Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Test of International Living

Being married, Joey and I have a built in support system since we get to share our PC service together. This we knew when we left the good old USA. However, our support system had never met the test of international living. I think one of our biggest adjustments has been actually being around each other so often. Back in America, we’d go to our own separate jobs, eat lunch at said job and then come home to quickly go to our next event or activity. We’d usually have dinner together, but not always. We were busy back home in a completely different way than we are busy now AND even though we love each other dearly, we didn’t spend a whole lot of time with each other. Sounds like a normal American marriage to me, huh?! 

Since December, when we arrived in Quba, Joey and I have spent the majority of everyday together. When we were in host families, we had our own room but now that we’re in our own house, due to space and door constraints, we can literally see each other from anywhere at anytime. We do have separate jobs during the school year, but during the summer months, we have spent nearly every waking moment together. Don’t get me wrong, it’s been completely wonderful to take our relationship to a deeper level,but there are those dreadful days when I get on Joey’s nerves (perhaps the vice versa) and we have no place to go. So, we talk it out, we work it out and we try to learn from it. Also, we remind ourselves that we signed up for this voluntarily. Some days that's comforting, some days not.

I think the nearly 5 years of marriage is working to our benefit, we know each other pretty well, we knew about these personal quirks even if they’re magnified a bit more, but all in all, it seems to be making us a better team. I can’t imagine being a newlywed trying to live a PC life and learning those things about your spouse that you adjust to or learn you can’t or don’t want to adjust to. 

We’re in this to be models of what American marriage is. Yes, we’re speaking for all you married people out there… for better or worse. We let young boys and girls know that it is ok for Joey to wash dishes. One night this sent a neighbor boy giggling to tell his mom and grandma that Joey was washing dishes! People understand that I worked in an office and can drive a car back home while Joey was the teacher. Azeri’s see us together and happy! They see us as very young and are incredibly surprised when we tell them our ages and that we’ve been married for almost 5 years and do not yet have children (more on the children topic in another post). 

So to sum things up, being married is good. Joey and I are learning more about each other than we ever thought was possible but we’re able to laugh, cry and groan through it and still like each other. We are lucky, but we are having a different type of experience, simply because we are married. More to come!

July 4th - The Caspian Sea

Thursday, July 21, 2011

I'm no expert on being married, being a Peace Corps Volunteer or living in Azerbaijan but Joey and I fit into these 3 categories, so I'll/we'll attempt to write more from this perspective. This one is short and sweet, BUT be prepared for longer and not so sweet...
  • Joey and I have spent more than half of our married life talking about being in the Peace Corps and making it happen.
  • We've been married nearly 5 years, which makes life here in AZ easier and sometimes harder.

Here's an example of one of the many reasons why I love this man!

The kids at this camp adored Joey. Of course, what's not to love when he plays one of their national kid songs, he talks to them on their level and likes to have fun! Joey's a great role model on many levels in Azeri society. It's not too often you see a grown-up (man or woman) hanging out with kids and enjoying it. I'm a lucky lady to have married such a caring and wonderful man!

Monday, July 4, 2011


Hillary and I with our awesome 5th-grade girls!

School's out for a couple of months here in Azerbaijan, so that gives us the opportunity to travel around the country and see a few more places than we normally would throughout the scheduled school year.  Recently we headed West and spent a week in a village near Yevlax, where our friend Catharine was hosting a camp for the kids in her community.  It was great to get a new experience outside of our insulated Quba daily routine.  What struck me the most was that since it's a village (just a few roads here and there, a small school, a tiny market, and a soccer field), literally EVERYONE knows who Catharine is.  Our taxi driver was trying to find out where to drop us off, so he simply rolled down his window and asked "hey, where does the American live?"  Immediately a group of young boys pointed to a house down the street.

Throughout our week there, Hillary and I were in charge of a group of nine girls in the 5th grade.  Among the nine of them, they spoke about six words of English, so it was a great stretch for our Azeri language skills.  Regardless, we had an amazing time working with these girls on concepts like teamwork, patience, and kindness.  Each day there were team sessions in the morning, and then group activities in the afternoon.  Our girls were serious about coloring our poster with our team name (Dənizin Qızları, aka The Sea Girls), and making a metric ton of friendship bracelets.  At first, the kids didn't really seem to understand how a grown man would actually sit down with them and talk and play games and make bracelets with them, but after a couple days, they really seemed to recognize that Hillary and I actually WANTED to work with them and get to know them together...  the concept of a fun, healthy marriage seemed like kind of a new idea to them.  On our last day at camp, there was a very sweaty dance party, and lots of autographs.

We also had the chance to spend time with fellow Volunteers from other regions of Azerbaijan.  We're up in the "first finger" of the country, somewhat isolated from everything else because of a mountain range.  (In order for us to travel  anywhere, we must first get to the capital city of Baku, and then take a connecting bus.)  It was wonderful to check in with my friends from training, as well as other Volunteers who are on their second and third years in-country.  We operated as a team, planning our sessions daily, and working to throw together lunches and dinners.  At night, we rotated through a shower schedule, and enjoyed time at a picnic table outside talking about our lives at home and abroad, our conversations punctuated by cool breeze and occasional lightning storms. 

Next week we're heading to Zaqatala for an arts camp -- who's ready for guitar sing-alongs and some improv games?

Giving orders like a champ!

Our girls presenting about having patience. 
They did a skit about being a rude customer at the bazar!

Hand-making decorations for the end-of-camp party

PCVs going crazy during the dance portion of the party

A sweet young girl with her favorite PCV, Hillary!

This kid was awesome!  He jumped and giggled the whole time,
and insisted on getting a picture with me, even though I was tremendously sweaty.

Late-night chats with Katie, Irene, Julie, and Oruj