Saturday, October 31, 2009

Italy meets America meets Azerbaijan

So I brought a little bit of Italy to Azerbaijan two days ago when I made Spaghetti for my host dad and mom. This is how I came to cook the meal:

Host dad: Do you know how to cook anything?
Me: Not really.
Host dad: But you are a girl, you must know how to cook.
Me: (pride now hurt and defense of my womanhood on the line) Well I do know a couple of dishes...
Host dad: Which ones?
Me: Spaghetti. It is noodles with tomato sauce.
Host dad: Then you and I will make it tomorrow.

So, I was stuck, making spaghetti. This wasn't as easy as you may think. First I had to tell my dad what ingredients to buy. The only words I know for this sauce is tomato, garlic, onion, oil, salt, pepper, and "vermishil" which isn't quite spaghetti, but a weird thin but short noodle that is pretty tricky to cook. Well, these minus the black pepper, and plus some sugar were the only ingredients I had to work with. I mean THE ONLY. No spices, no red pepper flakes, not even any greens (basil or parsley, which on regular occasions they have stocked in the house, but that day they didn't). So I made the sauce. Sevinj watched for like 2 minutes before peacing out, shaking her head and mumbling as she walked out. In her defense, I was making my usual mess when I cook, which according to my mother "looks like a bomb went off in the kitchen". The neighbor came over with her 5-year old daughter, they watched over my shoulder the entire time. The littel girl "helped out", which means it took me twice as long to do things. Auntie Carol, you are a saint for putting up with me and Jessica cooking with you all those times. We must have caused you to take THREE TIMES as long to bake cookies and cook blueberry jam. So while I was trying to make the sauce, the neighbor is turning up the heat on the onions, I was peeling the weird garlic that has a thrid skin on it, so it needed to be peeled like a potato. I almost burnt the onions because they were turned up and I was actually peeling the garlic. The little girl insists on rolling up my pants dragging on the ground, and the neighbor is aking me what I am doing every minute...

The sauce didn't turn out too too bad, but was far from delicious. The neighbor insisted that I use ALL of the pasta I cooked. I had completely misjudged the amount of pasta I needed due to the unusualness of these noodles, and I mad WAAAY too much pasta. I was forced to put all the noodles in the small amount of sauce I had, so the dish tasted like pasta that had been cooked in tomato flavored water. It definitely needed salt, and I didn't even have black pepper to add (we had run out earlier that day). Adigozel, being the cheery host dad he is, praised it to all high heavens. (My womanhood was secured!) Sevinj, my host mom, didn't even touch the stuff. Haha. They force fed it to the 27-year-old cousin staying at our house for a week, and he said he liked it, but I have my doubts.

After eating leftovers last night, made better by waay more oil and salt put on by Sevinj, my host dad turned to me and asked: So what else can you make?

My response was: I don't know how to make anything.

Friday, October 23, 2009

What IS it with these animals?

Hey all!

I am back from my trip to Siyezan. It was a really nice vacation from Pre-Service-Training life (going to language class, going to technical training, struggling to communicate with my host family, then going to sleep only to wake up to do it all over again). We had pancakes, burgers, and spaghetti (Those are in order of importance to me, I hit the motherload!!). My host was awesome, a Peace corps volunteer doing Youth Development and working with the Ministry of Youth and Sport. She has started dance groups, conversation clubs and a youth as volunteers project. She is a super hard worker and I took a lot of tips home with me. I was able to really help with the sports group because she had a sprained ankle, so I felt of some use. She is one of the only people still living with a host family, which is pretty cool. Their relationship is super-good, and she speaks Azeri VERY well. She says the benefits to living with them is that they always tell her when she is about to something stupid, which is something I may need...

So, we were chased by geese the other day and I got a great opportunity to relate my father's story of being chased in Florida by a pack of angry geese. He really should have dropped the bread and run for his life... Anyways, we had no bread, and just kept walking at the same pace to show we had no fear (even though we obviously were terrified of these murderous geese) and they just kept honking at us and followed us a little ways, but did not bite. Just another animal to keep my eye on in Azerbaijan. Who would of thought when joining PC Azerbaijan that your main threat would be wild/domesticated animals? I mean, out in the desert, maybe. There are snakes and scorpions and things that go bump in the night all over the place, but here, they say you have to be "lucky" to encounter one of the 4 venomous snakes that habitate in this country. Personally, I think you would be unlucky, but there are those crazies out there who enjoy the occasional snake.

I had tripe the other night for dinner. It was actually pretty delicious if you don't think about what exactly you are eating... I would eat it again if served to me.

We visit the mud volcanoes soon (sounds like something out of The Princess Bride, along with the Cliffs of Insanity), so that should be pretty cool, and we have a big Holloween get together planned in our Tech Group because our Mid PST language interviews and site placement interviews are going to be held on Halloween and are pretty stressful.

Anyone going to be anything interesting for Halloween?


Sunday, October 18, 2009

Post Number One

Hi all! I am safe and well and have been gone for 2 and a half weeks! Everything is great here! I really like the people I am working with (the other trainees) and the people of Azerbaijan are really accomodating!

My host father is the best. He plays chess, checkers, chinese checkers and a game called nerd (it's something I imagine backgammon would be like, but I've never played backgammon before, so I don't know). My mother makes me eat tons of food, and I try and get as much exercise as possible playing soccer with the kids but hopefully I don't get too fat. My mother reminded me not to gain to much weight or I may be over the weight limits for the plane ride home. :)

I have been working my butt of studying the language and I can say complete sentences now!! I can communicate with my fhost mom and dad pretty well, we have our own pantmime/azerbaijani form of communicating, but I am pretty sure I'm getting my point across. I hope so anyways. It's so awkward but awesome, they should do a true live: I live in a host family because I'm sure a lot of people have the same funny stories.

The only problems I have had is that I have been stalked by Pooch, the dog who lives outside my house. We have an agreement, that if I talk to him he won't bark/bite, but he usually barks if I dont talk. Also, my Marshtruka (it's like a van for public transport) played chicken with an oncoming train. The three americans were ducking our heads and freaking, but the azeris were just calm as could be. The train came like 20 yards from us, but I guess we shouldn't have freaked because the guys who drive these marshtrukas have done so for 20 years, and they wouldnt put themselves in danger.

The culture here is so interesting! I hear the call to prayer every day, but the Muslim religion is not as prevalent as I thought it would be. There are certain cultural rules to abide by, but so far I have not broken any. Actually, I did have a Marilyn Monroe moment at the bus stop because it was so windy, and I was wearing a longer skirt and it flew up! I was mortified, but I think only Americans saw me.

All the little kids love the fact that I play soccer. I kick their butts, then let them play a little. :) Thanks to years of soccer camps, I now can show them all kinds of tricks to do, and I have been successful in "IRB"-ing (Relationship Building in the community) through soccer.

We have site visits until Wednesday, I will post sometime after wednesday! Miss you all in the states and send me an email or post here so I know how you are!!

Lots of love,