Thursday, April 3, 2014

Old Man Winter Again

On my street March 26th

Here it is Spring and guess what we had three days of snow!! On top of that I had to go to Baku for my medical COS (close of service) taking the night train.It was cold and miserable but I went with an Azerbaijani friend and we had a good time talking.  When we arrived in Baku, it had snowed there as well.  When I came back home, it was in the 70's in Baku and it has been raining here.  I will NOT miss this weather. No wonder my students keeps getting sick!! I was able to go to the Embassy twice for March 31 on Monday and April 1 on Tuesday.  Now I do not have to go back until May. I am also trying to get two of my cats back to America and the vaccinations they need I cannot buy in Baku because they need to be refrigerated so next week a PCV and I will take all of them to Ganja for the vaccinations, oh that will be a fun trip, can't wait!! I also have to have passports, so my grandson is sending ones that you can get a petsmart. Today I am going to get the passport photo's.  I took head shot pictures of all of them and going to get all them because there is a chance another friend of mine in America may find homes for my other two and then I will send them all home.  I sure hope so.  If anyone who reads this wants a pretty sweet cat, that is neutered, vaccinated been loved like crazy and are just sweethearts let me know!!!
Snickers, Jr. Mint & Bounty -1 month
Now Jr. Mint, Bounty, Butch & Snickers
I only have three more months here before my service is complete and as many of you know, I have been working on travel plans.  I wanted to fly to St. Peterburg in Russia, then take the train to Moscow and then take the trans Siberian train across Russia-Mongolia and into China.  Well, the problems in the Ukraine and the sanctions that are in place I just don't feel comfortable taking that trip.  So my dream trip number two was Egypt, Israel and Jordan.  I found a great tour online and wrote them about it and the cost of airfare from Azerbaijan.  Well, I got back an e-mail letting me know if  I want that tour I must sign a waiver because they cannot guarantee my safety in Egypt.  Plus it may be additional cost because of additional "arm" guards and the size of the group.  Is that what I want to do?  Be afraid of an attack, I am not sure where this world is heading to and I am so sorry for the innocent people that are caught in the middle. The beautiful sites in Egypt for the world to see is just too dangerous for tourist.  Well, it is sad but I decided that I won't go to Egypt it is not worst being frighten the whole time.  I am sorry to miss the pyramids maybe another opportunity will arise but I am going to Israel and Jordan  I got an airline ticket at a great deal out of Tbilisi.  I have decided to do my own tour.  Flying into Tel Aviv, then to Jerusalem and Bethlehem then down to Petra and back to Nazareth.  I am going to do the Jesus trail (68 Kilometer from Nazareth to Galilee) and stay at difference guest houses along the trail.  And then back to Tel Aviv for a flight out to Tokyo, Japan, Yes, I am going to climb Mt. Fuji!!  I got an incredible deal on a flight so I booked it  I am staying in hostel,  as long as it has a bed, and bathroom with a shower I am happy!!  I will spend maybe 4-5 days in Japan as it is very expensive, and my goal is to climb Mt Fuji and then take a ferry to China. Mt Fuji is only 12000 feet and the hike is not difficult.  I will take a bus to the 5th station which is half way up and hike about 5-6 hours to a hut and stay the night get up early (before sunrise) and hike about 60 minutes to the top.  So far that is what I have booked.  When I traveled in 97 after Peace Corps in the Czech Republic it was hit and miss because there wasn't Internet.  So each town I went to (I travel all over Europe and Morocco) I had to go to the Information office and find camp sites and or hotels and places of interests.  This time I will be able to book everything in advance as I go!!  I will keep you posted on my itinerary, and I am planning to blog along the way. 

