Monday, December 25, 2006

Merry Christmas!!!

Merry Christmas!!!!!! I hope everyone had a great Christmas and stayed safe and had great food and great times. I realize it’s been a while since I updated this and I know you are all sitting on the edge of your seats to see what exploits I have gotten myself into recently. Well I hate to disappoint and we’ll leave it at that (if you’re disappointed, lower your expectations). Anyways, plenty to talk about. Last time we left off I had a rooster named after me by Nana, which is awesome. In the following week after that, not much happened. Which brings us to last week. On Tuesday all the volunteers in my group (AZ4 if you recall) traveled to Baku for three days of training. Every few months or so the Peace Corps likes to hold training sessions that not only refresh us and give us a break from our sites for a while, but to also help us develop our project ideas and come up with more ideas. This training was no different. Everyone arrived on Tuesday afternoon and we naturally headed out for one of our favorite Baku treats, lots of nachos and a beer or two. Neither disappointed. It was all good. Wednesday began our training which started at 9 every morning and went till 6 at night with an hour and a half for lunch. The first day was centered on language training and gave us lots of new phrases and vocabulary for holidays and weddings and things like that as well as job specific vocab. This was enjoyable because they brought back some of our teachers from Pre-Service Training including mine so it was great to hang out with them again. Plus we got to learn, which is always neat. Thursday was centered on a lot of reflection and sharing of our first three months of service. Everyone had a chance to share with the group all their successes and failures and we discussed which methods worked and which didn’t and were given other ideas. There was also a safety and security session which is always wildly entertaining thanks to Security Officer Emil. Seriously. He’s awesome. At the end of the day there was a Resource Fair with NGO’s where we could talk about what they do and pick up any information we wanted. Friday brought with it the most nasty weather I’ve experienced since last winter in Chicago. The good thing was it made me feel like I was at home. It was snowing/raining, windy and cold. Beautiful. As far as training goes, this day was my favorite. We started the day off with monitoring and reporting, which if you are familiar with my process of applying to the Peace Corps, then you know there are plenty of forms to fill out to keep you content for days on end. It was a helpful session, though, I thought. The rest of the day was mainly different programs that are available for volunteers to use to get money for projects which was nice, as well as more specific sessions that we got to choose. I chose conversation clubs and environmental projects. Hopefully these will help me with conversation clubs and environmental projects. All in all, I thought it was a great week of training. We got to see some staff members we haven’t seen since PST which was great and we got lots of good information. Plus, each night we got to go out and eat great food and have fun with all the volunteers. My favorite food thing that I ate was a chicken sandwich/sub type thing (chunks of chicken meat with melted mozzarella cheese and green peppers and tomatos on toasted bread). What made this even better was when we went to McDonald’s and Ashley and I decided it would be a great idea to buy a double cheeseburger and jam it into the middle of our chicken sandwich. It was amazing. We have pictures and I think Ashley is posting one of them. I can’t wait to do that again. On Saturday it was time to head back to site. Since it was Christmas weekend, our friends Rachel, Rikki and Kasey decided to join us for Saturday night. We got back to site and went to Ashley’s and drank hot chocolate with Nana and played a few games of Yahtzee. Sunday morning brought with it travel days for the girls and cooking for Ashley and me. Luckily for us, the girls stayed a little in the morning and helped us begin our cooking. I’m not sure if I mentioned this earlier, but Ashley and I decided to cook lasagna for a total of 10 people (his office and mine and Nana). Neither of us cooked very much in America with anything other than a Foreman grill or macaroni and packaged powdered cheese so the fact that we had to make our own lasagna noodles and then figure out how to put it all together meant that we needed help and are very grateful to the girls for staying in the morning and helping us out. I know it probably isn’t all that difficult to actually do that stuff, but if you know us, then you know there are about 293,820,848 ways we could have screwed it up. In a strange twist, we actually pulled it off!! The lasagna was great and ready to serve for our guests earlier than we said it would be, and we even made garlic bread which just made it absolutely delicious. It seemed that everyone actually enjoyed it and had a great time, so Ashley and I were very proud of ourselves. Plus, we only ate one pan on Sunday which means that Ashley and I get to enjoy the other pan of lasagna for the next two days or so! Today, Ashley and I went to the post office to get some packages that were waiting for us. We were very excited to actually be getting Christmas packages on Christmas day. After opening what we got, we played some Yahtzee, ate some lasagna, played catch with a football and baseball, watched the movies that we bought for each other in Baku. We made a deal that we would each pick out one movie for each other on the condition that it had to be watched by both people, so we could buy whatever we wanted but had to keep in mind that you’d have to sit through it yourself so you must pick carefully… we did awesome. I got him a movie about a softball league starring Ralph Macchio. You may remember him from such films as The Karate Kid and My Cousin Vinny and The Karate Kid: Part Two. He got me a movie about a fighting league where the best fighters are brought to a secret island to battle for 10 million dollars. It was ridiculous and pretty awesome. After this we ate dinner with my family and tonight I am going to watch A Christmas Story as I fall asleep and that’s how you spend your first Christmas in Azerbaijan. It wasn’t like being home with friends and family, but we did our best here and I thoroughly enjoyed myself, so I would say it was wildly successful. Tomorrow it’s time to go back to work. I should be pretty busy this week with the tourism project we’ve been working on and a few other ideas we’ve been kicking around. Enjoy the pics, too. Some may be on Ashley’s blog too, but I tried to pick one’s I didn’t think he was using. There, should be one of Nana, Kasey and Rikki decorating the tree at Nana’s house; then me, Nana, Kasey and Rikki before they left on Sunday; the actual tree after decorating; the trays of cooked lasagna…. Mmmm, lasagna; all of us around the tables eating the lasagna; and finally Ziya wearing Ashley’s ski goggles. He got a kick out of those as you can see by the giant grin on his face. That should about do it. Hope you all had a great Christmas!


Anonymous Erin said...

Tom! sorry I missed you on aim! Merry Christmas, looks like you had a good one! miss you!

1:01 PM  
Anonymous Zach S. said...

That's a nice chicken-burger sandwich.

9:45 AM  

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