Sunday, October 25, 2009

Muddy Adventures

This weekend our entire Peace Corps group did a little Azerbaijan exploring and we went to Qobustan, where there are petroglyphs from around 10,000 BC. They are covering these rocky hills that are eventually part of the Great Caucasian Ridge and are absolutely amazing. Carvings were all over and consisted of men, women, animals and boats. This area is fairly close to the Caspian and offers a great view, but in the time that the drawings were done the Caspian Sea, which I learned yesterday is the biggest lake in the world and has had over 70 names, was bordering these hills. As insanely awesome as the carvings were, probably the coolest thing about Qobustan was that we spent the afternoon hiking through the rocks and finally made it all the way to the top where we were able to rest and take in the view. The sea on one side and sheep grazing in the hills on the other side. It was one of those magical moments where you just feel like your life is pretty amazing and you can't believe you are actually doing what you are. Of course then we had to get down, I suppose we could have climbed down how we came up but we had made it to this area that had a ladder for doing just what we were doing so we decided to use it. That might have been one of the scariest things I have ever had to do! This latter went straight down for a very long time and moved around while you climbed on it. I did make it down, obviously, but I might not do it again.

Then from there, we moved on to the mud volcanoes. It was just this flat land that had all of these tall mounds of dirt on it. When you got to the top of that mound there was mud just bubbling out of it! The mud looked like it was boiling, but when you touched it, it was very cold. I definitely stuck my whole arm inside of one of the volcanoes and the mud just kept going! It was really crazy and everyone was getting muddy but then, Tim, who had not been playing in the mud, was innocently trying to take some pictures and fell into one of the holes! He went all the way up to his waist before he somehow made it out on his own. At first it was a little scary, but Tim is a good sport and pretty soon we were all laughing, even Tim. How could you not as this boy is walking across this desert-like place completely covered in mud up to his stomach. Don't worry, he is totally fine.

After this day of exploring I got to go to my second Toy! I did more dancing at this one and even got in on one of the traditional circle dances they do around the bride and groom, it was very cool. This morning I went with my mom to another settlement where her sister lives. Her sister is hosting another volunteer, Jenny. Our moms taught us and another volunteer Amanda to make dolma, which is one of my favorite things here. It was very awesome, but don't expect me to be able to make it when I get home ;) Life is good in the AZB. Thanks for the letters mom, grandma T, Chrissy, Linnea and Cote! I'll write you back soon.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009


Salam dostlarm! I'm hanging out in a fun beach town in the south of Azerbaijan right now. We went on site visits this week to see what it is really like to be a volunteer. Five of us came here to stay with the two girls that are posted at this site from the AZ 6 group (group here before me). Its been a really nice and relaxing girls weekend; we've watched movies, painted nails, had Mexican and Chinese food, chocolate cake! and spend time walking around the beach and cute city area here.

This is the street that I've been staying on this week. Its been sunny and hot here and there are so many tropical looking flowers blooming everywhere!

Lankaran has a high quantity of Mosquitoes, so sleeping in a mosquito net is necessary and princess like at the same time.

The beach is just a short walk from Rachel's house (the PCV I'm staying with). Mary, Jess and I did some beach exploring. There were so many fishing nets like this around, some of them used old plastic water bottles as buoys which made me feel good since they weren't just throw on the ground.

Like I said we ate Mexican food two of the nights- Here Rikki and I are preparing for burritos and maybe being a little ridiculous with the tomatoes.

Living conditions are different in Azerbaijan then at home, but beauty is everywhere. I thought that this iron gate on someone's balcony was really cool.

This is Lankaran's city center with the Azerbaijan flag flying in the background.

I had to add this picture for you mom (and grandma). Walking around in the Bazaar I found this hardware store/stand. The stand keeper is sitting in the middle with all of these faucets and wires and whatever else hanging around him- Azeri Hardware store.

I got these awesome Talish (an ethnic group that lives close to the board of Iran) socks. They are hand woven from wool and so cool. I've had such a blast here and am really looking forward to actually beginning service. Tomorrow is back to language class and learning how to be a teacher. I'm not going to be able to put pictures up for a while now so I wanted to try and show you what things have been like so far (so scroll down cause I added some where they weren't before). Love you all- talk to you soon!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Life in the AZB

So I'm sitting here sweating in this Internet cafe. Who knew it would be so hot in the middle of October? I came here expecting it to be cold- oh well. I'm continuing to appreciate all of the blog comments and facebook/email messages you've all been sending me! Sorry if you haven't heard back from me yet, I have limited time on the Internet every week, but they mean a lot to me! Morgan Rost and Katie Clark-I loved you updates on life with our friends! And Liz thank you for the pictures they give me a good laugh every time!

Life here is still going really well! Earlier this week I got to go to my first Toy (wedding) with my family! I was the first one in my cluster to get the chance and everyone was very jealous of me. You see, Toys are one of the coolest cultural events you can go to (I guess I don't have another event to compare the Toy to yet so it may not be the coolest, but they are pretty awesome)! In preparation of the Toy I put on a fashion show for my family and one of the cousins that was over the night before. I tried on many different outfits and multiple pairs of shoes before finding the perfect dress and high heels to wear. Once the outfit was found I did a celebratory can-can dance in the kitchen, obviously, which sent some goods laughs and hugs my way! The next day on my hour and a half lunch break my sister took me to the salon to get my hair done! It was exactly what I imagine getting your hair done at a salon in a small town would be like, lots of gossip and women coming in and out- if only I knew what they were gossiping about! My hair ended up very curly and was quite the hit at the salon, at home and among my friends! The women at the salon couldn't believe my hair could get so curly! The Toy itself took the cake though, weddings here are very different from ones at home.

