Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Actual Update!

Well, I have been at site for a few weeks now, and it has been awesome. My new site is in the Midwest of the country, and it is nestled between snow capped mountains that are GORGEOUS. Today I was playing soccer at the stadium here (the only grass field at site, but that’s okay, it’s a grass field, and I am playing outdoor soccer in January, life’s good) and I looked at the mountains to my left and right and just felt completely blessed. In Merrimack, you don’t find a lot of snow-capped peaks, and it is just one of many perks to being in this town.
My counterpart is very nice. I am working at the Ministry of Youth and Sport for the government, and the man I work with is the head of the department for the town. My co-workers are awesome too. None of them speak English, but we get along. My Azeri is getting better and better each day, so it works. They get a lot of humor out of me though. I have secured respect from all of them though because I go play soccer with the 14-16 year-olds out on the field outside our work, and they watch. I kick the boy’s butts, so I have justified my placement with a youth and sport organization. The boys think I am hilarious, because I have made each and every one of them look foo.ish at least once, so they all can rag on each other for being tooled by a girl. Then they get all prideful if they beat me. I have a really good time with them.
After the New Year I should be starting English Conversation clubs, computer clubs and hopefully some sort of adult English club. Kate (my site mate) and I are holding a field day to meet some kids, so we can show how much fun we are to have kids coming to our clubs!
About my town: there is no internet that we have found yet, one library, one soccer field, a bazaar where you buy food, a few convenience stores, one tiny apartment bloc that we have seen so far, a handful of government buildings (fire, police, tiny hospital) and lots of one-story houses. The main feature is the one big paved road going through the city where a few other paved roads and all the dirt roads weave off of. It is like a main street, because that is where everything is based out of. All schools are on that road. There are 4 schools, but the schools here are very small, so four isn’t that much. One school is an orphanage and another does all it’s teaching in Russian, the other two are 1st-11th grade schools (the kids go until 11th grade here). I really like the town and feel like Kate and I can do a lot of good work here. We are the first Americans in this town since 2006 and they haven’t had Youth Development workers.
I will leave you with a funny story about life here that my family asked me to post to you all:
I was taken to the memorial service of Heydar Aliyev, the former president of Azerbaijan who died 6 years ago. His face is all over the place and quotes are still up on billboards. It’s surprising in this culture to find this guy’s image plastered all over everything when Idol worship is a HUGE offense in the Muslim religion. Anywho, it was my first experience with the Azerbaijani line. In this country, people don’t do lines. At the market, ATM, the toilet for god’s sakes, it’s whoever can weasel their way to the front. At the memorial service, people were supposed to put their flowers on the Heydar statue and leave. Well, it was supposed to be at 10, but for some insane reason, the police didn’t allow that to happen until 11, when people were standing out in the cold for an hour, unhappily. As much as they loved the former prez, they didn’t love him enough to be happy about waiting around an hour to put a flower on his statue. Anyways, the police then told the crowd to go ONE BY ONE up to the statue to place their flower down. Well this all could have been done AN HOUR AGO without the police’s help. But they decided to create a bottleneck by taking this huge crowd and cramming them into a line, something the public has NO FAMILIARITY with. All the local xanims (that’s old ladies in azeri speak) started pushing to the front. Now, these ladies could be linemen for Brady with the way they can push people around. I started to get squished, my host sister looked at me, told me not to worry. I was worried. I don’t do well in these situations. I don’t like to push strangers unless they have cleats strapped to their feet. I just dealt with it though.
It got worse. While I was being squished, a weird guy came up to me, handed me a piece of paper with his number on it and left, without saying a word. A little background on this: A lot of PCV’s are mistaken for prostitutes, but this was my first time. I handed the number to my host sister, pretending that I didn’t know that this guy thought I was a hooker, and she looked at me, shook her head with a wry smile, and threw the paper on the ground. At this point, I did not know what I was most offended by, the local xanim with her knee up my ass, being mistaken for a whore, or my host sister, the LITTERER! Anyways, I got my flower to the statue without any more incidents. The kicker is that I don’t even really like Heydar all that much.
Okay love you all! Miss you and hope you had a great holiday!


So my first toy was the other day,and it was FABULOUS! A TOY is an Azerbaijani wedding, and they are everywhere here. My first week at the new site and I was invited to one. It was a neighbor’s wedding whom I didn’t even know, but I was urged to go along with my host sister anyways, if not for anything else, for the free food.
