Monday, January 26, 2009

Yes I actually work!

Well, I have decided that I have done a poor job talking about my city and work. I am pretty sure many of you probably think I don't do anything! Sometimes that is true. :) But, I am actually starting to do work! This week I will start my first English conversation clubs. I went to several schools to advertise for an informational meeting for a youth group (I advertised it as youth group because if I said English conversation club everyone would think I was teaching English - several people did anyway though). I had about 30 people or so turn up for the info meeting. Then I spent four afternoons doing one on one interviews with the kids to gauge their English speaking and comprehension abilities. From that I choose 10 girls and 3 boys to be in my groups. I am going to have the groups separated by gender, I think that for what I want to accomplish this will be best. My dreams are for each group to pick a topic, whether it be leadership, history, environment, holiday/traditions, etc... and we will spend 4 weekly meeting learning and discussing the topic in English. Then we will have either have a party, volunteer service event, or whatever relates to the particular topic on a Saturday. My goal is to do this each month: new topic followed by service learning component. However, that being said none of this may happen. I will have a better gauge after my first meetings this week. Regardless, at least I am getting to know youth (the kids range from age 14 - 21) in Imishli. I have to give the kids props, it takes a lot of courage do come meet with me one on one and talk in English. It has been really hard to turn people away. However, I am not an English teacher and have can not accomplish what I want with these groups if there english is not high enough.

That being said I am teaching English, with Greta, for my director's employees as a favor. (My director is also the branch regional director of a micro-lending organization called FINCA.) We had our first lesson Saturday and will continue to meet weekly. Greta is a TEFL (English teacher) volunteer and that is why I recruited her to help. I agreed to do this, despite how much I dislike teaching English, because I feel selfish. I came to Azerbaijan to help people and ironically enough I possess the one thing that will truly help Azerbaijani people: I speak English. Speaking English is the one thing that will help people the most. It will allow them to get better jobs, study abroad, aqcuire more buisness projects, etc... it truly opens up a new world to them. I feel it is completely selfish that I can truly help people improve and change their lives but won't just because I don't like teaching English. So long story short, I decided to teach the FINCA employees English. Surprisingly enough, it was actually kind of fun. They are all really nice (I see them daily as I go over there often to use the bathroom, my organization's building does not have one) and I was shocked to learn the majority of them are all younger than me! I couldn't believe it when I found out their ages. Again, I am really impressed with their courage to come to the class and try to learn another language. I guess since I am struggling to learn Azerbaijani I relate a lot with people here who are trying to speak English.

Well, to end out this post which I have made impossibly long - sorry - I thought I would give a few updates. I wanted to clarify something about my city: the population. When I first learned that I would be moving to Imishli I was given a sheet of paper with facts about it. It stated that the population was 200,000ish people. Well, that is the population of the Imishli region (kind of like a county) which includes cities and villages. However, the population of Imishli city, where I live, is closer to 40,000 people. What else? Oh, many of you may know I was a vegetarian before I left for the PC. Well, I thought it would be easier to eat meat only if my host families served it to me. Well, the answer to that is yes, it is easier; being a vegetarian here is unheard of and people just don't get it. However, I stopped eating meat here. Unfortunately means I am on a all carb diet (no lie, I can go days before I get something besides bread, pasta, or potatoes). I thought the meat over here would be fresher and better than the meat in the US because of the way cattle and poultry are farmed. Yet, after seeing what animals eat here I am just as grossed out by what animals in the US eat. Here they eat out of the trash piles and pit toilets - really gross. So, once again I am a vegetarian. I am contemplating being a vegan, because the knowledge of what chickens and cows eat (both in the states and here) really disgusts me, but I also really like cheese, milk, and eggs. So far now I am trying not to think about it. Being a vegan is a huge commitment I am not sure I am ready to make. Wow, don't really know how I digressed that much. But that is it for now!

