Thursday, June 25, 2009

What do you do after work?

Okay, I have said this before but everyday I start to believe it more and more. I am country! Tuesday I got home from work around 6.30ish pm. My host family was enjoying a tea picnic outside. So I changed from my work clothes (skirt and t-shirt) to my house clothes (shorts and tank top) and joined them for a nice steaming hot cup of tea while sitting in the steaming hot weather! (Weird I know, but they think I am weird because I like to drink cold water when it is hot.) Anyway, after our leisurely tea break with pastries, jam, and chocolate and talking about various things my host mom asked me to help her out. So, what was my task? To climb a latter and pick cherries from our cherry trees! She wanted to make compote (a drink that consists of fruit, sugar, and water- I particularly don't like it because I think it is too sweet, but it is a favorite drink here). So after I picked cherries (which is a little harder than it sounds. My host mom was busting out with her skills filling her bucket way faster than mine. She said it is because I am a city girl and she is a village woman, but everything she does she makes it look so easy and takes me twice as long to do!) I then preceded to start a composting pile in my yard. Then I took a cold shower to cool off (my new nightly routine: Jump in the shower with cold water, rinse off, put my clothes on (without drying off) and then go in my house - it makes all the difference in the world). After that I roasted some veggies to eat with my home made hummus and had dinner while watching The Wire (one of my new favorite TV shows).

PS. Thanks to everyone who wrote me emails and left comments on my blog to make me feel better about being outrun by a cow!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I am so out of shape

Sunday morning I went for a jog. I leave my house between 6.30 and 7.00 am for my jogs because there are less people and cars; i.e. less stares and less likely one of the crazy drivers will hit me! So, I follow the same jogging rules I did in the States: stay on the side of the road and run toward traffic. Very rarely do I see other people running in Imishli, I think only on 2 other occasions have I actually seen people running. Well, this past Sunday morning there was another early riser using my path. I, wanting to be the polite runner, ran to the other side of the road and was going to pass my fellow morning companion (who was walking) and then cross back across the road. However, as I got beside the walker (but on the other side of the street), the walker started to jog as so I couldn’t pass. I thought, okay, no problem, I have a little push left in me, I can run faster so I can pass you! Apparently a race was on his mind because the faster I ran, the faster he ran. For the life of me I couldn’t pass him! He was just faster than me; I couldn’t believe it. I for sure thought I could out run him. Now, mind you, I am on the return portion of my jog so I was getting a bit winded, speeding up and all. I didn’t know how much longer I could hold on at this pace, and still make it home without stopping. I was too prideful to admit defeat; I mean homeboy was packing on the weight; I should be the faster one! But here we were racing, with the road in between us, me struggling to hang on and him looking like he was good to go for miles. Well, thank goodness he finally veered off the road onto another path; so I could slow my pace and not keel over and die. So, who was my fellow companion who could out run me? None other than a cow! Can you believe it? I can’t outrun a cow! How sad is that? Every jog I try to dogde the sheep, cows, and dogs, but never has a cow actually started to race with me, and won!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Summer in Imishli!

Well, here in Imishli summer is coming full swing, i.e. it is super hot! I am thinking that I am might die for my first summer her. Just kidding. But it will be a hot one because it is so hot now and it is only June. I am told that the end of July and August are the hottest times. So how do people here stay cool, in the land of heat and no air conditioning? All windows and doors stay open at all times, fans, and take multiple cold showers a day. Within the walls of my yard it is not so much because I can wear tank tops and shorts, but outside of my house and yard that is not permissible, dresses, skirts, and t-shirts are what women here wear.

My 25 minute walk to work gets me nice and sweaty, but I wouldn’t move away from my host family for the world. Last Friday and Saturday my host mom and I made my favorite jam for me to have with my tea. (People drink tea with pastries, sugar cubes, chocolate or jam. My favorite thing to have with my tea is jam.) We made red and yellow cherry jam for me. We started by de-seeding all the cherries (and with the yellow cherries we put small pieces of cut up lemon inside each one) and then added sugar and bit of water, cooked into jam and then canned it. I have them in my storage room waiting for me to open and use for the next year. As my favorite fruits for jams come into season I will continue making 1 kilo of jam at a time.

Also, one cool thing happened yesterday (Sunday) that I want to tell you all about. So the family structure here is quite different. Families are super close, brother, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins, etc… And it is definitely a male dominated society. What the brothers and fathers say goes – no matter if the brother is younger or not. The males don’t want the females to being doing things that could compromise themselves. For example, my host brother gets angry at my host mom for going to the bazaar (the market) (it is not a place for women; men should be the ones going). My host uncle got upset with my host sister because he went to visit her two times in Baku (where she goes to university) and she wasn’t at home either time. He wanted to know where she was and what she was doing that would take her away from home. To us these things are no big deal, but here the women’s place is at home. Anyway, so yesterday I went to work and then after work I went to Amber’s house for a bit. I cam home about 4ish. Well, my host brother was upset and asked my host mom where I was and why was I out so long (he is home from university). He was thinking I was at a guy’s house or something (big no go here); he said is not okay for me to be out that long, that I need to be at home. Okay, so I am thinking you are 7 years younger than me; I don’t care what you think I am doing, I will do what I want (my host mom told him, it is okay because she is an American. Her answer for all the seemingly weird things I do.) However, I was very touched because I know that he accepts me as family if he is upset about where I am. So that was pretty cool. Of course, I am still going to do what I want, but it was special for me to know that he is caring for my reputation and welfare like he would for his sisters and mom.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Realites of Work in Imishli

Okay. So many people respond to my blog and ask me "But Hannah, what about work?" So here is the some of what goes on here in Azerbaijan. I am working on a Model Union Nations Project. I, along with university students in Baku who studied abroad in the US in high school, started a MUN club here in Imishli. We meet every week with the goal of having a mock conference in July. We wanted 20 kids to participate, doesn't sound hard to get 20 kids from the 8 schools in Imishli right? Wrong. Getting kids to commit to stuff here is like pulling teeth, very difficult and painful. We have about 10 kids (and have been working on this for several months now). So Friday I went to the Minister of Education to get his permission for the project. In reality, we need more kids to come and in order to get more kids I first have to go the Minister. With the minister's permission of the project I can then go to the schools and talk to the directors (principals) and then in turn be given access to the youth and recruit for my project; without his permission I can not get help from the school directors.

So, a bit complicated but easy enough. Or so it seems. The Minister did not give me permission for the project because the final conference would be in the summer, specifically July 12-13. Because his three month vacation starts July 7th and because he said kids would be on vacation during the summer he would not give me permission for the project. Granted I have been working with youth now for several months on this project and completely disagree with his logic. The Minister did say, however, that if the final conference was in September or October he would guarantee me that I would have 20 talented and hard-working youth in my club and the project could proceed. So, I have no choice but to follow the say of the Minister. Despite the frustration of Azerbaijan politics and inter workings, it is actually a blessing in disguise because it will give us the much needed time to make this project meet the potential that it has (it is struggling right now).

So lessons learned: Always go to the Minister first! (I didn't before because the project is not in the schools. It was my understanding that anything I want to do literally inside the schools I need permission from him for, but I have now revamped that to anything I want to do with youth I need his permission for.)