Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Hey there!

Yes, it is that time of year again, time to start thinking about GLOW (Girls Leading Our World) Camp Azerbaijan.(Memories from GLOW Camp Azerbaijan 2010)

This year I am not asking for materials to be sent, but instead a little bit of money to help the camp go round. It costs more than $15,000 to run a successful week of camp for 50 young girls, 10 Azerbaijani women counterparts and 10 PCVs and we are almost completely funded! We have one grant left that needs a little help being filled by our friends and family. There are two ways you can help, if you are interested, fill this grant:

1) Click this link to donate directly to our Peace Corps Partnership Program grant; or

2) Check out what Sara, a RPCV (Returned Peace Corps Volunteer) from Georgia (the country where I spent Christmas and New Years, not the state. Although, I don't know what state she is from), is doing to help us raise money. She recently sent us this email:

"I'm representing a line for a company called Stella & Dot. I started just a few months ago and decided to go for it because I fell in love with the jewelry last year. I wear it all the time, it's of great quality, and it's fun to share it with other women because they invariably fall in love with it too if they haven't already heard about it. I do in-home trunk shows and also have a website and a fan page on facebook.

"I’m doing a fundraiser and I'd love your support: For the next 10 days, I’m donating 75% of my commissions from online sales to a project that will make it possible for young girls in Azerbaijan to attend Camp GLOW (Girls Leading Our World). Every last cent of the money donated goes straight to the camp (to buy supplies, transportation for the girls, food, etc.).

"Here is how you can support the fundraiser:
1. Go to my e-boutique
2. In the right hand corner of the page, click on “Can’t make it to a trunk show? Find your hostess.”
3. Enter the words “Camp GLOW” and click “continue.”
4. Browse and shop

"Orders arrive in just a couple days and come in gift boxes. By the way, I'd be honored to help you out if you aren't sure what to choose - just email or call. Shipping is discounted at a flat rate of $5.95. Finally, there is a really cute girls line for the very young ladies in your life (daughters, nieces, etc.).

"THANK YOU for supporting this cause - the girls who attend GLOW this summer will thank you too!

"All the best,

Thanks everyone for your support of GLOW Camp and for your support of me! I love all the postcards (Linnea!), letters (special shout out to Grandma T), emails, facebook messages, packages (mom! and dad and Nick and grandma :)), the phone calls (Meagan!) and thank the heavens I have this Blackberry now so I can BBM, gchat and just stay in touch! You are all great!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Hot Springs

The hike out to the hot springs took about 40 minutes.
We had a big group wondering through the woods making our way there.
The natural hot sulfur water is pumped into these private cabins with pools inside.
The water is constantly moving; it is drained out the side.
After a long, hot soak we all sat in the woods to drink some tea.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Novruz Tuesday Art Club

February 22nd, the first Novruz Tuesday was "Su Charshanbasi" or Water Tuesday. We painted water scenes with water colors.
March 1st, the second Novruz Tuesday, "Od Charshanbasi" or Fire Tuesday. We decorated candles with magazine clippings.

March 8th, the third Novruz Tuesday, "Yel Charshanbasi" or Wind Tuesday. We made wind chimes from buttons, old keys and key rings, and washers and L-brackets I bought in the hardware store.

March 15th, today, the fourth and last Novruz Tuesday, "Torpaq Charshanbasi" or Earth Tuesday. We went outside and took a class picture then collected things from outside, from the earth, to decorate picture frames for the outside picture.

This art project was a lot of fun and made me feel more a part of the Novruz Holiday, but in my own American, Jessi way. Tonight its off to Zeynab's for fire jumping and a huge feast! I'm going to make a carrot salad and a waldorf salad to share with her family, they love seeing what kind of stuff "we" eat. I think they will be surprised how similar it is to salads they make here. Then tomorrow my 6th graders and I are having a Novruz party in class, I'm going to bring my full grown Samani for the party and to show it off. Thursday is the start of our week and a half school break, I'm heading down to Mason's where I'll be studying and registering myself to take the GRE in June. If you haven't already, read the comments under my last post, "My Novruz Samani," Meagan wrote and posted a poem I think all should enjoy :). Love you all! Novruz Bayraminiz Mubarek! Happy Novruz Holiday!

