last blackout. Thanks Mom and Dad again for the headlamp. I love it!

On the Journey

Occasionally, I become a bit philosophical....

7 December 2008
Again, Tunar, my 13-year-old host brother, is playing with the pec, matches, and benzene. I am surprised he still hasn’t blown us up, and he is testing my language skills as I am telling him to please put the burning piece of paper inside the pec. I choose life, and Ana will not be happy if we both die on my watch. Tunar and I are home alone today. Ana and Gunay are at a wedding, and Ata is at a wedding. Now I know we can both stay home alone just fine, but Ana told me to watch him. I guess I should be grateful for the language practice.
But this entry is not supposed to be about Tunar trying to light the house on fire. Rather, I am going to write about the walk I went on today. I found myself in the house all day without a normal diversion, so I went for a walk. I told myself that I would walk for about an hour and set off with no destination in mind. Left my house, hooked a right, and kept going. I am wandered around looking for empty spaces, letting my mind drift.
Beginning to reflect on Pre-Service Training, I realized that we often think about the past or the future. Rarely are we just in the moment. What about the now? What about the present? The present is a hard concept to contemplate – mainly because the present is ever fleeting. In some ways, my walk became an allegory. We either walk with the destination as the goal or with where we have been in mind.
Left, right, left, right. I thought about each step I was taking, about the wind blowing, about the construction going on around me. It didn’t matter where I was going only where I was in that moment. I saw a large puddle to the left of the path, and as the wind made ripples on the water, it reminded me of the rice fields around my grandmother’s house in Louisiana.
All I have been hearing lately from PCTs is that they cannot wait to get to site, they cannot wait to start projects. I too am anxious to get to Lerik and start Peace Corps-ing. But we are Peace Corps-ing now.
Without the journey, the destination will not be a prize. When I was writing my senior thesis, I could not wait for it to be completed. I wanted to see the bound copy. But if the process had been easy or quick, I would have never felt the pride that I did when I printed my thesis out.
I guess all I wanted to say is that when I do get to site, I hope I stop every now and then just to enjoy the moment. When the moment passes, it will never come back again.

Henna with Gunay


Gunay, my host sister, decided that it would be great to put henna on my hands. It was a fun bonding experience. Some aunts told me that only brides wear henna, but Gunay told me that all the girls at the party were putting on henna. The bride-to-be shared some henna with me because I could not make it to the party.

Overall, the design is a flower, and I had fun with Gunay. Polad tells me that henna is primarily done before weddings in the southern rayons of Azerbaijan.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Adventures on the Bus

I think a major part of being in the Peace Corps is learning to laugh at yourself. Marshutkas here are definitely part of that laughing at yourself. I mean how else can you deal with being shoved into a crammed van and hurling down the highway as anything but hilarious. Today, I almost took a face plant into the seat in front of me when the driver decided that he did not want to get into a wreck.
I am fine, and honestly the whole thing is just funny. Cars here drive in such a interesting way. They like to ride the lines and swerve as much as possible. There are coded hand gestures and car honks that indicate the intentions of the people waiting for the marshutka and the drivers.
Also, marshutkas have the best decorations. Random stickers that say "Blood Driver" or have pictures of UGa bulldog plaster the side of these machines that take me around Azerbaijan.
In side the marshutka, one will find decorations of dried flowers, the evil eye, and anything else. The music is often loud and if it is not Azeribaijani pop, it is really bad American pop. The whole ride is always an adventure.

