So we have been in Azerbaijan for a week and have a lot to tell. We aren't really sure where to begin. As you may have figured out, internet is not readily available. We had a group meeting today in one of the bigger cities and were able to find an internet cafe. We are living in a small town, probably a few thousand. Our host mother is very warm and welcoming. We have a host brother that lives there, he is 21, and we really had our first chance to hang out with him on the night of my birthday. His work schedule is kind of crazy, so we don't really see him.
To be honest we have been stressed out. The difficulties that we have ran into are something that we have not experienced before or expected. The Azeri staff that are working with us are a great group of individuals. Our LCF's (language and cultural facilitators) are young people like us, away from their family, here to teach us. We have already become good friends with some of the staff. Our minds and patience have been pushed and stretched everyday. We are healthy, which is a blessing. The language barrier with our host family is hard. We are happy with how we have been progressing and are learning more and more everyday. It didn't take us long to be tossed into the thick of it. We have already been taking ourselves to training and language classes by way of mini busses, or marshutkas, as they are called here. It is packed full and always an interesting ride.
My 25th birthday in Azerbaijan was more than I expected. Alicia went to a local market and bought me a cake. This was very contrary to what she would have liked to do since she enjoys baking so much but baking in the home is very uncommon here (and hard). She made it special all the same. Our host family sang happy birthday in Azeri and we took lots of pictures (which will be posted later).
Living here is not easy. It has already taught us much about ourselves that we are challenged and frustrated by. We at times wonder about what it will be like to finally do what we've been preparing for. We have a new respect for the people here. Everyone says training is the hardest part and we look forward to finishing. We miss our family (so much!) but we need to focus on building relationships here now. It will be much easier once we learn the language and absorb the culture. We look forward to this more than anything else in our service. We are living like the locals. There are no amenities and we have little money, but we have all that we "need". Don't worry, moms, we're taken care of. Our host mother is very protective and loving. We love you all and miss America, but we are pushing through. The apples and pomegranates are mind blowing. We'll update again as soon as possible.
-Derek and Alicia