Hands down, tonight was the best so far! There was no special event or anything; I just really connected with my family. The day was particularly difficult. Following a long morning of language training, we had more program training. Although long and tedious, I am very pleased with the way the YD program training is progressing. Today, we began talking about specific project ideas, for both PCT and as a PCV. Everyone was able to give their ideas in an open forum, creating a lot of buzz and energizing the group! My head hasn’t stopped working, producing project idea after project idea. I look forward to sitting down with my YD program managers, Tarana and Fuad, to discuss my ideas and their feasibility. I won’t get into any specifics yet, as that is still a long ways away. I have a lot of work to do before the fun stuff begins! At this point, the only project we are guaranteed to facilitate is an English conversation club in our community. It is a simple, fail-proof project that always creates a lot of excitement and builds community relationships, credibility, trust, and experience. It is the standard project that YD’s build during PCT. We will start planning next week.
As for the night, upon coming home, I took a couple of hours for myself. I showered, worked out in my room, slept, and did work. After that, I felt energized. During dinner, everything seemed to click. To the best of our abilities, we discussed politics (Barack Obama vs. Ilham Alyiev), Sports (boxing particularly), my host-father’s job (railway worker, as well as house builder/electrician/plumber). They asked more about America and Canada, about my mother (Mom, Sevinc wants to know EVERYTHING about you), and about how much money my parents made hahaha (I successfully explained that in America, that was not an appropriate question). The father was very animated tonight. He talked about his work, his upcoming vacation, and also gave me tips about haggling in the market. The fact that so much was shared between us, regardless of how long it took, is very exciting and a HUGE success for me. On top of that, they told me that they will be taking me to Baku in November, once I am allowed to go. PCTs are only allowed to go to Baku after November 1. So, all in all, this night served as a huge morale booster. I am extremely pleased with my language progress, as well as my understanding of Azerbaijani culture, as my behavior is best reflected in how the family treats me, especially the father. The boys are always friendly and ready to speak and play. I am hoping to organize a soccer game among PCTs nearby and my host-brothers’ and their friends soon.
Yesterday, Saturday, we had a half-day of training. After school, my cluster moseyed around Khirdalan, visiting Heydar Alyiev Park and the Egyptian Park (a gift to Azerbaijan from Egypt). After lunch, things got interesting. I admit I did feel bad, but after just mere moments, I quickly got over the guilt. You see, in Azerbaijan, it is inappropriate for women to drink in public. Teahouses and bars (which are more like meeting halls) are for men only; we couldn’t help it though, we were just so craving an ice-cold brew. So, two of my fellow PCT’s (Nate and Dan) and I left the girls in the park and went to a bar in the market. It was one of the best experiences I have had so far. We drank (the beer was very good and very strong…rumor has it they ferment it with Vodka to accelerate the process), vented about the program, and discussed our aspirations for the upcoming 2 years. In the midst of cigarette smoke, groveling old men, and intense games of backgammon (the choice game for all men), I actually felt comfortable, strangely enough. The three of us played cards for a few hours. At first, the stares were constant. Playing cards are only associated with gambling here, and thus are not considered appropriate for anyone except older men. By the end, however, people were interested more than anything, casually looking over their shoulders and even joining us at our bench to watch as Dan ran the table!
I returned home to the wonderful news that one of the pet rabbits had given birth. Baby rabbits are The. Cutest. Thing. Ever!!! After enjoying the absurd cuteness that is a baby rabbit, I was privy to two new pieces of information. First, November 16 is the Gurban holiday. On this day, it is typical for all families that can afford it to sacrifice a sheep. My family can! This year, in the backyard, Nicat has proudly told me that he (15) is finally old enough to be given the honor of…well, you know. I’ll keep it at that for those of you who actually like sheep for anything else other than their deliciousness (Mom).
Secondly, and I should have guessed this, but Oktay, my host-father, was in the Soviet army when he was younger! After dinner, he showed me where he fought; as far as I can understand he was in Afghanistan and Turkmenistan back in the day fighting the Taliban. Short of locations, it was difficult to understand the war stories he explained to the boys (Basa Dusmuram). Very cool all the same.
Now, I have a soccer game planned between the boys in the neighborhood and a few PCT’s. Wish me luck!