1 Dekabr 2008

1 December 2008
Dearest everyone,
Happy late Thanksgiving! And can you believe that it is already December? I know that December has snuck up on me. It has been weird to read about some people’s Black Friday experiences because such a thing does not exist here. I am guessing it is a sad statement about American consumerism that it does not really feel like Christmas without the commercials telling me that it is Christmas. On the flip side, I know that I have also been running from the idea that Christmas is coming. This will be my first Christmas away from my family. Frankly, I know that this will be a hard holiday for me, so not really acknowledging it is coming makes it easier sometimes.
The same can be said about leaving my M_____ host family. These people have become my second family. As Ata always tells me, I can come home whenever. Little does he know that he may regret that statement because I plan on coming home once every four months or so. I would definitely like to come home around my birthday. Ana and I have discussed coming back on for New Year. New Years is a big holiday here. It is there equivalent to Christmas, and so I guess in some ways I will be able to go home for the holidays.
Ana and I have lately had some extensive conversations, which reminds me what a smart woman she is. One evening she tells me that her aunt’s granddaughter’s husband recently passed away. She is 21 and has 3 small kids. Apparently she married when she was 17 years old. Ana is very opposed to women marrying that young. She said that a woman should be 25 when she marries. (Ana was 25 when she married Ata). The reason behind this she says is that at 25 a woman has studied and worked. This way she can support herself should something happens to her husband. In some rayons, girls as young as 15 will be married. Ana became very animated discussing this topic. She asks how can girls be expected to fulfil a woman’s task. She said they are just children.
BREAKING NEWS: Ata just served me tea! Tea serving is traditionally a woman’s duty soley. So I am really shocked that Ata is doing this me and didn’t call Ana in to do it for me. I am completely blown away, and for once in my wordy life, I am a bit speechless. But don’t worry, I will recover well enough to continue my email. There is so much to tell about my life in Azerbaijan.
Another topic, Ana and I have recently discussed is religion. Next week is the Islamic holiday Eid Al-Adha:
“Eid Al-Adha ("The Feast of the Sacrifice") commemorates Abraham's willingness and obedience to sacrifice his son Ishmael to God (and God's mercy in substituting a lamb for Ishmael). This feast is part of the Haj, and takes place on the tenth of Dhu Al-Hijja of the Islamic calendar. For those on the Hajj and for many others the day begins with the sacrifice of an animal in commemoration of the Angel Gabriel's substitution of a lamb as Abraham’s sacrificial obligation. One-third of the meat is given to the poor, with the remainder shared with neighbours and family members.
This holiday is then celebrated in much the same way as Eid Al-Fitr - with good food, gifts for children and general merrymaking.”
I was enjoying her telling me the story of Eid when she turns to Tunar and tells him that while I am Christian and they are Muslim, we believe in the same god. She tells him that there is only one god and we worship the same god. I was frankly shocked with how blunt she was about this idea. She then turns to me and tells me that a good person in her/his heart know it is the same god.
Ana never ceases to blow me away. She also has told me that she give me all my favourite preserves to bring down to Lerik with me. Oh Ana. She likes to keep me well fed. Ata and I have reached an understanding tonight. He was eating his late night snack of baked potatoes, and as always he tells me that I should eat one. I tell him that I am full. To which he always responds that doctors say that it will help my digestion or help me sleep. I know I have told you this numerous times. Tonight it is different because I finally told him that he always tells me this. He always says it is good for me. He just laughs at me and I believe a bit at himself. I always feel that we have this mutual understanding and general comfort around each other.
Thanksgiving was a fun adventure. It was nice to celebrate with all the M_____ crew. I made pumpkin mash with brown sugar. Quite tasty if I can brag a bit. I was originally in charge of green bean casserole; however, green beans are now out of season. So I could not find them anywhere. When I came home on Thursday, I was planning to cook the pumpkin myself. But Ana would have none of that. She is always so interested in learning new recipes. When I was struggling cutting open my pumpkins, she asked to help. I sheepishly agree, and knife in hand, she sharply plunges it into the pumpkin and rips it open. It was amazing. She helps me clean and peel the pumpkins. The task she lets me do is chop the pumpkin into tiny pieces so it will cook faster. I also took it upon myself to separate the seeds from the pumpkin innards, so we could roast them.
