Monday, April 23, 2007


Now that the weather is getting nicer, I moved in to my own house and the fact that I haven’t done laundry in over a month, it’s time I start learning some new skills. One of those being hand-washing my clothes and the other will be cooking. This week I’m really excited to get to the store and buy some Barf laundry detergent (it’s actually called Barf) and figure out how to get my hands to do the work of a machine. I’ve been putting this off for quite some time now and can procrastinate no more. It’s moments like these when I really wish my host mother or nene wouldn’t have yelled at me whenever I tried to help with the laundry. I’ve been told I’m a fairly intelligent person, though, so I’m sure I can figure it out. Plus it’ll give me a chance to spend some quality time looking at my dinosaur mural, which is always pleasing.

Second, I’m going to actually start cooking real food. I’ve told a few of you that I typically make something really easy, like macaroni noodles that I cover with ketchup. This sounds kind of gross at first, but it’s actually quite good once you try it. Of course I mix in a good amount of butter too, and there you go, a delicious meal that requires absolutely no skill or brainwork. Another staple of mine is fried potatoes. I’m still perfecting this meal and have gotten a little better, but still have room for improvement. Another great meal that is really easy to make is eggs mixed up with tomatoes and onions. Mix this in with some of the fried potatoes and some Tabasco sauce, and you’re good to go. Clean up the slop with a slice of bread and you’ll be one happy camper. The Peace Corps gave us a cookbook that was developed by past volunteers and has a lot of good recipes. Starting this week, I hope to pick out a few recipes and head over to the bazaar to buy some supplies and cook myself a real meal of food. We’ll see how that goes.

This past weekend I was in Barda and Genja. Friday night we stayed with some volunteers in Barda and helped her with a trash pickup that she organized with one of the schools. A handful of us teamed up with a bunch of students and cleaned a couple of streets near the school and bazaar. We ran out of garbage bags and gloves too early, but overall, it was a good day. Once that was finished, we took a nap and took a short ride to Genja where we celebrated two of our friends’ birthdays. There was a good group of volunteers there so we had a ton of fun. I even got to play euchre! It’s nice getting together with some people from the Midwest that know how to play. On Sunday I made the long trip back home to Lankaran.

Things are going good at work now, too. We have started up our conversation clubs and our tourism booklet project is starting to get some wheels. There’s a lot of work to do still, so it should keep me busy for a while. I have another project idea that I want to start working on this week to create an athletic club for girls with some of the schools to give them more opportunities to play sports. Hopefully I can get parents and teachers involved as well and eventually I want to create a league and have the project move to other villages and towns (if it’s successful). We’ll see though. In other news, I’m going to get my first electric bill from my house, so I’m hoping it’s not too expensive. Today I was interviewed by a reporter from Lankaran TV doing a report about NGO’s and the roles they play, so I’ll soon be a celebrity, I’m sure. I forgot to put pictures of my parents’ visit up here, so here is one of a group of friends and my mom and dad at a restaurant in Baku. I still don’t have all the pictures from different cameras from that weekend, but should get those soon. The other pictures are Ashley and me standing next to the statues in Lankaran that we have named after ourselves and the last picture is the old prison in town. There’s a story that Stalin was kept as a prisoner there and escaped through underground tunnels to the lighthouse across town and then out to the Caspian. Finally, we have a picture of a bunch of chickens being cooked in a tandir oven. This oven and way of cooking is specific to Lankaran and this region. It’s a clay oven with a hole in the top and on the bottom they have hot coals/fire to heat the oven. The women working there will either put the chickens in there (stuffed with lavangi, of course) on a grill that they put in the bottoms, or they will slap the dough for the bread to the side. The bread and or chicken straight out of the tandir is really good and one of my favorite meals here. It’s even better than noodles covered with butter and ketchup. The last picture is one of the women working there. There are a bunch of tandir shops all around Lankaran and a cooked chicken costs us four manat, which is a pretty good deal if you ask me.

Friday, April 13, 2007

I Have Gas!!!

