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, January 28, 2008

SU VAR!!!!!!!!!

For all of you bilingual English and Azeri people, that’s right-I’VE FINALLY GOT RUNNING WATER! The fixit guy came today, replaced two parts of pipes and then shaved a piece of wood to jam in the hole of my well motor pipe and the water is a flowing. It’s pretty dirty stuff, so I’ll be running it off and on most of the night to clean it out, then, fingers cross, tomorrow morning I’ll be taking my first shower at my house since December 30, 2007. I can’t freakin wait! I’m seriously giddy right now as I write this.

I honestly don’t know what else to write besides that to be honest with you. This past weekend I read two books, worked on trainings for new PC Volunteers I have to give in three weeks, started working on my resume for job hunting, studied a bunch of Russian and pretty much was stationary on my couch either sitting up or sleeping the entire time. It finally warmed up into the high 40’s with sun, so most of the snow/ice is gone. My landlord cleared out 3 small trees that fell due to snow and ice, so my back yard looks a little cleaner. For some reason I have it in my head that it is almost spring, even though there are still 3 days left in January. I’m sure it will freeze again tomorrow and life will go back to the normal coldness I’ve gotten used to.

Everyone is pretty much bored, grumpy and we are all passing around a cold it seems. This is the winter malaise of PC life in AZ. I’m actually doing ok with it, although I definitely struggle to get out of my sleeping back several mornings a week. I’m reading a book on President Bush and Iraq right now that is super interesting and really detailed, so that has been a challenge since I’m not big into politics or how our government works (as bad as that is of me). I also just read “Ender’s Game”-a sci-fi book from 1977 that is really good. It’s a quick and easy read, but really cool to think about. I highly recommend it.

Magda and I are officially getting our PC grant to hold a 4 day business training in Lankaran in March, so that’s exciting for us, our offices and about 30 local business people. We will be pretty busy planning that over the next 3 weeks or so.

Ok, that’s it. Sorry for the short blogs, just nothing going on of any consequence it seems. I’m going to go just stare at the water coming out of my faucet for a few hours and smile!

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

2 Pipes, My Well Motor Casing and a Faucet

That’s all I’ve found so far that has cracked or broken completely from the 18 consecutive days of my house being a popsicle. The temps have warmed up and most of the snow and ice have melted away, but now everyone in town has busted stuff and the “workers” aren’t the speediest or most reliable folks to take on the challenge of fixing the town. I’m hoping that if temps stay above freezing I may have running water by next Wednesday-but that’s just blind hoping on my part.

Thankfully I had to go to Baku for some meetings and took about 6 showers in 3 days-it was GLORIOUS! Now I’m back on the no shower kick again. That’s really all I have to report this week. I got back from Baku and slept 24 out of my first 48 hours for some reason-I didn’t do much of anything in Baku, so not sure where this sudden coma came from. I should find out in a week about my trainings grant and my meeting with the organization in Baku regarding the medical supplies project went way better than expected. I now have hope that it may actually happen. I’ll be hanging out low key in Lankaran for the next few weeks, which is just fine with me. Jenny and I are planning “PC Prom” for Valentines Day weekend in Baku, so that should be fun. High Society is the theme, which should provide for some interesting outfits seeing as how we don’t shower and wear the same clothes for weeks at a time here. Have a great week everyone! Since nothing has been going on, I don’t have any pictures. So I just decided to steal some of my friend Bethany’s pics of mosques she took in Istanbul for your viewing pleasure…

Thursday, January 17, 2008

17 Days and Counting…..and Stinking

WARNING-You all may want to hold your breath while reading the following blog. Just for the record, it is both bad luck and bad form to plan your weekly shower for the exact day your water pipes freeze for 9+ days. That’s right, I took a shower on the 30th of December and was planning on the 6th. Well the winter blizzard hit that days, all of Azerbaijan froze-streets, pipes (Tom had a pipe and 2 faucets burst), doors, ice, everything. We got a total of about 1.5 feet of snow, but it has been butt cold every day until yesterday. I think we got into the 40’s with sun and things started to melt, but not my pipes. I’m heading to Baku on the Wednesday night train for meetings and will have a hotel room Thursday, so I’ll be taking a shower as soon as possible when I get there-20 days on stinkitude later. Just for the record, I’ve worn the same clothes all day every day once I realized I wasn’t getting clean any time soon and didn’t want to contaminate any other clothes and also, the 16th day really took a turn for the worse. I had a few friends give me a “smell test” and said I was fine, but I know yesterday I started to emit a mild and moldy stench.
Let’s see, what else is really going on….oh wait, NOTHING! That’s not really true, but the entire country seemed to be shut down last week and everything went in slow motion so as not to fall on the ice. I have my PC grants committee meeting this Friday, Ram and I are meeting with one or two organizations in Baku about our medical supplies project-this could be the make or break week for that so think happy thoughts please, I went to cut Nene’s wood yesterday and found out two 22 year old soldiers will be crashing at her place for three months, so hopefully she’ll be a little less bored. I’ve been working on making a “How To” manual for our boys camps to give future groups of PCVs, and that’s about it. I’ve been reading about two books a week so far over the winter, so I’m glad about that. I watched “No Country For Old Men” the other night. If any of you have seen it, shoot me an email to discuss-I kinda get it, but I don’t. Joyce, my site mate, has been keeping me up to date on the primaries and such-should be an interesting year of politics in America it seems. I’m not sure if I’m happy or sad I’ll miss most of it. All Azeris have read Jack London books for some reason, so I finally read a couple and really liked them. Ok, that’s about all I’ve got. I’m going to go buy a bunch of car pine tree air fresheners and rub them all over my body and clothes…

