Hey guys. So I haven’t died (yet) I just don’t have internet at home which makes posting a little more difficult. First and foremost the dirty dozen is no longer a dozen. We lost a member this week to food allergies. He left on Friday to go back home. He was my commuting buddy so it was a little sad. It also made it feel a little like we’re living in Agatha Christie’s And then there were none. Everyone’s eyeing each other. Will that one get Baku belly and be shipped out? They’ll definitely get heat stroke. A car crash for them. I could totally see a car crash. I am continually amazed that I haven’t died yet under the wheels of an automobile here. My walk to class consists of going down a street that is supposed to house 6 lanes of traffic (usually about 8 cars are vying for position) with no sidewalk on one side and the sidewalk on the other under construction. When I say under construction what I mean is that it is strewn with bricks, gravel, wire, dirt, mud, Fanta bottles, cigarette packages and if it is the afternoon power tools since these seem to get left out for the lunch break (approximately 11am-3pm). The crosswalks are secretly meant to eliminate all pedestrians from the city I think since they are typically in places where it is physically impossible to cross the road without serious physical impairment resulting. I will be fearless when I get back to East Lansing and probably try to walk along several highways. Also the past week has been nuts in terms of stuff to do. They keep us pretty busy here. For example:
We went to the American Embassy which coincidentally had the slowest security I have ever seen in my entire life. You think the TSA is slow? They haven’t got game compared to the locally hired guards here. It amazes me because everywhere else I think the security guards really don’t care. We went to the American Councils office, listened to a lecture about nation building in Azerbaijan (it isn’t done yet), had a tea/dance party (if you want me to try and dance again it had better be spiked tea next time), met our peer tutors, had a trip to the history museum cancelled due to visiting dignitaries stealing our English language guides, celebrated the fifth anniversary of the American Center in Baku with speeches that no one listened to and baklava and went to an Azeri language opera. This was three days. Plus we have 5 hours of class a day and approximately 1-2 hours of homework. I swear I will send postcards. Just maybe when I get back.
Classes have been remarkable. We have three teachers and each focuses on a different subject. We have speaking, reading and grammar every day. I have one other student with me in the intermediate class and sometimes we annoy each other but mostly we try to help each other out since we’re both hanging on for dear life. Nervous laughter abounds. I know that my Azerbaijani is improving really rapidly but I keep wanting it to go faster. I still sound like a total idiot when I speak. But I have started just chatting with Azerbaijanis. I talk some with my peer tutor but also with shopkeepers, children, a lot with my host family, while writing in my journal, asking directions and when trying to visit nonexistent galleries in Icheri Seher.
Actually that’s a really good story. On Saturday we went to Qobustan, which is about an hour outside of Baku to look at the petroglyphs there. They are really beautiful and fascinating and the museum is state of the art but you have to ask yourself, who thought it was an awesome idea to go to the desert at noon in late June to wander around? Also they got snacks for us on the bus which consisted of bread and water. This is kind of a bread culture (to put it mildly) and it’s so funny to watch all of us Americans get so frustrated with getting fed bread and hot tea constantly. There were several suggestions of what should be done with the bread, none of which seemed very practical or unlikely to result in international incidents. Anyway after Qobustan we got back and I walked to Icheri seher with a friend on the program. She wanted to see the Center for Contemporary Art there. We got there and walked past it once. When we went in we discovered a room with some student paintings on the wall. Also Salim, who must be the most lonely employee I have ever met. He came upstairs and chatted and then brought us down to the basement which seems to be the place where they have poetry readings/other hippie type activities. He made us cay and we chatted in Azeri for more than an hour. Eventually we were able to get away after photos, a cigarette (for him) and turning down various offers of free tours around the city. I do know his entire family’s life history now though. We’re tight. Monica (the friend I was with) is in the beginner class so I ended up doing all the talking. It was fun to stretch my wings a little though with no fear of falling into an ocean. We then wandered the old walled portion of the city for a few hours, stopping to take photographs of the 6 million street cats, children playing outside their homes and a visit to the local coin museum (60 qepik or about 80-90 cents with your student card). I spent the night at the Bulvar, a park which stretches along the Caspian for miles, sitting at an outdoor café with some kids from the program, and just laughing at the ridiculousness of being in Baku studying Azerbaijani for the summer. Because really, who does that? It’s good to have friends that you can laugh with about the strange things our host families do (like rearrange your clothes every day or make you do shots of the tap water) the various local superstitions, the heat, the humidity, the intensity of speaking Azerbaijani all the time and just the general reality of being on a CLS. I can recommend it so far, but with the inserted comment that you’d better have hutzpah. You will want to scream, laugh, cry, do pushups, run away, explore, drink 6 gallons of water a day, order something other than the local beer/food/water/soda/doner, run into traffic, demand personal space, hang out with your family, retreat to McDonalds for an infusion of Americana and air conditioning and then get up and do it all again. Welcome to Baku my friends.
About the Blog
I recently accepted a position from Teach and Learn with Georgia, a Georgian Ministry of Education program designed to bring native speakers of English into classrooms around the country. I will be moving to Georgia in August of 2014 to begin my assignment.
Before this latest adventure, I studied at Bogazici University in Istanbul Turkey and at Azerbaijan University of Languages. I speak English German Spanish, Turkish Azerbaijani and Uzbek and am currently trying my hand at Georgian.