Ash's Azer Adventure

Hello everyone! The following is my blog about my 27 month trip to Azerbaijan working with the Peace Corps. I am a part of the 4th group sent to Azerbaijan and am in the Community Economic Development (CED) Program working with local companies to help them operate better in the world. Hopefully I’ll have some fun stories and cool pictures from traveling around Asia Minor and Eastern Europe. This blog is in no way related to the Peace Corps or their opinions. I hope you all enjoy…

Thursday, December 28, 2006

2 second update

Please read the big blog after this quick one with lots of pics and info, I just had to post a really quick update with 2 big occurrences this week….

1st-Nene walks in on Tuesday night laughing her butt off. It is quite common in our house for one of us to be cracking up, but it is usually because of the other person and I hadn’t seen her in an hour or so, therefore I was confused. I asked her what was up (they actually have a phrase for that here thankfully) and she tells me to go look at our ‘hamam”-aka the shower. I sheepishly said ok and went out and here is what I saw…

Last week she put in an oil/lighter fluid furnace to heat up the room before one of us goes in there (SEPERATELY) and I had only used it once a week ago. Well something went wrong with the vent tube or something and every square centimeter is covered in oily suit and it is disgusting! Needless to say it is freezing cold outside and she hasn’t gotten anyone to come clean it yet-I’m not touching the place. I guess I’m going to have to reserve 10 minutes at Tom’s house this week if I want to hose off before going to Georgia…it has only been 5 days so far since my last shower so I may pass….

2nd-last night I was chopping some wood around 9ish and it started to snow a tiny bit. Well I woke up this morning to…..

SNOW BABY SNOW!!! Lenkeran gets the smallest amount of snow in the whole country, so I was really excited. I hope it is dumping up north in Georgia (northern AZ got 8 inches yesterday-obviously nothing like Colorado is getting right now).

That’s it-short, yet important stuff. Like I said, deluxe blog below if you haven’t read about Baku and Christmas yet…

Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year Everyone!!!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Azerbaijan!!!

I hope everyone is have a splendid holiday season. I have a ton of pictures on this blog, so here’s the rundown now, so you know what you are looking at later: Tom and I eating a hot chicken sub from “Leb gang-Tom, Ben, me, Magda (long sleeve black), Kasey (tan shirt w/scarf), Rikki Georanese Fast Food” with a McDonald’s Double Cheeseburger stuffed inside-that was our first time to combine 2 awsome forces and it was amazing!; that’s my extremely sexy moustache I cut out of my beard for 1 night in Baku last week-ladies beware; 2 pictures of thege (long sleeve black in back), and Rachel (with glasses)-the first is a normal American picture and the second is a normal Azeri picture-no smiles allowed; crazy Nene cooking peroshkis-not sure on the spelling but a hot doughnut with mashed potatoes inside; Nene, Kasey and Rikki George putting up the Christmas Tree and decorations in my house on Christmas Eve Eve; Tom and Ashley’s uncooked lasagnas; the salad, cake and Christmas peach juice fake champagne bottles the girls from my office brought to dinner; and the entire Lenkeran gang eating our Christmas Eve Feast.

Ok, here’s what I’ve got for the past week or so of life and times in AZ:

My class of AZ4 all went to Baku for training together last week. Logistics-41 volunteers in the same hotel, 3 days of training from 9-6 on project writing/planning, language, security, health, culture and gender relations, etc., $12 per day of per diem, and we hadn’t been all around each other for over 3 months in our full group. Training was good, but it dragged at times. Shams is the woman in charge of our training and she’s wonderful, so it was good to hang out with her again. We went out for good food and play time each night after training even though it was cold, windy and rainy all week. We got a tiny bit of snow mixed in with the rain, but nothing fun. Baku had fake trees, Christmas lights, and Santa pictures and inflatables all over. Santa comes to AZ on NYE and gives little kids candy and presents on their doorstep. While in Baku I had nachos twice, chili cheese fries, McDonald’s twice, 3 chicken subs, spicy bacon pizza twice, and a burger and fries from a pub. It was freakin amazing! I think I gained 5 pounds easily. I may get to wait another week or two before I start cutting new notches in my belt!!!

