Thursday, April 14, 2011

Creative Writing and Hot Showers

Life has been crazy since I returned from judging the Writing Olympics in Baku. Baku was an unbelievable, and much needed, holiday. I spent a couple of days with the old host family in Khirdalan. It was just like I was back in training. The family dynamics picked up right where they left off, without missing a single beat. Ulvi and I played card games all day and he asked questions about America. Nicat and I wrestled (I accidently knocked out his front tooth I might add…oops) and talked about his multiple love interests while feeding the chickens. My host mom and I gabbed about life in Balakan versus Khirdalan while cooking and she asked about food prices in my bazar, while my host dad and I continued our one-sided contest to see who could act the most stern and manly. Clearly, I didn’t win that one.
Side-note: The whole tooth knocking out thing with Nicat is really not that big of a deal. His teeth had pretty much rotted through anyway. Besides, Crystal came over to see my family the night before we left for downtown Baku to judge. Right as she walked in the door Nicat immediately told on me (that snitch!), displaying his missing tooth to Crystal. Crystal, the warm-hearted, motherly figure that she is, quickly dismissed his complaint as she went to give my host mom a hug, telling him he should have brushed his teeth more. If she wasn’t upset at me, there’s no reason any of you should be.
Wednesday was spent at the Peace Corps lounge reading the over 480 essays that were written by students and professionals from across Azerbaijan; that’s almost 200 more than last years total! 12 students from Balakan submitted essays. This was the first time that Balakan had participated in the competition, and I am so proud of all of our students. It took some real courage for them to voluntarily write a creative essay in English. If someone had asked me to do that in Azeri, I would have promptly declined. These kids have such a passion for learning; it’s wonderful to see. I am also proud to tell you that one of our students placed 3rd nationally for the 8th form!
The remainder of the week was spent relaxing with Dan, Marie, and Stephanie at our friend’s apartment. Martin and Tama, expats working in a lab in Baku, were such gracious hosts and we were privy to daily showers with actual water pressure, comfortable beds, and nights out at actual restaurants. My wallet may be hurting, but my stomach certainly isn’t.
After all that, I think it is finally safe to say that I have gotten back into the swing of things here in Balakan. Clubs are running smoothly for the most part (volunteerism is the theme of the week) and I finally feel like I have settled into my new apartment (more on that in my next post).

Before I finish this post, I want to share with you some examples of essays that I read this past week. We all divided into groups and read the essays of different grades. My group was assigned to 6th and 7th form essays. The first is a list of phrases, comments, and sentences (or whole essays for that matter) that really stood out to my group. Some are wise beyond their years, others hysterical, and others, well some of them just don’t make any sense whatsoever.

Talking about incarnation: “See you after 300 years. If you will die, you can do that is born again!”

As a concluding sentence… “And these are my thinks.”

“I want to be on the high.” Don’t we all my friend, don’t we all.

In response to the question, “What would you rather be, a bird or a fish? Why?”,  one student simply replied, “A bird.” Seriously, that was their entire essay. Short, yet so powerful.

Azeris also have trouble making the “th” sound. So, when talking about birds in their essay, one student keenly pointed out that “Birds thing thongs”.

The next two are full essays submitted by two different students in the 7th form. Neither of them are from Balakan, but I had the great pleasure of reading both and wanted to share them with you. They have not been altered at all. We judged the essays based on creativity and originality alone and put no weight on sentence structure or grammar. I typed them up exactly as they were written, mistakes and all. The first one placed 3rd in all of Azerbaijan for the 7th form. The second essay placed 1st. Enjoy!

What would you rather be, a bird or a fish? Why?
What do you think your village/town will look like in 300 years? I don’t know my city will look like in 300 years. Now 21 century: but will 300 years my city is a change. I think my city car’s fly. Home’s door are sensetivy. People come to home and door automatic open. But other people come to home and door not open. My city people’s are a magician and they are happy not fight. I think my city children will 300 years go to school. School is technological. Everyone have got computer on the table. Children prepare to exercise at computer. I think my city peoples fly to everywhere. Because they won’t rocket shoes. People say to shoes fly, fly, fly and shoes to fly. I think my city people seed and will 5 day seeds will very big tree. I think my city will 300 years everywhere have got speed internet and every television have got 1000 channels. People go to the market and say: eggs. Eggs come to the people.

How would the world be different if everyone spoke the same language?

A beautiful morning. Everything is better than yesterday. I awoke early and went to bathroom as everyday. But something was different. I went to kitchen and said: “Sabahin xeyir, ana!” to my mother, but she said: “Good morning, son! Why are you talking different?”. I couldn’t understand anything and asked: “Ne deyirsen?”. And she answered in English again: “I can’t understand you. Please, speak in our language!”. So I felt something is wrong. Then I said: “Men…OK. I go to school”. And finaly she said: “What? You must be mad for it. Today is Sunday and you want to go to school?!”. Then I said: “Ok mom I have meeting with my friend at school. I go!” First I thought it’s joke, but…
            …I went to school and saw my friends and said: “Salam, ushaqlar!”. And they look at me in interest and said: “What did you say? Why are you talking that?”. I said: “OK guys! I must go!” and began to run…
            At street, on TV, at school…Everyone was talking in English. I cried: “What is that mean?” and one man said to me: “Hey, you, why do you cry? Stupid!”…
            I went to bookshop. There is no dictionary in there. In France, in Germany, in Italy, in Azerbaijan…Everyone was talking in English. I cried again. “Oh, no…” and awoke…
            I went to kitchen and said: “Good morning, mom!” to my mother. She asked: “Niye ingilis dilinde danishirsan?”. The I said: “Hech, yuxu gormushdum.”…
            …It was just a nightmare. But I understood that if English (or other language) would be the official language of every country, if everyone would spoke the same language the world would be boring. No one would want to learn other languages…
         …Now English is most important language in the world. And you, my reader, learn more. If you want to be an important person you must learn and learn and learn… 
Nachos that Stephanie and I made
Elvin and Farid playing Jenga! for the first time


  1. awesome story bud! you're really making a difference in peoples lives...keep up the good work!

  2. Well, we both know that I wouldn’t have won that essay contest seeing I can’t write and I wouldn’t have participated because I wouldn’t have been able to read the instructions. But, regardless of the topic I probably would have still won just based on my looks and the message of my essay. It would be entitled; “ME” and the essay would simply, but elegantly, say, “me”. I love two word essays. It would have a nice font though like maybe Lucida Grande. On a random note, they don’t chew Big Red in Canada and you know what I say to people who don’t chew Big Red? F&^% you.

    Saepe summa ingenia in occulto latent.
    ~Frequently, the greatest talents lie hidden.
    Keep working hard to help those kids develop and grow.