In Azeri, you pronounce X’s like you would an H, but almost like you’re half-gargling it out. This makes place names like Xacmas a little hard on the English speaker. Xacmas, however, is another cool little city. Like Quba, it is nestled into apple country. This northern region is famous for apples and pears, tomatoes, and cucumbers. When we we’re driving into Quba and out of Xacmas, there were huge trucks brimming with mountains of apples sitting along the roadside. And you could see little four-door cars humming along the highway full of apples, all the way to the top in the backseat. That was pretty incredible.
After leaving Quba, we made the short trek over to Xacmas to join Jessica. She’s got some excellent projects going on. The first one we experienced was the new women’s business center she was helping get started. Up to this point, they have almost everything they need to get started. She has helped them acquire computers, a pretty big office space, tables, chairs, and high-speed internet. Gender is a big issue for many PCVs here because of the limitations on access to jobs, education, and other resources for women (and also the awkward place in which it puts us American men). One of the neat things I’ve heard about here has been PCVs helping start internet clubs for women, since many internet clubs have some unsavory character that makes them unwholesome for women. Jessica’s done a great job getting the women she works with to put it all together, so it sounds like they’re going to be able to maintain it pretty well. I’ll let you know of any cool updates from the center.
The other organization Jessica works with is a school for children with disabilities. She doesn’t work with the children, but instead holds conversation clubs and English lessons for parents and people who work at the school. We helped out with that day’s hour of class, and then had tea and hung out for a while. One of the disabled kids (autistic) managed to grab my bottle of water and went to town. He had a great time with that bottle of water. Most of it ended up on the floor, but he seemed to have so much fun that it was worth it. Children with disabilities here don’t really get a whole lot of attention, and the attention usually isn’t that great, so it’s pretty good that there’s at least a decent center here for the kids to get out to and have some real human contact, too.