Ok, so it’s been a while and a lot has happened since the last time I updated this. Sorry for the delay, I’m sure all of you were waiting anxiously for a new update. My parents were here for a few days and my friends and I had a lot of fun with them. My mom ate goat meat, and I really wish I had a picture of her face once she was told that that’s what she was eating. It was priceless. Next time you see her be sure to ask for a look. They arrived on a Friday and my friends and I took them to one of our favorite hangouts, Tequila Junction, for nachos and beer. They even had a live band there that played Sweet Home Chicago which was a nice surprise. Everyone had a great time. The next day Ashley and I walked them around Baku showing them some of the more touristy stuff and then we went out for Georgian food that night. Sunday brought us to Lankaran, where I made them a glorious meal of Kraft Mac and Cheese. While Ashley and I loved it, I think they were less than impressed, but it was better than goat. Monday was a relaxed day of walking around the town which didn’t really take all that long and that evening we had dinner with my host family. They were very excited to meet my parents and we all had a good time. During the day, Ashley and I took my dad to a tea house so he could say he had been to one. On Tuesday, we took them to Nene’s birthday party, where my mom and dad were forced into giving toasts to Nene by the birthday girl herself (another awesome moment for my mom who I apparently “owe one” to because of it) and we danced. After that we went to meet my coordinator Rufat, one of our lawyers Ziya and Arzu for breakfast. We took them around parts of the town and showed them some cool stuff, then went out to eat. It was a nice night and everyone at work loved meeting my parents and vice versa.

Work has been busy lately, with our CHF project producing booklets to help with tourism development in the Lankaran region. Arzu and I have been working on getting everything coordinated and planned and put together. It’s been a lot of work, but I think we are finally getting there. Ashley also has a project that he is starting to get into place where he will be making a playground for the disabled kids at a local orphanage. We have also put together a proposal for an America Day in Lankaran. I submitted the proposal last week and this has been moving along quite well. We have been working with the students and youth groups that we know in town and plan on having 70-80 students participate. We will have two rooms at the local business center where we will split the kids up into two groups. One room will talk about Memorial Day and the Fourth of July and how American’s typically celebrate these days and the other room will talk about Summer Vacation. We hope to encourage the students to travel around their country more to see all that it has to offer. We will use a slideshow of American tourist spots then show them all the places that the volunteers have visited in our short time here. After all of that, we will go to a field and teach everyone how to play baseball. Two volunteers will be bringing a lot of equipment and so far all the kids and volunteers are very excited about this. This will all be taking place on May 5th, so it’s getting close.

In other big news, I finally found my own place to live. After several close calls and after several options have fallen through, I finally got lucky and found an awesome place in town. So I moved out of my host family’s house and have my own place to live, sleep and cook. I’m very excited to start shopping for my own food and seeing what I can cook. It should be interesting, to say the least. My house has a lot of great things, as you can see by the pictures. Just to name a few of my favorites: I have a huge garage for my car, or donkey, a nice shower heated by electricity or gas, a natural gas line into my house for heating (explains the title), a real queen size bed that is really comfortable, a sweet porch, a nice kitchen with refrigerator, a TV (still can’t get the Sega to work… no idea why), and the best part…… a dinosaur mural. I have attached a bunch of pictures so you can see my new digs. The bedroom with the queen sized bed and big dresser is mine. It goes out to a huge hallway/room that I can play catch with a baseball in. I probably won’t because of the very realistic possibility of breaking things, but it’s still cool to know that I could. At the other end is a guest bedroom. The kitchen is across the hall from my room. There are doors in the hallway that lead to the porch and you can also get there from the kitchen. Outside I have a pretty big yard that is more reasonable for playing catch. The garage is huge and empty so I have to find some fun, creative way to enjoy that space. Next to the dinosaur mural is my shower room and then past that is the toilet. All in all, I really like it there, even after a couple of days. The owners that I’m renting from are really nice and helpful. Hope you enjoy and I’ll make the next post less boring… perhaps a story of my cooking exploits or a Yahtzee update. Have a happy Friday the 13th!!!