Thursday, April 9, 2009

All This Moving to Stay Put

2 April 2009
Dear everyone,
Peace Corps moments are always great: both the good and the bad. The good give you the answer why you joined the Peace Corps. The bad make you question why you joined the Peace Corps. My host mom was telling me about trying pork. Despite being in a Muslim country, one can still find pig farms. Another PCV and I had a weird experience when we saw a pig farm on the bus ride home from Göyçay. During the Soviet administration, developing pig farms and advocating the consumption of pork was a policy to weaken religious ties. And according to Yeta (my host mom), Russians really like pork. Pork is forbidden (or as the Azerbaijanis would say, “Olmaz!”) in the Islamic faith.
My host mom says she ate pork once because her neighbours said it was a mutton kabob. They only told her afterwards that it was pork. She asked me if anything was forbidden to eat in the United States. I told her nothing; I’m guessing that this was the most culturally appropriate answer because there are so many religions in the states. Human meat is not culturally appropriate and neither is eating cat or dog flesh, and horse meat is generally not eaten. But if I told my host mom that, she would think that either I’m really weird or Americans are really weird.
So speaking of weird, American music videos are on the TV, and it took me a second to realize that I was hearing English. I’m used to zoning out the TV because they just speak too fast for me. But it’s even weirder that I cannot recognize the singers any more. It takes half the song for me to realize that I’m watching Jessica Simpson or any other blond musician.
Overall, it was a good day. One of teachers just got engaged. She is very excited, and I’m excited for the toy (wedding) this summer. Toys are always an interesting experience, but now that I am feeling like more of the community, I’ll be able to enjoy the toy from a different perspective. I enjoy being furniture in these people’s lives. I can sit and watch them interact, and I just try to soak up as much as I can.
While some days December 2010 seems like forever away, I know it’ll come quickly, and then I’ll want more time in Lerik. Now that spring is here, I can look out the window and just appreciate where I am. It is gorgeous. I am just going to wander in the rayon this summer, exploring various roads up the mountain. No worries, I won’t accidently wander into Iran. I think it’s more than a day’s hike to get to the border.
I’ve gotten a favourable response from the kids about the conversation club; many applications have rolled my way. I was originally going to limit my conversation club to 20 members per time slot, but I kind of figure they’ll weed themselves out on their own. If worse comes to worse, I’ll just have two clubs on Tuesday.
Things are going well with the host family. I feel bad about being so insistent about moving out, but I am working under two principles: 1) my host family has family who visits in the summer and 2) house guests like fish stink after 3 days (or four months). The last principle is thanks to Benjamin Franklin in “Poor Richard’s almanac. Actually, I really like my host family. We have all learned to coexist. They are super sweet, and we just bumble along our merry way. My host sister has truly become someone that I admire and that I like to spend time with (when I’m in the mood to blunder through Azerbaijani).
7 April 2009
Considering that I will not have a house by the housing contract’s termination of 11 April, I asked my host mom if I could stay here until I find a house. She said, of course, you’re my daughter. Awesome! I’m really happy that I am not being kicked out of this house. Today, I saw the house that my school director wanted me to see. It’s not a bad house; there is a kitchen area, outdoor toilet, a shower that I would share with the family who owns the main house, and a nice big room. BUT (there is always a ‘but’) it’s on the other side of town, way on the other side of town. As in, it’s on the edge of the town.
I’m all for having a longer walk to school and getting my exercise in; however, this is a 25 minute walk in good spring weather. This past winter was mild, and I was pretty miserable/cold. So, when I got home, my host mom asked me what I thought about the new house. I said it was ok, but the walk was long. She asked me what I wanted. I said that I would like to stay here because I am happy here. She said that I could stay! So this is an exciting turn of events.
I definitely want to keep looking for housing, but it’s really nice to know that I have a place that I can still call home and that my host family actually likes me.
In Lerik, spring has yet to decide if it is ready for a full-time appearance. The first couple of days of April were gorgeous and on the warmer side of things. Lerik was green, and the only dots of white came from apple blossoms on the trees that everyone seems to have in their yards. Friday turned cloudy and foggy, and the postman told me that this weekend it would rain. I expressed my dislike of his weather forecast, but, alas, he spoke the truth. This weekend was grey, cold, wet, and muddy. This weekend, it snowed! I was completely aghast on Saturday morning when I saw a 3-inch layer of snow on everything.
“This is spring!” I thought to myself, but despite my grumbles, the snow did not stop until a little after 10. As quickly as the snow accumulated, it had almost completely melted by the time I left the house at 11. I was told later that sometimes Lerik has snow in May: this was only spring snow, and it will quickly melt. (Oh yay! That means it’ll be muddy.) Back in full winter regalia, I traversed Lerik on the social dates I had made the previous week: lunch at Vagif’s where I met his grandson and drank tea with his wife and lesson planning with Terana where I drank more tea and watched PowerPuff Girls in Turkish.
Terana completely cracks me up. Her English is excellent, and she is one of the best teachers at my school. She maintains excellent classroom management and is still able to joke with her students. We can joke together, and we have good conversations about most topics.
Sunday morning started with rain and ended with snow. I layered up to go to Aynura’s house, and by the time I left at 7 in the evening, the sun was out, and it was too warm for my coat. Silly weather we are having here. Aynura is probably the first friend I made in Lerik. She is only 25, so we have a lot in common. We have similar sense of humour, and she lets me rattle on and on. After we wrote our lesson plans, we sat, drank tea, and watched the new in English!
Oh the news! This was the first time that I have watched the news in long, long time. I was so excited to understand everything that was said and to hear what was going on in the world. Then again, the news was so depressing that maybe it’s better not watching the news. Sure, I live in a bubble in Lerik but so does everyone else here.
Lately, I have realized that slowly but surely I am becoming settled in Lerik. Most days, I have been able to say that I’m happy. Happiness seems to creep up on you, and you don’t even realize that you are happy/content until the moment passes. I’m sure the weather has something to do with this, but it’s nice to finally start feeling at home in Lerik.
Today, I had my first conversation club for sixth and seventh form. It was a hit, and I kind of feel like a celebrity. I was nervous for my conversation club. How would it go? Would they even like it? Before leaving, I could hear children’s voices outside. This was a bit unusual because not many children live in my neighbourhood. I leave the house, bracing myself for the unknown of the next hour. “YAY! MS. AMY!” This cry from a group of my 6th and 7th form startles me. They explain that they are excited about the club have waited for an hour.
Then like mice following the Pied Piper, the children follow me to school, skipping, and talking (the whole 30 seconds it takes me to get to school). Aynura graciously came to help me translate and keep the class in order, and the children, in my opinion, learned and had a good time. I am really excited to see how the clubs progress and how the final presentations turn out.
Days like today and yesterday are the days I file in my “BREAK IN CASE OF EMERGENCY” mental file. When I have bad days (and they will come), I will pull out this memory and remember why I came to Azerbaijan.
Much love,
P.S. Awesome Lerik fact of the week: when looking at the south-east mountain peaks, one can see the profile of Vladimir Lenin. I will try to attach a picture to show y’all. Aynura pointed this image out to me.
P.P.S I haven't been able to take the picture because it's been so cloudy.