The first night in town was really low key since we ate a ton and people had been traveling all day. Tom and I gave the gang a puppet show with scripts and props in our hotel room that night. On the second night, I have a couple of American buddies in Baku that said they wanted to take a few of us our for a couple of beers. Obviously we accepted since we are broke. One of them owns the pizza shop we always eat at (really good pizza by the way), so about 20 of us ate there for Mariko’s birthday. The owner and my other buddy swung by and told us to meet them at the brewery down the street when we were done-all of us. I said ok, feeling kinda bad about the size of the group. Well not only did they buy us a round, they bought all of the rounds for everyone for a few hours-like $800 worth. The beers the Ukrainian brew master made were actually really good. It was a really fun night. They had the Queen Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert on their TV’s, so 20 Americans were singing We Are the Champions all night. The 3rd night we went to an Irish Pub for burgers and played pool for a few hours because it was gross outside. The last night we killed some nachos and then a ton of us went dancing till the wee hours of the morning. On Saturday we had an ABLE (Azeri Boys Leadership Experience) meeting to plan our boys camp for next summer. I think I’m going to take over for the AZ3 guys that started it last year, so that should be a ton of fun next summer to be involved with. They play American sports, talk/teach about leadership, show them how to plan and execute small community projects in their towns, etc.

Tom and I invited Kasey, Rikki George and Rachel down to Lenkeran to spend the night Saturday on their way home for Christmas. We all packed in the back of a mini-bus and trucked it 5 hours to Nene’s house. Nene was kinda freaked out when I called and asked if I could bring 3 girls home, but she quickly loved her decision. We drank hot chocolate and ate Kraft Mac & Cheese and Pringles from the US-thanks mom and dad! We played some Yahtzee and then the girls all crashed in Nene’s room-couch, bunk beds, and a twin bed next to Nene’s twin bed. I could here her tucking each one of them in, kissing their cheeks, and saying “good night baby”…I was crying I was laughing so hard. The next morning Nene made us breakfast and complained that Kasey snored the entire night. Rikki George was very excited to meet “Rikki Chicken”. I’m kinda worried that I’ll come home to Kasey and Rachel chickens sometime soon as well. Rikki George, Kasey and Nene put up our Christmas Tree and then the girls helped Tom and I start our lasagna project before they took off for home.

Tom and I then made lasagna from scratch (noodles and all) and garlic bread for 10 Azeri friends, co-workers, and Nene. One girl from my office brought a salad dish and another made a cake-both had Merry Christmas in English written on them! Tom and I agreed our lasagna was pretty decent-which means freaking delicious by our standards. They don’t have thyme, basil or oregano in our bazaar, so it was pretty mild. Most people liked it and a couple even asked for the recipe, so it was a success in our mind. My Azeri tutor Farana gave me a killer old fashioned pocket watch, Nene gave me my own tea mug with a funny face on it that apparently reminded her of me laughing all of the time, and Nenebaji and Aysel gave me a really pretty picture of a lake and mountains and a Tom and I each a Santa tree ornament. At dinner Nene toasted Tom and I for 10-15 minutes. They are really big on toasts here. She said that I was well bred, had good manners, and was punctual from what I understood. I’m also pretty sure she said Tom and I were lazy idiots as well…

Tom and I played games and watched movies for Christmas Eve and Day. We threw the football and baseball because the weather was really nice yesterday as well. Thankfully we made a ton of lasagna, so we had left overs for today and tomorrow.

This was my first Christmas out of the country and it was pretty good. Don’t get me wrong, I miss waking up with the family, opening presents and then chowin on Mom’s cooking all day while watching football BIG TIME, but it was ok here.

I’m working 4 days this week and then heading to Baku on Saturday to catch the night train to Georgia-my first Azerbaijan train. Rachel and I will meet the other 13 volunteers in T’blisi early NYE, go out there to celebrate that night, then get up at the crack of dawn to travel 1.5 hours to the mountain to ski away. Last week there wasn’t much snow, but they got a few storms last week, so I hope it will at least be semi-skiable. I don’t want to waste money and vacation days to not ski. I’m hoping to get in 2.5 days of skiing before catching the night train back to Baku on the 3rd.

more and he and I will start figuring out which projects are the most important to the people here that I think I can successfully complete. So I plan on enjoying my vacation because I’m going tMy boss keeps saying once the new year comes around I’ll start traveling around my region and start having to bust my butt and get things going here. We are 12.5% done with our time here, so I’m excited to get some projects rolling besides the little ones I’ve started so far (youth projects in town, Eurasia projects, and Tom, Tim and I are going to start and English conversation club in January to give kids practice speaking English).

My New Years’ Resolutions are as follows:

Minimum 1 book a week read

Get my Azeri pretty solid by May so I can have over one year to learn Russian too

Start working on some bigger projects which will require me getting grants and donations from Embassies, grants, and American companies/organizations and then managing the resources and locals to complete them. I’m hoping to start small and work my way up to something big before I leave.