Life Challenge: Throughout life people will make you mad, disrespect you and treat you bad.  Let God deal with the things they do cause hate in your heart will consume you too...... Will Smith

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

My Greatest Fear

I am afraid of a lot of things but mostly because of unknowns. I will start at the beginning as it has been a long month since I have blogged.  I worked on a major report for Head Quarters and I could not open it up the next day so when I went to Baku for my monthly visit I took my computer with me hoping the IT tech at Peace Corps could fix the problem.  He told me no problem, but it was a problem so I left my computer with him.  After a few days they decided to ask DC if they could help fix the problem (now the report was due on the 15th and to date I still haven't heard from HQ but I am getting ahead of myself).  Anyway, I asked to have my computer sent back and my friends at Ag Saray said to send it with their Bus driver they know back to Zaqatala.  No problem yea right, well, there were two computers on the bus and when they got here the person picked up my computer instead of the other one (very strange since my computer is a small notebook the other was a large computer with my name and Ag Saray's name on the box) so I was told, oh it was just a mistake, they will return it.  No problem (I am beginning to hate that phrase "no problem"!). Well, two weeks pass and the holiday pass and still no computer.  I then went to the police department to report it stolen.  Now it is in their hands and hopefully they will find it.  In the meantime, I am borrowing my friends computer and using it but unfortunately all programs were in Russian, I had to ask a friend to switch the programs to English. So about 95% are in English but every once in a while it come up Russian!!

Now back to my fear, I took the responsibility of Mint's kittens because I couldn't find homes for them. They don't care much for animals here and there is no small animal vets in Zaqatala. and it is a long way to Baku or Genja (4 1/2 hours to Genja and I am told the vets there are pretty bad). My favorite cat Snickers who is not the sharpest tool in the shed either fell (or maybe thrown off) the second floor of the house because I found him in my kitchen in the cat carrier I keep in there for them when I am not at home. He was in a lot of pain and could not walk on his back legs.  I carried him into the house and checked him (but I'm not a vet) it didn't look like anything was broken but I wasn't sure.  He did eat and drink but he was in a lot of pain.  I went to my friends office and she saw how upset I was and asked me what was wrong.  I told her about Snickers and she immediately call a friend of hers who is a large animal vet.  He came to the office and went back with me to the house.  He checked Snickers and said that nothing was broken but wanted to give him some antibiotics in case of any infection,  He went to the pharmacy and came back with three injections.  He said he would give him the first one, but I needed to give him the next two (yea right),  Snickers was in a lot of pain but he did not want that shot and the vet looked at me and said he would come back for the next two days and give him the shots.  I did not argue!!  Well it took about a week for Snickers to recover, I had to carry him outside to go to the bathroom and he slept a lot, cried a lot and couldn't walk or jump but slowly the pain subsided and his cries became less and less.  He is doing fine now, he is still limping on one leg but he is jumping and playing again.  I am so thankful to have my friends at Ag Saray they are so kind and help me out so often.  I am truly blessed.  And so is Snickers.

We have Norvuz here, it is like our Spring break back home, so I took the opportunity to go to Georgia and Kansas for a few days.  Georgia was wonderful, I met my PC friends Leah, Carissa and Danny.  Leah and Danny are teaching in Georgia  at Azerbaijani villages.  Leah brought several of her counterparts that are Georgian and we tour the city, saw everything and walked and walked and walked up hills, and down hills and ended up at a wonderful Georgian restaurant with great food and awesome wine.  A couple of pictures:

Me, Leah, Carissa and Georgian Teachers

Trying to figure out what he was doing

Found a Mexican Restaurant in Kansas

OMG it was sooooo GOOD!!!
Life Challenge: Spring is nature's way of saying "LET'S PARTAY" ...... Robin Williams

Monday, February 24, 2014

Could It Get Worst??? Oh Yes!!!

Murphy's Law that is all I can say!!  In my last blog, winter came late and with a fiery!  I have been without running water for over two weeks and I have to carry buckets of water into the bathroom and into my room.  I have a hot plate and do all my cooking and washing dishes in there.  And to top it off, my friend's washer and dryer broke down so I couldn't  do my wash!  But fortunately I could still take showers there (I go every 3-4 days) because I don't like to inconvenience them.  The weather is warmer and I kept asking the owners WHAT is the problem (plastic doesn't usually freeze), why is the brand new pumps not working?   They said maybe spring we will have water.  "What" are you talking about! I called a friend and he worked on the pump for 3 days.  What happened (you ask)?  The brand new pump made of plastic cracked and needed to be repaired.  So he took parts from the old pump and put it in the new pump and got it working "kind of".  So now, I only have to go outside the kitchen(instead of running upstairs) to push the reset button to get the water running (sometimes 2 or 3 times before it starts flowing)!! Oh joy.  I am at the end of my patience and humor  and I am certainly ready to go home.  What I don't understand is why would anyone want to live this way (this is a choice to repair things when broken) and why am I living in this type of conditions hmmmmm  (because we get VERY little for living allowance and this is the only affordable housing-sad!!). By far this is the worst of all the places I have lived in ( and you know from my blogs, I have lived in some challenging conditions!!!!).  I find that people here just don't want to take responsibility for anything.  If it is broken, they don't care.  I don't understand that logic either.  Because you can fix something easier than living with the problems.  You can always find someone to fix it (oh right you may have to pay for it and that's the problem they don't want to pay!!).  It becomes very frustrating.  Only 4 months left (I can do it, I can do it, I can do it)!!!!

