Saturday, October 30, 2010

Gobastan & Mud Volcanoes - Saturday October 22

Not the best planned event, but what can we do. Trainees were informed Friday afternoon that our host family's should pack a lunch for us and to wear comfortable shoes plus bring an extra pair since we will be walking in mud. Friday night, Sumgayit had a horrendous wind storm and some families had no electricity Saturday morning. 

Alas, we met up at 9AM with others (lunch and extra shoes in hand) for marsrutka ride to PC offices where we waited some more and played cards. Then 60+ Americans and 5 Azeris were herded into 2 nice buses and rode south for 1 1/2 hours through Baku to see historical site of 2000+ years old carved petroglyphs. (Incredible sights en route, but no one from Azerbaijan knew anything about the pipelines, oil rigs, market place, industrial sites et al.) Paid 3 manets each for guided tour through small interpretive center (funded by Norwegian NGO) and then walked to see actual ancient carvings.

 My cluster mates Kelly, Lilli, and Dai. Nancy also a cluster mate, but she was eating lunch in the bus!

Due to high winds, we ate our lunches on board buses about 1 PM. Buses then took us to road leading to mud volcanoes, but bus drivers refused to drive buses on very sketchy road. After 40 minute negotiation, all climb into 1 bus for 1/2 mile drive closer to volcanoes, then we hiked 1 1/2 miles up hill to see mud volcanoes. 

Difficult for many to hike but younger male trainees enthusiastic about playing in mud. A beer at the top would have made it worthwhile. Hiked back to buses and started back about 6PM for 1 1/2 hour drive to Sumgayit. PC Trainees broke the "no one out after dark" rule, so needed to call host families that we would be home late. Arrive home via marsrutka about 7:30 and host mom has dolmas and yogurt waiting for me. Better ending for a long day. 

More photos on my picasa album.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

This PC Trainee visits Sheki

I have to admit that volunteering has its serendipity moments. Who would have thought that I would have a once in a lifetime experience while serving in a developing country? Monday, I visited a UN-designated World Heritage Site, Xan Saray. Check that off in my 1000 Places to Visit book! 

I drew the coveted AZ location of Sheki for my site visit to stay with a current PC English teacher for a few days. Xan Saray is the last remaining palace of the Khans, and we also went into Caravan Saray, another restored site of historic importance in trade during the 1700's. I'll add a few photos to this blog and send a link to more via my picasa album site.

The site visit is an opportunity to live for a few days the life of an English teacher. Another trainee and I stayed with Irene, an AZ7 PCV who lives with a host family in  a charming house inside a walled compound - typical Azeri yard housing with separate buildings for the toilet, the shower, a large garden, and a chicken coop. This family also has a Winter house and a Summer house ! (Then step outside their gate and a farmer is tending his 3 cows along the cobbled street.)

Irene took us to her school where we answered questions in her English classes. Every PCV teacher has an Azerbaijani counterpart who learns new interactive teaching methods. At the end of each class, we sang a Raffi hit, "Five Little Ducks" and everyone loved the quack, quack, quack part. I laugh to think they'll be singing that song for years to come. FYI - My response to a question about Minnesota was that I live near the Mississippi River.

Best of all, I know I can do this. Pre-service Training is a stress-filled aberration compared to the daily activities and lessons taught in school.  Next week, we start practicum and I'll be standing in front of classes with the Azeri English teacher trying to show that I know what I'm doing. Inshallah - God Willing!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Learning to Teach

Along with learning to speak Azeri, we also have regular classes on how to teach English and new methods for English teachers here. I am very impressed with the materials and information that PC provides  us, but also amazed at current teaching methods. Best of all, teachers and students are eager to learn - especially if they have never heard a native-English speaker, particularly an American and not  someone from England.

All this information means that I am overloaded with books for teachers plus we follow the textbooks that are distributed to every class (also called form) by the Ministry of Education each year. We are encouraged to modify and change the lessons, and that is scary for me. Have I ever written a lesson plan? No!

My demo lesson plan will be on Planet Earth. (Thanks to Latitude store in St. Louis Park for the 2 inflatable globes I brought along.) I also have some Raffi songs about the big beautiful planet we call home and plan to teach that to 7th form students. All those wonderful songs I once sang with Anton. Lovin' it.

Today (Sunday night) I take the night train to Sheki, which is an ancient city in the Caucasas mountains and considered a tourist haven by Azerbaijanis. I'm looking forward to staying with current PCVs, but also Monday is National Independence Day here, so I'm hoping to get some great photos.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Livestock in my life

Oh this might make you think a little more about eating meat.
I see more animals along my route to school that I just had to add some photos to prove it. There's the pen of 6 goats watched over by a oh-so-typical elderly man in one of the persian wool hats. I'm trying not to be too obvious when I take photos, so haven't got a good photo of him yet. Of course there are chickens in the backyard, but mostly it's the butchers I hear sharpening their knives and a calf about a block away awaiting its fate.
Some other pics of the boulevard that I walk and the general condition of the street. I get the impression that I'm in a fast growing suburb of Sumgayit that is also having a housing downturn. That is, many new and vacant buildings. And did I mention no housing code? Men herding sheep along the street, little structures thrown up to sell fruits ad veggies, and 3 huge luxurious "wedding palaces" all along the same road. Plus people waiting along the street for the right-numbered marsrutka (minivan) to stop for a ride.

So here goes a few photos - server slows down when lots of PC trainees come here, so can't upload as many as I'd like. And yes, there are roosters in the neighborhood that wake me up a little before I hear the call for prayer from the local mosque.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Week 3 per Azerbaijani time

I've been catching up with some via email, but want to post more about my 2 weeks so far. Hard to believe nothing but action-packed days. As an older trainee I do have to admire all the effort that the PC staff here has put into the arrival of 63 potential volunteers. Indeed, it seems like herding cats. So many different personalities, experiences and expectations of all of us, I can't believe they've got all of us settled into housing with host families. And about all that any of us could initially say was: Salam, and how are you in Azerbaijani.
I have language lessons with 4 other women each morning at a nearby school - I walk about 1/2 mile to get there, walk home for lunch, then get on a bus to another school in Sumgayit for teacher training. Our cluster (5 of us) does have a language and culture facilitator with us most of the time. He is great.
I love my host family - especially the 50 year old mom who bakes bread a couple times a week. And then there are the hard boiled eggs from the chickens in the coop attached to the house. So fresh and so local. To really see what that means I'll attach a couple photos. I think Sumgayit can be compared to the Wild West. People came here from rural areas with rural livelihoods, so chickens,  goats, sheep are regular sights on my way to school.

And my name: yes, my host mom calls me Peggy, but she also started calling me alagews - which means blue eyes. There is a song by that name that she likes to sing to me. We smile and nod and point a lot.