As I look back over our blog I realize what terrible bloggers we actually are. We seem to post erratically at best, and I’m not really sure when the last time Alicia even looked at the page. This is not an attempt by us to dissolve our blog, nor drive you to “stop following”. Simply put, we aren’t the best at keeping our cyber lives up to date. With all that being said, we say a hearty “thank you” for reading and for all your thoughts and prayers. They mean more than you probably realize.
So where are we now? If I had to guess I would say we are on the cusp of cultural saturation. We are into our fifth month of living in Azerbaijan, and to our surprise and delight, many things that were once shocking and uncomfortable, are daily routine. The awkwardness is still there, and it always will be, but not nearly to the exponential degree it was. Better said, we just aren’t fazed like we used to be. The little things don’t make us cry, scream, or curse, they make us laugh, smile, and shake our heads. Does this mean we are impenetrable forces; former shells of once westernized babes, ready to give up our comfort pursuing, capitalist sculpted minds, in exchange for a life entirely new and daring? No, not really. We still like our coffee quick and hot, our Mac-n-Cheese™ extra cheesy, and we occasionally get lost in conversations of new cars, homes, and materialism.
But we have changed. We appreciate more, and want less. Waste has been brought to our attention. Patience is good; it can make your life easier. The environment IS as important as some people say. Serving others is not always easy, nor is there an instruction manual by which to follow. I used to think the American school system was bad, now I know better. Saying “hello” and “how are you” to everyone in the grocery store, regardless if you really care how they are doing, is still better (in my mind) than the alternative. I love women and their rights, and they can rule the world for all I care. Civil liberties, the taboos against prejudice and racism, and programs for school children with special needs in the States, all remind me of things we take for granted. These are not universal rights, and remembering that can be difficult at times.
But we, as Americans, do not have all the answers. We could take better care of our guests, make enough food for anyone who may happen to stop by, and be content with spending time with family and friends as a means of entertainment. Everything that works for us, doesn’t necessarily work for others.
If this has turned into a sermon of sorts, my apologies, we are learning right along with everyone else. These are just some things that I have noticed and hope to apply to my life after coming home. The most common questions we get here are; “How do you like it here?”, “Do you like Azerbaijani food?”, and “Which is better, there (US) or here?”. That last question has become more and more difficult to answer as of late. We always just say, “They are different, we are American, so we like America, but they are just different.”
“Okay, enough already, get off your soapbox, what are you even doing there anyway?” If this is what is going through your mind well this next part is for you. Thanks for sticking around until now.
Alicia is still teaching with three teachers in a number of different classes everyday. She has age groups from young children, six to seven years old, to older kids fourteen and fifteen. After school, Alicia will usually meet me at the Youth Center to surf the net for an hour or so before heading home for lunch. For the last month I have been teaching two ninety-minute classes two days a week at the local college. There are about fifteen students in each class and things seem to be going well. I recently just picked up a third class. The students have many questions about America and enjoy practicing their English. I’ve actually had other teachers come and sit in on my classes, even participate in the games of hangman, word scramble, and grammar exercises. I really enjoy going to the college. I am also meeting with a few guys at the youth center two days a week for an english club.
We have traveled for the last few weekends, to different sites, visiting friends and what not. It is good for us to get out of the house on the weekends. This weekend we are going to Baku for Valentines Day. We have been looking forward to American food, shopping, and not being stared at for a couple weeks now. :)
Derek & Alicia