Thursday, September 30, 2010

Basa Dusmuram (I Don't Understand)

This post was written after my first night with my host family, just to give you all some context. Since then, I have been busy doing language and program management training everyday. Here you are:

Goats, roosters, chickens, ducks – they are currently combining their vocal abilities to produce an off-key symphony in order to keep me up ALL NIGHT!

As slow as the application process seemed, waiting for what seemed like eternity to find out where I would be assigned, the first day actually in-country with my host family has come and gone in an instant. Although it has been less than 24 hours since I met my host family, I have a good feeling. I cannot think of a more welcoming family, and a more hospitable community. I am located in Khirdalan, a city just outside of Baku, in something of a complex. I will be here for 11 weeks before getting assigned to my permanent, 2 year post. All of the neighbors are relatives, and there are 3 other PCTs just a stone’s throw away. In my house, I have my own room, as per PC protocol, and a cement-like stiff bed; I am extremely fortunate! The bathroom, on the other side of the house, is inside thankfully. However, as expected, a hose and hand replace the use of toilet paper; we’ll see how that goes!

After being dropped off and meeting my host family, I went and met the families of the other PCTs. I was forced into eating dinner twice, as both my neighbor AND my own family insisted I eat their food! In general, the day has been a whirlwind, and my head is spinning one million miles per hour. It is hard to even comprehend where I am and what I have gotten myself into. I just spent the past seven hours with the most dumbfounded stare on my face listening to Azeris speak to me in Aerbaijani. Given that this is just my 5th day in Azerbaijan, it is not surprising that I am likely better at translating a dog’s bark to English than I am at deciphering what these wonderful people have been saying to me all evening! And no, just in case you were wondering, none of the adults speak any English…ANY! Thankfully, my two wonderful host brothers are mildly proficient (very mildly) in English and have had their heads stuck in my Azeri-English translation dictionary ever since I arrived, eager to serve as my personal translators. At 12 and 15, they are energetic, excited about having me, and full of questions. Ulvi (12) plays the violin and Nicat (pronounced Neejot)(15) plays the accordion. They both do some form of MMA/Kickboxing, as well. They have already shown me their homemade dumbbells and have asked me to workout with them someday soon; I look forward to that, especially if I will be eating 2 dinners every night! (PS, Dolma is my new favorite food!) The mother Sevinc is so welcoming, as exemplified by the fact that I have been served 7 cups of tea this evening alone. The father is incredibly friendly, but the most distant of all, as is expected. I expect him to open up a bit after I have lived here a while. My host sister, Quetibe (my mom’s sister), is a teacher in the southwest city of Imisli and will be staying with us occasionally, as will her son, Sanan (he is older and looking for a job in Baku). It is sad because he has a Master’s degree in economics and finance and was just married in June, but cannot find a job. He is confident that me teaching him English will get him the job in Baku he deserves and needs. So, we study English for a couple of hours every night. Inshallah (godwilling), it will pay off.

As I mentioned before, it still has not sunk in where I am right now. Once I get into a routine of work going, life will be more manageable. Forget the fact that I start working tomorrow: doing more language training, organizing conversation clubs, program management training, etc…, I am just trying to keep my head above water. I can see why the PC experience makes RCPVs so dam qualified and valuable! I guarantee the day I just experienced has only been experienced by a handful of people in the world, ever…and all of them are RCPVs! Truth be told however, despite the confusion and the feelings of being overwhelmed and completely lost, I AM LOVING IT! This is the dream I have had for so long. It’s finally happening, I’ve finally reached my goal, and there’s nowhere else I’d rather be!

Bedtime now! 7am is going to come very quickly! Who knows what Azerbaijan has in store for me tomorrow?


  1. you're amazing, love you dearly.

  2. Jake, reading this just made my morning! It's incredible that you are so open and welcoming to your new environment! I'm sure that you will begin to make some very special connections with your host family in no time, whether there is a language barrier or not!
    Typing this as i wear my (your) McGill Lacrosse T!

  3. Very well written. However, the grammar could use some work. Are you sure that you are qualified to be teaching the language?

  4. You just said the magical words, "MMA". You are my new favorite person, in-country, simply because you know what that is.

    I hope you have a fantastic time in PST.