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Charleston, SC, United States
"Fear is a stranger to the ways of love. Identify with fear, and you will be a stranger to yourself." -ACIM

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Another Wedding; Another Experience

In case you haven’t been keeping up with the blog and don’t know how weddings in my Azeri village work, let me give you a little update. There are a thousand little traditions and steps that need to be taken over the two-night affair. The first night takes place at the girl’s house; the second at the guy’s. The girl’s family hosts the guy’s family and friends the first night and after much music playing, dancing and of course drinking, everyone goes home.

Last night in Muganlo was night two of my host-family’s cousin’s wedding. This guy is pretty cool and has always been a friend to me ever since I got there. So night two was at his house which is right next door to our house and of course I had to be there. And being as where I am considered one of the cousins and being a younger guy, I actually had a role to play in night two.
Here’s how it works. All the males get together at his house at about 3:30 or 4 o’clock in the afternoon and start drinking. Thankfully it’s not that much since everybody knows we have a long night ahead of us. This is what we do to keep ourselves occupied while all the women of the family set up for the huge feast that is to come. Sure, every now and then we move a table or a bench here to there and back again, but for the most part we don’t do too much. That is until 5 o’clock. At five we load up with one last shot and start the procession to the girl’s house to “take” her. This is all traditional at this point and all we’re doing is taking her back to his house for night two of feasting and then she stays there for good.

But, half the fun of this is the procession. It is led by two boys who each carry a sheep around their shoulders. Behind them come all the guy’s male friends and relatives dancing, clapping and yelling. Behind the males is the band consisting of a drummer, accordion player and clarinetist. After the band come the female members of the family carrying gifts for the girl from them as a welcoming to the family. After the women come the cars all honking and flashing their lights. In the front car is the groom, his best-man and either parents or siblings. The cars behind them rank by family status or friendship. For example, one of my host-brothers was driving the second car since he is a cousin and close friend of the groom and he was carrying in his car some older female members of the family who couldn’t make the walk. The other two host-brothers were out in front dancing and marching with me.

Now this dancing procession takes as long as it takes to get from the guy’s to the girl’s house. In last night’s case it was about 30 minutes. This wasn’t the first time I’ve been in one of these, but it was the first time that I’ve ever been in one that has to pass a house that is currently hosting a funeral. Normally the goal of a wedding procession is to make as much noise as possible to draw people out of their homes to see them and congratulate the family. But, as we rounded one corner the groom’s brother yelled out and told the band in not so polite terms to, “shut the hell up!” He then proceeded to run back and yell at the women and then the cars holding his hand in the air.

So, for the next “block” (we don’t really have blocks, but it’s what I would call a section of the street) we all walked in silence. As we passed the home where the funeral was taking place, all the men removed their hats, the women lowered the gifts and the cars turned off their lights. But, as soon as we got off that street, the brother lowered his hand and yelled “Dance!” “Music now!”

After we had a few songs in I noticed he ran up and berated the boys up front with the sheep for taking us down that street. But, none the worse for wear, we made it to the girl’s house. Her father comes out, opens the gate and then the brother of the groom kills the first sheep at the entrance. After the thing is dead, we all go in. Here we (the males and females) must dance some more in the courtyard as if to say ‘we’re here and we’re here to party then take your daughter.’

At this point, as is the case in every culture, we’re just waiting on the girl to get ready. The female members of the male’s family all go upstairs to help get her things together while the men stand around and drink anything that was left over from the night before. This last for about another 30-45 minutes before eventually the groom’s mother or aunt calls down for he and his best man to come and ‘take’ the girl. This is also the cue for the procession to form up again and get ready for the march back.

This time the numbers grow just a bit as we take on more cars for the girl’s close family and a few friends will also join the marchers. This time our leader (the groom’s brother) insists that we take a different route as to not go by the funeral. The boy whose job it is to carry the second sheep back is not too enthused with this as it will add an additional few minutes to the march. But the brother was obviously not moved by his complaints since the boy received a swift kick to the back-side for his whining.

The march back is the same as the one on the way there just more people and cars. But, once we get there the family has strung a giant red ribbon over the entrance blocking our way. The only way to get in is for the bride and groom to walk up to the ribbon and cut it as the new happy couple. But where is the knife you ask? Well it’s here! being used to cut the throat of the second sheep. Here you go brother, use this bloody knife to cut this ribbon. Hurray! goes the crowd.