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


That’s right, it’s freakin cold here. Last Saturday night around 10ish a nice little snow flurry snuck up on us. Well I woke up and it was dumping and continued to dump all day long. Then all of our water pipes froze, and the roads too. Jane and I made a killer snowman smoking a left over roman candle while joyce made a snowpuppy. So now it is Tuesday night and the pipes are still frozen, the major roads are kinda not icy and no snow for 2 days, but still snow everywhere. My house’s temperature has been dramatically fluctuating between a steamy 40-42 degrees since Saturday. Thankfully it does block the snow and wind from getting in, so I have that going for me. I basically make out with my electric heater each night it is so close to me. It actually isn’t that bad. I’m used to this temperature and know exactly which layers and how many of them I need on for certain temperatures. I sleep fully inside of my sleeping bag-head and all. The only real problem is getting out of it in the morning knowing how much colder the outside world is. This weather encourages me to go to my office more because we have wood burning heaters there that they always have rocking by the time I get there, so warmth abounds. I haven’t showered in 8 or 9 days-I literally can’t remember the last day I hosed off, but I’m fairly certain it was last year. I’ve started melting/boiling snow to wash my dishes, boil my noodles and distill for drinking water, so that’s fun. I make sure to avoid the random yellow snow patches that are near my door-getting all bundled up to wander about 40 steps in a foot of snow to pee into a hole isn’t that appealing at 10pm.

Other than that, not much to report. A Chinese Circus showed up to town yesterday, so I’m gunna go see what that’s all about tomorrow. It has been a week of writing reports-Magda and I have been writing our grant for the past few days since it is due Wednesday and I have a periodic report for PC due soon as well. We have to fill out these long reports detailing our activities, where they fit in the goals of the PC, who they help, how they help, etc. In spite of the fact that it is not hot right now, I put up a bunch of cool snow skiing pictures on my wall from a few magazines my family sent me. I never thought in my entire life I would say these words but I’m gunna freakin cook cabbage this weekend for the first time in my life. Ina made some for me a few weeks ago that wasn’t that bad with a bunch of seasoning and then either ketchup or this kinda sourcreamish stuff they have here. One parting thought in regards to me getting up at 5am to track the OU Fiesta Bowl game….I should have never gotten out of my sleeping bag…..

Pics are of our snow man, my back yard, and my frozen laundry…

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and Everything Else!

So I have been a blog slacker lately and I apologize. I’m going to do a two week update/inclusive blog so you guys will have something to waste time with on your 1st days back at work after your holiday vacations.

I went to Barda the weekend before Christmas to hang out with several friends-Jason had an “All Holidays Gathering” at his house and we had a fun weekend. We realized our group of AZ4 PCVs has gotten old and lame when we looked around about 1am and most of the girls were knitting and the rest of us were playing poker while the new group was all up and still rocking away. I like to think we have matured and calmed down, but I think we are just all lazy and know how to pace ourselves. Then I headed to Sheki for actually Christmas at Magda’s. They have a semi-movie theater there with a projector on a white wall with good speakers and for $6 total we got to watch our own Polar Express movie and eat popcorn! It was a ton of funand I really like the movie. We also made good American food, played games and watched all of the typical American Christmas movies-Frosty, Rudolph and Co.

The entire country has all of this week off so it has been nice and relaxing. Due to the fairly consistent rain and mid 40’s temps it has become increasingly harder to get out of my insanely warm sleeping bag each morning. The Lankaran Gang had a NYE feast with games and then headed down to the main town square for the city firework show with music and the fountains going. We also stopped by Tom’s old host family at mid-night to say hello, then headed back to my place to set off a bunch of fire crackers. Firecrackers are kinda expensive here. For $10 Tom and I got a carton of blackcats, 4 roman candles, 1 foutain, 6 bees, 10 bottle rockets and maybe 1 or 2 other small things. I was hoping to buy a whole mess of cool stuff for $10 here. There obviously aren’t any rules against lighting them in the city. I’ve heard blackcats basically 24/7 for the past week or so from neighborhood kids. I’ll be glad when this week is over and that should be done hopefully. Today we all got our picture taken with the Azeri version of “Santa” and the “Winter Queen”. Tomorrow we are having a “Lonesome Dove” Mini-series marathon at Tom’s house. I got all of the sitemates to read my book over the past month, so they are all excited to see the movie.

Well, we have officially finished our one and only full calendar year in AZ. Only about 9 months left on the countdown. I made a deal with myself that I wouldn’t think/worry about post-PC life until 2008. Well that worked our great until yesterday-now I’m screwed. I’ve been reading a bunch of books and am going to start doing research about possible employment areas over the next couple of months so that once March/April hits I know where I want to focus my job search efforts. I’m also going to start planning my trip to Russia for June pretty soon, so I’m started to get excited thinking about that. I’m getting up at 5am to follow the Sooner game cast for the Fiesta Bowl. I have two boxes of cereal from US already out with my OU t-shirt and stocking cap ready for the game!

Pics are of "Happy New Year" sign, me and tom at the park for NYE, fireworks show, us lighting blackcats and the lank gang.

I hope you all had a wonderful Holiday Season! I guess I can probably say I’ll see you guys later this yearand BOOMER FREAKING SOONER!!!!