Wednesday, April 15, 2009


11 April 2009
Dear everyone,
It appears that this year, I’ll be dreaming of a white birthday. As I write, snow is falling in a foggy Lerik, and I am back in three layers nursing a cup of hot chocolate. So my official prognosis is that Novruz lied and that spring is still not here. My host sister keeps teasing me that it’s going to snow in May. At this rate, I totally believe her. Spring will probably come sometime in June or July.
Today is month four in Lerik, and, officially, I no longer have to live with a host family. Yet in the pursuit of trying to find a house, I decided that staying put is not such a bad idea. I am happy with my decision, and, I think, my host family is actually happy with it too. I finally reorganized my room and will start putting pictures on the wall. For a long time, I was resisting to making this place home. I also was trying to process what staying with my host family would mean.
I won’t lie. Part of me wants to move out so that I can finally “grow up.” I have never had a place of my own. I’ve lived in dorms or at home. I’ve also settled in here and risk becoming complacent. But in the end, I received some wonderful advice from my friend Corey. He said to do what makes me happiest. Staying would, at this moment, make me the happiest. So, while I may be almost 26 years old when I finally get my own place (unless my host family evicts me), I have the rest of my life to be a “grown up,” a term that I am increasingly unable to define.
As I wrote in previously, this week I started conversation clubs at School 1. Tuesday was a glorious beginning of the 6th & 7th form club. I had over 20 students attend, and they had a great time. The next day they were still talking about it. Thursday was the 5th form club. I was nervous about this club because the children need a lot of translation and sometimes have the attention span of gnats, like most children in the 5th grade at home. Now the club didn’t start until 3pm, but at 2pm, two students come to the house ready to come to the club. I told them to come back at 3pm, but they didn’t come back. Instead, I had a room of 11 boys who came wrestling, joking, and shoving through the door.
On Tuesday, Aynura came to help me translate and facilitate the club, but on Thursday, I was on my own. I was surprised how well the club turned out. They may be bouncing off the walls half the time, but I truly enjoy the fifth form. They are always full throttle, but I love their energy and enthusiasm. Fifth form is never dull. Secretly, they are my favourite form. I even taught the boys to say, “What’s up?” and to say, “Nothing,” in return.
Friday at the Boarding School is always my least favourite day of the week. I have a feeling this probably won’t change until next school year. I simply do not see the children at the boarding school as often to have a rapport with them. Next year, I would like to start going there maybe twice a week or to have special clubs for them. As the Azerbaijanis would say, “slowly, slowly.”
12 April 2009
Happy Birthday Me! I am now 24 years old. I especially like how my sister Emily described this occasion: “On one hand, that’s old. … On the other hand, you are so young when I think back to everything you have experienced and accomplished – and only at 24!!!”
How does being 24 feel? Well, cold. It’s snowing on my birthday! This is definitely a first and a bit incomprehensible. I actually walked around in the snow this morning just to wrap my head around it. This is no spring snow either; it has snowed for 12 hours now, and I don’t see it letting up any time soon. In fact, the snow has gotten heavier as the day has progressed. I am thoroughly amused. Toto, I don’t think we’re in Louisiana any more.
Being the big partier that I am (please note the sarcasm), I stayed up past midnight to ring in my birthday. At the stroke of midnight, I was making dolma with my host mom. That’s right, I know how to party. It seemed like such a Peace Corps moment to be wrapping grape leaf dolma the moment I turned 24.
14 April 2009
It only took until yesterday but the snow finally stopped. And the sun is back, melting three days worth of snow. Everything is green again in Lerik except for the mountains that remain white. My host mom said that it snowed 30 cm (11.8 inches) but the news says it only snowed 15 cm. (5.9 inches). Regardless of the amount, I’m maintaining the fact that it’s April, and it shouldn’t snow in April. Maybe I’m just being picky, but there were icicles longer than my arm hanging from my room yesterday. I just think that almost half way through April, I just think that I shouldn’t be wearing all my winter clothes again.
But how did my birthday go? It was a nice quiet day that I spent at home with the host family. I normally have morning on the weekends to myself because my family sleeps in, so I received birthday calls from Eleni and my family and opened my birthday presents from my family. The summer clothes that my parents sent are very nice, and I’m sure I’ll be able to wear them eventually. Maybe in June.
As for the rest of the day, I passed my time texting friends, talking to my host family in Masazir (who inquired when I was coming home because Ana wants to bake me a cake), and helping my host family decorate my birthday cake. My host mom baked me a honey layer cake that we covered in a chocolate ganache. It was really good. I kind of felt like I was at the bakery again, because I got to write, “Happy Birthday Amy” and draw drop roses.
I should probably clarify that cake is peculiar baked good in Azerbaijan. Cake in Azerbaijan is not cake in America. They make look the same on the outside, but they don’t taste the same. Cakes here tend to be dry and pretty thin. My honey cake kind of tasted like a honey graham cracker.
I also spent part of the day trying to stay warm. I was inside, but I still wore three layers. For my birthday dinner, my host mom made a feast of plov (rice), eggplant levengi (a southern specialty which is so yummy), cucumbers, and dolma. I was touched and enjoyed the company.
Now the cake’s candle needs its own paragraph. This was amusing for a myriad of reasons. Saida got this candle especially for me. The apparatus is bigger than my fist and stuck a good 5 inches out of the cake. When I lit it, a mechanical “Happy Birthday” starts bleeping and a torch-like flame erupts from the candle’s centre. If this weren’t enough, then candle opens up like a flower with 8 more lit candles. I did manage to blow out all the candles in one breath, but that’s only because the torch had gone out long before I tried.
Monday was trudging through the snow to get to school. I asked the teachers why did we have snow since it was spring. One teacher said spring came and gone; it’s winter again. I’m glad we can joke somewhat with each other.
Today was round 2 of the conversation clubs. The sixth and seventh form has seen to grow by at least 6 students, and no one really seems to listen to me or each other. I think they are learning, but one can never be sure. They are happy to come, and I am happy to see them. It gives them something to do in the afternoon. Because it was too cold at school yesterday for the 8th and 9th form clubs, we had class today after the 6th and 7th form met. It was a completely opposite situation from the previous hour. The eight girls who came were so quiet, and I felt that they learned a lot about greetings. It was kind of nice to be around people who have the maturity to sit and listen. But then again, after having such noisy classes, I was really thrown by my silent class.
Tomorrow, I am going to Baku for Inter-Service Training. I am excited to see AZ 06 again. I haven’t seen some of these people since swearing-in, but at the same time, I am really dreading travelling. I like staying at site and being just being here. It’s an hour trip to Lankaran and a six-hour to trip to Baku. But I guess we all have to leave site sometimes, probably just to maintain sanity. And I’m going to visit my host family in Masazir this weekend! I can’t wait to see them, although my stomach already hurts from the amount of food that I will be fed.
Much love,
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