Ana and I place the pumpkin in a large pot and let the water and heat do its job. Within an hour the pumpkin was a thick delicious mash. I told her we were going to add sugar to the pumpkin. She was very intrigued by this idea. I think she likes anything else that she can add sugar to. She tries to get out the pesok (granulated sugar), but I tell her no, I want to add brown sugar. She has never heard of brown sugar. So I let her try it. She loves it. She kept asking me where I bought it, how much was it, and where can she get some. I couldn’t really explain CitiMart to her, so I will just have to buy her some next time I am in Baki.
CitiMart is this wonderful store run by an Indian man. He imports grocery items from all over the world, so you can find British Digestives, Cote D’Or Chocolate, and Libby’s canned pumpkin. It’s not a huge store, but small tastes of home are always appreciated.
After I finished my mash, I walked with Sara and her super large apple pie to Jacqlyn’s house. There we added our goodies to the Thanksgiving feast. There was an abundance of food: curry, mac and cheese, cranberry sauce (made of apples, mandarins, and hazelnuts), pumpkin gnocchi, Russian salad (made by Khalig and Polad), plov (made by Jacqlyn’s host family), mashed potatoes, pecan pie, apple pie, and cookies. It was all so delicious. Before eating we all said what we were thankful for (even the Azerbaijanis eating with us). Overall, we were all grateful for each other. Like I’ve said, I am thankful for the families we make.
Saturday M_____ 1 learned how to make dolma. Liar dolma is what my host mom calls it because it has no meat. My host mom is a really patient teacher. I can now say that I can make grape leaf dolma like a pro. Just ask my host mom, she will tell you I was the best one. Nothing like a mom’s blind love, eh? I think she was amused that we wanted to learn, but even more amused that Josh wanted to help us. She kindly but firmly told Josh that boys were not allowed to make dolma. So he got to sit on the couch and drink tea. It was amusing.
This is the last week of language classes. I will miss seeing everyone every day. But I am excited to get started in Lerik. Polad is frankly the best LCF ever. We are scheming to get him to move to the United States. He is a very smart and accomplished man. For as poised as he can be, the man is honestly goofy. But I enjoy his approach to teaching foreign languages and admire his ability to deal with us day after day. He is ridiculously smooth. We laugh at him in his aviator sunglasses and nice suit as he waits for the bus in M_____. He just looks so out of place, but luckily for him, he can speak the language. He has been so helpful sorting out cultural misunderstandings between the PCTs and the host families. I would be lost without Polad.
Lately, I have taken to watching Turkish soap operas with my family. It is fun to try to figure out the plot. I am usually very wrong, but I enjoy the challenge. I am also enjoying dissecting the gender roles portrayed in these soaps. It does not take long to find out who is the good girl, bad girl, bad man, etc. Normally, it has to do with some hair dye and tight clothing.
I have had some requests for my new address. As of right now, I just have my new host family’s address. I would like to try to get a P.O. box in Lerik (if at all possible). This may cause a slight delay in me delivering to you my new address so please bear with me.
I guess that is it for me tonight. Take care! I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!
Much love,

Monday, December 1, 2008

Making Dolma with Ana.

For a cultural event, my host mom taught M___ 1 to make liar dolma. It's liar because there is no meat.

Note that Josh is not allowed to participate. He is a guy. He must lounge on the couch and drink chai.

Final product. Codadli idi.


On Thanksgiving both of the M___ clusters got together for food and thankfulness.
I am thankful for the families that we make.

The M___ Girls for thanksiving.
Thanksgiving feast of curry,mashed potatoes, plov, pumpkin gnocchi mashed pumpkin, and more!
Josh does not like to be disturbed when eating.

Me, Sara, Jane (AZ05), and Amy

More of Lerik

This is all the stuff I managed to drag with me to Lerik. I can fit inside this bag.

The large white building is the Internat.

This is myfavorite picture of Lerik

Photos of Lerik

This is when I discovered where Lerik is for the first time!

I am going pretty far south.

I have been asked about squat toilets. This is my outdoor squat. We also have an indoor one.

View of the Talysh Mountains from my window.
This is my new house.