Saturday, March 17, 2012

Retraction: Spring is not here yet!

What was I thinking 10 days ago when I noted some signs of Spring? Overnight, (it's Saturday morning, March 17th), Masalli had 3 inches of heavy snow and the forecast is for -5 degrees Celsius on Sunday! I'm back to putting up a clothes line in my bedroom, wearing layers of warm clothes, keeping that heavy sleeping bag on my bed, cranking up the gas stove, and being amused by cold-blooded ducks wallowing in the muck in my yard. I have not heard a bird chirp for days.
Azerbaijan is in the midst of celebrating Novrus - the anticipation of Spring - but I think we are all in a funk. Reports of snow and ice and cold and wind are not exciting. One comfort is the food that is prepared for evening meals. 
I went "off text" Wednesday morning for 10th form class and asked students to name in English all the different foods they ate the night before; and also what things they did for Novrus. They reported jumping over fires seven times, hat-tossing, fire-crackers, telephoning or visiting family members, and watching Novrus in Baku on TV. 
They ate different things though, and it was fun to hear them discover what their classmates' families eat. Plov and roast chicken were traditional for all, while others said sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, mimosa salad, vegetable greens baked in scrambled eggs, dolmas, plain yogurt, fruit juices, fresh fruit, nuts, dates, Coke and Fanta. Of course, tea is served with lemon, sugar and candy.
I had dinner with site mate Sally at the home of her school's director, and recognized his wife's great culinary skills. I've eaten many of these same dishes during the past year, but hers were notably the best tasting. I suggested to Sally that we invite ourselves to her home for cooking lessons before we return to America. 
Here's a photo taken at the end of the meal. Note the wheat grass symbol.

Next Tuesday, March 20th the actual first day of Spring, I'm invited to the home of Naila, my school's director. I'm more interested in helping her with her leadership skills, but mostly curious about what her house is like and what food she will prepare. And what is her husband like???

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

How to Tell if it's Spring Yet

Little things I notice as the weather gets warmer:
  • I can hang clothes outside on the clothes line
  • Tiny blue flowers poke thru the trashy weeds in the yard
  • I cut back on the layers of clothes I wear
  • Only 1 pair of gloves instead of 2, and no need to wear a hat (some days)
  • I can turn off my gas stove for several hours
  • I can take the brown monster sleeping bag off my bed
  • The roads and mud start to dry out
  • I don't have to wear my rubber boots to school
  • Lots of walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds for sale at the bazar
  • Birds are chirping in the morning; and baby lambs bah-bah-ing
  • Daylight comes earlier and stays later; fewer cloudy days
  • People seem in a good mood.
The snow from a recent overnight storm has already melted. But the slog to school that first morning meant few kids attended plus the school had no heat. I did capture one brave little boy as he made his way ahead of me. It's no wonder that Novrus is so anticipated. It's been a long Winter.