On a positive note, I am going to Georgia (the country) for Nourez in March (it is like our spring break or Easter holiday) with my former Peace Corps friend who is now working in an Azerbaijan school teaching English in Georgia. We will also visit another country for a few days. It will be good to get away and catch up with my friend. So I will take lots of pictures and post them on my blog.

My cats are doing great and growing. My Mint is still at the apartment and I saw her the other day and brought her some tuna fish, needless to say she loved it. I was worried because I hadn't seen her for several months but I was told she was on the window sill of my old apartment and so after club I went over and gave her my call (tsk, tsk, tsk) and she came running to me. I thought about bringing her here, but she is not a domestic cat and she just wouldn't survive here. I have been trying for two days to put the most recent pictures of my cat family but since I put this "mandatory" Peace Corps program, my computer has been acting up.  I am taking it with me to Baku and hopefully the tech guy can fix it.  So next blog I will have some pictures.

I hope everyone had an AWESOME Valentine's Day.. I gave my students Valentine stickers that I received from home. They were so happy...

Life Challenge: A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions...... Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Winter Blast

Well, I thought I was lucky, here it was February 1 and the winter was coming to an end and not too bad... But I think God was just messing with me because on February 1 we had heavy snow for three days.  And the temperature was down in single digits.  It was too cold to take a shower here so I went to my friends home and took one there.  The bathroom was so warm, I wanted to live in it!!! I thought it would be just temporary taking a shower at my friends.  Our pipes froze and we were without water for  four days until I started complaining how unhealthy that was (I could not flush water down the toilet).  When I threatened that I would have to move, then they figure it out, they knocked a hole in the ice in the well and at least we got water by pouring it into to buckets.  But the pipes are still frozen so that means no hot or running water.  It has now been a week, the temperature is rising but the pipes are still frozen.  I have asked a friend if he could come over and help unfreeze these pipes. He came by but told me nothing can be done, maybe by tomorrow if it keeps getting warmer.  The forecast for today is 37 and tomorrow 44 degrees. So keep your fingers cross!!! I find here that nothing is prepared beforehand, they feel they will only be cold for a few days and then it will be okay.  Instead of doing something in the summer, when the weather is warm, they make excuses. I mentioned when I first moved in and notice the pipes, they should be wrapped.  I was ignored and now the pipes are frozen solid.  I can't use the kitchen as it is just too cold.  So I have brought in most things to cook in my room.  In my second room where I don't have the pech it is pretty cold. I put my food in there and I have had to move the olive oil to the room with the pech because it freezes in that room.  That is cold, the good news nothings spoils (if that is good news)!!!  I was given a frozen chicken and left it out in the kitchen to thaw and after 3 days when it was still frozen solid, I had to bring it inside in my second room for two days before I was able to cut it up and cook it.  I am sorry, I just can't imagine purposely living in this environment.  I will NEVER complain about winters in California again.  I could NEVER live in this type of cold weather back home!! Then on top of that, the "gas" company turns off the gas about once a week (who does that in the cold weather)!!! And to add to that I have a another cold (my 5th one since school started) and I just can't get rid of this cough!!  When I go to Baku this month, I will definitely see the doctor and maybe gets some heavy duty medicine to fight it.  It has been so cold in the morning that I have waited until second period to go to school.  And when this cough gets really bad, I been staying home trying to get better. The positive is that I am reading a lot and seeing lots of movies in bed under my covers. The negative is that it is depressing.  I tried to keep my spirits up I found squash and spinach at the market and my friend sent me Mole for chicken, so I had chicken Mole and squash for dinner last night. 