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and that Santa was good to you all. Have a Happy and Safe New Years Eve and Boomer Sooner Baby!!!

Monday, December 18, 2006

Some interesting times this week…

The past week was fairly status quo. We only had power at work for 2 hours at the end of Friday for the entire week, my boss was gone all week, I was bored out of my freaking mind, it was cool and windy, and it snowed in the northern part of the country this weekend (and in Georgia thankfully because the ski mountain is really lacking and we are leaving in 2 weeks). I found an American $1 bill on the ground today. People carry them over here a little bit, I just thought that was a random deal. And the answer to the question that has been bothering you all weekend, I had to take Nene’s undies off of the drying line this evening…

On Wednesday evening I went to a cemetery and then ate dinner with 15 old men I don’t know that only speak Azeri for 3 hours because my neighbors’ son died 1 year ago. Lot’s of chanting and reading from the Koran. Needless to say it wasn’t that fun. It was like when you were a kid and your parents had a dinner party and they made you sit at the table with them and all their friends, but you couldn’t really talk to anyone and no one talked to you, you just had to sit there until everyone was done, then you hauled ass to your room or to watch TV. Thank you Nene for getting me in on that gig. I came home and she told me she took me to a wedding to show me a fun Azeri thing and sent me to this to show me an un-fun Azeri thing…greatness. After thinking about it that night though, I am glad she sent me. It was a different cultural thing that most other volunteers won’t get to experience. On their tombstones (which are usually a glossy marble) they carve a detailed picture of the person from their shoulders up just before they died (so you can tell how old they are without reading). It is kinda cool and kinda creepy at the same time because you can see who it is that’s buried there, but you also have all of those faces looking at you that are dead and under your feet. I haven’t made my final decision yet.

Today Nene came into my room and asked me if I had a good movie for her to watch. Tom and I went through my movies and gave her 2 options based on entertaining to watch when you don’t understand the words and nothing with too much violence or any sexual scenes of any kind: Monster’s Inc. and Pirates of the Caribbean were offered. Nene chose Pirates, so the 3 of us sat down to watch the movie in surround sound with peanut M&M’s and cherry Kool-aide. About half way into the flick Nene reaches over, grabs a handful of M&M’s, swings her arm back hard and nails her mug of red cherry Kool-aide and spills it everywhere! It was AWESOME! Tom and I died laughing and proceeded to call her “baby” since she constantly says we are babies. She was cracking up, high comedy indeed. Nene loved the movie! She is hilarious to watch movies with because she makes all of these noises when stuff happens, will say “why why why” (in English) when she doesn’t like something, will crack up laughing at random stuff, and lets you know if the actors are good looking or fat. She really likes Kiera Knightly-I don’t blame her one bit…

Today officially ended my longest non-clean campaign of Azerbaijan so far-9 glorious days. I was starting to get a little ripe, but not near as bad as most people. What that does is get me extremely excited about “The Great American Stink Off” Tom and I are going to have next winter. The 17 day record doesn’t stand a chance man…

Since a lot of people really enjoyed my budget blog, here’s a smaller version for this week in Baku for our training:

Hotel is paid for directly from PC-$25/person/night

$5 each way for our travel to and from Baku

$12 per day for full days there and $8 per day for ½ days we are there (Tuesday and Saturday are travel days so we don’t get full per diem) for food and expenses which will break down daily to:

$1-big Snickers/fruit and water for breakfast

$1 or $2-street vendor sandwich or cheap local fast food for lunch

$5-$7-dinner of pizza, McDonald’s, nachos, chicken strips, or a meatloaf bacon cheeseburger

$3-$5-beers or to buy a bootleg DVD (we already have a few we need like the new James Bond)

I can buy a huge plate of nachos and a double cheeseburger from McDonald’s for $7-I may eat that each night except for 1 night of spicy bacon pizza!!!

For the comedy section of this week’s blog, Tom and I are scheduled to cook chips and salsa, garlic bread and lasagna for 10 Azeri friends and co-workers in Lenkeran on Christmas Eve afternoon. We will be making everything from scratch (minus the bread) and should do a bang up job! We have a cookbook that volunteers in AZ have put together over the past couple of years, so we will be relying heavily upon that. Please keep us in your thoughts this Holiday Season that we don’t completely mess it up! We are planning on having a feast of Kraft Mac&Cheese, Raman Noodles, M&M’s, Doritos, Slim Jims, Pringles, Swiss Miss Hot Chocolate with Marshmallows, Gatorade and Kool-aide on Christmas day!!!

