Monday, April 21, 2008

robo cop

My whole town is being robo-coped, as it has been adequately named. EVERYTHNING is being fronted in this hideous silver and rarely gold, metallic looking paneling – every store business and building – it is not optional and I am told the stor owners have to pay for – that is not optional either – We are having an entire town “beautification” projects right now – all front streets are being renovated – new side walks, painting, lots of new monuments, ect. And then the robo coping of course – however, none of it extends off the main roads at all – For example – the preschool that I rant about –missing windows, holes in the floor, leaking roof, IDPs living in it, smells like piss ecause the plumbing does not work – is DIRECTLY behind the main renovation area on main street – It is just hidden by a line of trees and one of the fron buildings that did get renovated. And I hear, but am not certain that our main road – Nizaim street named after the famous poet from this region is being remained into Heydar Aliyeve St. – but I think they might be right because his statue just got taken down and is being moved to the outskirts of town. It is all aesthetic – I mean come on who needs real infrastructure - As I was sitting in the dark last night I started wondering – about the people and the mentality – here we are with no electricity because it is windy – No one does anything about it – yet the entire town is being renovated – Why do the people not see this as a serious issue, a failure of their government? – Denial, fear of speaking out, acceptance, lack of understand of the issues, lack of ability to think independently, cultural, (appearances are more important than anything else) – what? Why do they not look around like me and feel outraged? I have heard very intelligent people here state proudly that their president is a great one who cares about the people – But then you do talk to people who will say there is something wrong – and others who – in absolute privacy of course, will outright say the government and president are horrible and don’t care.

my poor soul

I get to take a trip to Turkey so I just read the lonely planet book for it – now I am reading the one for Azerbaijan looking for finding hiking places – and in the north there are some really good ones and in the south is nice and tropical –They are nothing close to as complimentarily about Azerbaijan as they are about Turkey, which is understandable and justified, but what I would like to quote is what they wrote about the middle part of the country, which includes where I live – and about a drive that I have taken many times – they call it, and I quote – “A soul-destroying trip across the desolate central steppes from Baki” And here I though it was desolately beautiful.

Whenever a storm comes along – wind rain thunder and lightning – a strange thing happens – all order breaks down in my house – in a matter of minuets my family is replaced with a tribe of apes – they scream and jump and run through the house, its crazy - my brother starts a screaming chants at the top of his lungs, rain rain rain as he runs back and forth – my sister is hopping in the air - It is like they all go mad and then slowly, very slowly they calm down – remarkable – sometimes I wonder if is is a lack of stimulus – This storm is a nice one – the winds starts it all– at first just making twirling - speeding - stinging dust storms then when the rain arrived it brought with is the lightning and the thunder, the best part - No claps of thunder - it rumbles in this deep base voice– literally shaking the house – I counted as one sounded for a full minute.

I wrote a while back about the Jehovah’s Witness who was being hassled and given a hard time – I friend of mine who know here well said she was still preaching – when asked if she did not get a hard time from people she said no because they really did not know very much about it – well have know fear – that has been taken care of – the just ran a commercial on state television with her picture blasting her for being a Jehovah’s witness. Now that is love of the people, right?

Sunday, April 6, 2008

the inards of what was a movie theater during soviet times - it now houses IDP's like most building but they evidently never cleaned it out

Ahhhh, the river /junk yard / landfill - how nice

These men are fishing - with two car batteries and a net - if we had thought to catch the ducks a little earlier or these geese a little later you would have seen come mad/freaked out poultry hauling ass.


