Friday, November 18, 2011

Vacation Time!

Mason and I arrived in Tbilisi, Georgia by train this morning.We spent the day relaxing...
Lazily exploring...
And enjoying one last time in the wonderful city of Tbilisi.

We will be doing these same things in a few other cities for the next week and then we will be back in Seattle on the 26th. This blog is just about over, as my Peace Corps service is ending. But I have one more blog post I'll be doing once I get back in the states, my favorite moments, so stay tuned for that! See you soon!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The End

As of yesterday I am officially a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, or RPCV!! Tonight Mason and I are headed out on the train to Georgia to start our Caucasus region adventure, so today is our last day to say goodbye to Azerbaijan.The view of Baku city from Sandra's balcony.
Mason and I in the Peace Corps office's PCV lounge for the last time.

Life in Azerbaijan wasn't always easy, but it taught me that I can accomplish whatever I put my mind to. I feel so lucky to have had so many wonderfully challenging experiences here, some of which I shared on this blog and some only I will really ever know about and understand. The relationships I made with Azeri people will stay with me forever and I thank them for taking me in as their own and teaching me the ways of people here. The thought of returning to America is so exciting and a little scary at the same time, a lot has changed since 2009 ;). I will never be the same person after being a Peace Corps Volunteer in Azerbaijan- but of course I hope all of my changes are for the better! I guess in a little over a week, when I meet my family at the Seattle-Tacoma airport, we will find out. I am definitely ready to start saying hello!

One last HUGE thank you to my family and friends for the massive amount of support you gave me! Whether it was coming all the way over here to visit me, sending me letters or packages, calling or sending email messages, it made my 2+ years here a little easy! I appreciated it all so very much! Thank you.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Time Flies

The goodbyes just don't seem to stop. THis time it was my old host family in Jeyranbatan, where I had my training in Oct/Nov 2009.I wish I had lived closer to this family and had seen them more but we always kept in contact. I hope to one day see both of the daughters in America :). Tonight it's working on Peace Corps paperwork and tomorrow it's the doctor, dentist, language test and exit interview! I don't believe that Sept 2009, when I left my family and friends in Seattle, was already 2+ years ago! I'm excited for Mason and I's trip that starts on Thursday. And then after some exploring...America, here we come! But now I just need to figure out home to get all of the gifts I received home ;)

Friday, November 11, 2011

Saying Goodbye to Qazax

This past week was my last in Qazax. Though it had many stresses like packing up my whole apartment myself and figuring out what to do with all of my stuff, it was an extremely emotional time. I definitely feel ready to come home, but saying goodbye to the people here who have been my life for the past two years was heart-wrenching.Goodbye dinner with Shefeg's family. Her husband stayed home from work just so he could make me kabab.
Party at school with all of my teachers.
The dress that Shefeg had made as my goodbye present. This was a fun experience going to the "derzi" for fittings and all that.
My last club with my 7th graders. We used fabric markers to write all over each others tie-dye shirts.
Saying goodbye to Zeynab and her family was the hardest. I slept at their house every night this past week and they helped me get ready to go, but saying goodbye to her and her daughter last night at the train station hurt a lot. I think what feels different now then when I left everyone at home was that I knew I would be back to see all of my family and friends in 2 years. I do not know for sure if I will ever have the pleasure of seeing any of these people again. All I can say is "inshallah."

Tonight it is off the say goodbye to my host family from training and then its Peace Corps stuff. Busy few weeks but I'm making it work. 2 more weeks and I'll be in America saying hello instead of goodbye... I can't wait!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Halloween Party

Yesterday my 7th grade classes that I've been working with for basically the whole time I've been here and I had a Halloween/Goodbye Party.I brought some Halloween crafts and they decorated the room with little notes for me, it was quite sweet. I also got a lot of cute and funny gifts, including a clock with Mecca on it. It made me feel so special. I'm going to miss them so much. We have had so many fun times together; they are all such good and enthusiastic kids. I hope they all grow up to be amazing people. Next it's the party with my teachers and school staff! Things are really wrapping up here... I'll be home this month and I can't believe it!

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Thank you Christina Libbing for coming to visit me in Azerbaijan! After realizing that I don't know how to read a calendar and going to the airport a day early... Chrissy arrived safe and sound at 3am :)! But we just had the best time together. We spent our first day with my training host family in Jeyranbatan. Chrissy fell in love with them as much as I did the first time I met them.
This happened to be Mason's birthday, October 25, so my "mom" made a cake for him and we sang.
Next our journey brought us up to Qazax, where I live. It really doesn't rain too often here, but it rained the entire time Chrissy was here haha.
When we went to visit and eat lunch with Zeynab's family my little friend from next door came over. We call her Toto and she is just a doll. We had a wonderful day spending time with Zeynab and family. It was very important to me for Chrissy to meet them all.
Exploring the Qazax bazaar.
The next day Chrissy, Mason and I carved pumpkins with my 7th grade class.
On Monday I will be having a Halloween party with both the 7th grade classes. Chrissy and Mason helped prepare with this jack-o-lantern club.
We then took the night train back into Baku and spent our last day together seeing the city's sights. I'm so thankful that Chrissy made her way to see me!!!! Best trip ever :D

On another note, Mason and I's good friend from Baku Steve past away on Thursday. You may remember his name from blog posts here and there and even his picture from the last post I made. Please keep Sandra in your thoughts. It has been a tough time, a lot of us PCVs have really gotten to know and love Steve and Sandra. Steve, you will be thought of often and very fondly remembered.