Sorry, no pictures this week. There should be a ton in the next 2 weeks’ blogs from Christmas and skiing in Georgia

Merry Christmas from 12,000 miles away everyone!!!

Monday, December 11, 2006

Azeri culture and some other ramblings...

Highlights from last week:

Nene now has 2 chickens and 2 roosters (in the pictures) living with us and decided last week to name them. The red headed chicken is Malecha-one of Nene’s daughters who Nene affectionately refers to as “crazy devil” (fingers as horns when she says it), the orange headed one is Rikki-Rikki George visited Tom and I a few weeks ago and Nene loved her so much she got a chicken named after her, the first rooster we got is named Ashley, and I came home last night from a weekend trip to find a rooster named Tom has now joined the club-Nene informed me that he’s tall and skinny, just like real person Tom. The first one is Little Ashley hanging out with the ladies-as usual, second one is Little Tom kickin it solo-he hasn't made friends quite yet, and the third is once again me having breakfast with Little Rikki George and Little Devil.

We went to Sarah from AZ3’s house this past weekend for a quick vacation and to celebrate Rachel’s b’day. Sarah lives about an hour north of Baku and Brendan from AZ3 also lives in her town. Tom, Kasey, Rachel and I all made the trek up there. The rest of the gang bailed because they are all extremely lazy. I hope this trend does not continue for the rest of our service because Tom and I live the farthest away from everyone and have to travel a minimum of 4 hours to see anyone basically, so we will by far log the most hours on a mini-bus out of the gang. Sarah made us sausage gumbo, we had breakfast tacos (with Taco Bell hot sauce!) and some wicked garlic mashed potatoes to chow on. Tom and I played home run derby in Sarah’s yard with her waffle ball and a large stick. I hit 2 balls through a small window in her house’s attic and had to crawl around in 6 inches of hard as rock pigeon poo to get the ball both times-talk about gross!

I wanted to talk a little bit about the Azeri culture this week so you all have an idea of the culture I’m immersed in every day. This in no way is meant to be negative or critical. I could write a blog a mile long griping about American culture. I’m just stating a general description of how I, as an American guy, view it. I love the people in AZ, they are extremely hospitable and friendly, just a little different in some ways.

This country is about 8 million people

It seems like it is about 95% Muslim

They were under Soviet Rule until 1992

Almost everyone speaks both Azeri and Russian fluently

There are pictures, statues and museums of their first big President (who died in 2002 or 2003-his son is the current President). The father is still basically the face of AZ.

No one travels within the country. Most people have never left the town or village they were born in (although most have been to Baku at least one time in their life). I have already traveled way more within AZ than a typical Azeri.

Men usually smoke and have moustaches

When they drink (only males), it is always with a meal and they take turns giving toasts before each shot of vodka throughout the meal. They very rarely just have a drink without a meal.

It is a traditional male dominated society, but that is starting to change a little with the younger generation. Typically women stay at home all day to clean and cook and only leave the house to get groceries. There is a slight shift now where women are starting to go to college and come out and join the main work force. Once women hit the later stages of life (grandmas) they dominate the place. Old women can do and say anything they want and people out of respect go along with it. Being a Nene is a good thing! Everyone is extremely respectful to their elders and give up seats, carry bags, etc. whenever they are near an older person. They have a formal part of their language so you can change any normal phrase to the “formal” tone when speaking with elders. Older men typically hang out on the same corners or in the same tea houses all day every day (unless they work). They will literally stand (or squat) in the same spot all day long every single day-it is really quite amazing. Women are not allowed in the tea houses. It was a big deal when we finally got my old host family to let the American girls come eat with us-of course now they love it!

As far as courtship/weddings, I’ll talk about that in a later blog, there is a lot to mention.

Kids here go to normal school like in America-grade school and high school. They go 6 days a week and are required to take Azeri, Russian, and English classes. It’s amazing how many kids by age 11 or 12 can already speak all 3 languages extremely well. It makes me feel like an idiot as I struggle with my Azeri. A quick weird side note-you can write Azeri words with the Russian alphabet. Most adults cannot read Azeri in the traditional Azeri script-they read and write in Russian letters. This really confused me at first because I could not understand why people would look up words for me in what I thought was a Russian dictionary. The boys go to the army for 1 to 2 years after high school and then they may go to university or get a job in their town (many help out with the family business). AZ and Armenia have been and are currently at war over a disputed territory they both claim. Currently there is no fighting and they have been at a stand still for a few years. The first two years of university is for your bachelors and the second two years is for your masters. They have small state universities in some of the larger cities and Baku has several universities. It is hard to get jobs in AZ for young people, so many males do not have typical jobs. A large amount of the male population go to Russia to work and just come home every few months to see their families.