The little girls here are very shy with me – though fascinated -they watch me from a safe distance, whispering then will turn toward me with round bright eye – scoping out whatever the just discussed - Our house is full of little girls, cousin and daughters of whoever – most 5 or 6 yrs old – so far only savinj will talk to me – probably because she sees me everyday-She is also the one who like to carefully study my eating habits. In general I don’t pay them much mind – they get cuddle, kisses and cooed over more than enough – the usually have a slightly disgusted look on their face threw it - sometimes I joke with them – in English because it is funny to me – Well well the other say a group of them got together – they must have been feeling bold – I was sitting outside in the grass reading – they came up – got much closer than usual – giggled a lot – I ignored them - they got closer – creeping up - soon they were squatting Azeri stile two feet form me staring – granted no one sits in the yard and barefoot – then they started talking – random English words they knew – Before long I was farley surrounded by a troop of monkeys all yelling Azeri or English words and me supposed to give the translation for it or me trying to ask them words – which they for the most part ignored and forged on – then we made a stick house. After a while of this I felt the need to flee, they pursued me as far at the front door – still yelling everything that came to mind or sight– One definite goodbye (sag ol) and I dashed in the house – safe – for then – a few days later I was laying in my room – I guess after figuring out I would not eat them they were eager to talk – they had found my window, lucky enough its too high for them to see in – high pitched little voices echoed my name – I am not ashamed to say I hid – froze, not making a sound till they gave up the hunt – Oddly enough I have been running into more friendly girls of all ages – They boys are always yelling at you but not the girls – but maybe they have seen me a couple times or maybe I have a friendly look lately – I have been listening to mitch hedberg as I walk – there is one little girl I love –She is probably 5 or so, her family runs a small fruit and veg hut attached to the outside of their gate – She is always watching me when I walk by – Like with all the girls I make an effort to smile and say hey to her – one day she got he courage to give a tentative salam – the next time she saw me coming she ran out into the sidewalk Thrust her little out and waited for me to come shake it – Well today I walked by - I happened to be on the opposite side of the street – No worries, she yelled laughed and jumped salams while multitudes of braids flying – it may draw more attention to me but its worth it.

I running into internal battles on the best methods helping – how do you help without making people dependent –or in this case making them more dependent - Just because they really need something should I get some money and fix it just bc I can or is it more beneficial to wait for them to do it even if it take 100 times at long and might never get done – how do you encourage them to to do it – how do you open peoples eyes to other possibilities and options– where is the line when It comes to doing what I think is important, am interested and want and what they think is important and want – because I cant really accomplish anything worthwhile with out their full support - what am I comfortable with – I know we all have to find our own internal balance follow our owe internal compasses – Im working on it but there must be a magnet close by

Women face bias worldwide - UN
Women are discriminated against in almost every country around the world, a UN-commissioned report says.
It says that this is despite the fact that 185 UN member states pledged to outlaw laws favouring men by 2005.
It adds that 70% of the world's poor are women and they own just 1% of the world's titled land.
The report, which was prepared for UN Human Right Commissioner Louise Arbour, says rape within marriage has still not been made a crime in 53 nations.
'Life-long violation'
The report was compiled by Fareda Banda, a law professor at London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).
At a news conference in Geneva, Prof Banda said that other laws discriminating women included statutes on divorce, maternity benefits and pensions.

EVERY woman I know has experienced discrimination or abuse
J K Holtz , Chicago

She said that even basic laws like the legal ages for marriage could have a huge impact on women's lives:
"Many states still have different ages of marriage for young women than they have for young men, and the age for girls is always lower then the age for boys.
"This leads to violations, for example of a girls' right education, if she has to leave school at 14 to get married, and this impacts upon her life chances.
"It ends up being a life-long violation of her rights in terms of forfeiting education, having children too early, possibly being damaged herself."
The report recommends the introduction of a new, separate mechanism to fight discrimination because existing UN and international human rights laws are not being upheld.

It also calls for a new UN expert to focus specifically on laws which damage women's chances in life.

Is it not surprising to anyone else that Armenia is in the samebracket as America, China and most of Europe, with Georgia closebehind, while Azerbaijan accompanies Iraq, Iran, Ethiopia, Venezuelaand Afghanistan in the highest bracket?

