Wednesday, October 17, 2012

A Few Final Words

Well it has been a long time and my blog and I seem to have gone our separate ways but I suppose that it is time to reunite.

I will be coming home soon.

That makes me feel a little panicky


I might be a little strange when I come home. Maybe I will mutter weird things in a foreign language. If you are a man and a close friend I might try and kiss you on your cheek when I see you and if you are a woman who I have never met before I might not shake your hand. Bottom line is that I will probably be a bit weirder than I was when I left. I hope that is ok for you all.

Here are some pictures from the last few months. The first few are from the Novrus holiday which celebrates the beginning of spring. Lots of Baklava, Plov and jumping over bonfires.

A little boy contemplating hopping a big fire.

These next few are from the wedding of my good friend and neighbor Elnur. I will say that being in this country has done wonders for my confidence as a dancer.

Busting a move

Wedding Band

Bride and Groom

Anyway, I can’t wait to see you all after such a long time. More than feeling panicky about coming home though I am excited. I will miss eating dovga but will really love the lemon meringue pie that my mom will be making for Thanksgiving. I won't miss breathing in burning trash on my bike ride to work, or phantom poopers that make a mess while I am away for the weekend in Baku (it was my landlord I just know it).

We really do. I promise.
It is really sad to be saying goodbye to everyone I have come to know over the past two years and I will miss them greatly.The list of reasons why I am excited to come home is only slighter longer than the list of reasons I am sad to go. My time here has been the experience of a lifetime but I am getting a bit antsy to start my next adventure.  So till next time, and I hope to see you soon!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

A Where's Waldo Christmas

Christmas number two has come and gone and although I missed being at home and spending it with family I was able to have a great time with my Peace Corps family and some of our Azerbaijani friends. Christmas Eve Eve was spent in Mingechevier where we had some Ming nog, went to a wild west themed restaurant called Wild West, and played some American Football with a team of Azerbaijanis.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Ucar Bike Club and Other News

So I know that it has been a while since I have posted so I guess I better give it another crack. I am approaching the half way point of my service and it things are again in transition. The previous group of volunteers are leaving to be replaced with a new group that will be coming next month. Although i will miss the friends that I have made in the previous group it will be nice to have a new group come in. Ucar is getting two new volunteers which will really change things up here for me. Thus far I have been the only one in my community and it has been a little lonely. I am looking forward to having some company.

As for work, I have been a little busier as of late with my newest project the bicycle club. It has been a ton of fun and a pretty big hit in Ucar. We bought ten bikes from Baku in October and have been showing them off around Ucar. We have been doing weekly rides around the city and they get quite a lot of attention from everyone. A line of ten kids in helmets riding bikes and ringing the bells is a bit strange in Ucar. Luckily almost all of the responses from community members has been very positive. Everyone wants a chance to ride the bikes even the older men of the community. It is actually really funny to watch how they act when they get on the bikes. They change from dour and serious old men to little kids laughing and ringing the bells like mad.

At the moment it has gotten a little too cold to do much riding but we hope to start back up in the spring when it warms up again. I am very much looking forward to it. Below are some pictures from our first ride.

Monday, July 25, 2011

The ABLE Experience

So this past week I had the opportunity to participate in the Azerbaijan Boys' Leadership Experience (ABLE) up at an Istirahat Merkezi (Relaxation Center) in a town up near the mountains called Qebela. It was a great time. There were forty-seven boys that came from regions all over Azerbaijan and learned about leadership, teamwork, and civic engagement. We divided the boys up into four different teams and and I was one of the team leaders. The boys in my team chose the name "Fireland Gang" and the other teams were "White Lighting", "The Twelve Winners" and the "Red Dragons". Though out the camp each team was awarded points for completed various activities and winning certain games. When all was said and done the Fireland Gang won by a landslide which was a pretty proud moment for us all. We even recieved MEDALS!!! Anyway here are some highlights from the week.

