By popular request (meaning one person requested) and then by my own shame in forgetting to do so before, here’s a post about site mates! I’ve got a few, so I’ll try to make it concise. Just know, however, that their awesomeness far exceeds the words on this page. One of the reasons I haven’t written about them yet is that I still don’t know them all that well.
First, my AZ7 buddy, Eli, is a youth development volunteer. The youth development program is geared towards getting the young people in the community active with projects and recreation and learning and other fun things that don’t necessarily happen in an english language class at school. You might think that that’s a rather open-ended, undefined role here, and you would be right. Eli is 29, from Alaska, and has a pretty strong finance background. He’s also very much a technology person. Everyone goes to him for their computer/technology needs. Interestingly, it’s Eli who has the finance background, with an MBA and his last job doing financial analysis, while I’m the one working at the credit union (read: finance organization). In any case, Eli is a pretty chill dude. We play cribbage together (we taught my host brother, too!) and one of these days I’m going to make it down to the basketball courts with him at school #2. We also have the luxury of most likely being the two tallest people in Lənkəran. We probably raising the average height of Lənkəran by at least a few inches. Eli’s sweet blog can be found here at Waite, Azerbaijan?
The other site mates are all AZ6s, who arrived December of 2008. They are, in no particular order, Rachel, Hiba, and Jaclyn. This is what I know about them so far, though it’s been limited by Jaclyn and Hiba’s leaving the country for the holidays. Rachel is a teacher, both here and in the US. She’s from Nebraska (Husker alum) and she also loves to cook. Here, she works at school #7, helping with english classes and also running various clubs, like crafts and games clubs. I think she has 5 or 6 of those other clubs going on, which is quite a load. It’s fair to say that she’s a crafty person. I think it also helps the students a lot, too, since here they don’t really have any outlets for that kind of creativity. For their Christmas party, we had the usual tea and sugar-loaded goodies, followed by a game of musical chairs, a relay race, and ornament decorating. The students were all about it, and I’m rather confident that Rachel’s Christmas party was probably one of the best school experiences they’ve had in a while.
I haven’t really seen as much about what Jaclyn and Hiba are up to. Since we arrive at our sites in mid-December, there’s usually a lot of traveling going on, and holiday celebration. Hiba left us for France, and Jaclyn made the trek back to the US. Hiba is a Texan, with very few of the stereotypical Texan quirks. A very distinctive “y’all” comes out fairly frequently, however. She finished her degree in social work before coming to Peace Corps. At one point she was in Tanzania for a few months doing an HIV/AIDS education project that she put together. Here in Lənkəran she’s a youth development volunteer, like Eli, and mostly I’ve seen her spending a good amount of time helping out students who are trying to qualify for the UGRAD, FLEX, and Musky programs. These are all programs geared toward getting students in schools in America. Before she left, Hiba and I made pancakes and eggs for lunch one day, but somehow I became the ill-chosen candidate for cooking the pancakes. I’m not sued to cooking yet here in Azerbaijan so we ended up with a few burned flapjacks. Next time, we’ll put Hiba back on pancake duty. You can find her blog here, at Life in Azerbaijan.
And finally, there’s Jaclyn. Jaclyn is like an almost-site mate. She lives and works in Liman, a village just outside of Lənkəran. She’s from North Carolina, and we’ve discussed whether NC is more “east coast” or more “south”. When I think NC, I think south first, and then east coast. In any case, Jaclyn teaches english classes in Liman, at a school that was recently built (remodeled?) by the Heydər Əliyev Foundation. That means it looks nicer than most of the other schools. Jaclyn is also the one for whom everyone compliments her Azerbaijani language skills. My host brother has said that she speaks without the American accent. And I’ve come across many people who unexpectedly knew about her, like my host organization’s director’s son. We we’re in his car going out to the village office when he mentioned the American who worked in Liman, and he called his friend to confirm that her name was Jaclyn. So yeah, she’s famous, too. And she’s got a blog: Azer-[bye]-jackie.
So that’s a snapshot of the other Americans hanging out down here in the south. Like I said, they are all rather awesome, and I’m lucky to have such a great set of site mates. I’m not usually one to use excessive superlatives, but maybe one day I’ll be able to write well enough to more accurately describe how great they are.