Saturday, October 31, 2009

Salam! We are finishing our fifth week here but we’ve gotta say, it feels like we’ve been here a lot longer. Training has picked up a little (at least for me) because I’ve started my practicum in the school where my language class is. I teach about two to three classes a day ranging from fifth form to seventh. It’s interesting, especially since I have very little teaching experience. I feel completely outta my league, but Derek has been really encouraging. The language barrier is incredibly difficult in the classroom. The kids are enamored by the crazy Americans, though, so keeping their attention isn’t hard.

Derek’s been making up songs so we can remember new words. It’s pretty funny, especially when he rhymes. I’d share a few, but it’s all improv (as is my teaching, ha!) We’ve managed to stay pretty healthy. I’ve never eaten so much fruit in my life, or snickers. We have definitely made a wish-list for our families, though (thanks in advance, guys, we love you).

Today I came home after class and made lunch for Derek and I. While I was frying up some potatoes, I listened to one of College Heights’ podcasts. Randy’s sermon was from II Peter and he spoke about hard times. It hit home, especially since this past week was difficult. I often think about how much more comfortable I would be at home and how I wouldn’t be missing out on so much if I could just go back. But Randy’s words were just what I needed to hear. God doesn’t want me to be comfortable. He wants me to follow Him, wherever that might be. Right now, it seems to be a country I can’t quite understand. Derek has been an amazing husband to me these past few weeks. I couldn’t have asked for more patience, understanding, and wisdom from him. I am so blessed that God put him here with me.

It’s getting cold here. It’s been in the 70’s most days until this past Monday when it dropped to like 40. We put our laundry on the line to dry and had to leave it up for three days because it kept raining. Ana doesn’t think I know how to do laundry or cook. I’ve finally convinced her to let me use her oven this weekend. I’ve been patiently waiting for an opportunity to bake. She brought home a “pumpkin” for me to make a pie. It’s a squash. I’m going to make an apple pie instead. I’ll let you know what happens to the squash.

Many days I think about what we’re going to do when we get home. It’s fun to daydream about the future (especially after you’ve trekked to class in the pouring rain and you’re covered in mud and the school director tells you that slacks are unacceptable for women to teach in). I don’t know if I will teach when we go home. I’ve been thinking, maybe I can open up a bakery. This is something I never tire of. I know it’s a million miles away, but Derek and I have fun thinking of names and different things I can make. Maybe we’re just hungry.

The other day, Ana’s niece came over and brought her cute kids with her. They were talking about how Nazerene (7) is “topush” or, chubby. I felt sorry for Nazarene and said, well, so am I. Her mother quickly responded with “Only a little.” No worries, guys, I’m healthy and only a “little topush”. Haha!

Happy Halloween, for those of you celebrating. Wish we could be home to see the cute fairy and butterfly (Addie and Whit). Deidra, is Kaylee still gonna be a lion? Alina, have fun with Em and the kids and make sure you send me pics of Jaben in his costume. I miss all of our sweet kiddos so much. I cry everytime I hear Addie’s voice or look at pictures of all of them.

Special congrats to my cousin, Miranda who has just gotten engaged! I am so happy for you. Matt is more lucky than he will ever know. I love you and wish there was some way I could be home for your big day. “Enshallah”-Lord willing.

Thank you all for reading and allowing me to share my ridiculous thoughts. Any requests? Anything you want to know about Azerbaijan or our life here that I’ve missed (that we’re allowed to discuss)? Let us know. Derek begins Whiskerino tomorrow. Should be interesting. God bless! We love and miss you all!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Spending a few days with AZ6 Volunteers


So Alicia and I have parted ways for a few days to visit current PCV's at their permanent sites. I traveled about an hour and a half from our training site, Alicia, six. We talked briefly last night and she sounded really good. She said her volunteer was really nice and they were all having a good time. Jesse, the volunteer I'm staying with, is a super nice guy. He is from Tulsa, and I told him I have been living in Joplin for the last five years. We're pretty sure we have determined that we know some of the same people. Small world. Jesse and I went to another current PCV's house. They were an older married couple, perhaps mid sixties. We took over bread and salad, and they served egg-plant spaghetti, which was pretty fantastic. I ate enough to last me 3 days. It was nice to be able to sit and talk to them and get their perspective on Azerbaijan, coming from a married couple. It also kind of felt like going to a relatives house for dinner. They were very hospitable. All around sweet people.
These next few days are meant for us to shadow some current volunteers, to see what their working on, and to get some ideas for the future. Jesse is currently leading a few conversation clubs, one of which today, is an adult language club for teachers that Jesse leads at the local college. Other than that, he is going to show me around his town and check out a few museums. I'm realizing the importance of learning how an average work day in Azerbaijan, (for volunteers) differs so greatly from what we would consider an average work day in the states. Some days will be packed full, others won't. Work can be defined as leading conversations, Non-Profit projects, playing soccer with some kids, doing your laundry by hand, or using a bucket system in order to wash your dishes. "All in a day's work" is kind of a funny statement here. It can really mean just about anything. I'm excited to see what the future holds. Everyone is pretty quick to say that no two Volunteer's experiences are the same, but the wealth of handy advice and information is something to soak up.

