Monday, March 30, 2009

Novruz Pictures

Me and the host family visiting one of my host sisters and her husband in Tartar (village outside of Ganja)
from right to left: host dad, host sis (her apartment), me, friend of host sis, host sis, host mom
On the trip to Tartar we stopped to climb a mini mountain. This is my host sis's friend, me, and host sis battling the wind

Host mom and me inside our house

Host mom just finished jumping the fire

Filling the hats with goodies to give back to the kids who threw them in the house

Me and host parents in our house (host bro is taking the picture)

Our fire

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Latest in the AZ

So, I have been a bit slack lately about bloging - sorry about that. But there is some exciting stuff happening in Azerbaijan right now. One thing is that it is Novruz! What is Novruz and why should we care, right? Probably what I would be thinking, too. Novruz is, from what I understand, the biggest holiday in Azerbaijan. It is a symbol of the revival of nature as well as spring, according to my nifty Azerbaijan Culture book! It is throughout the entire month of March, marking the last month of winter. Each Tuesday of the month represents a different thing: water, fire, air, and earth. It is a fun time and a lot of guesting (definitely a verb here - going to go visit family and friends). So back to Novruz traditions, firstly, the house gets a hard core cleaning. Secondly, tons of food. Pakhlava, shekerbura, qogal, ploff, and dolma are definitely staples and tons of over stuff is cooked, too. You probably don't know what some of the food are - just know they are amazingly delicious and I am learning how to cook them. Hopefully, after two years I will be able to do it on my own and cook them in the States! Each Tuesday has different traditions that take place. Last Tuesday kids went around to different houses and throw their hats in the house. Why might you ask? Because each house then fills the hats with pastries they made, candy, and fruit. Tons of fun! However my absolute favorite thing is the fire jumping! Yes, you heard right. Each Tuesday everyone builds a bonfire in their yard and everyone jumps it 3 times. I don't know the exact roots of why people jump the fire or why we do it three times, but I was told by one person to think of wish while jumping. There is also a phrase you say while you are jumping, but not sure what it means in English, so I will just leave that out. So for the past two Tuesdays I have been fire jumping! No burnt clothes or shoes yet! I do have pictures, but I will have to post them later because I forgot to bring them with me to the computer. Another neat thing about Norvuz is that everything is shut down for 9 days of holiday - i.e. no work. That is always fun, so starting tomorrow my days will be filled with guesting! Something interesting about the nine days, in order to have nine days in a row off (since the main Norvuz calender day is the 21st - a weekend) the government changed the work schedule so that Sunday the 29th is a normal workday instead of going back to work on the 27th. That has no standing on anything to me(because I have clubs on Saturdays and Sundays anyway), I just thought it was interesting.

Speaking of interesting things the government in Azerbaijan does - yesterday was a big day here politically. I am not in America while the excitement of Obama is happening, I just read about it, but I can say I was living in Azerbaijan when it became a dictatorship. That is pretty exciting! (being sarcastic). Okay, not an exact dictatorship. March 18th was referendum day, where the country voted to on 41 constitutional referendums; the main one being to allow no term limits for the presidency. (Who by the way term's would in 2013, but not anymore since he successfully got the referendum passed.) Another one of the referendums that passed are stricter media restrictions. All very interesting things happening here.

Anyway, I am doing well and healthy. Once I come back to work - starting the last week of March, I will add pictures and more updates of everything going on.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Latest Trip

Yesterday I finally finished a grant I was working on and sent in it! Exciting for that. It has been a very frustrating process due to the time frame and lack of support I was given. But, regardless it is finished and I will know in 3 months or so if we got it. I am not sure if we will though because my organization did not do some of the things I asked them to do for the grant (which were required in the application). However, it is all over and done with.

Saturday I am going to Baku for two days for Peace Corps stuff and then headed to Sumqayit to visit my old host family. Actually my entire cluster is all going to Sumqayit at the exact time so it will be just like PST! I am really looking forward to that trip.

The last weekend in February I went to Quba to visit my friend Amy. Below are some pictures from my trip.

So, what do you have in your neighborhood? If you are Amy the answer is an archaeological site full of human remains! Of course we totally went there to check it out.

Day 1 of the trip. Beautiful weather and gorgeous views.

Day 2. We went to Xachmaz (about 30 minutes by bus) to visit Jake. This picture is from this crazy park they have full of plastic animals all over the place. It was like a fake zoo.

Day 2. We went for a walk down the railroad tracks. (Some of you make think this is unwise recreational activity, however, I visit them in Imishili, too because it is the one place, besides home, I can go and not be the center of attention, i.e. constantly stared at, yelled at, etc...) We stopped to hang out on the bridge where we were almost run over! Okay, I am exaggerating just a bit. But we were on the bridge we suddenly Jake yells to get off the tracks because a train was coming. One would think you could hear it or even feel it coming from far away, but no way. That bad boy was coming fast and it just appeared.

Day 4. (Day 3 I spend inside because it was snowing literally all day). Woke up to over 1 foot of snow. If you notice I am wearing pink boots that came up to my mid-calf. I was standing in the snow and you can barely even seem them. This was my travel day back to Imishli, and thankfully my bus didn't get into any accidents. However, it was a rocky start as a tractor had to tow us out of the snow so the driver could actually start driving.