I guess that is enough complaining about the weather!!! Oh, did I say I HATE winter (sorry last time), and I only have 4 months left before the end of my service. And hopefully only one more month of winter!!!  I am planning my Russia, Asia and Australia trip, so I am getting excited about that.  I pray I can find good homes for the cats or at least the volunteer who stays here can take care of them.  Everything will work out.

Life Challenge: Life is a song-sing it... Life is a game-play it...Life is a challenge-meet it... Life is a dream-realize it.. Life is a sacrifice-offer it.... Life is love-enjoy it....   Sai Baba 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Always Read the Fine Print

I've been pretty busy since I have been back to school after the New Year holiday.  Besides teaching 17 classes a week, I teach conversation club three times a week and work with several community members and their children several times a week as well, plus my family of cats who wants constant attention ALL the time (as I am typing this blog snickers is laying on my arms and Buster and Junior are on my lap). I finally got the pump fix or should say a new pump (I paid for the pump but I will take it off next month rent).  I am so excited I don't have to run up and down stairs to turn on the water!!! Yeah!!!  I am also buying today a two burner gas top to go into the kitchen (my stove outside has only one burner working).  Next month my goal is to buy a tank for the toilet and a toilet seat so I can have a flushing toilet, again YEA. The next volunteer living here will have it made when I am finished!!  To get anything accomplished here, it takes twice as long and twice the nagging.  They want to fix it the cheapest way (with glue and duck tape) but don't understand that it is a temporary fix and in the long run it will cost them more money!!! So they finally listened and we got a NEW pump.

I have been overwhelmed this week with Peace Corps staff (funny, I haven't seen anyone up here for 2 years and this week Security, and both CD and TEFL Program Managers came for a visit).  Security came to see how safe it is.  We have 22 different cultures here.  I have learned that during the Communist time, they would move people around from village to village and country to country (a control tactic), so you have many diverse cultures.  Some villages have there own culture and language (this area is an linguist dream!!).  I have always felt safe here and I could walk around alone at noon or midnight and never felt scared.  I live right behind the mosque (and I am awaken every morning with the "call to prayer") and they have a "Wahhabi group" that pray there and I see them on my way home but never felt threaten by them.

My Program Manager came to observe me and my counterpart in the classroom.  I showed her all of my visual aids that I made and suggested to have an small expense account for TEFL volunteers to buy the supplies (I use most of my moving allowance and friends who send me supplies to make the visual aids). After the lesson, she told me that she was very impressed with the class and the use of my visual aids. All of my students participated in the lesson and at the end I played Teacher said (a play off of Simon said) this is a great listening lesson as well as fun! The students love it.

Then the CD (Community Development) Manager came to interview the organizations that I got applications from.  One of the volunteers came with him but she stayed with me.  I made pumpkin soup and pumpkin bread. We talked and caught up and I fixed popcorn and we watched a movie.  I miss my site mate Kaylee since she when home in November, so this was fun having a volunteer over for dinner and a movie.

Yep... it was a busy week but a good week.

Life Challenge:  For the LORD seeks not as man seeks;  for a man looks at the outward appearance but the LORD looks on the heart.... 1 Samuel 16:17

Tuesday, December 31, 2013


Wow, where has the time gone.  I have been in Azerbaijan since September 2011, my 3rd winter (what was I thinking!!).  I wish everyone a very HAPPY NEW YEAR and may all your wishes and resolution's come true.  May all your adventures surpass all the ones before.... My resolution for 2014 is to get through this winter without freezing!! My adventure this year when I finish Peace Corps in June is to ride the Siberian train from Moscow to China, let see if I can pull it off.  I wanted to take the bus from here (Zaqatala) to Moscow (they run a couple times a week) but I found out because I am American and it goes through Chechnya I cannot take a bus, I must fly into Moscow or St. Petersburg.   But I am getting ahead of myself, first I must get the visa's for Russia and China if I can.  I will keep you posted.