My camper that I brought from Ucar, Ferid, getting his medal from the Ambassador
The US Ambassador talking to the ABLE campers about leadership
One of the better acts of the talent show where the guy with the sunglasses imitated the different Americans getting thier bad Azeri down just right

Camp mascot "Air Bud" and my team leader Muslim
Morning Exercises
Morning Meeting
One cool dude

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Georgian Vacation

These days I spend most of my time hiding from the sun. It has gotten really hot here in the Ucar with temperatures reaching 100 degrees F in the shade pretty much every day. Going out during the day has become a daunting task so I try not to as much as possible. It is especially hard in Ucar as I have just returned from a little vacation up North in Georgia. The Georgian border is only about five hours travel from where I am now but it is amazing how much things can change in such a short distance. The land turned from flat and dusty desert to rolling green hills with the Caucus mountains rising up in the background. Upon entering the country I immediately realized that no one spoke Azeri. All of the sudden I was a mute. Hand gestures and the word Tblisi were pretty much the only things my fellow travelers and I had at our disposal but it turns out that is all you need. Despite the language barrier we made it to our hostel fairly easily and had an amazing time eating delicious Georgian food, walking around the beautiful city, and getting scrubbed down and massaged in the turkish bath houses. Here are some pictures from our adventures.

First up are a few pictures the Lavra monastery which was founded in the 6th century and flourished until the invasion of the Mongols in 1265 CE. It was restored in the 14th century but again sacked and pillaged in 1615 CE by the Persians who massacred 6000 monks but then restored again in 1675 CE. Later after the USSR took control of Georgia it was used as a barracks for soldiers and wasn't inhabited again by monks until the mid-nineties.

Cool Graffiti
I won!

Friends and some guy clinging onto Jim
Cool Graffiti

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Bike Ride in Agjabedi

This weekend I had a chance to take a trip out to the town of Agjabedi and participate in a 50k bike ride with a few other Americans and about twenty Azerbaijanis. It was a whole lot of fun getting outside and doing something active for once. We had a Police escort for the whole ride and drew quite a crowd of interested people while we were riding through the city. After we got out of the city however it was pretty quite. The pace was pretty slow and leisurely with lots of breaks. We even stopped at a tea house for cookies and tea to keep up our stamina.

Break time with our friendly police escort up front. They were nice enough to occasionally blast Azeri songs over their loudspeaker so that we could have some entertainment. Also yelled at cars to slow down as they passed our group.

Relaxing in the shade and refueling with tea and cookies.

One of the shepherds that we met during our lunch stop. They were very excited to meet us and see what we were all about. They even let a few people ride their horses for a bit.

This is me right before I broke the pedal on my bike and was relegated to riding in one of the cars in our entourage.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Support Creative Writing in Azerbaijan!!!

Well, let’s pretend I am a bird. I can do anything I want. I can fly, and the whole world is mine. The Sky is mine. I love traveling by air, of course. Also I have a “Green Card” to all of the countries. Have I ever been to Egypt or Italy? Sure! I know a lot of people who is dreaming about these countries, who want to see the Pyramids and the ancient Rome. –Sabina, Age 16

Greetings Friends and Family!

The above quote is taken from one of the winning submissions from the 2011 Writing Olympics competition we just held here in Azerbaijan.

The Writing Olympics is a creative English writing competition where students are given one hour (on a selected date) to write on one of three topics (in accordance to their form or year in university). They are not permitted to use dictionaries or other resources. They are judged not on grammar, but instead on the idea, the overall “essence” of their essay. This year Azerbaijan has also created a “professionals” category, which gives individuals who may not fit into the school categories a chance to compete too (this includes moms and teen girls who aren’t in university). The goal of the event is to help cultivate creative writing and, even more importantly, creative thinking.

We need your help to make this event a success! The winning students will have their essays published in a book which they will receive, along with a certificate, at an awards ceremony. Unfortunately, publication here is expensive. Your donation, which can be made at, will help us ensure that our students will remember this event, and their creative selves, forever. Your donation will help to pay for the publication of the book as well as the printing of certificates, the purchase of dictionaries and the awards ceremony.

Our goal isn’t much; it’s a little under $2,000 USD. Any help you can provide would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you so much!