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…

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I Can’t Not Speak English Guud

So I’ve known for a while now that my general English speaking skills have been diminishing since I’ve been over here. I think it comes from not speaking it near as much, trying to learn and speak in new languages, texting in short hand instead of talking on the phone and my extreme lack of American fast food. When I’m in either Azeri or Russian lessons my teachers will always try to explain things by using the technical grammatical terms like “present perfect participle” or something crazy like that. I have to then have them give me an example or two so I can figure out what in the world they are talking about. I’m absolutely clueless when it comes to that stuff it seems. It’s embarrassing…

Well I went up to Sheki over the weekend to help Jenny record the grade school English books onto CDs for teachers to use. Me, Bethany, Charlie and Jenny all took turns reading lessons and exercises into a computer all weekend. Bear in mind all three of them are English teachers over here and I’m clearly not, so they are all big on grammar and speaking/teaching correctly. An exercise comes up for me dealing with possessive plurals. I am supposed to read a sentence regarding some dogs and their house and I keep saying what comes out sounding like “the dogses houses”. They all just start dying laughing at me. I can’t figure out what the problem is, so I say it how I think it should be said a couple more times, each time coming out the same. Once they catch their breath they explain to me how I should be saying it, and I still don’t get it. Finally Bethany switched exercises with me and took over that one. I mean what the heck!?!?!? This comes a week after Tom and I were briefly talking about jobs after PC and I completely messed up some sentence regarding that subject and followed it up with “you guys hire retarded people right?” in reference to my current condition. I’m definitely going to have to re-learn the English language and how to communicate in a semi-coherent way before I leave the AZ.

In other news, I had my longest in country travel day-I turned an 8-9 hour trip to Sheki into a 20.5 hour trip, it’s cold and rainy down in Lankaran again, my loving parents hooked me up with a new iPod as an early Christmas present-just in time for that miserable trip thankfully, I’m trying to figure out plans to hang out with friends around the Christmas/NYE Holidays, a lot of the new group of Volunteers are starting to have a hard time with winter hitting, Christmas away from family and friends, having been here for 6 months, etc.-kinda weird being totally fine with it this year, and we just figure out we are basically 2/3 the way done with our time here. Kinda hard to believe that there is less than 9 months left in my AZ living. I officially have 16 more days of no stress what so ever about life after PC, then it will hit with a vengeance I’m sure-I promised myself I wouldn’t even think about it until 2008 for sanity’s sake. That’s all I’ve got. I’m going to go read a 3rd grade English grammar book now…

Tuesday, December 11, 2007


I really don’t have much this week so I’ll keep it short and sweet for you guys.

I went to Beylagan to do some work on our boy’s camp for next spring and to help Carlo celebrate his birthday. It was a really fun and low key weekend. Carlo doesn’t’ get many visitors, so he was really excited to have some guests finally. We went to a really cool cemetery outside of town where an old profit is baried that Carlo is helping out a little bit. The owner gave us a free and delicious lamb kabob feast which was really cool

Aid funding for AZ has been basically cut in half recently for NGOs and such which is making it harder to do things here. I’m having some major problems finding a local organization that can help me manage all of these medical supplies if we get them, so that is taking up most of my time right now. I’m going to head up north to Sheki for the weekend to help Jenny record English lessons on cds so she can use a small grant to make copies and give out to teachers.

We had a Lankaran gang dinner at our newest member’s house last night. Kathy is an English teacher volunteer at the local university and she had us all over for some good grub, so that was nice.

Tomorrow is the anniversary of the death of their first president so a lot of people will be putting flowers on his statue in our big park and people will be pretty sad all day.

That’s really all I’ve got. It is cold here, but not super cold yet. I’m living in my sleeping bag most of the time when at home, so I’m basically cocooned 24/7 when at home.

Monday, December 03, 2007

12-2-07 R.I.P. Ashley’s iPod-you were a great companion….

Well it finally happened, my iPod Mini died on Sunday. It had been freezing off and on the past couple of weeks. Each time that happened I had to let the battery wear completely out, then charge it back up and us it until it froze again. This could be 5 songs or 50, I never knew. Finally Sunday when I tried to put a few new Christmas songs on it, the little guy up died. It truly is a tragedy to lose him for several reasons:

Music is one of the main things that helps me keep my already limited sanity here

Listening to local music blaring on speakers on 8 hour bus rides gets a TINY bit old

All of my music is on my external drive and I don’t want to mess with that every time I turn on my laptop and I want to listen to something

My solo spontaneous dance parties aren’t as fun without music-this is something we’ve come to love-basically I get stir crazy, crank up my music, start dancing in my home and text someone else in AZ and tell them to join in-this way I’m not a crazy person having a solo dance party, at least one other person I know is dancing with me-ish

Let’s be honest, who doesn’t just need to have Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings” available at the press of a button…

In other news, to take the place of music as a sanity keeper device I have taken up a new hobby. Remember last year when we had sock puppet theater? Well my very kind sister sent me a box of supplies to make a ton of actual sock puppets and also a “Stupid Sock Creatures” creation kit. It has a book with instructions on how to make crazy little creatures/stuffed animals out of socks, two pairs of socks, buttons, thread, needles and filling. I’ve made two so far. I suck at sewing- I think the last thing I sewed was a pillow in 8th grade home ec class with a sewing machine and teacher telling me what to do. my first attempt is a pretty poor looking fellow, but round two’s craftsmanship is top notch! I’m sure you are all laughing and thinking I’ve gone off the deep end with this one…you are probably right…

I got up at 5am on Sunday to track the OU/Mizzou game on ESPN’s website. While that is nothing like watching the game, it was still fun to know we were whipping some ass! Thanks to Tye, Darci, Clay, Dagen and Ron for keeping me company during the game. And a big Boomer Sooner to the BCS-what a joke….

I found out last week there is a really really good chance my medical supplies project is going to go through next fall and I’m going to figure out how to manage several hundred thousand dollars worth of medical supplies getting here, being distributed to the right hospitals and making sure they are getting used. If this happens, I’m going to be busy as all get out. Keep you fingers crossed, this could be a really good deal for the small clinics in the villages so I’m hoping it actually happens.

We gave a training to some college students today on interview skills. My program manager is coming on Wednesday for his yearly check up. He’s a great guy, so I am always glad I get to spend some one on one time with him. I had a tough Russian lesson today and walked out feeling like an idiot. I’ve got to put a TON more effort into it.

This week’s pictures are of the mini-Christmas trees Jane made me, tom and joyce, my two new sock creatures, the mountains after their first snow and Tom and I at a local school on Saturday for an English Fair-the sign has my favorite Azeri saying “Nush Olsun” which means “Bon apatite” basically…