Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mmmm. Mutton!!

I apologize for not posting an update last week. I meant to do it before I was leaving for the weekend but my plans got changed and bunched around a little bit and I ran out of time. I will try to catch you up to the best of my abilities.

The Saturday before last, I along with the other PCVs in Lankaran were invited to an English Exhibition at one of the schools in town by my friend Lala. She is an English teacher there and comes by my office every now and then to say hi and talk for a little bit. She organized a play last year where the students sang songs in English and acted out scenes from Azerbaijani plays in English. I watched a DVD of it and it was pretty entertaining. This year was a little bit different. We didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into. We showed up at the school and she showed us to the room where the exhibition was. In the cafeteria of the school, there were little tables set up like booths at a science fair. Each booth had a different theme with different facts about American or British history and some differences between American and British English. There were also games at each booth. Some were about grammar while others were about sports or food or anything else you can think of. Some games involved a saying written out in Azeri and if you translated it into English correctly you would win a prize. I started collecting quite a few prizes because all the kids wanted me to come to their booth. When I answered correctly, they wouldn’t let me not accept the prize, so I got all sorts of stickers and pens and pencils and things like that. I started giving these away and going around helping other kids as they dragged me around from booth to booth.

As the event was wrapping up, all the kids hounded us all and asked for pictures and autographs. Everywhere I turned there were kids posing and shoving paper under my face for me to sign it. One kid even asked me to sign her arm. Eventually, the teachers got everyone to calm down and they sat us down for tea and cake. The students and other teachers presented Lala with flowers and a gift and there were some speeches. Each of the kids from that school was presented with certificates and this is where Lala really put us to work. Azeri handwriting can be pretty difficult tot read and Lala asked us to stand up in front of everyone and read off the names and present the certificates to the students. So Joyce, Jane, Ashley and I each got about 4-8 certificates to hand out. I must say, I did pretty well. I impressed Ashley at least, although honestly, that isn’t too difficult. The picture over on the right is Ashley and me by a couple of roosters saying “Nush Olsun.” It’s by far my favorite saying here and means “bon appetite.”

Last week, my program manager Elmir from Peace Corps was in town to visit with Tim, Ashley and me and talk about our first year of PC service and our plans for the upcoming months and to check to see if there was anything they could help us out with in regards to our work. I had a really good talk with him and enjoyed the visit a lot. Fortunately, I have a very good working and personal relationship with the people in my office, so I didn’t need any help from him about that. I also got to bounce some of my ideas off of him and get some feedback. All in all, it was very good and I came out of it feeling a lot better about stuff. Plus, Elmir’s a great guy and always good to talk to. On Thursday, he took Ashley and me up to Beylagan where our friend Carlo lives. Carlo was having a small birthday party at his apartment so we stayed there until Sunday. Others joined us on Friday and Saturday and it was a good, small get together.

That (last) Saturday, Carlo took us around Beylagan to an old cemetery where there is a mosque and shrine dedicated to a prophet. The prophet is buried inside and visitors take off their shoes and walk around the grave and pay their respects. Hanging from the ceiling in the middle of the room is a long chain with a hook on the end. There is a man there to assist you, or you can do this yourself. With a scarf wrapped up as if you were going to put it on like a neckerchief, you swing it over your head and hit it onto the hook at the end of the chain while you make a request to God. After a second or two, the hook jerks around suddenly and if the scarf stays on, it means that God has accepted your request. It was really interesting to try it and to see the Azeris try it as well. Afterwards, we went outside where they have small cabin type rooms. They served us tea, candy and mutton kabobs. It was all we could do to keep ourselves from constantly saying, “Mmmmm. Mutton!!” Once we were done eating, Carlo’s friends there drove us back into town since it was already dark and it was about a 45 minute to one hour walk back. On Sunday morning, Ashley and I had to catch a bus back to Lankaran. This was no small task as the bus we were to catch was leaving a small town at 8:00. We were told to take a taxi to a spot on the side of the road and wait around 10:00. We got out of the taxi, walked to the side of the road and five minutes later, our bus came flying by. It’s amazing how this stuff works out sometimes.

As for things at home here in Lankaran, they are going well. My landlady got the gas fixed at my house so I now have a heating source for the main room of my house and the water for showering. The night it finally got fixed a couple weeks ago, I just laid on the floor looking at the flame coming out of the pipe in wonderment and glee. Finally, I could sit somewhere without freezing. Unfortunately, my bedroom is still a little cold, but it does get a few degrees warmer than the outside temperature so it’s definitely an improvement. Plus, I have a few sweatshirts and the Peace Corps sleeping bags are wonderful. I typically sit next to the gas heater at night and read for a while. It is nice to be able to sit at the table and work instead of lying in bed all the time.

I realized after reading the guesses for the Great AzerAloink Reader Challenge #3 that I never placed a deadline for guesses. I apologize if some of you hurried your guesses and appreciate those that are playing. Dad, I must say, you definitely are talking some math. With all that being said, I will allow guesses for anyone else who wants to play until this Saturday morning, my time. You have until midnight Chicago time Friday night to get in there.


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