Friday, March 11, 2011

My Novruz Samani

For the Novruz Holiday families all over Azerbaijan start growing "samani," or wheat grass, during the first or second Tuesday leading up to the actual holiday on March 21st. This year to be in the true Novruz spirit, and to immerse myself even more, I grew a samani at my house to celebrate the holiday! (With Zeynab's help of course-she put the seeds on the plate, covered them and taught me how to care for them. But since then, March 1st, its been under my watch! :)) This first night I brought it home-Zeynab instructed me to leave it by the "pech," or heater, to put it int he sunlight during the day and to leave the cloth on, watering it through the cloth, until the green sprouts started showing.
I was so excited to see it grow! And it grew SO FAST!
It was getting soooo tall! I bragged to Zeynab, saying my samani was taller then hers, and she told me to stop putting it by the pech! It was getting too tall too fast and would turn yellow before Novruz!
Today-Its not yet the holiday, and I know it will get taller, but it is so beautiful and fresh, I just wanted to show it off! Families here decorate their samani with a red ribbon, a color to celebrate life, but I had to improvise as I only had pink ribbon. Samani is grown for Novruz as a symbol of new and coming life. As everything done from Novruz it is to welcome the coming new year and spring.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

International Women's Day

In Azerbaijan, along with most other post-soviet countries and places in Asia and Russia, we celebrate International Women's Day. Not something we celebrate in America, although I have heard the President Obama proclaimed March 2011 "Women's History Month" in honor of this year being the 100th anniversary of Women's Day. Once a day to speak out about women's issues and women' rights, it is now, at least in Azerbaijan, whether good or bad simply a day of celebrating women. If I were in America I would take this day to celebrate my mom and grandmothers, as they are strong, independent women who taught me all that I know. But I'm not, I'm in Azerbaijan, so I wanted to take a minute to celebrate a woman here who has changed my life.
This is Zeynab. You've read a lot about her in my blog, if you've visited here you've met her and if you've called me then you've heard me talk about her. Her home is my home away from home, her family has become a safe haven for me and she has become my "Azerbaijani Mom." Zeynab is a mother of two, but lives with and cares for her husband's parents as well. Her husband, unfortunately, is in prison in Russia, so that leaves her to be the main care taker and bread winner in the family. Of course she has her father-in-law around to make decisions for the family, but that doesn't make any less work for Zeynab. Yet with all the work at school and at home that she does, and with the absence of her husband, all things that could get a person down, leaving them exhausted, she has one of the most upbeat, nurturing and adventurous spirit of any women I have meet here. Her heart is so full of hope for herself and her children it brings tears to my eyes. She is a fast learner and seems to surprise me with something she knows, says or understands about the world everyday. This strong, hard-working Azerbaijani woman deserves some praise on Women's Day!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Fire Tuesday

For the Novruz Holiday, one of the biggest holidays in Azerbaijan, people here start celebrateing four Tuesdays before the actual holiday on March 21st. This week was the second of the four Novruz Tuesdays, Fire Tuesday. Last week was water, next week is wind and then earth. On each of these Tuesdays people here build bonfires in their yards, but this weeks was extra special as it was the week of fire. We built a bonfire in Zeynab's yard and then we all jumped over it 3 times, leaving our bad things from last year in the fire and becoming clean for Spring. Zeynab jumping!
Our cleansing fire.
Zeynab's kids and I in front of the fire.

(Don't stop reading, I just posted on Monday too!)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Discovering Qazax's February

Sunset from my kitchen window.
Houses built during the soviet era like to show of the year they were built. This one simply shows its year alone, 1954, but others have stars, sickle and hammers or other pictures along with the year.
A place where people leave their trash for the truck to collect.
Clothes hanging out to dry.
This old wall was build with many things, not just stone, including this old can. Its bottom has rusted out and things can be left to sit inside.
My apartment building. Built by the soviets in the 1970's.
View of the hills from the road behind my house. I have this same view, but higher, from my kitchen window.
Meat for safe by the kilo at the store near my house. I always shop here and have gotten to know the owners.
Unused stones on my walk into town, covered in moss.
This little shack was once for selling food but now is unused. It is right outside of my apartment entrance.
Same shack in the snow the very next day.
One of the windows in my stairwell on my way up to my top floor apartment. There is no glass in any of the stairwell windows.
The fence around my school yard, covered in snow.
Ice in the street behind my house.