Friday, September 2, 2011


Back in July, Hillary and I were talking about the Muslim holiday of Ramadan.  This year it would start on August 1st, and run throughout the entire month.  Many of our friends and colleagues here in Azerbaijan would be fasting for a month, and we wanted to do something similar, something that would get us to focus on ourselves a bit more than we have been throughout the rest of the year.  We thought about different spiritual practices we could consider for this month, and different projects we could work on.  In the end we settled on religion podcasts from America, and... exercise.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am morally opposed to exercise.  Well that's a bit harsh, but at the very least I am not a fan.  While I was away this summer, a fellow Volunteer convinced me to run through a Turbo Jam workout one afternoon after our camp had finished.  Images of traipsing across the Sperry High School track and falling down on the basketball court immediately came to mind, and I was apprehensive at best.  But I powered through, and found that I was not actually dead by the end of the workout.  So I came back to Quba with a more positive attitude about things.

Before the workout

We started out with a very cheesy video consisting of "eleven essential moves" and quickly realized that we are not very good at any of them.  Every day got better though, and within a week or so we had a rhythm down and had a solid routine for our evenings after our afternoon classes were finished.  Hillary and I both had days where one of us tried to cancel the workout, but the other one wouldn't stand for it.  Even better were the cheers and sweaty high-fives after we completed our routine.  We had fresh breeze to cool us off, and the promise of a kind-of warm shower to keep us going.  By the end of the month, we were up to two videos PLUS sets of pushups and situps.

At the very least, it gave us some intentional time to spend together.  This summer had its fair share of extremely frustrating moments, given that we were co-teaching 3-4 classes a day together.  We would plan our lessons, but were never really sure what might happen once the kids showed up -- we'd have new students with each lesson, and our "core group" of students basically changed completely mid-session.  Our house is literally three rooms, so there's really nowhere to go to take a breather and decompress.  (Hillary recently pointed out to me that there's not one room in our house where one person cannot see the other.)  We knew that each evening we would have some time to spend with each other working toward a common goal.  It was a great feeling sitting down to dinner after our exercises, knowing that we had both accomplished a goal together, no matter how small it might seem at the moment.

We realize that here in Quba, we're on this big adventure together.  That's great and all, but certainly we've had to get creative with our coping strategies, as life here is extremely different than life in America -- in extremely different ways than we expected.  Spending time together in the evenings has given us the opportunity to really talk to each other -- about Azeri culture, our expectations for our own Peace Corps service, and what life might be like when we return.  We gave ourselves the chance to chat with each other, to fume and laugh together, and to top it off with a healthy release of endorphins.  Most importantly though, it gave me a chance to wear a sweet doo-rag.

After the workout

Ramadan came and went, and we had lots of fun with the Eid celebration at the end of the month.  We're continuing our exercises at a smaller scale, at least till we get to America and don't have time.  I came up with the brilliant idea to do situps every time our internet goes out...  so I've been doing a lot of situps lately.  Better yet, I think we'll still work to make room for good conversation at the end of our day -- one of the biggest lessons I've learned this month is that it's important to be happy and connected with your partner here.  After that, everything's pretty easy.


  1. Hey love the pictures of the yarn is it a photo you took?

  2. Yea, I took the picture of the yarn. It's from our local carpet factory here in Quba. We were actually there again today. I think I've posted some other pictures on FB from earlier this summer if you want to check them out.