Everyone here seems to really be pro-America. I haven’t heard one anti-American thing since I’ve been here. They love Clinton and Bush-many people still think Clinton is the President. They love American action movies-they all know Stallone, Arnold S., Van Damme, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, etc. They like American music, but prefer Turkish or Russian tunes-many families watch music videos 24/7 in their houses. Many families watch soap operas from South America dubbed in Russian every night which is hilarious. Everyone hates what happen on 9/11 and is very anti-terrorist.

As far as food, they eat the same meals all of the time-lots of rice, fresh veggies, bread, and cheese. Not much variety in the meal selection. They drink tea scalding hot tea 24/7-it doesn’t matter if it is freezing cold or so hot people are having heat strokes. They don’t drink plain water. Everyone believes cold water makes you sick. They are very anti-cold anything here.

They are very particular about clothes. Every outfit is very stylish and cleaned and pressed so they always look good. This does not help me fit in at all since I’m against ironing clothes. They wear the same outfit usually 3-4 days in a row to cut down on washing (since most women here have to hand-wash everything). The kids are very big on blasting music from their cell phones while they walk around town. Everyone here is big on “cruising”. They don’t really walk to anywhere specific; they just walk around a ton.

Driving is an adventure. Basic street laws are not enforced, although cops will bust you for speeding…sometimes. You constantly hear car horns honking at other cars or people on the street and it’s not odd to see a car going backwards or the wrong way down a street. Driving on the wrong side of the road or on curbs is also quite common. Very rarely do you see a female driver. Most people drive Ladas here, but you see a ton of Mercedes and Hyundai cars.

That’s just a little glimpse of the Azeri culture. They are a very proud country and will tell you everything that they love about it at the drop of a hat. They are extremely family oriented-entire families live together for long periods of time or for their entire lifetime. Everyone is very affectionate. Both men and women often greet with cheek kisses and walk in pairs holding hands, arms, or with arms around their friends’ shoulder.

This week is going to be pretty low key. Today was the thrid anniversary of the passing of AZ’s first President. Everyone went to the big park in Lenkeran and put a flower by his statue in front of the new museam they are building for him. The police wouldn’t let me in to that sadly. I went with one of my co-workers to the drama theater and they had 4 people on stage giving a speech about him and then showed a video of his life for 30 minutes. It was pretty interesting-lost of kissing babies and shaking hands with important global leaders (Clinton and Bush were in there several times). It is really weird to see such a high amount of devotion to a politician-you just don’t see that in the U.S. Like I said, he’s basically the face of the country, so today was a sad day for everyone.

A quick book plug: Marley and Me by John Grogan is a great little book for anyone who has ever had a dog. I highly recommend it.

I hope everyone has a great week. Good luck to all of you taking finals at school and have fun to all of you that are going to Christmas parties all week! I would like to introduce you all to Zeka. She is Sarah's dog that we got to hang out with all weekend and she's awesome! She has a small excitement and peeing problem, but is a super cool dog. Some BP rig workers found her ditched in the freezing cold Caspian Sea and got her all fixed up and gave her to Sarah. That's Brendan and Kasey lounging with Zeka this past weekend.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

A day in the life of me, Ashley the PCV

Ok, so I figured I would try to give you all an idea of a typical day for me in Azerbaijan. I took an account of a work day and a weekend day for you all to sample. This may be boring, but I figured you all should have an idea of what I do since I know exactly what most of you do. Keep in mind this will probably change when I get projects going and I will only go to work a few hours a day and will spend the rest of the time on my projects around the region.

So my town has big electricity and gas problems. That means it doesn’t have them a lot of the time, and it’s never consistent when it will be off or on. My office, for whatever reason, doesn’t have electricity quite often (70% of the day). Well with the time change, the office is getting too dark to read by 5:30 already, and I’m sure that will only get worse. I’m not sure how they deal with this, but I see us leaving by 4:30 pretty soon! Thankfully my house has a really good electricity set up, so I have it about 95% of the time, at least enough for a light in my room to be on at night.

