Thursday, December 23, 2010

Yeni Iliniz Munarek!

Today after school I had my New Years party with both of my 6th grade classes! The theme was "New Years Around the World," and we had spent the whole month exploring New Years in Australia, China, Azerbaijan, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Brazil and the United States. My original plan was to have a play, but for reasons out of my control that idea was shot down. Lucky for me, because this party was one for the record books!
We had tons of foods, drinks, decorations and music as 40 students and teachers and I had a real Azerbaijani New Year, while learning about what other countries do around the world. Azerbaijani New Year actually quite resembles our Christmas as it turns out. "Shaxta Baba," aka Santa Claus comes on New Years Eve at midnight and fills their "Yolka," or tree (like a Christmas Tree) with presents. Shaxta Baba has the help of "Qar Giz," Snow Girl, as he travels around New Years Eve.
The classes were split into groups and each made a poster with drawings and maps of the country they were learning about. Each group gave their presentation (in Azeri, I gave them the info in English and we worked out in translations, pictures and acting what it meant and they took notes in Azeri), then I played music that I had found from each country, we all danced a little, gave the group a big round of applause and then the next group went. We started with Australia and made our way around the world. Uncle Mark, you will be happy to know that I used "We Will Rock You" as the US's New Years song, it reminded me of growing up :).
Mason, Marie, Connie and our newest site-mate, AZ8 Alise, came to help, watch, eat lots of food and have a good time at the party! Mason is helping here with "Pin the Carrot on the Snowman." It was a really big hit with the teachers and students alike, and a good win for me! Now I'm off the Georgia to celebrate Christmas and New Years! Happy Holidays everyone! And its never to early to say, Yeni Iliniz Mubarek (Happy New Years!)!!!!!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Party Time!

Today we had an end of 2010 teachers party just for girls :). There was a lot of dancing, singing, eating and drinking tea. I was the designated photographer and entertainer. And now I am SO full! I'm not eating dinner tonight haha.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Yes, It Is True

Fire really does come from the ground in Baku.

All of us PCV's were invited to a Thanksgiving party at the US Ambassador's house hosted by the charge d' affaires (there's no Ambassador at this time). Mason and I had the opportunity to go to a play at The International School in Baku with some new friends so we came in a day early. The play was so much fun! And the next day we got a tour of parts of Baku we hadn't gone before, including to this "Mountain of Fire." Its more like a hill, but yes, it is just naturally burning from the ground. There used to be more places like this all over the Baku area, but the drilling of oil has dried most of them up. The Thanksgiving party was great too! So much food, it felt like home! I even had to unbutton my pants after eating :). Now I'm working on a New Year's performance/party at school and then its off to Georgia for Christmas!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gurban Bayram Break

With a week off of school for the Islamic holiday of sacrificing sheep, I was able to travel down to Lankaran and Lerik. The fall colors up in the Talysh Mountains, where Lerik is located, were absolutely amazing! Took my breath away; I love fall :)
Look what I found in the Lankaran bazaar guys!? This man made two keys for me and I felt right at home watching and listening to him do it. Mason and I explained that my family has a machine like this at home and he was happy to be a part of many pictures.
Later, up in Lerik, a German journalist came to do research for a story she was writing on the longevity of life in Lerik. So we all went out on the hunt and tracked down this man, Kishi who is somewhere between 105 and 145 years old, haha.
And this precious woman who is 112, with documents to prove it!
In both cases these people did not speak English, Azeri or Russian. They both only spoke Talysh, a language little known to the world and we had to have their worlds translated into Azeri so that we could translate them into English, so that they could be put into German! This is Mehbuba's, the old lady's, son with Mason; he was our Talysh translator here. We had quite the day! One for the journal and book to come ;) If you want to read a more in depth story about our day check out the tourism blog that Mason has created for his business, CBT Azerbaijan, in Lerik. Its definitely worth a read! And it has more pictures :)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Collecting Fruit

Yesterday at Zeynab's we spent the day getting a package ready to send on the train to her husband in Russia. It was quite the process- Mom, have I said thank you enough for all the work you've put into packages coming here!?!?!-and it wasn't complete without persimmons. We went out to the garden to collect some to wrap up. This is Zeynab in the tree throwing persimmons down as her daughter and I collected them.
Going to Zeynab's is always fun for me, they are my Azerbaijani family. But yesterday was exceptionally fun, I can't really explain why :). And the day ended with a beautiful sunset! This picture doesn't even capture the pink that was in the sky.

Sunday, November 7, 2010


Ahhh yes. Its like summer in here with my new pech (heater). No more 7 pairs of socks, 3 scarfs and gloves to hang out in my house. And just think, its only just November; good thing it got here now! Made in 1980 this metal box is built to last and my entryway and bedroom are really heatin' up now!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


I got ready for school this morning eating oatmeal and watching "Love Actually" and the sun come up simultaneously. An hour and a half later I braved the three minute walk to school and entered into my normal, crazy life of children yelling my name from the windows and as they zoom past me down the hall. With my register in hand and Zeynab by my side, it was off to the 6th grade. After teaching a few other classes I went home to start cutting and washing beans. I want to freeze them so that when all the beans run out in the winter, I'll still have some to eat :) We will see how that turns out! That's when I got a call from Zeynab to meet her down in front of the school and go home with her today. I hurriedly put on my jeans and shoes and was out the door. But before we could go to her house we needed to go see her sister and brother-in-law's new store! We spent the next 45 minutes eating all the sweets we could from off the selves while chatting (I mostly listened). Soon enough it was on the bus and down to Zeynab's house where we had delicious pizza and hot tea awaiting us. Then it was out to the garden, to the Persimmon tree. Zeynab hit the tall, tall branches with the longest stick we could find, as I gathered them from the ground, sticking them in my pockets, up my selves, any place there was room to hold them. With Persimmons in hand the two of us decided to take a walk along to river behind her house and had a nice long talk. Our friendship only gets stronger every time we see each other, which sometimes is everyday! After a while we turned around, I had promised to teach her daughter to carve a pumpkin and it seemed like that right time to do that. So we collected a green pumpkin from the garden and Salmi and I cut it and carved it and turned it into a two faced creature! After lots of pictures and laughter it was back to work. Zeynab needed to clean the potted plants and bring them inside for winter. So I carried them to the outdoor sink while she wetted a wooden broom and splattered them with water until they were good and clean. One of these plants was tall and wilty looking but smelled of citrus. She crushed some in my hand for me to smell. These pieces I then, of course, accidentally sniffed up my nose and spent the next few hours sneezing and uncomfortable as leaves moved from my nasal passage to my throat and mouth. We all had one more round of tea and talk before I got on the bus home, with my plant starts and bucket for my own indoor garden in hand. And right on schedule, on the bus, I swallowed the leaves from my nose. Now I'm home, watching the sun set from my kitchen window as I finish preparing the beans to be frozen and realizing that I haven't had gas all day, so I guess the beans will go into the boiling water another time. Maybe I'll just watch the ducks out the window as they move from puddle to puddle, or, maybe I'll just get in bed and watch a movie :) Anyway, I just thought I would share my typical day with you all at home. Sometimes its rough going, but days like this leave me with a smile on my face.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! I hope your holiday was as enjoyable as mine! :)

These are the kids' pumpkins all lit up at night! They are so great! (Today I'm going over to my teacher's house to carve some with her and her kids cause this just turned out so good, I wanted to keep sharing!)
Mason and I with all of the 6th graders in costume ready for the audience to come! Mason came up to help me get the kids pumped up about acting scary during the play.
All off their moms and siblings (and lots of other teachers) came to watch the performance. It turned out so SPOOKTACULARLY!
This whole month has just been fantastic for me. My class has shown so much creativity and eagerness to learn. I was completely impressed by their costumes and how scary they could act! Thanks to Bonnie and family for the Halloween package, I shared the candy with the kids during the week to reward their hard work and gave away the decorations you sent as prizes during the play! The kids thought the decorations were SO cool :) Now all the kids want to do a New Years play! So be excited to hear about that one. I know I'm excited to keep teaching them in this way, using creativity to help them think outside the box-I really think I can feel accomplished about the way this class has started learning and that feels GREAT!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Carving Pumpkins!

I taught my 6th grade students how to carve pumpkins today! We went out to my garden and 10 kids turned 5 pumpkins (or squash) into funny jack-o-lanterns! One of the squash was so big the kids cut it into two.
We are going to use them as decorations for the Halloween play we have coming up this week.
They have never done anything like this before, they wanted to know if we were going to eat all the goo we took from the inside (I know, you're thinking about the seeds but we didn't go there. Plus you clean all the goo off)! But they caught on so fast and were so creative with their silly faces!
Getting ready for this Halloween play has just been awesome! On friday my class came after school and spent 2 hours watching "Hokus Pokus" and drawing decorations. One girl even gave me five drawings of witches and bats and things that she did at home over the weekend! I have been completely inspired and energized by their enthusiasm and creativity in all of this and I can't wait to do lots more hands-on projects with this class!

Thursday, October 14, 2010


So yesterday, I made chicken stock! You all would not believe the things I am cooking over here! I never, ever cooked at home; it wasn't my thing- I didn't enjoy it. But as it turns out, cooking is a wonderful art to master and that, I have decided, is something that I am going while I'm here. We Peace Corps volunteers need to have lots of goals. But not all of them need to be about Azerbaijan, and this one is about myself. Just wanted to share that with you all.

If you have any recipes you LOVE and can make with no more then a fridge, stove, oven and minimal pots and pans (I may be a chef, but I'm still a PC volunteer ;)) send them my way!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Cold feet?

In Azerbaijan there are a few different ethnic groups in certain regions (none of which are close to Qazax unfortunately). One of these groups are the Talysh people who live down south in the Talysh Mountains near Lerik and the Iranian border. In Azerbaijan the Taylsh are known for their sock making (along with other things). Its been cold here this week so I've actually been wearing mine around the house, see....
(My bedroom! Go Dawgs!)

One of the volunteers that lives down south, Eli, has put together a website so that anyone can buy these awesome socks. I wanted to share it with you for a couple reasons-one is that they keep your feet really warm! ;) And maybe more importantly is that all of the money spend on these socks goes back into community projects. I also want you all to see how some of the non-English teacher volunteers spend their time in Azerbaijan. So if you're interested at all go to to have a look for yourself- its a pretty cool project.

As for me, school is starting to take a little bit more of a shape, more of a schedule and real classes. I'm holding off on my clubs until I know the exact schedule (which isn't this week) so I know what days and times I'm free. But Zeynab and I are starting to put together our Halloween play. If you think of any good Halloween costumes for kids that can be easily thrown together from things around the house let me know!

And congratulations to my friends Molly and Levi who just got married on Saturday! Wish I could have been there; I heard it was absolutely beautiful! Best of luck you two.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Nar Season!!!

Hello and welcome to one of the best parts of living in Azerbaijan! Its Pomegranate ("Nar" in Azeri) season! I have been waiting for this time since last winter :) I remember last fall like it was yesterday- being plopped down in a crazy place, not knowing exactly what the hell I'm doing, but having enough Nar the feed an entire country, right in my training host family's back yard! Now I've been here for one year (to the day I might add), sometimes I still feel like I don't know what the hell I'm doing, but at least I have Nar! Of course now I have to buy them at the store...
So this is what I'm doing today, came home from school, bought some Nar on the way and now I'm cleaning, doing laundry (yep, those are my clothes) and eating Nar. And lets be honest this is what I'll be doing everyday when I'm finished with school and clubs and what-not- I'll be eating Nar :)
Its still 85 degrees here, but now its not always sunny (like today). Next I'll get some pictures of the Nar trees cause they literally grow like weeds on the side of the highway here; they are EVERYWHERE! And the trees might be one of my favorite parts about the fruit, they are quite whimsical!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

First day of school!

We had a beautiful, sunny morning to start of the school year! Zeynab, my teacher counterpart and I have a lot of high hopes for this school year, we've been getting together and planing for about a month now so I am really excited and feeling good about the beginning of school :)

Zeynab and I are standing in her sister's garden in front of flowers that my mom sent for me to give as gifts for my teachers (Zeynab gave them to her sister, but that still works :)).
At the first day ceremony (With some of the other teachers). The ceremony is for the incoming 1st graders; the 11th graders (last year of high school) gave them some words of wisdom and then the little ones shared a poem.
My 5th grade class... excuse me, 6th grade class now! You might recognize some of them from my Gardening Club.
All the kids rushing into the school at the end of the ceremony. They are so excited to be back!

With the start of a new year and all of the plans Zeynab and I are trying to make work there are a few things we need that we just can't find here. We are going to start a movie club in October. For this we need kids movies, easier English, that are both cartoons and real people, anything that will entertain but still be easy to follow for English learners. As well as a movie club Zeynab and I are working on creating a resource room in our school. Part of the room will be books for kids learning and practicing English. I'll be writing different grants for it in the upcoming month, but we could always use donations as well. We're talking very beginner books, lots of pictures, anything you liked as a kid or your kids like, or use in school (if you're a teacher). I am absolutely not expecting anything from anyone, but maybe if you were already thinking about sending me a box :) you could throw a movie/book or two in with the lot! Thanks as always! Talk to you soon :)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Katie and Erin!

Azerbaijan never felt so good! This last week I got to share my life over here in the Peace Corps with two of my very best friends Erin and Katie! I swear it was like we were never apart (I mean its only been a year!)! I couldn't have asked for a better birthday present (in June) as having these girls come visit me.
They got to Baku in the afternoon so we had to evening to do a little exploring.
We walked through the old city.
Then had dinner down near Fountain Square at a little place my family will remember well, Cafe Caramel (Its not my fault that I always eat at the same places in Baku, I only get to go there so much and I crave food from home! :))
The next day we went out to see my training family in Jeyranbatan.We ate fresh sunflower seeds right out of the head!
And got to sit outside under to grape canopy.
That night we hopped on the night train out to Qazax!Were we only had a day and a half to explore, so we made the most of it! Mason and Erin made some friends in the bazaar :)
We chased donkeys around while yelling at Mason to take pictures of us.
We walked down to the river and the Heydar Park.
Then we got to Zeynab's house. Mason, Katie and Erin pulled up our water from the well in Zeynab's back yard.
The girls got their fill of tea.
Me and so many people I love!
Look its my living room :)
Then we had to jump back on a bus to get to Baku. This is the bus...
But we had lots of laughs and times to dance those last nights in Baku together!
The Caspian Sea!
You can kind of see the "biggest flag in the world" in the back ground (squint).
We climbed to the top on the Maiden's Tower for a great view of the city.
And then, we found the Flying Carpet. Maybe the best part of the trip, just a little store next to the Maiden's Tower, we spent over an hour in this little shop listening to the guy tell us about all these beautiful antique rugs and other treasures. I ended up buying this silk blanket made in Uzbekistan during the 70's, and of course we needed to play dress up to take pictures of it :)
Azeri style pictures, no smiling.

This summer was fantastic, between my family coming to explore Azerbaijan and take me to Georgia and Katie and Erin running around with me I had a hot and sweaty blast! Now its back to school on Wednesday, wish me luck!