Saturday, November 27, 2010

Thanksgiving, AZ style

Thanksgiving this year was unique and a lot of FUN! It actually started off as an ordinary day since we had 4 hours of language class but once we jumped out of the school doors, our holiday was on!

A few weeks ago we chipped in for our turkey. It arrived on Saturday with lots of squawking and the oohs and aws of Joey and I and especially the family as it ran around the yard. As it goes, our new friend was in the food trajectory by Sunday morning when it was killed and plucked all before noon! Our host family was excited to host our training group especially since our host mom was even more excited to help us celebrate our anniversary. (Yes, we did get an anniversary song that sounds a lot like the birthday song in Azeri)

Since we had been to the market on Wednesday, (also a lot heavier to carry groceries though a market and then on crowded pubic transport than sticking them in your trunk), we were ready to get this cooking feast started. Our group consists of 3 men and 3 women and we all jumped in and started our individual tasks. Cutting fruit & vegetables, crying with cut onions, pealing potatoes and grinding walnuts for the stuffing were just a few of the tasks going all at once! It is important to note that my host mom was very flexible during this process. Her only criteria for letting us actually be in her kitchen was that we keep it clean but watching men contribute in her home became a point of interest and sometimes laughter! I think her sons were watching with similar interest and her daughters might have had a seed planted that they might one day choose a man that would help in the household. (fingers crossed)

The meal came out beautifully. We had a roasted chicken stuffed with walnut stuffing, fruit salad, macaroni & cheese, garlic mashed potatoes, garlic bread, veggies, with the most popular last 2 dishes, 1) hacked up turkey and plov (Plov is rice with lots of yummy stuff in it and the turkey needed to be hacked up since it was cooked on the stove with the rice) 2) Onion rings, which might have been the biggest hit and possibly a tradition all of us want to continue.

As an anniversary gift to ourselves, Joey and I committed to make a pumpkin pie together which came out as great success the night before. I’m pretty sure that means then next year of our marriage will come out pretty well too! Although it was not a great Azeri hit for their taste buds, all the Americans were very impressed.

As we ended the evening watching ‘Charlie Brown’s Thanksgiving’ with our host sister and brother, it was like icing on our Thanksgiving cake. Sitting with family, laughing at what we don’t understand (for a change they didn’t understand the words) We have lots to be thankful for here and back home and we are thankful for this Azeri style event that was unique and special to us. That hospitality makes us happy and humble to live here for the next two years!

We hope you had a lovely celebration back home and have had the opportunity to reflect on what you are thankful for. Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Good Morning, Students!

We're slowly making our way through our pre-service training, and I just finished the practicum (i.e. student teaching) portion of the program.  For the past two weeks I've been teaching English classes each day, for grades ranging from 3rd to 10th.  It's been a huge adjustment getting used to the Azeri classroom environment, but I've had an absolute blast getting up in front of the kids and doing something that I love to do.

Here's a short list of my experiences teaching Azeri kids so far:
  • Franzied, exuberant arm-waving.  Imagine a sped-up, jittery tomahawk-chop, and you kind of get the idea.  Some students even stand up to wave their arms so they can be called on.
  • On the other hand, the kids in the back of the room are not at all used to any sort of attention at all.  So when I include them in the lesson, they light up with happiness and confusion.  
  • Students normally stay put in their seats, so getting them up and moving around is a totally new thing for them.  They pretty much lost it when I had them do a grocery shopping role-play.  One kid started to get sassy though, so I made her sit back down.
  • The lower grades are still working on the English alphabet and forming the right sounds.  I spent an entire lesson on the letters M and S.  This resulted in 45 minutes of me doing improv about milk, and singing Morrissey songs.  Believe me, I killed!
  • I had a great lesson on prepositions.  My 5th grade class went crazy when one student was UNDER the desk, another was ON the table, and the teacher was IN the box.  They also really enjoyed learning about colors and definitive statements: the jacket IS pink, it IS NOT blue!  You're damn right I was wearing an 11-year-old's fuzzy pink jacket when I taught the lesson.
  • After my teaching my first class, the Azeri teacher I was paired with looked at me sternly and said "very interesting," and quickly left the room.  By the end of practicum, I had the teachers cracking up as much as the kids, and engaging the students with a smile.  (I sealed the deal by handing out chocolate bars to the teachers we worked with.  All part of my community integration project!)

When the two weeks of student-teaching was over, we found that we were famous in our school.  Now when I walk into the building, I hear shouts of JOEY TEACHER! HELLO HOW ARE YOU I AM FINE!  One day, one of my students was hanging around after school, and I was practicing my broken Azeri language skills with him.  When I made a mistake, he giggled about it, and then said "Jory Teacher, you... is nice."  Great things are tough to come by here, but that was one of them.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Quba (Goo-ba)

It’s official, after we are sworn in on December 9th as offical Peace Corps Volunteers, Joey and I will be moving north to a town called Quba (the Q is a G sound in Azeri). Since we have not yet been there to visit, I’d like to share what information we’ve heard. All the information we have so far is though Azerbaijani’s perspective and a short paragraph we received. So for all of you out there in the land of constant internet access, you have the opportunity to know far more than us within minutes.

  • Nestled within the Caucasus mountain range (it’s the first finger of AZ
  • Founded in the 18th century
  • Known for its apples
  • If it’s going to snow in AZ, the first snow will hit in Quba
  • It stays cold for 6-8 months
  • There are beautiful waterfalls
  • City folk vacation in Quba because of its mild summers
  • Known for its famous carpets -- you might just be able to watch them being made !
  • Near a unique Jewish community
  • Because of the mountains, to go anywhere west, we’ll have to go south through Baku first. We hear it could be a 30-minute to 3 hour drive to get to and from Baku
  • All the Azeris we talk to are really excited and are looking forward to visiting us. Believe me, they are honest when it’s not a place that isn’t that nice.

Joey and I are really excited to explore our new home next month. We will be living with a new host family, which we understand has 2 teenage sons. We’ll be there throughout the winter and will have the opportunity to find our own place come spring. I will be working with the Ministry of Youth and Sport and Joey will be in a school (he should get more information this week). We feel really excited about this next stage and learning more about Quba is making our eagerness even greater!
If you are inspired to come visit, Welcome!