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 25, 2008

Another Day in My Life

I really don’t have much to type about and today was a good mix of a normal day but with some rare events, so I thought I’d give you guys a complete rundown of a “busy winter” Monday for me at site:

8:00-8:40-alarm went off, I laid completely inside of my sleeping bag trying to stay warm and reviewing Russian vocab, the milk lady walked by but I was too cold to get out of my sleeping bag to get some dairy products

8:40-10:20-made typical breakfast of 2 scrambled eggs on fresh bread with spreadable cheese, brushed my teeth, got a nalgene full of purified water, and crammed for my Russian lesson

10:25-11:15-had my Russian lesson at a local school. Funny story of the day: my teacher told me I need to listen/hear Russian more (I was having problems understanding what she was asking me) so we went down the hall and I met a tiny old Russian teacher who teaches 3rd and 4th grade-I am now going to go sit in on her class in the mornings when I can so I can learn Russian with 8 year olds-her exact words were “he doesn’t know Russian very well, the kids don’t know it very well, this will be fun”-I’m sure I’ll have a hilarious report on how little kids are mocking me in class and beating me up for being a teacher’s pet next week

11:30-12:45-went to my office, talked with my co-workers, read a month old Newsweek, talked about my training next week and rubbed my eyes constantly from the smoke from our wood furnace

12:45-2-ate lunch with the Lank gang-1.5 potato quesadillas and 1 goat stomach quesadilla covered in a yogurt-ish sauce for 60 cents. During lunch we debated what all of the floating things in my freshly cleaned nalgene and distilled water were-I mean it was just full of what can only be described as tiny pieces of toilet paper and I literally just used bleach and boiled water to clean it and the water was pure-couldn’t taste it though

2:30-3:30-the father or our secretary died yesterday so we went to his “death tent”-a tent in the road in front of their house where men sit, drink tea, talk a little and listen to preachers talk all day long for 7 days after the death. I just stared at the quilts that make the walls in the structure the entire time basically while going in and out of listening.

3:30-4:30-helped Jane to find a house to move into next month when the new group of PCVs is free of host family living


6:30-8-worked out in my living room for exercise and to generate free warmth

8-8:45-cooked and ate pasta with ketchup for dinner

9-10-wrote emails and blog and did stupid computer stuff

10-11-read and studied Russian vocab between chapters

11-11:30-internet time posting blog, sending emails, looked for jobs and looked at ESPN

12-1-read until I fall asleep

There you have it ladies and gentlemen-that was a busy and productive day in the life of Me these days. It is supposed to start snowing soon, my well is still broken, Tom finally got water working over the weekend so I’m going to have to use his shower tomorrow since I haven’t showered in about 10 days, I am going to buy supplies tomorrow for the business training, Magda will come down this weekend, and that’s about it. Enjoy your last week of February-I know I’ll be happy to get my last cold Feb in AZ over with…

Monday, February 18, 2008

Busy In Baku

Well I just got back to Lankaran from being in Baku for what seems like an eternity. In reality I was only there about 5 days, but life there is so much more intense than the slow pace of life out in the regions. We got the new Rambo movie in Baku, so I had that treat on the night train back. Good old Sly just keeps killing people even though I think he’s about 129 years old. I went in early last week to help give a training to the new group of PCVs on working with their counterparts at their organizations as well as how to manage small projects while in the Peace Corps. I’ve given a training like this before but it was 2.5 days. I had to shrink it to 1 day to fit a tight schedule, but I think everything went fairly well.

Besides that we had our first ABLE (the leadership camp we do for kids) meeting to plan for this summer’s camp and I also had a good first conversation with a new organization in Baku that says (with confidence) that they can help with my medical supplies project. I have another phone meeting with them later this week and I am really hopeful that things work out with the-I haven’t heard back from the first organization we met with so my faith in them isn’t so high right now.

I also talked with a few people that work in development/aid work about options and advice for jobs once I finish with the PC. They had a lot of interesting ideas and thoughts, so I now have a lot more to think about in that part of my life.

My well motor broke a week ago and my landlord today said it will probably be another couple of weeks before it is fixed. 2008 isn’t turning out to be the year of water. I’ve got to work a ton the next 2 weeks on my business training so I hope my office and manager are cooperative and we can get everything done-it should be interesting.

The pictures are from our “High Society” Prom we had in Baku over the weekend. Thanks to Magda for making me a killer ascot! Ben and me, Magda, Ram, Ben, me, Tom, Rikki, Donny and Maria, the Lankaran Gang, and me, Tom and Carlo.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

7 months left baby…that’s like half a year almost…

Not much went on this past week. I officially haven’t seen my boss in over 3 weeks, so that’s fun I guess. I’m going to meet with him this week to begin planning the business training Magda and I are doing in early March.

