This Is What’s Happening
It’s been difficult to write much about what I do each day. It’s generally the same, going to classes, coming home, drinking tea, being surprised at the random events at home, and then studying and going to bed. These training days are getting old, fast. With less than two weeks left, we’re all going a bit stir-crazy, ready to move to our permanent sites. We’ve all been ready for probably a week or so.
That doesn’t mean we’re actually ready, though. I certainly don’t have the language skills I’d like to, but what can I expect over the course of 7 weeks? Putting together sentences in class is one thing, actually hearing what people are saying and coming up with responses is quite another. One thing that I have going for me, apparently, is that I have a good Azerbaijani accent. Mahirǝ tells me this, and since she’s my teacher, she’s probably a little biased. She has to say that, right? Besides the classes, we have the LPI test coming up, for which we’re supposed to achieve Intermediate-Mid in order to “pass.” I’m not too worried about it, but a few folks we’re in class with are stressing a bit. The key here is that the test has little bearing on your service, and “passing” doesn’t really change much about your future. Thus, I’m unperturbed.
In other news, our technical sessions continued with more visits from current PCVs. Margaret, Wendy, Jessica, and Micah joined us this past week, talking about their experiences in Gǝncǝ, Ucar, Xaçmas, and Qusar. Notable things: Margaret is an older volunteer, in her 50s (I think), who is working with the Gǝncǝ AgriBusiness Association. This association began after four or five professors at the agriculture university were put in charge of dividing up the collective farms after the Soviet Union broke up. That was an awesome task, effectively splitting all the land among more than 800,000 farmers. Now, they perform services for farmers throughout the country. Wendy spends her time in Ucar helping in a business organization, and her Azeri language skills are very good because she hasn’t been able to communicate in english with her counterparts. Jessica, in Xaçmas, lost the organization she started with in the city, and has since helped a group of women entrepreneurs found a women’s business center. She also helps at a school devoted to serving disabled children and their parents. Micah, in Qusar, also has fantastic language skills, and has even picked up a few words and phrases in a local dialect called Lezgi. The Lezgi people are a minority in northern Azerbaijan. He is helping start community groups aimed at solving community problems, something that doesn’t really exist here (“We’re waiting for the government to do it”).
I’m both excited and slightly intimidated by the upcoming move. I’ve managed to figure out what I’m doing around here in Sumqayit, and now it’s time to learn a new city. Who knows what my new host family will be like? And the pressure to work well in my community is quite a bit higher, since now I’ll actually be expected to contribute, if even in the somewhat mundane ways. From what I hear, though, my office will have access to the internet. This could be a big deal, and my potential productivity might plummet if that’s the case. We’ll see what transpires. I might be obliged to do an Azerbaijani Word-of-the-Day for you.