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,