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…

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Czech It Out

So we had some friends from Barda (a city in the center of AZ) in town to visit this week, and we all went to a restaurant by the train station for some beers and for them to try some local food. In walks a group of eight backpackers that site down a little ways away from us, but clearly aren't speaking English, so we don't pay them much attention. After about 10 minutes of them sitting there a waiter comes over to ask me if I can translate for them. It turns out they were from the Czech Republic and spoke English. They didn't know an Azeri or Russian and didn't know where they were staying for the night. So I ordered some food for them, then offered to let them all crash on my floor (they had camping gear with them). So Tuesday night I had a slumber party with eight Czech back packers. It was funny, they all walked around in t-shirts and undies and that was it (girls and guys) while we played Uno. Not your typical Tuesday in Lankaran I can assure you.
Other that that, we played kickball at a local orphanage yesterday for a couple of hours, then helped move furniture for a new English resource center an American woman who teaches English at the local university is setting up. I'm off to Barda this weekend for our first softball weekend of the year, so definitely looking forward to that...

Monday, April 28, 2008

Wedding Time!

So Tom, Tim, and I went to our last ‘big’ wedding in Lankaran two Friday’s ago. It was our friend Fuad’s wedding. He was the first local that we met that spoke English well and has helped us out a ton with finding houses, figuring out life in Lankaran, and a TON of other stuff. He has been a great friend so we were very excited about his wedding. The three of us and three other foreigners we know had a ‘table of honor’ near the door so everyone that came in got to walk by and gawk at us which made for some funny reactions. It was a night of great food, good times, and dancing. To say the entire group of us made complete asses out of ourselves is a huge understatement, but it sure was fun.

I also went to Ganja for Ben’s birthday-a quiet night of good food and Skip-Bo. Then I headed to Qazax to play soccer some PCVs and kids. Then off to Bethany’s village to visit. I got to go to four of her classes (5th and 6th graders) where the kids all had prepared questions in English to ask me, sang I’m a Little Tea Pot, Jingle Bells, and Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes for me. I brought my wiffle ball stuff and we let about 50 kids take batting practice once school was over. It was definitely a fun day for everyone. I had a pretty low key weekend. The Lankaran gang played ladder golf and 4-square all Saturday afternoon and then had a big queso feast to enjoy the mid 70’s and no clouds weather!

I got an email Friday that an organization in Baku has agreed to get the first of eight medical supplies shipments and manage them this year as a test. If that goes well, then they will be responsible for seven more shipments over 4-5 years. This is really good news because it will help a ton of people out in the poorer regions (and I’ve been working on this dang thing for almost a year now).

We have our first softball weekend coming up and I think we will try to throw in a little Cinco de Mayo fiesta attitude for good measure.

Enjoy the pictures of us being idiots at the wedding!

Monday, April 21, 2008

Worst Blogger Ever

Sorry for my total lack of blogging lately, life has been really hectic. Here's a catch-up blog...I promise to be better from now on...
Tom's parents came to Azerbaijan again, so we took them on a country tour this time including Baku, Sheki, and Ganja. They had a good time, but I think they officially have had their fill after two visits and two weeks of time here. They took us out to great meals (I haven't eaten that much in a week since before I came here) and we tried to let them sample all of the regional dishes.
After that I basically slept and watched movies for three straight days to recover from all of the traveling.
Last week I had three really good phone conversations with organizations in America and Baku about my medical supplies project. I think I've found an organization to manage the supplies, so if we can find a company to donate a little bit of money to pay for the distribution costs, we may be able to finally do it.
We haven't found a camp site or set a date for the boys camp yet, so we are going to all have to start focusing on that sooner rather than later.
I went to a wedding of a really good friend Friday night with Tom, Tim, a local German guy, Shrilankan guy, and another American lady that teaches English at the local university. We had a 'table of honor', ate a metric ton, and danced for about three straight hours. It was a freaking blast and sadly may be my last wedding in AZ (but hopefully someone else will invite me to one this summer).
I went up to Ganja to celebrate Ben's birthday over the weekend and am now in Bethany's village. I went to four of her English classes this morning which was tons of fun. All of the kids wrote questions to ask me last week so there were prepared for the first American guy they've ever met. We are going to teach them how to play wiffle ball this afternoon.
I'll head back to Lankaran tomorrow I think and then the Lank gang is playing kickball at the local orphanage on Saturday, so that should be a lot of fun.
Ok, that should pretty much catch you all up I think. The weather has been gorgeous, but people in Lankaran are freaking out because we haven't had any rain (it rained 25 out of 30 days in April last year and it has only sprinkled twice so far). Talk to you guys next week...I promise...

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

My 100th Blog-that’s weird

Well the spring has finally arrived! This is our second day of April and it only rained for five minutes yesterday and has been sunny the rest of the time. I just keep waiting for the clouds to move in, the rain to start and not stop for the rest of the month. Last year it rained pretty much all day 25 days in April, so I’m enjoying every ounce of sun we are getting. I did some spring cleaning last week which consisted of sweeping my house-pretty intense stuff. Tom and I are going to pile up all of my leaves and have a yard fire in the next week or so, weather permitting. This will be my first ever yard fire, so I’m pretty excited. We have some firecrackers left over from NYE to throw in for added excitement. I also put up netting on four of my windows in attempt to keep the bugs out and let some fresh air come in. The mosquitoes and ants are already out sadly-not looking forward to a summer full of them. I took my first malaria pill of the year last night, so that’s always exciting-sadly no crazy dreams. In the true spirit of ‘spring cleaning’ I decided to shave off the 15 months of hair growth on top of my head because it was just filthy and time for it to be gone. I didn’t have electric clippers so I had to use crappy scissors, then my Mach 3 razor for about an hour, sitting in my bathroom on a stool, freezing my naked butt off. It was worth it-I do love the feel of a freshly shaven head. I think I’ll keep shaving it for a while, just for fun. The locals think this hair is waaaay weirder than my long hair (which they found pretty weird), so I get a ton of looks, stares, and comments. They cut hair short here, but never bic’d completely off.

What else? A group of us went to Baku to watch some NCAA hoops games at an American bar. The owner gave us some free beers and appetizers, so that was really cool. Tom’s parents are coming back to AZ to visit (how ever crazy that may sound), so we are going to meet them in Baku this weekend again. That means we should have a batch of good American munchies. We put in requests with Tom’s dad for two Spicy Baconators from Wendy’s, so fingers crossed I’ll be eating a fresh (only 24 hours old) American burger at midnight Friday!

Other than that, not much going on. I’m trying to figure out a couple of small projects for Youth Day and Earth Day. I’m heading up to Sheki next week so Magda and I can finish our reports for our business training. We have been asked to set up another one, so we are going to have to see if we can get some money for that and how to make it better. I’m still waiting to hear on my medical supplies project-this waiting is driving me insane. Oh, I’ve started having a lot of “lasts” in AZ. Such as: two weeks ago I slept in my huge and hot PC issued sleeping bag, I’m going to buy my last huge can of cooking butter this week, I’m planning my last trip during my service (Russia in June), we just had our last holiday (Novruz), and things like that. It is kinda a weird feeling, but also a good one, to know that I’ve almost made it (21 full months and counting).

The pictures are of the trees in my back yard blooming, the netting I have to put up in all of my windows that kinda keeps bugs out, and what 15 months of hair looks like once it has been completely cut of