Friday, October 21, 2011

This Weeks Adventures

I'm down in Lankaran right now for my last trip to the south. There is a good group of us down here and we've had a fairly eventful week. On Thursday we went to a village for one of Mason's good Azeri friends' wedding. (He's the guy sitting in the middle).
Our friends that live in Baku, Steve and Sandra, came down. Sandra had actually been visiting me up in Qazax to get a feel for what it is like to be a Peace Corps teacher in Azerbaijan so we traveled down to Lankaran together.
Then on Friday we went up to Lerik for the day, which is where Mason used to live. We took a beautiful hike through the Taylish Mountains.
We walked through many different terrains: fields full of cows, muddy hills, green forests and along the river where all the plants are turning red for autumn.
It was the perfect way to say good-bye to Lerik.

Next I'll be heading up to Baku to pick up Chrissy from the Airport! I'll keep you posted on that adventure as it unfolds!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

GLOW Reunion Number 3: Ganja

If you've been following my blog you know that another PCV, Jess, and I have been trying to get our GLOW campers from this summer together in different regions. This past Sunday Jess and I took the 4 GLOW campers from Qazax and Tovuz to Ganja, one of Azerbaijan's bigger cities that is only 2 hours from my house, to meet up with the GLOW campers from there. This was the second time I had taken Zeynab's daughter to Ganja but the first time for most girls going. It is not a normal thing for young girls to get to take a trip like this just for fun so it was a big adventure for them! We took them out to lunch and spent the rest of the sunny day wandering around. This was the last of the trips Jess and I could do for our GLOW campers and it was a great finale!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Absheron National Park

If you've seen a map of Azerbaijan you've probably noticed the funny little hook-shaped peninsula near Baku the goes out into the Caspian Sea. Most of that,the Absheron Peninsula, has been well protected and designated as a national park, and let me tell you it was a pleasant surprise to see those natural beaches in Azerbaijan. Our friends who live in Baku, Steve and Sandra, brought Mason and I out there recently and we were all taken by the beauty of the place. Fishing boat tied up just before sunset.
Steve, Sandra and Mason exploring the grassy hills that flowed between the peninsula's two shores.
The peninsula was full of saltwater marshes.
Towards the entrance to the park there was an old watch tower. Mason and Steve climbed up to get a better view of the sunset.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I Want to Move to Turkey!

TURKEY!Liz Whiteman! Thank you so much for coming half way around the world to meet me in Turkey! Marie, Liz and I had the best time of our lives in Turkey! read on :)

Marie and I took the train from Bulgaria and had a day before Liz fly in from the states. We spent the extra time to explore Burgaz Ada, one of the "Kizil Adalari" or Red Islands, which we call the Prince's Islands.
We ate seafood and went swimming and simply fell in love with the quant little island. It's only 20 km from Istanbul and a short ferry ride away. No cars are allowed on the island, only horse drawn carriages and bicycles.
When Liz finally arrived we went and did the major but necessary tourist sites.
The outside of the Blue Mosque, so called for the beautifully ornate blue tile decorating the inside.
Going out in the popular "Istiklal" area that night with our new friend Justin after the four of us took in a Whirling Dervish show.
There was so much seafood in Turkey! And on the street you could get fried muscles, fried muscle sandwiches, fried sardines, muscle and rice called "dolma" the list goes on! SO TASTY
We made friends with these guys selling the fried delicacies and continued to go back to them.

I have always had a love for the stories of Troy. I finally got to be Helen of Troy in real life.
Liz and Marie were my beautiful maidens.
To visit Troy you must stay in the city of Chanakkale. That is where I introduced Liz to the perfection of fresh figs.

Klaros Beach near Selchuk. You can imagine Marie, Liz and I swimming and playing in the sand and water all day. The Aegean Sea is gorgeous!
Liz couldn't get enough of those figs and bought more from this local woman selling fruit on the street.
The next day we went to the House of the Virgin Mary, as just outside of Selchuk city. The are some stories that say Mary lived out her last days here (not this house, but a house of the same shape on this exact spot).
After walking through the house and lighting a candle you could tie a note on to this wall of prayers like Liz is doing here.
From Mary's house we made our way down to Ephesus. One of the most amazing site of ancient ruins I have ever seen. Only 20% of it is uncovered for the eye to see, yet that took us 4 hours to do. Ephesus was once the second largest Roman city, next to Rome itself.
People are constantly there working on reconstructing what has been found and finding new parts.
The three of us in front of the Grand Theater.

And so we made our way west, south and back north to Istanbul with the help of Turkey's amazing bus line. We spent our one day back in Istanbul cramming lots in! Here we are inside Aya Sophia. Marie shared with us that the Statue of Liberty coud do jumping jacks inside without touching the walls, basically it was HUGE. Once a church and then a mosque, it has a lot of history to offer.
The Grand Bazaar!
Spice Bazaar!
We could not have a better time. This trip all together, Marie and I making our way from Ukraine to Turkey and then Liz coming to spend time in Turkey with me, was magical!

I'm now back in Gazakh (Qazax), Azerbaijan, going to school and doing after school clubs. Fall came in pretty fast, the temperature went from 90 degrees one day to 65 the next and it has stayed there. The new group of Peace Corps Volunteers, AZ9 (I'm AZ7), will be here this weekend! And I'm just trying to prepare myself and my friends here for the fact that I really will be leaving here in November. A lot is going on, so happy had the chance to take such an amazing and relaxing trip! Thank you Marie and Liz for making it unforgettable!