PS. Vicki - if you want to email me at I would be happy to send you all the pictures I have of him. I have more that what I post on my blog. I will also post that picture you asked for later this week.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Ganja and Back

I made it back to Imishli safe and sound after my weekend away. My cluster from PST and I made the trip to Ganja to be there for our LCF's, Sabina, 21st birthday. I really enjoyed seeing everyone again and we had a lot of fun goofing off together. Jake, Amy, and I decided to take the night train together out to Ganja. So we meet up in Baku and enjoyed a meal at a pub called Tequila Junction, a frequent stop for most PCVs whenever they are in Baku. I have come a fan of the Azerbaijan Mexican food served there. I usually order the nachos with refried beans, and when I say refried beans I really mean baked beans as that is what Azerbaijan believes refried beans to be! Despite the interesting combination, it is not half bad.

After dinner we set out on the night train for Ganja. The train was terribly hot, miserably hot, and we were all uncomfortable. I felt kind of bad for Amy and Jake because it was there first time on the night train and they were really pumped for the expereince. Jake chickened out and didn't take the night train with us back to Baku on Monday night because it was so uncomfortable going there, which was unfortunate because the return trip was a much nicer temperature - quite pleasant actually. We bought tickets for the 4 person cabin and we were curious to see who our 4th roommate would be. Kind of funny story because the guy came running in the cabin out of breath. He must have been running to catch the train (I know that feeling all to well!) and got there just in time. Well, the three of us were in a pretty complaining mood as it was hot and stinky and were all uncomfortable. In comes this fourth guy who smelt pretty bad. The three of us were carrying on conversations in English, saying how hot is was, that this guy must of run to catch the train, etc... Luckily none of said anything bad about the 4th guy (like how stinky he was and how the entire cabin smelt even worse after he took his shoes off) because out of nowhere he says in perfect accentless English "Hey guys, do you mind if I shut the door?" It was so incredibly funny - everyone knows the saying about assuming!?! Well, totally true. Good thing we bit our tongue a bit. I have to remember that in big cities I am more likely to run into people who speak and understand English! The train ride back was less eventful as Amy and I were in a cabin with two other ladies and slept the entire time.

I am posting a link to a Snapfish album I just recreated. Some of the pictures are from during PST, but most of them are from this weekend. Here is the link:

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Dec. 11th, Swearing in Day. This is me with my Sumqayit host sis as an official volunteer!

Christmas Eve at a pub enjoying a beer with friends. (I can never drink in my site, so when we head to Baku it is a special treat to have a beer or wine.)

Me and Amy Christmas Day at a Chinese restaurant for dinner. We don't have a Christmas tree, but the palm tree is close enough! (Funny story here, right after we finished eating a roach fell from the ceiling on the table. I thought is was super funny. None of us, including the waitress, was phased by it- don't know if that is sad or good!?!

Amber, Jesse, Amy, and myself posing in front of New Year's trees (The sign says Happy New's Year 2009)

Amber got kicked out of her apartment so here is Greta and myself helping her pack. Sadly enough I do really wear all those layers inside - sometimes I even sleep with them all on!

Thought is was funny. These are the bathrooms at a pub in Baku.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

What I have been up to

Hey Everyone. Sorry that I have been so slack and have updated my blog in a while. A lot has happened and nothing at all has happened. I will try to explain! I am still not doing much at work, this week I started going to schools to advertise for my youth club. Next week I will hold an interest meeting so I can guage the english ability to determine what I can actually accomplish with the kids. Last week I started meeting with a tutor to help me learn Azerbaijani. She is an english teacher at one of the schools - I really like her a lot. I am still struggling with the language, but hopefully I will start to improve.

I spent Christmas in Baku with friends, it was a nice little vacation. New Years I spent with my site mates at Amber's apartment. We had a low key New Year's, but a lot of fun. Last week I had a doctor's appointment in Baku and I was able to meet my friends Amy and Jake there to hang out for the day. So, mainly what I have been up to is traveling! Friday I am hitting the road again and headed to Ganja. My cluster from Sumgayit and I are going there to celebrate Sabina's, our LCF, 21st birthday. So this weekend I have a fun trip planned. I will not come back until Tuesday because Monday and Tuesday are holidays here.

I do have some pictures to post, but I will not be able to post them until Thursday. Amy let me borrow her camera this week so I am going to take some pictures of Imishli to post.