Monday, October 15, 2012

What I Missed

Let’s just get this off my chest quickly:




If someone can give me a combination of the three at once, I will be very impressed and grateful!!! (I’m thinking something in a burrito style)

There, now that those are out of the way, we can continue:

Smooth Highways – Oh how I have missed the smoothness of a well-paved highway, they obedience that comes with actual lanes, functioning stop lights, competent drivers and honest traffic officers. If I never ride another packed van reeking of body odor and cigarette smoke on an unpaved road again, it will be too soon!

Movie Theaters – Despite the absurd prices, to me there’s nothing better than watching a good movie on the big screen. I am so tried of watching poor quality copies of new movies on my tiny lap top screen.

Sports and Fitness – I’ve done my best to replace my lack of access to a gym with elastic bands, a jump rope, and yoga map. And I certainly get to play sports (Frisbee, soccer, and softball). But, it’s just not the same as a game of squash with my dad at the YMCA, a game of pick up hockey, throwing around a lacrosse ball with the boys, or having JMart run Ting and I through the ringer with a Crossfit workout at MAA.

Phone Plans – Buying minutes as I go is terribly frustrating. Given the number of national programs I manage, I have to be on the phone a lot, so I go through a lot of minutes. I’m sick of the little scratch off minute cards! Give me a contract, please!

American Time – I’ve broken down, almost to a science, the conversion of time between Azerbaijan and America:
-       5 minutes American = 30 minutes Azerbaijani
-       Early American = 10am Azerbaijani
-       1 hour American = At least 3 hours Azerbaijani
-       Later this afternoon American = Maybe tomorrow Azerbaijani
-       Tomorrow American = Never Azerbaijani
I love promptness and I cannot wait to return to the land of it!

Washing Machines – I have not missed anything more than my washing machine. If there were a word stronger than hate for washing clothes by hand, I’d use it. In the summer it’s so hot that you have to wash clothes way too often. In the winter, your hands freeze while washing and the clothes never dry. All of my clothes are ruined from all the hand washing, yet they are not nearly as clean as they are after a cycle in the washing machine! It’s a waste of time and the greatest inconvenience I had while living here!

Friday, October 12, 2012

What I Will Miss

Here’s a look at some of the things I will miss most about living in Azerbaijan

Freshness – Knowing where my food comes from at each and every meal has been one of those small factors I did not appreciate until recently. When I go guesting at someone’s house, invariably everything is a s fresh as can humanly be. The yogurt? That was made yesterday. The chicken? From their yard. The fruit and vegetables? Just step outside and pick them yourself. The bread? The clay oven is in the back! Even in a agricultural state like Maine, renowned for its fresh seafood and produce, you cannot get fresher than Azerbaijan.

Squat Toilets – Yes, the smell is usually unbearable, but the simplicity will surely be missed. Plus, check it out online, squatting is better for you!

Forced Ingenuity – With sporadic internet, limited social resources (malls, concerts, etc.), and practically no money, it can be difficult to come up with things to do in your free time. The internet goes out as you’re about to get online to Skype or answer emails? Think of something else to do, because it’s not coming back anytime soon! When we host other volunteers for the weekend, there’s this unspoken sence of fun that comes from creating something from nothing, from finding the most ingenious ways to enjoy yourself and your company. Cooking pizza with one burner, no oven, and only 5 dollars? No problem! Drinking? How about Sangria made from Russian vodka, Sprite, and some strange wine you found in the basement? Want to play Twister? Buy a couple markers and table mat. 20 minutes and 2 dollars later, you have an official Twister board! Trey and I once made a tee when we first started softball. We used a cardboard box from a care package, duct tape, and PVC piping and brinks we found near the dumpster! It’s projects and activities like these that make you appreciate what you have and help you live in the moment more than I ever appreciated back home.

Bilingual Life – I’ve done it before when I lived in Mexico, but there’s nothing like being able to speak two languages everyday! Switching back and forth, combining two languages into one, and constantly learning new words and phrases…I will miss this a lot.

Teaching – Again, I’ve done it before working at lacrosse and hockey camps, but I cannot express to you enough how much I love being a teacher. I love being a role model and I love trying to inspire. I have had many struggles while living here, working with youth was never one of them. My students were the light at the end of every dark tunnel I passed through and I am so grateful for them.

Being Interesting – I’ll be honest, I love the attention! While here, I’m the expert, I’m the interesting one with stories and knowledge unheard of before my arrival. Returning home will be a little bit of a shock when students I see don’t show me the respect I have come to expect, when people don’t invite me over and feed me just so that they can hear me speak English and ask me questions about life in America.

Lastly, I will miss telling time based off the daily call to prayer. It's a very pleasant way to wake up and a great way to take short breaks throughout the day, a brief moment to take a deep breath and reflect.

Next up: What I Missed!