Thursday, May 15, 2008

Talkin' Softball

It’s finally time for the Azerbaijan Softball league to begin again. Two weekends ago we had the first softball tournament up in Barda. Some of the volunteers (John, Jason and Sarah) came down to Lankaran and stayed at my house for a couple days leading up to the weekend and we all traveled up there together on Friday the 2nd. While they were here, we showed them all the sights that Lankaran has to offer, including the Caspian Sea, the football stadium and the prison where Stalin was held. At the stadium, we talked to the same security guard that was there when I showed my parents the field. We also got a walking tour of the prison which is currently being renovated. It was nice to take a look inside and see what they had done. On one of the days, we ate at our favorite restaurant in town and had a couple drinks. John tried the fish due to Ashley’s high recommendation and after constantly complaining that it cost 6 manat, he ended up getting sick. Now he’s blaming the chicken Lavangi, but I won’t stand for that. He ended up making a full recovery.

As I said, we left for Lankaran on that Friday and got to Barda by early evening. Our first games were scheduled for the next morning, so everyone decided to take it easy and get to bed by 9:30 at the latest. By that I mean we partied until the early hours. Around 8, Ryan came to wake us up. I went with him to the field to get everything set up and play catch and basically just give myself time to wake up. I was recruited to play left field for the Barda team and I’m more relieved than anything that I didn’t screw anything up. I got a couple big hits and made a few good plays in the field, including throwing someone out at home plate. We still lost both our games, but the team put up a good fight. It felt good to get out and play again after a long winter. After each team played 2 games, we hung around and played another game just for fun. Afterwards, we kept up one of our favorite traditions and went to the nearby restaurant and got some beers. A good time was had by all.

The one bad part about this day was that my phone got stolen. I had placed it in Ryan’s bag with my wallet and a bunch of his stuff. It fell out at some point and someone had placed it on the bench where the people who weren’t playing were sitting and hanging out. There were probably about 20 people there, so I wasn’t too concerned. After the games when we discovered it was stolen, some of the kids said they saw who took it but that they didn’t know him. They assured me that they would get it back for me within a day or two and not to worry. I believed them and went about my normal business, hoping for the best. That following Monday, we received word that they had found my phone in a warehouse in town. I don’t know how it got there, or what the real story is, but they found it and for that I am grateful. It was actually kinda nice to not have to worry about charging it or anything like that. Luckily, the sim card was still in there and nothing else was taken.

On Sunday, we all got together again and played for a few more hours. This day was just volunteers, as usual. Afterwards, we all went back to Jason’s house again for another party. This time we were celebrating Cinco de Mayo eve. Yet again, a good time was had by all. As you can imagine, we all awoke Monday morning bright-eyed and ready to tackle the day. We bought some good meat, made margaritas and celebrated Cinco de Mayo, although it was a little tamer than last year’s celebration. Tuesday was more relaxed as most of the people had left by then, and it was nice to have a simple, quiet day. On Wednesday, Ashley and I left around 7:15 to get to Baku. He had some stuff to take care of and we were meeting Bethany and Rachel so we could get our visas from the Russian Embassy on Thursday afternoon. By the time we got into town we were both ready to crash. On Thursday, we all got our visas without any problems. So now I am officially excited for my trip to Russia, Estonia and Latvia. We’ll be leaving on June 1st and returning from Riga on June 11th. It should be an awesome time. We still have a little planning to do, but most of the details are taken care of.

When I returned from Baku last Friday, I arrived home to discover that I had no electricity. Because one of my pipes still leaks a little bit, I also had no water. And since I couldn’t plug in the pump for the well because of the electricity, there was little I could do. Fortunately, I had water saved up in a huge bucket so I was able to cook and clean and things like that. I also discovered that no matter the electric situation of the rest of my house, one outlet still works so I was able to use my computer at least. On Saturday, thinking that I had forgotten to pay my electricity bill, I went to the post office and paid up hoping that everything would be turned back on by the end of the day. It wasn’t and I also realized that I most likely paid the same bill twice and that something was actually wrong with my house. After a brief look at the wiring, I decided to call the landlord and have them take a look. A half hour later, everything was mostly back to normal except for the wiring. For now, everything works ok (except the actual well pump and my phone line), so hopefully the tape holding everything together lasts for at least four more months. What can you do though, right?

That’s about all I got. I put up some softball pictures from Barda. Our friend from the Peace Corps, Shams, was in town this weekend so we gave her the tour of Lankaran and ate Lavangi. It was her first visit to Lankaran and she seemed to enjoy herself. We also went to the stadium and saw the same security guard. He laughed at me. It was nice to see Shams at least once more, since we don’t get to very often because she’s so busy with organizing all the trainings that PC holds. I hope everyone had a great Mother’s Day!