New to the Working Schedule
In addition to my time at the credit union, I’ve been adding a bit more to my schedule. There are two main things going on that I’ve been slowly working, on, with a few other prospects on the horizon. The first is Miri’s desire to open a bookstore. He’s had this idea for a while, and he seems like just the guy who would want to open an independent bookstore. We started talking about it a few weeks after I arrived, and we’ve slowly been gathering information about the specs of this potential bookstore. He wants it to be a place where people can feel comfortable to come and read, buy books, drink tea, and also find school supplies. He’s obviously targeting the school-aged audience, with a particular focus on university students. What helps is that he went the local university, Lənkəran State University, and knows many people through his studies there. The presence of the university here will certainly help him out. Other things that are going for him is that he knows quite a few people around town through different organizations. One is the American Center at the library, of which I’ll mention more later. When Miri describes his dream bookstore, it sounds a lot like a salon of the late 1800s, with Victorian furniture (his words) and lofty discussions of issues of the day. So far, we’ve started scoping out two potential sites, both excellent locations and sizes, but with a lot of repairs needed. We also started a list of the needs he’ll have for getting started and maintaining the shop. And budgeting is going to be an interesting endeavour, which we’ve started, but haven’t gone very far.
The other major project taking up my time these days is helping Aytəkin with her GRE preparation. Big news: She made it through the second round! The Edmund S. Muskie Program has two rounds, and then a test-taking round. She passed the initial application round, as well as the interview, which took place last week. I was in the room when she got the call about her interview–she was so excited it was priceless. We had to take a break from the math lessons for a few minutes of celebration. Now it’s on to the final round, TOEFL and GRE exams. It’s a rather stressful time, but Aytəkin is pretty smart and I’m pretty confident she can do well. It would be really great for her to get this opportunity, because she’s one of the most interesting Azerbaijanis I’ve met so far. She has some really great ideas about new media, like facebook and twitter and blogs and social networks, as well as old media. And her ideas go deeper into women’s rights and democracy, too. So we’re working to get her to America to study journalism and new media, where she could learn and then return to Lənkəran, where she already has ideas about changing the face of journalism in Azerbaijan.
In addition to these two exciting tasks, there are other great things going on in Lənkəran, like the AzETA group I talked about here, and the American Center. I’ve been asked to see if I can spend some time at the American Center, and we’ll see what kind of time I have to devote to english lessons and clubs. The American Center is a resource put on by the US Embassy here and it sponsors a lot of activities surrounding learning about America and learning english. It’s a place where Hiba has spent a good amount of time teaching TOEFL courses and helping students, and it’s also where Miri has started his own debate club. Lot’s happening in Lənkəran!