I’m heading to Baku Tuesday night to help out with a training for the new group of PCVs and then we are having “PC Prom” Saturday night in Baku so I’ll get to see lots of my friends. Magda is currently working on part of my costume-our theme is “High Society”-which we all are clearly not. This is just basically an excuse for most of the PCVs to come to Baku on the same weekend in the middle of the winter and hang out. So I’ll be in Baku pretty much all week so warmth and cleanliness should abound!!! Oh, the motor on my well burned up earlier this week and Tom’s house still has busted pipes, so the water situation in Lankaran is still not ideal. Oh well.

I’m having a few meetings on projects in Baku next week as well-this should be my last medial supplies meeting deciding if one of these two organizations can help out or not. I’m also going to meet with a few people that work for aid/development organizations to talk about ideas for jobs/work after PC, so it should be an interesting week all around.

I just read a book called “The Killer Angels” about the Civil War-really good book.

I just went and ate dinner with Joyce’s host family for the first time, so that was fun. It’s always cool hanging out with a new Azeri family that is outgoing. Her host mom was really chatty, so we had a good time. Plus I got free warm chicken and their homemade kool-aide/fruit juice stuff-I could drink it all day every day. The only thing that sucks about getting such a good meal is you have to have the required glass of tea after dinner, so all of those delicious tastes are burned out by hot tea. I’m just not destined to like tea-there’s nothing I can do about it.

That’s about all I’ve got-short blog week. I should have some funny pictures next week from prom. I’ll leave you with this final thought and corresponding picture. So there is a cat that considers my yard part of her turf. We are cordial to each other, say hi when we pass on the way to the toilet, etc. Last week she got under my house and just made a ton of loud noises all one day. I thought maybe she was hurt or something-I looked under there and she was just sitting there alone not doing anything-who knows. Well today I heard some “different” noises from her, I look out my door and here’s what I see…

I guess everyone needs to find ways to stay warm in the winter…

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

C and C Baby Factories

I would like to start this week off with an Azerbaijan shout out to Cole Pregler and Crew Boyd and their respective parents and grandparents! Two of my best friends, Chris Pregler and Dagen Boyd (and of course their lovely wives Jennifer and Michelle), had their first children over the past week or so and I can’t wait to meet them! Jennifer got things going with popping Cole out a whopping 5 weeks early and Michelle followed up with popping Crew out a couple of weeks early. I got an early morning wake up call Sunday morning with Crew making some funny noises to introduce himself to me half way around the world. Oddly enough, after I finally answered the phone after 3 separate calls from Dagen, I think I made the same noises in my sleep daze.

Last week was pretty standard-I’m sounding like a broken record each week I know. My friend Bethany came to visit for the weekend. Tom and I decided not to head to Baku to watch the Super Bowl due to money and me thinking the game wasn’t going to be so good. We also watched Sweeny Todd-freaking weird but good movie. We were trying to organize a joint Georgia and AZ boys camp with PCVs in Georgia this summer but I just got word things on that end aren’t going to work out so no dice sadly.

I had a horrible Russian lesson yesterday and it was a total wake up call for me that if I’m going to learn that language at least conversationally while I’m over here I need to really bust my ass. This is going to be a BIG week of review and getting my head on straight.

I just got back from Nene’s. Today is the 40th day of her return from Mecca, so she was giving out food and invited me over for some chicken and rice. I’m stuffed and she gave me left overs to take home for tomorrow! I forgot how much I love walking into her kitchen in the winter after work. It is always the perfect temperature of warm with the wood fire, never smoky and smells delicious. This is a 180 from my kitchen that is 40 degrees, a tiny fire from my gas balloon, and the smell of pasta and ketchup. She had a bunch of visitors over to eat and celebrate her trip to Mecca over the past 40 days and showed me my old bedroom. Well she probably has about 50 huge boxes of chocolates stacked up in there. Chocolate is the preferred gift when visiting a person’s house in AZ. She told me she’s going to take them all to the store later this week and sell them to the shop owner and keep the money-which is also perfectly acceptable over here. Re-gifting is also a constant thing.

This week’s insight into my life makes me feel ridiculous. So I was skipping work this afternoon because I’m just more productive at home than in a small office with 4 people constantly yelling/talking. Well I got a call from Nene inviting me over to eat at 4, then a call from Jane saying I had a package at the post office. All of a sudden my quiet afternoon at home reading, working on Russian and doing internet stuff (like this blog) wasn’t panning out. I had an extreme sense of being “too busy” all of a sudden. How pathetic is that? I had to go eat, hang with Nene and pick up a package. That’s how slow life in the AZ is right now. Those two simple and normal things made me feel all rushed-that kills me when I think about life in America.

I’m reading Martin Luther King, Jr.’s book Strength to Love right now and highly recommend it to all.

Since we are in the winter hibernation period of the year, I figured pictures of me and my friends sleeping would be appropriate: me and Ina, Ram in his normal late night position, Magda, Jason & Kat in a normal group weekend setting, me and Ben at an early morning PC training during a tea break, Ben in his normal state any time of day, “fetal” Tom, me and Ben after a softball game taking an afternoon nap at Sarah’s house, Carlo and the only thing that would share a bed with him at the time and finally one of my favorite pictures of Ram after our America Day in Lankaran at one of my old houses…