Monday, January 01, 2007

Welcome, 2007

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!! Ahh, you gotta love the holidays. It’s been a pretty low key week, and this week will be super low key as I have the entire week off of work. Plus, Ashley is in Georgia skiing, so I have no one to get in the way of my malaise. Before I talk about how I rang in 2007 with my family, I’d like to mention last week very briefly. On Monday I didn’t go to work seeing as how it was Christmas and all. My coordinator is really good about offering American Holidays off to me… he even offered for me to stay home on Columbus Day, to which I declined. Not to knock Columbus Day, but it didn’t seem necessary to stay home. Christmas, though, is entirely different. On Tuesday, it was back to work. During the day I finished off the Tourism Development proposal I had been working on with my counterpart and the Community Development Committee. We’ll see where this goes. Later on in the day, my office had organized a “roundtable” involving many of the local NGO’s and other community members, including the two other PCV’s in Lankaran, Tim and Ashley. After a brief introduction from my coordinator, my counterpart Arzu gave a background of the organization I work for (Center for Legal and Economic Education). For those of you who don’t know, CLEE was founded in Baku in 1997 and is supported by several international NGO’s. The Lankaran branch was opened in 2002 and it’s mission is to provide assistance by promoting human rights, rules of law and democratic institutions through legal and economic educational activities. Essentially, my office provides free legal advice and services to vulnerable groups of society who would otherwise be unable to find such help. Next, Ziya and Aygun spoke of several holidays including the three that we are currently celebrating, Gurban Bayram (Sacrifice Holiday), Azerbaijan Solidarity Day and, of course, New Years. Gurban Bayram, as I mentioned, is the Holiday of Sacrifices. The explanations are taken from handouts from the roundtable. It is celebrated 70 days after the end of Ramadan. This holiday is connected with the Biblical prediction about the prophet Abraham who wants to sacrifice his son Isaac to God. At the last moment God sends the archangel Gabriel with a lamb and saves Abraham’s son. To commemorate this day, each Muslim must sacrifice a sheep or some other animal while reading prayers and then distribute the meat among the poor. Azerbaijani Solidarity Day was established in 1992 to commemorate the 1st World Congress of the Azeri People that took place on December 31st in Istanbul. New Years, as in most places, is celebrating the new year. After Ziya and Aygun presented it was my turn to speak about Christmas. I spoke a few minutes about the background, how families typically celebrate in America now and a little bit about our Santa Clause. After that I played and sang the Christmas Song by Dave Matthews on my guitar. Not the most Christmasy song out there, but a good one, and everyone enjoyed it. Most of them didn’t understand the lyrics, as I sang in English, but they were given a brief overview of what the song is about. All in all, it was a nice get together and good to see some of the people in town that I don’t get to see very often. So that explains why I have no work this week. My family had a pretty low key celebration. All day Saturday was preparation of the food. When I woke up in the morning and headed down to the main house, there was a GIANT slab of meat sitting on the table and Nana (back from Moscow) was busy with the meat grinder. There was also a pretty big fish sitting in a bowl that I was less excited about and several birds and chickens waiting to be grilled. Sunday brought pretty much what I thought it would… lots of eating. I woke up and had some cake, then some beef kabob, then some cake, then some potato salad, tea, cake, tea, chicken, salad, chicken, cake, tea, salad, bread, bread and more bread. All day we were eating. I couldn’t tell, but it didn’t seem like we really sat down like we normally do and ate a meal… I think we just ate all day long. While we weren’t eating, we just chilled and watched TV almost all day. You could tell the anticipation for midnight was just eating at everyone. Or something. Eventually, midnight and 2007 did arrive. I knew my little brothers had bought some firecrackers that are very similar to our black cats and just make a big noise. We also had bought some roman candle type fireworks so I knew our celebration would be fairly small, but fun nonetheless… who doesn’t like making a ton of noise and shooting off roman candles. What was really amusing was that throughout the entire day you could hear random POPS and BANGS as people all over would toss a firecracker for no real reason. When we walked outside at midnight, it was ridiculous. I think every single person in Lankaran was lighting off firecrackers and roman candles and bottle rockets and who knows what. All you could hear and see were loud pops from every where that never ended and bright flashes of light over the houses and around the corners. It was pretty awesome. So we lit a bunch of our fireworks and watched some others. No one had any real big ones, just the loud little buggers. Hopefully everyone used all theirs up so I don’t have to jump on my way to work when one goes off two feet behind me. Some people around the corner had some pretty big ones, but I’m not sure they were used or worked right. I rounded the corner to see a HUGE red ball and people running all over the place and loud bang followed by uncontrollable laughter… a lot of it mine. No one was hurt, I made sure of that before I laughed. So that’s how I celebrated the new year. AND, I found one constant from celebrations involving lots of cooking. Way too much gets made and then you eat the same meal 4-7 times in a row, so there’s some more continuity in the world, if you’re looking for it. I’m not complaining though, kabob and chicken and cake is delicious. I pass on the fish, for those of you keeping score at home. Sorry I have no pictures as of now, maybe this week I’ll find a few or take some new ones to put on here. Hope everyone had a safe and fun New Year! Oh, and Ashley and I won our NFL Fantasy Pick ‘Em League against 11 of my friends. I still can’t believe it and I’m pretty sure they will never hear the end of it. Feel free to taunt them at will (namely Tyler and Zach).


Anonymous Zach S. said...

That sounds like the best New Years ever, Tom. We miss you. And I still refuse to believe that you didn't get NFL Sunday Ticket and study game tape all day.

7:20 AM  
Anonymous  said...

Your New Years sounds sooo much better than mine dude... miss you tons and tons and no worries i just spent the last hour reading all of your blogs i haven't read... so I am all caught up!

4:36 PM  
Anonymous Erin said...

Happy New Year Tom!!! :) At least all that cooking and eating will make up for the lack of fast food you are eating, I was worried you were going to melt away! :) Miss you!

8:30 PM  

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