Work Day

7:15 the day begins with the roosters and chickens. I try to do yoga, but with the cold, it’s becoming harder by the day to get out of bed. I brush my teeth and wash my face outside on the balcony at 42 degrees with freezing cold water, eat the leftovers from dinner for breakfast, and drink a class of hot tea, clean out my room’s furnace, get new firewood for the day and load up the furnace so it’s ready to rock when I get home-Nene and I do all of these things together minus the teeth brushing

8:50ish off on my 20-25 minute walk to work. I pass the same people every morning and have several people I always say hello to (most of the women I always see never make eye contact with me or say hello-that’s not because of my hair, that’s just the culture). I say hello to: guy that owns local food shop, guy at car parts shop, the same 5 guys that sit on the corner by my office-1 works at a small shop and 2 drive cabs that they park there, and I say hello to as many young kids as possible that acknowledge me without being pricks.

9:10 I talk with my colleagues off and on while drinking tea, listen to my ipod, either read a book, or study Azeri-which consists of translating articles in entertainment magazines, memorizing flashcards of vocabulary words, or writing sentences practicing grammar and vocabulary

12:45 I bail on the office, say hello to the guys on the corner, go by Tom’s office and get him for lunch. His office plays James Blunt’s “You Are Beautiful” when I walk in, we all laugh, and then Tom and I go eat at a local Café on a rare occasion, but we usually go to one of our 2 houses-where we have tea

2:15 hello to the guys on the corner, back at work to do some more studying or zone out until Ferana gets to the office-usually involves drinking tea

3-5ish it’s Ferana Time Baby! She checks my homework, we work on some translating, and then we talk about a random topic or using the new vocabulary I learned

5:00 out the door home or to have tea with some locals and say good night to the usual locals

6:30 Nene and I chow and she talks the entire time, of which I understand maybe half-75% but nod and act as if I get 99% of it

8:00 I retire to my room, read, hop on the internet, or watch a movie, etc.

11:00ish I crash out

Weekend Day

Between7:00-9:00ish I wake up to the damn rooster that lives next door J or I somehow make it through it. Today I was up at 7:05 and its Saturday. I hang in my room for an hour listening to music, reading, watching a movie before I let Nene know I’m game to start talking to

10:00ish its breakfast time-today it is left over pizza and tea-that’s right, Nene made pizza last night. Sadly no pepperoni or Ranch dressing, but still good stuff!

10:30ish Tom will call, say he’s bored and we will make our plans for the day

11:00 we usually meet at the big park and walk around town for an hour or so just to get out of the house (we do this even if it’s raining because it rains here a lot and being out of the house and office feels nice)

12-1:00ish we go back to one of our houses for lunch with the family-lots of tea

2:00 it’s game time. We usually start off with a few games of Monopoly or RISK, followed up with a few games of Yahtzee. On a side note, these really boring and lazy afternoons sometimes involve us sneaking a few cocktails to liven us up.

5:00 we are usually gamed out so it’s movie time (Tom’s brother burned him over 200 DVD’s before he left, so we are set!). He also just got all of the Chicago Bears games so far this year last week, so we are on a big football kick lately which is fun

7:00 dinner time with one of the families-tea

8:00 it’s off to our respective houses and probably to another movie till I pass out from all of the excitement

Like I said, nothing to exciting to report, but then again, most days in America aren’t that exciting either. But, you do have TV, movie theaters, you can go out to eat with an assortment of friends and family, you can drive around, go out on the town, play a sport, work out in a gym, change the level of the A/C/heater, surf the internet for endless hours, etc. We are starting to get a few small projects going with local youths, so we are having meetings 1 or 2 times a week at work which helps break up the day and we have been consistently gone 2 weekends per month which also helps break up the monotony. Lenkeran shuts down at 6pm; literally everyone is inside at that time, so the nights are slow but fine. It’s the “easy life”. On a good note, I chopped wood for half an hour yesterday and it was awesome. I haven’t done that since I was a little kid I don’t think and I’m pretty sure it was just to act like my dad. I had a great time, so now I’m going to chop wood for 30-45 minutes every Saturday for us. That’s the most exercise I get which is pathetic, but it’s a great stress reliever and I can listen to some high energy music on my iPod and just go to town…it’s the little things in life that make us happy I guess…

The pictures are of: 1st-big park near where i live that is packed with people in the summer, there are 3 statues in town and we have named them Tim, Tom and Ashley so the 2nd picture is the statue of Tim looking at the playbill for the drama theater and the 3rd is the statue of Tom and I hanging out chatting on a bench, 4th-the leaves changing color on the nice walkway i take every day too and from work.