Monday, March 31, 2008

Novrus pictures


We just finished up our Novrus holiday. It is in celebration of spring and all Azeri people will tell you the calander new year may be January 1st but this is the real new year – the time of year when life returns and everything is growing – I think they are write – I was also told today that during their days in the soviet union they were forbidden to celebrate Novrus – but I think that was not exclusively for Novrus – I think it applied to all traditional Azeri holidays. The activities for Novrus stretch the whole month of march – Actually Novrus is on the 21-22 of March – but for some reason it is celebrated on the 20-21 now(?) For 4 Tuesdays before this date you make a bonfire – tonga- and jump threw it three times saying I leave all of my illness in this fire – then the Thursday before the final fire jumping Tuesday is the day all families – and by families I mean women – go to the graves and clean them and what not. On the last Tuesday/fire day the have the lost of extra fun and games – where they all cam from I am not sure – I don’t know if they are all Azeri traditions or have been picked up from other cultures – a lot of there holidays seem to have different elements in them – There is fortune telling – for the girls it revolves around marriage, one it you take a cup of water and a hair and ring from a married woman – you tie the ring with the hair and dip it in the cup of water 3 times them let it swing around in the cup clinking on the sides – however many times it clinks on the sides is the age you will be married – on that night some girls also eat VERY salty bread – then that night is they dream of a boy and he offers them water and they take it they are going to marry that boy - They also "paint" eggs (easter)– my family took eggs – tied them tightly in socks with pretty leaves pressed to them and boiled them in water with onion peals – they were beautiful – after eggs we did the hat thing – they take a hat – put it outside someone’s door knock on the door and hide – then the who ever opens the door is supposed to put goodies in the hat and put it back outside the door then you go get it (Halloween) Another ritual is that on actual Novrus night – in this case the night of the 20 and 21 people listen at others doors – if they people in the home are talking about good things it means you will have good luck for the year – if they are fighting and saying bad things you will have bad luck to everyone tries to say only good stuff – otherwise everyone is mad at you. Also every one grows this grain in a dish and then ties it with a red ribbon –just the grain is called samani and then there is another that is the grain but is surrounded by all type of food called xonca
For Novrus day yesterday I went with my family out to the village to visit their family – we went to 5 different houses in 6 hours and I was ate 4 different meals – I though I would be sick – And I did have fun but after hours of lots of new people speaking Azeri all at the same time, fast and being peered at(though not in a bad way) my head felt numb and I was exhausted – My family and all of their relatives are IDP’s. They are originally from the Agdam region, which is now occupies by Armenia – I guess my oldest sister was 1 or so when they fled – Two of the houses we went to were in n IDP camp – mad of tarps, mud bricks, plastic, reeds, old tin, what ever – it is strand though – even the most desolate house usually has a TV if not a satellite dish – Two other homes were in The New Settlements that have been built for IDPs – they are like freaky utopia, not because they are just perfect but because of how they look, especially in comparison to typical Azeri homes – all they houses exactly the same with little yard surrounded by chain link fences and individual pumps and outhouse – I love to watch the transformation – slowly they fence is covered with reeds and sticks - strand extra building are added made of any random think they can get their hands on – animals of any sort move in - etc. I just like it – the last house was my dads dad – he is a farmer – he lives in what during soviet times used to be a car garage – but by now it is all dilapidated with just skeletons of buildings left - by the time we got there it was dark but I want to go back when it is light – I hear he has two huge dogs – oh speaking of dogs, I saw something very interesting driving through the village the other day – there were two huge dogs on string with a group of people looking at them – I can only imaging by their size and the way the men were looking at them they were sheep dog and being sold – you would never see that in the city –I have on several occasions – especially when riding though the deserty sheep herders regions – seen people interaction with dogs – even petting them – I remember seem a man with a puppy following him one time – you could tell it was going to be huge and you knew it was his because he let it follow him – usually they chase them off viciously – another time I say a man just standing in the middle of nowhere with his hand resting on his dogs head - and even though they may not be respected they are valued in the villages for the service they provide – protection – I really want to get a herding dog and take him home –

