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


  1. This post makes me so happy! I'm so proud of you guys!

  2. This looks like fun. Well, it looks like the type of thing you guys would think of fun anyway.

    Can't wait to read more about your travels around Azerbaijan this summer!