Friday, August 19, 2011

August Summer Camp Week Two

The second week of summer camp this month was a great success! Last week we just played frisbee and kick ball, this week I tried to make up a little bit more of a plan. We did play kick ball and frisbee of course. But we also did an arts and crafts station day, another PCV, Jess, came up for a day to teach some fun dancing to my kids which we then followed up with a dance competition and I did a day of gym games and relay races.
All in all it was fabulous! I had 22 kids coming some of the days! Now I'm in Gusar, another region of Azerbaijan, to do some exploring before everyone in my AZ7 group meets up in Baku for our Close of Service (COS) Conference. Then I'm off to Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria and meeting Liz in Turkey! I can't wait!!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Trip to Tovuz

Tovuz (sounds like: Toe-vooz) is another region that is about 30 minutes south of Qazax (sounds like: Gaz-akh). The two girls I brought to GLOW camp this year, Salmi (Zeynab's daughter) and Lala, made good friends with the GLOW girls from Tovuz. So another PCV, Jess, who happens to live with one of the Tovuz girls, and I planned a little "party" for our GLOW campers to see each other again! I brought both of my girls down to Jess's village in Tovuz! It is a pretty big deal that these girls' parents let me take them down there. They are both 15 and becoming young women, making the men in their lives even more protective, plus it is not typical for Azeri people to simply make friends in other regions and then go and visit them, especially without an (Azeri) escort. So it says a great deal that Salmi and Lala's parents trusted me and felt that this trip was a good idea. We went down for lunch, took a couple walks and used fabric markers to decorate white bandanas- just a normal day in a young girls life I think. But for these girls it was a first. Next month Jess and her GLOW camper, Nurana, will hopefully be making the trip up to Zeynab's house for the same kind of little party :). Yesterday was fabulous and I feel proud that after being here for 2 years the work I am doing and the person that I am is making some sort of difference that I can actually experience through days like this one.

Friday, August 12, 2011

August Summer Camp Week One

This week was the first of two "Makeshift Summer Camps" I'm doing this month. My students had such a BLAST in June at summer camp that it made me happy and really want to do more with them this summer. This week was full of art and sports. The first day a meager 4 kids showed up but I told them to call their friends and the rest of the week I had close to 20 everyday! Next week I think I may even have more... which is not easy when you are the only teacher, but I think its awesome how many kids want to come participate. The whole week was a whirlwind of fun and exhaustion, but there was one day in particular that I will remember forever.

On Tuesday I had a group of mainly girls and I took them outside to teach them how to play frisbee. They caught on so fast and just couldn't stop laughing they were having so much fun. Something about the way they were playing took me out of my "teacher shell" I usually wear everywhere I go here and put into "normal, childlike, Jessi shell," something I think they had never fully experienced before. Being loud and silly after the age of 10 (10 is not a real cut off-but you get the idea, once you are not a small child you are a quiet, respectable adult) here is highly frowned upon, much less being loud and silly in public. You can imagine their initial shock at me acting like just another child with them while playing frisbee, but that shocked turned into pure fun. I felt a bond with the kids that were there that day that I haven't felt yet with my students here, and all we were doing was play frisbee. That day goes down in my top 5 favorite times over the past 23 months of living in Azerbaijan so I just wanted to share it.

Sorry there are no pictures! Its really hard to be a photographer when you are the sole teacher :).

Monday, August 1, 2011

GLOW 2011

Last week was Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) Camp 2011! It was a fabulous time, even better then last year! My friend and counterpart Zeynab's daughter went as well as another student of mine from Qazax. Total there were 44 Azeribaijani campers, 10 Azerbaijani trainers and on average about 10 PCV's at camp each day. It was in Gabala again but at a different "resort" with a beautiful lake we could swim in.Can you find me?! ;)
Thanks to Grandma Scott and mom for sending the glow sticks for "Disco GLOW," the gils thought they were SO cool and wore them as jewelry even after the glow went out.
On the talent show night there was a really special moment where the Azerbaijani trainers wanted to sing the Americans a song. It was in Azerbaijani and about friendship, it gets me chocked up now just thinking about it again. They brought out this Azeri flag and a picture they had drawn of an American flag and told us how much it meant to all of them that we came here to help them through a beautiful song. Everyone got up and danced along, there wasn't a dry eye in the room.
We made tie-dye and had special markers to write all over them. They girls had a blast with that. This was an awesome spot right out on the lake where we had a bonfire the last night.
GLOW Azerbaijan is a mix of doing fun, creative games, crafts and what not, normal American summer camp fun as well having an empowering theme for two work sessions and a guest speaker each day. This years themes were Leadership, Gender, Career Sacrifices of Women (in Azerbaijan) and Goal Setting. The Azeri trainers were the leaders of these sessions and a special Azeri woman was brought in as a guest speaker each day. This camp is about showing these Azeri girls that there can be more to their life then being a housewife (if they wish to do something different that is). It also just gives them an experience they may never have again-a week away from their family, in a region they may never see again, with girls their own age and the freedom and space to be absolutely themselves in. Most of these girls probably had never left their own town/village before this and unless they go to Baku sometimes (everyone seems to have family there!) they may never again. They will also live with their own family and soon their husbands family in a confined space where there is no room to be independent or individual. I hope that their time at GLOW gave them freedom, at least for a week, and that they will never forget it. I myself feel so lucky that I was able to work so closely with GLOW for the past two years. It was a major part of my Peace Corps Service and it is something I know I will never forget.

Thank you again to you all that donated money this year and/or sent supplies this year and last year. You know who you are (and so do I) and I am so grateful for your help!