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, February 12, 2007

It was bound to happen eventually…..

In this blog I wanted to give you guys a little insight to my never ending battle with the local language. I also have a ridiculous story at the end that it is well worth your time to read.

So the local language is Azeri (which is really close to Turkish). Pretty much everyone in AZ also is fluent in Russian as well. Since they were a part of the Soviet Union for so long, Russian became their unofficial main language. There are also other dialects used in the different regions (Talish is spoken down south where I live, but in the small villages-most people in Lenkeran only know a small amount of Talish). You can read and write the Azeri language with Russian letters, which really threw me off for a while. There is a large amount of the population that cannot read Azeri, even though they speak it every day. They have little English to Azeri dictionaries that are written in Russian. That threw me off for months because I thought people were looking up things in Russian and then translating them in their heads to English. If you go to Baku, most business is done in Russian. It is really weird to me. I’m doing ok in the language, but not great. I can speak it, but I still can’t keep up in conversations that well, especially with new people or multiple people talking. I’m going to attempt to learn Russian starting in Mayish if I can get my Azeri good enough by then.

The Azeri alphabet has 32 letters. It has a few “combo” letters for some English sounds-“ch” & “sh” are each only one letter-ç & ş. It has a dotted i (İ) & an un-dotted ı (I), regular e & ə, regular u, g, and o & ü, ğ, and ö. They have a few different letters that to me sound the exact same to me, but to Azeris they are completely different-this does not help my communication ability what so ever and is extremely frustrating. I just don’t hear the difference and it drives people crazy (I just think it is a hoax to mess with my head). Their sentence structure is different that English also. Here’s the basic structure-1st time/day/place, 2nd subject, 3rd any descriptors or second verbs (all of the stuff the end of an English sentence), last is the verb. So you say the subject and everything else and then have to wait to hear what the action is. It makes it hard to get to the point quickly. The Azeri language is big on suffixes-they have zero prefixes as far as I know. They use suffixes to tell you possession, direction (from, to, etc.), to make plural, who the word relates to, to make it an adjective, adverb, and for the words must, is, have, were, etc. You can put 3, 4, or 5 different suffixes all together on one little word. The verbs all start out as “to verb”, so the root word is “to run” or “to talk”. Then you change the ending if you need to change the tense so it goes from “to talk” to “have talked”. When you change the verb’s tense you also have to put a personal ending with it so you know which person in the sentence was doing that specific verb. So the English phrase “I have walked” is one word in Azeri. I kinda like that-it makes things a little more basic/not as wordy. They have one word for he/she/it, so you never know if they are talking about a guy/girl/dog/watermelon unless they previously told you. One thing that is sometimes fun and sometimes annoying is that when you first walk up to someone, there are about 10 different greetings that you just keep saying back to each other over and over until finally someone decides to start the actual conversation. The Azeris don’t get straight to the point like Americans. I like that because it is really friendly, but it also drives me nutz when it just drags on when all I want to do is ask a quick question. This is extremely evident during phone conversations. People go through all of these greetings without ever knowing who they are talking to. They never announce who it is that is calling until finally someone either recognizes the voice or decides to ask “who is this” well into the conversation. It is a fun language and I’ve enjoyed the challenge of learning it. Since this is the first language I’ve ever really tried to learn (I wouldn’t say I tried to hard in my high school Spanish and neither did my teachers/grades) it has been pretty difficult for me. Thankfully all of my Azeri friends are patient with me and help me out all the time. I also have a great little teacher that comes to work every day, so that helps a ton.

The weather is back to fantastic low 60’s and sunny during the day, so life is good. I’m heading to Baku on Friday morning for 2.5 days of training for my Eurasia youth group I volunteer with. We are staying at the “Aqua Park”, so I’m hoping they at least have an indoor pool going we can play in. This weekend is also PC Prom-basically an excuse for everyone to come to Baku on the same weekend, possibly dress up in fun outfits and go out together. Magda and Charlie will also be turning a year older early the next week, so this will serve as their birthday celebration weekend. Magda has a pirate fetish, so I think we will have one night pirate theme and one night prom theme. That should make for nothing short of a fantastic weekend! I am going to tell Nene this week that I’m moving out next month (assuming I can find a freaking house in the next 6 weeks), so keep your fingers crossed for me on that conversation going well. I’m not sure how she’s going to take it, so I’m pretty nervous. I told her when I moved in that I would be moving out in six months (that’s when the PC rule runs up and we can decide where we want to live), but she seems to have forgotten that conversation completely. I’ve already written a script in an attempt to make that conversation as painless as possible. And finally….

Just so you all know that I am still the complete idiot I was back in the US, I have a story to tell. I want to set the stage first-we have zero street lights in Lenkeran, there isn’t much of a moon right now so things are pitch black, and we usually walk in the middle of the road with our cell phones out to light up the way if we think we see a puddle or huge hole in the ground.

In AZ they don’t have an underground sewage system. They just have little ditches (see picture) that run along every normal road that cars drive on (not little back allies and paths). The ditches are about a foot wide, about 2-3 feet deep and just have typical sewage stuff in them-leaves, trash, water, cow patties, sheep patties, dirt, etc. Every now and then they come by and shovel the stuff out-yummy! They have pieces of metal covering some small parts in front of shops that you can step on to get to the shop and/or sidewalk. They also obviously have it paved over where cars need to drive. Well we always joke that one day someone is going to not pay attention and break an ankle or something in one of those. Well lucky me, I am now the first that I know of to have a sewage ditch experience. Last night on my way home from Tom’s house I was texting Rikki George, completely not paying attention to the road and all of a sudden walked into one of these ditches. I sunk in sludge up to my knees and the only thing I could do was laugh. Walking home covered in sludge and in the 45 degree weather is not the most fun thing. I went back to Tom’s to get some pants to change into. He opened the door and about fell down due to laughing convulsions. Needless to say I didn’t smell too good and from my knees down I was covered in black “stuff”. It wasn’t quite as bad as the time we were snow sledding in Bartlesville and I tried to sled over some ice, broke through the ice into what I later realized was also sewage. That was head on and in full winter gear-but I think they both smelled equally disgusting. I’m currently waiting for the water to heat up in my bathroom area so I can hose myself off! Hopefully that little story made everyone’s day a little brighter.

The pictures in today’s blog were (in order shown): the moon from Nene’s balcony the other night, 3 rows of wood stacks under where we shower-each row from floor to ceiling is the amount of wood I have to chop/we use for each month, my ditch I walked into, a close up of the contents I went directly into and a goat head at toms’ house on Sunday-sadly we missed the slaughtering sadly.


At 5:49 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

that's very confusing, since I barely understand English grammar!

and eew.

that's all I have to say about that :)

At 8:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i could have done without the goat head. awful!

At 8:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry, i'm the goat head comment above........kelli

At 7:58 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing the goat head picture Ash- quite entertaining for us vegetarians!!!! (JOKE)

At 2:06 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ash--that goat head is too much!


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