So my first impression of this toy was that it is a normal wedding, like in the United States. We walked up to the restaurant, were among the first ones there, and went into a huge hall and sat down at one of 30 tables in the room. The hall was decorated in bright pinks and greens with lovey-dovey decorations everywhere and the food already on the table. I thought to myself, “people always tell me how much food is at a toy, this isn’t that much, like a normal wedding”. Well, I am proven ridiculously wrong in the coming paragraphs, but first we have the entrance of all the rest of the guests. So there end up being around 250 people at this wedding, from what I hear, a small toy. The doors were opened and it was like the gates opening at a Spice Girls concert in the early 90’s. The people rushed in to find the top seats, and save seats for their friends. Men sat on one side of the hall and the women sat on the other. Looking towards the men’s side, I saw vodka on the tables and cursed my choice of seating. I think it may have been the first time I had ever had penis envy. The women’s side had compote (a tasty but non-alcoholic juice drink) and a “fizzy pear drink”. That’s actually what the bottle said, in English. I thought there was hope, maybe this was some sort of girlie Smirnoff Ice spinoff, but no, just flavored carbonated water. That’s okay, it would’ve been just for decoration anyways, considering a woman is considered a “pis qiz” (bad girl) if you drink alcohol in public. The Smirnoff Ice knockoff would have sat there on the table taunting me the whole time I was there.
After the mass entrance of all the guests, the bride and groom entered with a 4-man band preceding them and streamers and confetti being thrown at them as they entered. The bride was beautiful in what we Americans consider a traditional gown and the groom wore a tux. The only thing that baffles me still, even after watching a dozen 3-hour long toy videos (and I actually watched the whole thing each time… so. long.), is that the bride and groom never smile. Not once. They walk in as if they even smirk their marriage is ruined. I asked an Azeri once why they do this, and they responded that this is a special event they want to remember without goofy smiles ruining the pictures. So this couple is walking, not smiling, and being followed by a video camera and multiple photographers. More fodder for yet another toy video. This one I won’t have to sit through though because I sat through it the first time (that’s the logical reasoning, but if I ever am a guest at this person’s house, we will go through the tape for hours just to see my one brief appearance, and my goofy smile).
So after the bride and groom sit, we eat. I had salad, chicken, nuts and my own half-loaf of bread. Plenty of food for this girl. To my surprise, the waiters bring on the next plate, boiled meat and potatoes. I pass on this one because I am already stuffed at this point, not knowing there was more to come. Each Thanksgiving in the States, I have strategies that help me through the marathon eating that happens in my family’s household. We weigh each other before and after, seeing who has gained the most weight. I usually gain a full 5 lbs in one day, so I can eat my share of food (nothing compared to my brother-in-law though, who packs in TWO dinners each Turkey Day). However, not knowing what was coming, I hadn’t enacted any type of strategy. The local xanim (older lady) sitting next to me definitely had a plan. We will refer to her as Red because she had her hair dyed that bright fire red that the xanims are sporting all over the place. Red definitely was getting her money’s worth out of this meal. The kebob came out, three different types, and I was forced to eat all three types to be polite. Red had no problem eating all three types, two times over. Then, to my utter horror, MORE food came out. The fruit that was sitting on the table when we entered the room was cut up and served. I ate that too, but Red had about 15 slices of apple, 10 of orange and about half a pineapple. She ate enough to feed a linebacker for two days.
It reminds me of a time when I was working as a waitress. My sister worked there too, and she had two little old ladies who maybe weighed 100 lbs a piece. They ordered a spinach and artichoke dip, one fish and chips a piece and dessert, all at the beginning of the meal. The fish and chips at our work could be three meals for the average man, so when I heard this, I said to Jessica, “There’s no way that these women are going to finish this meal, they’ll be taking three takeout bags home with them”. After an hour, I saw Jessica again, and she told me that they finished every bite. Practically licked the plates clean. The only thing they left for me to eat were my own words. I peeked at my new heroes walking out the door and I realized that you can’t underestimate a little old lady with a big appetite. Well, here I was doing it again. Red put me to shame. I am embarrassed to say that she ate three times as much as I did, and I couldn’t even eat dinner that night (this was an afternoon toy).
So after dinner comes dancing, but I was saved from that by my host sister, who decided not to dance at that particular toy. Thank goodness, because the little girls of his country grow up dancing a specific way, which I have never seen before, and I would have been a laughing stock if I had whipped out my trademark lawnmower move. Anyways, we watched as this awesome 4 piece band played, which was my favorite part. Every single old man in what was obviously a wedding band, look like he was perfectly enjoying what he was doing and will do it for the rest of his life. The look was something like “Yeah, I’m the shit, but there’s room for all kinds of awesomeness in this world, so you can be the shit too!” The kind of look I want on my face when I actually find a real job someday.
The last thing we did was take a picture with the bride and groom, and guess who was the only one with a big smile on her face? Yours truly. No big deal, but every time my host family will see that picture, they will laugh at the goofy American who was all smiles at a person’s wedding she doesn’t even know. I can’t wait until my sister’s wedding pictures come, and then my host family will see pictures of a LOT of goofy smiley Americans who have ruined ALL the pictures!