Wednesday, November 25, 2009

So life is going well. We have been planning projects and implementing English conversation clubs and they have been going relatively well. The level of English is pretty low, but that is what we are here for!

I got my site placement a few weeks ago, I am in Goranboy with another Youth Development volunteer, Kate. I am super excited because it is only 30 min from the second biggest city, and we YD's are huddled together in the west. (there were a lot of western jokes thrown around too cheesy to write down). I am working with the Ministry of Youth and Sport. It should be very interesting to work with a government agency and the title pretty much says it all, so I feel like the job is pretty perfect for me. I have access to a youth cafe, library and upwards of 14 computers with Internet to start clubs. The youth center was just built and there is a new pool in the works that should be done when I get there. (Inshallah). A lot of these things are not like what they would be in the states, and I am interested to see what these resources look like. We had a counterpart conference where I met the head of the Youth and Sport ministry of Goranboy, who I will be planning projects with, and he only speaks Azeri. We got a lot of information across, but I am not quite sure how much was lost in translation. I do know that he is coming to pick Kate and I up on Dec 12th, our last day in Tagiyev!

My Azeri is coming along nicely. I can get around pretty well, explain who I am and what I am doing here (I am not a spy...) People laugh at us any time we communicate, but I think it is a shocked laughter, that these Americans actually know a little bit of their language. We have on many occasions surprised the folks of Azerbaijan by responding to them in Azeri when they ask us a question. I am still nervous for site, there are a lot less English speakers in the regions to go to if I need help...

Life at home is glorious, I don't want to leave my family. A few nights ago, Adigozel (my host dad) and I had a dinner party with a few other PCT's because Sevinj (my host mom) went to a toy without him. He planned out a "program" where we would play all kinds of games and the winner would get a prize. We ended up just playing checkers, chess and "Nerd", a game that resembles backgammon. Of course he kicked everyone's butts, and we ate the "prize" which was a basket of fruit picked from our pomegranate, quince and persimmon trees outside and a few bananas thrown in. Bananas are super expensive, so that was a nice treat.

Last night, Adigozel asked me "How much money do you make?". I explained to him that i am a volunteer and that I don't "make" any money. Just receive a small allowance to buy essentials (like snickers bars) and the money I pay him and Sevinj to live there. He seemed confused and was asking why I don't receive more money, working for the government, and why I was there being a volunteer, so I explained that I wanted to make the world better, that I wanted to help people in Azerbaijan. He then asked if I requester to come to Azerbaijan and I replied that I hadn't, but am really glad that I was placed here. After that statement, I went to get us more tea.

Upon returning, he looked up at me with a big smile and asked if there were a lot of people in the United States who had big hearts like me. I was touched, and said of course there are, there are other Peace Corps volunteers, Americorps, tons of different organizations. Then I got to thinking, there is my mother, who donates blood every time she can because she is a universal doner, my father who lines the soccer fields 20 times a spring so kids can play. People in America have all kinds of citizenship that I would love to bring to Azerbaijan. After this discussion, Adigozel, a man who every time he sees money says to me "I would like to have that" said to me: "Yaxshi, sonra pul gelecek." Which means "That's good, money will come later".

Thanksgiving tomorrow. We have the grand plan to go to the dove, a Sumgayit hangout, have a few beers and just enjoy each others company. We are having a huge meal on Sunday. I am in charge of green beans, and since the idea of casserole hasn't been introduced in this country, I can't make that (no French's onion rings or Campbell's condensed soup) so I will just saute them. We are also making 2 kinds of mashed potato ("ruined potatoes, ruined potatoes, and ruined potatoes"). Another group is planning on killing a turkey and plucking, degutting and cooking that. I said no thanks, I think we are going to do it the 20th century way and buy ours from the market.

So what are you all thankful for this year? I am thankful for new adventures for me and my sisters and a niece or nephew that's on the way!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The Re-Education of Amy King

So, my host family has decided, after the Spaghetti incident (see previous blog entry) that they should educate me on how to make food. I DO know how to make food, but just not Azeri food. Anyways, I learned the other night how to make dolma, one of the big dishes in Azerbaijan. It is like stuffed cabbage, only better. I have devoured the stuff many times here.

I basically watched Sevink make it, cringing sometimes at the un-sanitary aspects of cooking here, but it hasn't killed me yet, has it? I have decided to take the Stephanie Rosenberg approach to eating, anything that hasn't made me sick before is fair game, and to try everything once. However, cooking with Sevinj made me realize that some things you just dont want to know. That phrase has always bothered me before, only making me curious as to what the think I didn't want to know was, but here, some things are you REALLY just don't want to know.

Anyways, I helped wrap the dolma in the grape leaves and the cabbage. Sevinj's were these tight little balls and mine were these messy lumps of food with meat spilling out the edges. I realize, that in cooking, I have a portion control issue, and am working on that. I always use too much spaghetti or too much cupcake batter in the tin, this time it was too much meat in the cabbage leaf. I am a cooking glutton. Anyways, Sevinj was encouraging, but Adigozel and Atash, the 27-year old relative living at our house, both laughed at my attempt. When I invited them to make the dolma, they said they already knew how to make it that I needed to learn, and walked away laughing. I thought that was very George King-esque.

Anyways, life here is going well, we had a pancake breakfast at my house today (it was GLORIOUS) and I am starting to get the hang of living here. It still surprises me that cows and sheep basically walk me to school (Fuzzy-style) and that at some parts of the day, which parts we do not know, we may not have water or electricity. I love the fact that I am buddies with the Doner Kebob seller and the lady who runs the corner market. I have an outdoor toilet and I think it's a great toilet, but when I have to go at 3am, it's not so great and pretty cold.

I love the people here. They are so friendly, and we get stopped constantly by people asking us who we are and what we are doing here (in a good way). We had an English conversation club the other day which went really well. About fifteen 16/17 year-old kids showed up, we spoke in english the whole time, and afterwards we all had to take pictures with them one by one so they can show their friends. Apparently we are the talk of the school, but try to stay as inconspicuous as possible, which is pretty hard.

I have officially been here for a month and a week exactly and haven't regretted the decision once.