Of course Jerome will come with me on my road trip!
Since the winter has set in and the days are colder, I've made some adjustments.  I no longer prepare my meals in the kitchen as it is just too cold (and I have to come in and warm my hands over pech because they are freezing!). I brought most everything into my living room and prepare my meals in there.  Then I will use my pech either before or after to keep the food warm or to slow cook food.  If I put something on the stove or in the oven outside, I turn on the timer as I usually get busy and then forget about it  and the food burns (done it; so far I have burned rice, popcorn and pumpkin pie!!).  Every time I change my sheets I try to adjust the padding to make my bed more comfortable (so far, no such luck).  I sure miss my bed back home!! My most difficult challenge is taking a shower.  This is a double edge sword, I love showers but it is so cold, I must prepare for it.  I get all my clean clothes near the pech to warm up.  I change into the least amount of clothes and bring my towel and shampoo into the shower (I must keep the shampoo and conditioner in my room or it is just too cold to put on my hair). Then I set everything up in the bathroom and then run upstairs to turn on the pump.  I let the water run until it get hot and then turn on the shower, let the room steam and get warm (oh, the light switch is in another room, I have to turn that on from the outside!). Since I don't have a flushing toilet, this is an opportunity to really flush the toilet, you see I keep a tub in there and catch the water from the shower and then throw it down the toilet and then I keep the last tub for flashing later. After I shower, I keep the water on so I can dry myself somewhat, then put my shoes on and once I turn off the water, I run like hell back to my room near the pech!!  I am exhausted after that (but at least I'm clean)...

Life Challenge: Spring is nature's way of saying "Let's Party!" can't wait!!!! ..... Robin Williams

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas 2013

My Christmas Corner

Boy, my students will be glad when this year has ended.  They have a difficult time with the "th" sound. they need to stick their tongues out quickly to make the sound and when I show them how it is done (in slow motion), they just laugh at me.  So 2013 will be out and 2014 will be easier to say.  They want to change "Th"ursday too!!  No can do...I tell them this is the ONLY time that they can stick their tongues out at the teacher (again they laugh go figure!!).

 I pray that EVERYONE has a Merry Christmas and that it is full of joy and love!!! Do I get love and joy? No, I get snow and cold (see pictures below) and when I didn't think anything else could possible go wrong living here, it does.  When I rented this place, they promised me so much, but didn't do one thing.  When I needed something done, I did it myself.  I talked about the "pump" in previous blogs and I kept telling my landlady that it will be a problem later on if it wasn't fixed.  Well, it finally broke and the pipes froze (I should have figure that one out!!). It would have been a simple fix if they had wrapped the pipes in the summer (duh).  I had no water for three days (I was told "WE NEVER RUN OUT OF WATER") and then when they finally got the pump fixed (it was me nagging every day) we had NO HOT water as those pipes were still frozen.  Fortunately, my friends at Ag Saray let me showered at their house (which by the way was so warm, I almost didn't leave the bathroom!!).  I didn't mentioned this to my landlady or else she would have never fixed the pump or the pipes!  This month has certainly been a challenge for me as everyone knows (I have said it enough times) I hate snow and I hate being cold.  And it is so much worst when I have to go out in it.  It takes so much longer in the mornings to get dress as I have to layer and what I just want to do is jump back into bed (even though the bed is so uncomfortable I got a pinched nerve in my back from it) but at least it is warm (I added a sleeping bag which helps a lot).  I cook in the afternoon as it is just too cold in the morning or at night (my stove is still outside I was promised they would move it into the kitchen).  I have been downloading a lot of Christmas movies from the Hallmark Channel and I am just trying to stay positive.  I really enjoy the conversation clubs as these are the students and young adults that want to learn English and they make the effort to be there each and every week.  On the other hand, my counterparts make every excuse possible not to show up and that is frustrating.  You think that they would want to help their community and not let a foreigner do it.  I think it is because they are not getting paid and this is a country where they NEVER do anything for free.  I am hoping to train some of these older students to start teaching, maybe that is where the skill will be transferred, certainly not to my counterparts as they hardly ever show up.

I had to teach today (Christmas Day) but next week I will have the week off, so my goal is to spend as much time by the pech and just watch movies or read, eat popcorn and drink coffee and stay warm.  If  I don't have to go out in this weather I won't.  Oh, and I have enough tuna fish to last me until I leave (plus I just got the SUPER size bag of Cheetos).... hmmmm my holiday is going to be fun.
My back yard

It is as cold as it looks!!!

yep, cold

Life Challenge:  If you cannot get rid of the family skeleton, you may as well make it dance.  George Bernard Shaw