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…

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!!!


At 10:34 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey, it sounds like you guys had a great Christmas! I'm jealous that you get to go skiing, it's been so rainy here the grass is going to look like spring again! if you guys get good enough at making lasagna, I can give you my recipe for Mexican Lasagna, a big hit a bbq's and potlucks...yeah, I'm Polish and not the least bit Mexican, but it's delicious! Happy New Year!
Go Bears!

At 12:15 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Rikki and I deserve a little more credit for your lasagna. Who made those freakin awesome noodles? One more thing, bring on Georgia baby! Is it saturday yet?


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