post script: I have been meaning to put this on the blog, and I keep forgetting. Our host mother and her sisters/nieces/great nieces... basically all the women in her family and local neighbors/friends are all eating Alicia up. They are always so excited to see her when they come over for dinner or tea. Several times already, I've heard a knock at the door. I go to see who it is and it's one of our "host aunts".
I say "Salam, siz necesiz?" (hello, how are you?)
She responds; "Alicia harradidir?" (where's Alicia?)
It's nice to see them pour over Alicia and tell her how beautiful she is. Most of the time she is in her pajama pants and a t-shirt when they come, wearing no make-up. She tries to tell them that she is not looking "guzel". They won't hear it.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hey hey hey


So things are good. I have the feeling that we are starting to settle in. I'm updating from an internet cafe that we found in our village. Score. Alicia is at one of her technical training classes, so I decided to do a quick update. Thanks to everyone who is thinking/praying for us. We are learning more and more everyday. The language is coming. Our host mother wishes we could just wake up one moring and be speaking Azeri fluently. I do too. This would makes things much easier. But that's not going to happen, so we're working at it. She seems convinced her last volunteer was speaking Azeri in 5 days. I told her she was crazy. She is super sweet, and we're able to converse more and more everyday, but still rely fairly heavely on international sign language.
Alicia and I are leaving our town tomorrow to visit current volunteers in Azerbaijan. We're going to different posts, but are still going in groups. We're excited to see other parts of the country and look forward to comparing our experiences. We'll be there for 4 days. My daily commute to technical training is about to get a lot easier. Currently I travel from my small town of a few thousand to Sumqayit (soom-guy-it). From there I transfer and take another bus and travel another half an hour. Keep in mind this is just for technical training. My language training is only a 10 min or so bus ride. Anyway, the Peace Corps have hired us a driver to cut the 1.5 hour commute there, 1.5 hour commute back, to about 50 min to an hour round trip. Nice. Im excited about this.
Traveling within the communities has already taught me a lot about the people and the area. I feel this is the best way to learn, and am comfortable to travel. No worries mothers, Im not doing anything stupid or staying out too late. I miss you all and enjoy reading your comments. Keep watching, we'll keep posting. Salamatciligdir!

-Derek and Alicia

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sunday day off...

Today has been refreshing. We slept in, had breakfast, and read our Bibles and prayed together. We came to Sumgayit to go to the market and use the internet as well as meet up with some PC friends. We are doing well. Moms- we do have indoor plumbing, but this ain't America for sure :). We went to our Ana's niece's home last night. She has a little boy and a little girl. They do my heart good. Nazarin is seven and Mehdi is ten. I love them already. They are helping with our language learning.
I'm making dinner tonight. Ana was a little hesitant about this, but Derek assured her I'm a good cook. Ha! Side note: Ana is bound and determined that Derek and I have a baby while we're here. I told her something about nar (pomegranites) being great for fertility and she's been filling me with them every day. We've told her that the PC won't allow it, so she said we could leave the baby with her! This is one of many funny conversations.
Things I miss already: cheeseburgers, coffee, and our family and friends. I asked my LCF yesterday during class if they have cheeseburgers here. Everyone laughed. I guess that's a no. This is going to be tough. Thank you for your prayers. We miss you all!

Friday, October 9, 2009

One week in

Hello All,

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

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Tonight is our final night in the hotel. We go to our host homes tomorrow. I’m anxious to meet them and get settled in. Today was good; I think we’re all tired of hearing about what training is going to be like and ready to see for ourselves. They’ve given us a lot of helpful advice, though. The language is coming along for us. I feel like I’ve learned much more than I thought I would in three days. Hopefully this feeling continues J.

I've been trying to upload some photos and it keeps timing out so I will try that later. We may not be able to update for a little while because we won't have internet near our home. Keep reading though! God bless!

Oh, and happy birthday to my brother, Matt! Also to my cousin Andrew whose birthday is tomorrow and Jory's whose is also today. P.S. Derek's is in four days (the 8th). Love you all!

Friday, October 2, 2009

Orientation in country, Day 1.

Hello All. So I took a quick break between our initial orientation sessions (in country) to update everyone. We arrived safely, but not without fatigue. We're pretty tired, I think everyone is. But the show must go on and we are on our way to learning about what we'll be doing and getting to know our staff better. I'll have a lot more information for everyone after a while and after we run it by our staff, so they know what we're posting. Our days will be full. The information overload has begun. hah. The staff here are really nice and willing to answer any questions we have. I need to get back. So long for now, stay tuned for updates.


Salam! Well, we’ve been here for about 24 hours. We are still very jet-lagged, but we plan on catching up on some sleep tonight. For those of you who don’t know, there’s about a ten hour time difference between us and you. Today was hard; overwhelming because we are so exhausted (for me, Alicia, especially). I’ve never experienced culture shock before now. It’s, as I said, hard.

The Azeri’s are so friendly. The hotel is nice, but, surprise, it’s not home. I am looking forward to some structure as well as doing things on our own. We had our first language lesson today. The language is beautiful. I struggled because of my lack of focus, but I believe it will come in time.

I’m tired so I’d better get some rest. Good night or good morning, wherever you are!