Once the bride and groom walk in everyone else follows and finds their places at two long tables set up for the feast. Men at one table women at the other of course. Thankfully last night I found a seat next to my host-dad, uncle and one of the male teachers from my school. Once you sit down at one of these things, there is no switching seats so seat selection is key. By this point its near 8 o’clock and time for the feast to begin. The groom’s father makes the first toast welcoming everyone and appointing a toast-master or ‘Tamada.”

Really after this there are no real points of interest. Music plays, the Tamada makes a toast, everybody drinks. Well, everyone except the women of course. They’re out of there after about the 5th or 6th toast in order to clear the table for other guests and to prepare more food. After that it’s loud music, toast, and drink; repeat. There is a whole set of dancing rules and in which order which people dance, but I’ve yet to develop an interest in figuring that one out. I just go when my host-brothers go or when my host-dad tells me to go in his place. It’s not that interesting trust me. And, dancing here is easy. You just move around in a circle with the other people with your arms in the air flicking your wrists back and forth yelling “O-Paa!”

All of this goes on till well after midnight and I really have to hand it to my host-dad because even after these long nights he is up at 7 in the morning and on his way to work. I can’t say the same for my host-brothers since they were still asleep when I left at 9 this morning.

But, that was a brief glance at what it’s like to take part in a wedding in Muganlo. Sorry, no pictures for this since I didn’t take my camera. All the dancing and marching can sometimes get a little rough so I decided to leave it at home. Also, you never know when a cousin from the bride’s family might have a problem with a brother or cousin from the groom’s family and start a fight. I’ve seen plenty of those and been involved in more than one unfortunately. But, when my host-brother start fighting, I’m there with them. Luckily, last night was not one of those type nights. Apparently everybody was friendly and in the New Year’s spirit.

Hope you all have big plans for New Year’s Eve and stay safe out there. I hear its cold in America these days. So far so good here this winter and it hast gotten too bad… yet.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The week leading up to Christmas

I’m getting the best gift for Christmas. No school until January 20th! I’m only bummed that my mom’s packages didn’t get here in time for me to have them for Christmas. I was hoping to have them so that I could give my host-family gifts on Christmas, and so I could have stuff to stuff my stocking with for Christmas morning. But, I got word this morning that they are hung up in customs and I probably won’t be able to get them until next week. No big deal, my family is Muslim, so they’d probably rather have them on New Year’s anyway. That’s the big holiday here and everyone decorates for it like its Christmas anyway.

This week was a fun one. I was not sick for the first time in about two and a half weeks and I decided to forego trying to teach my kids anything since half of them weren’t showing up for the last week of school and my counterparts were more interested in finally getting around to filling out the grade books in order to get the final semester grades in by Friday afternoon. So instead, I just played review games with them and on the last day tried to teach two of my groups Jingle Bells. More on that later.

This past Sunday was interesting. I came home from a weekend away to find that nobody was home. Not one of the 15 people living in my house for the past 3 weeks was there. Never in my 18 months of living there has this happened. So, I call the host-dad. My 15-year-old host-brother answers and said they were all visiting relatives in another village and to “jump” over the fence. Now this is no easy task since that fence is 9 feet tall. But, I managed even with an old lady who was herding her turkeys watching me with a look on her face that said, ‘Crazy American.’ After I climbed over I just hung out in my room for a few hours since the entire house except for the kitchen was locked up. Around 7:30 that evening the host-brother calls back and in broken English tells me, “Car don’t work. We be home late, you need eating. Go chicken and make. We home late.” Now only because I’ve lived with him for this long did I understand that I needed to go to the kitchen and make myself some food since they would be home later that evening.

Problem number one: I never go in the kitchen. That is my host-mom’s territory and she does not let people in there. So, I have no idea where anything is or even how to turn on the stove. Luckily, I’m not a complete moron and was able to figure out how to get the gas balloon to filter gas to the stove and get it lit. The problem was the only available options to me were: re-heat the boiled sheep, re-heat the eggs from that morning, re-heat some cow’s stomach or starve. I thought about skipping the meal altogether. Then, if the situation wasn’t funny enough already, Mom calls from America. While laughing it up with her on my current situation I found some oatmeal in one of the cabinets and opted to eat that. Thankfully, Mom was able to tell me the water to oatmeal ratio for a bowl of warm goodness. I had to eyeball it since there are no measuring cups, but it turned out ok. