Monday, March 29, 2010


Byraminiz Mubarek! Happy Holiday! It's Novruz in Azerbaijan and I thought you would want some pictures of the adventures we've all been experiencing.
For the four Tuesdays before Novruz (Starting the end of February) families here have a celebration with lots of tea, sweet treats and FIRE JUMPING! Each Tuesday is one of the four elements, water, earth, wind, and fire. They also decorate eggs the way we do on Easter and leave hats at gates to get treats in them, sort of like Halloween the 16th of March, the last Tuesday before Novruz on the 20th and 21st I went to one of my teachers houses to celebrate.

Shefeq and her husband cooked a wonderful meal with Kebabs and other Azeri foods.
Her son and daughter built us this raging fire to jump over and we all jumped 7 times, leaving the bad things from the year before in the past and taking the good things for the year to come.
I swear it was bigger before when I was jumping but for the picture of course it looks little. Don't worry, I do it again...
Shefeq's family and I in front of our fire. This is about the size we were all jumping over.
The next day I went over to Zeyneb's again to learn how to make sheker bura, a sweet roll sort of thing they drink with tea. It's SO time consuming, it took us all day.
I'm no good at rolling out dough into these thin little sheets the way they do here!
But Zeyneb tried to teach me.
Ends up I'm better at filling the dough with the sugar, hazel nut, walnut mixture. And eating them!
Then Qazax had a big festival in the park. The sun was shinning and the whole town was out and about. All of these really great antique carpets were on display, along with old ways of making wool, cooking and clothing that was out to be seen.
These girls are in old-fashioned Azerbaijani clothes, on antique rugs with old water jugs and other really interesting things.
Each village of Qazax had a table on display of their Novruz treats and history. This was the Qarapapaq table and the women how put it together (That's where my host family lives). In the middle is wheat grass, every family grows one of these, starting to first Tuesday, to have as a table setting. Then the put candles around it and have 7 different kinds of foods around that on the table.
My site mates Connie and Susan were there. As well as a lot of the teachers from our schools, and Zeyneb and her family.
Then, on the actual Novrusz Holiday, the 20th, my host sisters and I went over the jump the neighbors huge fire!
We had to wait till it got a little smaller, but see! I did really jump over fire :)
This was our Novruz sheep--This photo was taken on request but it is kinda cute with his little bow. I did not eat him FYI. But anyone the point is, Novruz is the most celebrated holiday here in Azerbaijan. Partly Muslim with a mix of other things that mean a lot to this area and it was really amazing to be a part of the party!

Thursday, March 11, 2010


My site mate, Connie and I love to take walks, exploring the city of Qazax but also what is outside of the city. A little while ago we found the canal behind my house (I know I've mentioned it). Every time we walked back there we seemed to go a little further, exploring a little more until finally we discovered that the foothills of the Lower Caucasus aren't as far away as they seem!

From the start, it looked like it would take a few hours just to get into the hills, but we just kept walking, clocking our daylight left so we knew when to turn around and soon enough we were there!

There was no one around except for us and the shepards out in the distance with the herds of sheep and goats.
Eventually we started walking up hill. The ground was covered in little pink and white flowers, growing close to the grass.
Once we made it up to the top of that hill there was so much more to see! We could even begin to see the white caps of the actual mountain range in the distance. It was absolutely beautiful, these pictures don't do the experience justice. Arriving at the hill-top was a time to rest, think and remember some of why we are here and what we want to do. Connie and I are excited to start hiking further back into the hills in the spring.
Our walk home was during the last parts of full day light. The canal looked amazing. It was a fun and rewarding day of exploring and off-the-cuff soul searching.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Gettin' Down To Business

Things in Azerbaijan just seem to be getting progressively better! The sun is out, the snow is melted (tricked ya with this picture, I know. Its old) and I am a busy bee here in Qazax. (This picture is from Valentine's weekend. Amanda and I went to visit Lexi in Berde. We made Chinese and Mexican. I know, I know, I'm becoming quite the cook!)

Yesterday I went to one of my teacher counterparts after school for lunch, She taught me how to make Georgian Xangal. Her daughter and I were filling the dough with meat while she was rolling the dough out flat for us. I even got her son to help us. Or I forced him to help, but either way, I think he had fun in the end.
I've gotten two after school conversation clubs going. One for 5th graders (there are so many of them! And they are CRAZY) on Tuesdays and one for anyone older on Wednesdays. This week I taught them how to say "what's up?" instead of "How are you?" and then obviously the proper responses. Mostly we just play a lot of games. I feel really good after ever club, like I'm finally sort of doing what I need to be here. Also this week I went and met the English teacher at the refugee school ( After regular school hours my school becomes a school for refugee children). I'm going to observe some of her classes next week and start going once a week to play games and do other activities with those kids. Also, this weekend we are starting up a softball league in Tovuz for us and our kids. (It sounds really cool, like I came up with the idea on my own huh?! But alas, I did not, there are softball leagues all over Azerbaijan run by PCV's. Sometimes they play each other.) I am really excited for this because my counterpart (in the pic) told me I could take both of her kids down to Tovuz on Saturdays to play! This is sort of unusual because parents here get nervous letting their kids go places outside of their own towns, but she trusts me. And one of the points of this softball league is to get kids from other regions involved with each other. ALSO, I met a 22 year old girl here who speaks great English. Her and her friends want to start meeting with me! This is what I've been waiting for here! A group of young girls who I can get to know and try to pass on any sort of wisdom I may (but probably don't) have. You know what I mean, its just super exciting! So, as you can see, all of a sudden, work has really picked up for me, I feel really involved in my community and I am happy :) Now if I could only get an Azeri tutor and a house to move into!

Oh yeah, mom and dad, my host mom says thank you for the honey! (Can you send more cause I think I've eaten more then her. Its so good!)