People rent out these rooms that are made specifically for weddings and are set up with fancy tables, chairs, confetti blowers, TV screens on the walls and a live TV crew at all times. Once you walk in you immediately get to start eating (Toys=1 point; weddings=0) and the food never and I mean NEVER stops coming. When the bride and groom come in together everyone claps, but you still get to eat. They say something like saying vows at a wedding and then the dancing begins! I learned how to dance the night before and got to show off my skills on the dance floor many times. I'm not saying Toys or weddings are better, but I had a lot of fun!

Over all, things are going really well here and I'm just trying to take it all in one day at a time. I have more good stories but you'll have to wait til next time!

Saturday, October 10, 2009


First off let me just say that signing on to my blog for the first time in a week and seeing so many comments made me very happy! Thank you, you keep me connected to home!

So here I am in an internet cafe in Sumgayit (second largest city in AZB), if I walk down the street a little I run into the Caspian Sea... what!? This really is an adventure, I'm feeling pretty lucky. Things are going so well! I live only about a fifteen minute bus ride from Sumgayit, and my host family is amazing! I have two sisters that speak English and a mom that takes good care of me and is always teaching me new words and then quizzing me. This is a good thing because language class is hard, so I need the extra practice. But yesterday I told my mom and grandma that pomegranates are my favorite fruit in Azerbaijani- I was pretty pleased with myself, and I could see that they were happy too (you see my mom did not teach me this saying).

My dad works a lot but is always home for dinner and is extremely loving of his family and me. Dinner is always fun at my house, there is a lot of talking that I can't understand but try to listen to; a lot of teaching me new words that I soon forget; and mostly a lot of laughter! My favorite is when I can somehow make my family laugh- always a small accomplishment. I feel so welcome and comfortable in their house, I really am part of the family! I have my own room that is very comfortable and a garden full of nar trees (pomegranates), grape vines and many fruits and vegetables. I feel like I'm living the life over here! And yes, nar are my new most favorite thing ever! I eat them as if they were sour straws! You know what that means, my family sometimes calls me nar girl and tells me soon I will have nar growing out of my hair!

Monday thru Saturday I have language class from morning til lunch time. Then three or four times a week all the English teaching groups get together at one school to have TEFL sessions (basically learning how to be a teacher). Sunday is our day off to hang out and relax with each other, so that is what we are doing now. It has been very sunny and warm here, but today, of course it is raining. Still life is good! I miss you all and love you lots! Next time I can use my own computer I'll add pictures, I have a lot of beautiful things to share!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Bring it on!

Today is the day! I am leaving this four star hotel and doing what I came here to do! This afternoon we are all boarding buses and going to our respective training sites. They are
settlements that are all fairly close to each other, just outside one of the larger cities. I do not know much about my host family yet, but it will be fantastic to finally meet them and learn about them! The thought that I have basically no language skills and haven't been outside of this hotel yet highlights the fact that this is really going to be a challenge at first, but I am very excited for it--so bring it on!

Last night we had a special cultural night. All the dinning room tables were set up outside and we were served traditional foods (which we have been eating all along, but more in a buffet style). There were musicians playing traditional Azerbaijani wedding songs and women in beautiful sparkling dresses and men in black embellished outfits dancing.

If it didn't take so long to upload pictures I would add more. But I just wanted to try and show you a little of what went on last night and my friends here! I'll let you know more as my life unfolds in Azerbaijan. Thank you for all of the comments, they make me very happy and I know will keep me going when I have a particularly homesick day-- Keep it up!

Thursday, October 1, 2009

One foot in the right direction

I’M HERE! 30 hours of travel and multiple airports later a seriously haggard group of 61 Americans made it to their hotel just outside of Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital. Now we are all scrounging to get online, thus its not working very well. So far I don’t really have any exciting things to say about the AZB expect for that I’m here- Its dark outside and we have only driven through Baku to get to the hotel, which is big and westernized. So what I’m saying is, you’re all going to have to wait to get the low down on my new home until daylight.

On the plane ride from JFK to Frankfurt, Germany I some how literally slept the entire way (that never happens to me), I didn't even take my ipod out of my bag! But I did get a lot of energy to make it through 7 hours at the Frankfurt airport and I think it helped me to maybe get on Azerbaijan time a little as it is after midnight here now and my eyes are burning with tiredness (is that a word?), as they should be. Looking out the plane window, from the center aisle seat, as we landed here was very exciting and it was easy to see that my whole group was pumped up as Peace Corps staff and AZ6 (the group ahead of us) volunteers gave us a loud welcome at the airport. The long day, or whatever, it feels like the same day, that I just had was made so much better by the people I spent it with. I really am surrounded by a good group of fun loving, caring people, who are going to help me get through this new adventure.

Love you and miss you all. Don’t worry- I am safely here in the AZB.