Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Lights, Camera, Play Ball!

Our students, along with PCV Mike (a fellow Mainer) in neighboring Car village and the Balaken PCV crew recently produced a short movie entitled "Play Ball Amelia". It is an adaptation of this classic child's tale.
We had a blast making this. The students took the lead, writing the script, choosing roles, and even telling us what to do! I hope you enjoy. Inshallah (hopefully), it will be the first of many!
Synopsis: When a player gets the measles Amelia takes their place in a game against the Tornadoes, but she knows nothing about baseball!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The World Was Built In 8 Days

That’s right, just as fast as the idea popped into our heads, the paint brushes were dry and put away and the project was done. It took just 8 days and a lot less paint than we bought to create a mural of the world map on the entrance wall at the children’s library. Man is it beautiful! Seriously, Vatican City has its Sistine Chapel. Balaken has this world map! I keep stopping in just to stare at it! Much of the work we do as volunteers does not have tangible results. We are catalysts, hoping to encourage things that will manifest themselves long after we are gone. But this, well, there it sits, all bright and colorful, the fruits of our labor available to gawk at between the hours of 9 and 6, Monday through Friday!
We could not have done it without the tremendous commitment of our students. Samira, Muslim, Turkan, and Fuad came everyday during the first week to prepare the wall: priming, sketching, and only finally painting. The rest of the students came everyday for 5 days straight the following week. Each day we painted 2 new colors. By the fifth day, the masterpiece was done. I am so proud of them and also grateful for their help. This has been a project I’ve wanted to do since I got to site. I also must thank the librarians, who though at first quite skeptical, gave us free rein to paint all over their walls. “Those crazy Americans!”
The library was already a great space and a wonderful resource for the youth of Balaken. Now, it is just that much brighter and will hopefully continue attracting kids!
If any other PCVs are interested in doing this project, just send me an email or a comment and I can supply you with everything from the project plan to the budget.

Day 1: Priming

Our helpful crew

Mixing paint

Tracing the map...and me clearly not helping too much

First coat of paint!

First day painting countries

2nd day: Muslim forgot about Mongolia!

Samira and Muslim hard at work

Checking for errors after the second day of painting countries

Even the librarians got involved in the painting


The final product! Ain't she a beauty!

Celebrating a job well done

The Trip of a Lifetime!

Kate and StevO...excuse me, Dr. StevO, are three days away from joining me in the 'Baijan! For the first time in my life, my parents will be looking to me for guidance. They'll be the ones wide-eyed and clueless, overwhelmed and dumbfounded, hanging on to all little bits of familiarity as they embark on this epic adventure together. Like most people's parents, I've always looked to mine for advice and experience. I was usually (and often still am) the dolt praying someone would be there to move me through adolescence, and I am grateful my parents always were. Now, it's my turn. I have a feeling they'll be pleasantly surprised by the place I have come to call home, but it is nonetheless a once-in-a-lifetime experience that I wanted to share with all of my readers. So, I asked them to write a short commentary on their fears and expectations. It's fascinating to see the parallels between their concerns and presumptions, and the emotions I went through when I arrived in country nearly a year ago. It's bound to be a remarkable two weeks. I'll be sure to follow up when I return!

Here you are: 
My wife and I leave in 3 days for our adventure with Jake. Jake has asked us to write a short note about our expectations and emotions prior to the trip. What a mix of emotions and uncertain expectations I currently have.

First and foremost will be the joy of seeing my son in person for the first time in a year. Skype has been a blessing, but nothing can beat physical presence. Jake is a joy. He is an inspiration. He, like his brother, is one of my heroes. It will be spectacular to see him in his element, in Azerbaijan, where the Peace Corps experience is affording him, his site mates, and the subjects of his efforts and activities such an amazing growth opportunity. I expect to be awestruck.

I look forward, with some nervousness, to experiencing completely new and foreign cultures, but worry slightly that I will find discomfort in “being in a fishbowl” (as Jake has put it), and in not sharing a common language. I trust in the warmth and welcoming nature of the people that Jake has portrayed, and will happily travel on the coat tails of his popularity.

To be honest, I expect that the experience will be so new and different, that my expectations are not very clearly defined or vivid. They are more just emotions: wonder, excitement, and a touch of trepidation.