Experiencing Azerbaijan

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Location: Kansas, United States

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Birthday Cake

My landlady's family lives in the capital, Baku, and when we met here in Lenkoran, they took a liking to me and hoped that I would come to Baku and celebrate my bday at their home. We had a couple weeks to get to "know" each other and they reiterated the invitation so I finally took it as serious. I say "know" because only the 17 year old son speaks English and the rest of us just smile at each other. I took a liking to them also so I went. They made--the mother made--dolma, stuffed grape leaves. delicious. AND a cake with my name on it! Being a mother for many years means that I have made a lot of cakes with other names on them but as far as I recall, this was a first with my name. So, in itself, that was very sweet. Then, when I began to cut it, they sang happy birthday in english. I cried...very embarassing, and it made the son quite sad thinking I was quite sad. So, that was my birthday and very nice it was. A.'s birthday is the 22nd and my friend Elchin and I went to a western bar in Baku and drank a Guiness to celebrate her birthday and that was fun too.

Thursday, there was a party for teachers new to Azerbaijan so went to that. Friday I can't remember. Saturday I shopped then my friend Elchin, the landlady's 17 year old grandson, Kamran, and I went to the cat restaurant. They make a delicious cat. Actually, I insisted that Elchin order the sturgeon kabob so I could toss my share to the two sweet cats who sit on the retaining wall by the restaurant. The first time at that restaurant, I fed the cats and I am not saying the cats are brilliant BUT long before the waiter brought fish and the only dishes on the table were fresh and pickled salads, the cats came and sat on the wall beside our table.

Then, instead of taking the nasty, rotten, terrible, horrible bus home, I took the train and sat in the first class compartment (an unnecessary luxury because they play the TV at record breaking volume in EVERY car). The train takes a little over 6 hours, the bus about 5 1/2 so...The downside is that there is only one train at 8:25 am and one at 11:pm. There are busses of one sort or another about every 20 minutes--as soon as they fill up.

As for current information, I have rec'd mail from grandma, spices from C. and ear plugs from M. Recd all on same day! But let me tell you this little story. When I got home from work, the letter and package from charlie were there. I pay a 60cent delivery charge but since I wasn't there, I went to the post office with the receipt to pay the 60cents. I went to the main post office. Ah, wrong post office. The man, speaking louder and louder, repeated himself motioning for me to go elsewhere. By chance, another employee was passing by so my clerk motioned for me to follow the 2nd clerk. OK. I followed through hallways and down stairs out to a car! He motioned for me to get in. I asked if tomorrow was OK but no. So in I got and we tore off through town and he takes me to a tiny post office near my school. He comes in also, I pay my 60cents (3 thousand Manat, by the way) and as I am walking out, they yell at me. I return to the counter and there is the envelope from Millie! The 2nd clerk has actually brought it in his hand in the car from the other post office. I pay another 60cents (not a delivery fee, I guess). Then I go back to the car, but NO>>>>...no ride back! Too funny. I had to take a taxi back to the town center.

I am thinking of exchanging Azeri/English lessons with a group of 3 girls who have pretty good english but want to improve in order to pass the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) so they can study in the US. Two have already spent one high school year in Kansas! Now, they want to go to college there. I can not tell you how frustrating my university is, and not only for me but for other teachers. Two of my classes were cancelled last week without notice. When I asked another teacher about it, he said it is not uncommon. OK. The top student in the Top Students Association has been to class once. Of the approximately 12 students who have come to class (I can not comment on the 14 who have never come) about 4 can not answer 3 simple questions in English (and I know what I am doing). Yesterday, in the first half hour, I had 8 interruptions--6 of which were students coming in late. Today I had a class with three students, a fourth one came 20 minute late. He sat there for 5 minutes, received a phone call, then said, "May I go. I must go to my friend's party." The Peace Corps guy said if you get heavy handed and say no one can come in late, the student will just go get some administrator who will come back with him and make you let him in. AND, just for something to ponder, the entire schedule of 4th year students AND teachers is worked out on paper by pencil by one man WEEK BY WEEK!! Bad for the blood pressure. Still, all is well. Went to bazaar today, got fresh veges awaiting and fresh bread from the tandoor oven.


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