Sunday, March 16, 2008

is work is work - and thats is as in work

With spring has come more work for me – Most people join the PC and are in a hurry to do something – anything – change something – get people going – Well they tell you flat out that at first there will not be much to do – that you have to make sure you are doing thing for them or things that they don’t really want in your eagerness to do something – and that even when you find people it will take forever – they are slow – For some reason people don’t listen – Maybe it is just my nature but I took another rout – I did not fight my org trying to get work – I offered – still offer but they don’t use me so I o my own stuff – not so say I have done much since I got here – I have been waiting – I figured it the people really wanted help they would come to me – if they did not have enough passion to seek assistance than they di not have that much passion for what they wanted – Well they have shown up –what PC id not say is that if they come to you they are probably moving at warp speed – too fast for me - I have one small cheese factory in a village( he searched me out in my office) – I am working with a group of Azeri women to develop a women’s center(they came up with the idea an asked for help) and am now working on an environmental camp( Ok this is my baby but if you wait around for Azeri people to come to you about the environment you might as well ie now)

I have a Gentleman named Habil – he used to work in Baki – the capital – evidently making good money but decided to quite and move to a the region into a village and start a business – for himself an to be able to give back to the rural community – he now has a small cheese producing plant – He had a couple problems he wanted help with – what he wanted the most was funding help – What I wanted most was to help with the business –I consider him fate because I grew up on a airy farm and my dad makes cheese now – So I have slowly moved funding to him and I am working with cheese – see ALL AZERI CHEESE IS EXACTLY THE SAME! It is white and either gooey or very salty – an oddly enough they don’t use a culture to make it so no take really – besides the salt – and one top of that every industry is dominated by monopolies to it is hard to sell it you are not the monopoly – so we are working to make a different cheese – one with culture and taste and maybe even color – if you were azeri here is where you look skeptical or maybe just baffled – we are making presses – and soon will have a recipe book to decide on a cheese then it will just be getting culture – we will have to had some stuff into his set up but it will be good - I am excited – I am also working on a label and logo for him so his cheese will be easily picked out – I just don’t know what to draw yet

My women’s center is a project I am SUPER DUPPER - cheesy excited about –They have voted to call it “The Ladies House” or “Xanim Evin” in Azeri - Ok I am trying to impress the need for a mission statement among other thing so I will give you mine and once I get one out of them maybe I will repost it –

Mission: To empower women through education and camaraderie

Well that is is in basic for – We want to offer all inclusive women’s services – genecology, cosmetology, psychology ,ect. –these services will be at a fee and will be how will are able to pay the bill – well some of them – but I am still pushing to have them offer at reduce fees especially for those who can not afford to pay – then we will have training on every thing useful an anything requested – family planning (though I hear the govt does not like this one but we will try) domestic abuse, woens rights, early childhood development, prenatal car, dental hygene. An last we want clubs and classes – computer club(there is no public place for women to go to the internet) lamaz classes, a dancing club, culinary classes, English clubs what not – and as much as anything just a place for women to be able to gather together – out side of there own homes so we want one room to be a “women’s cay xana” or women’s tea house – with couches to relax of and books to read. There is nothing like this in the region and it is desperately needed – the few org that do really work with women are located in Baki where it is much more liberal as it is – I am so excited but nervous too – I lay awake some night thinking about it – mainly sustainability- Azeris seem to get so eager sometimes they don’t stop to think about things like that – how will it last – how will we pay ALL the bill – who will run it – will they really care about it – what kind of structure will we give it – they are moving like 40 going west and it is hard to direct them to those logical problems – but I have faith – it will get there – all the same wich us luck.

My environmental camp is new and wont be held till June – they only other project I am really working on it with another volunteer at the preschool – we do art with them and we just build a small garden so we can plant whatnot and I am going to try to teach them about compost – we will see…… - me and sarah also just made them some puppets – but not sure why and they want us to paint a mural on the wall but I am not sure yet about that b/c paint is hard to come by sometimes. But I think it would be really fun to do that to I am thing about it – I have a few other this and that’s here and there but too tedious to mention – So I guess I am keeping busy these day – and to be honest it is better for me – too much down time do not sit well on me, especially here, and being able to help with things that I not only enjoy but I can see they are about gives me courage – it brings to mind why im here and sometimes I need that –

“Whatever you can do, or believe you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it”
- Goethe -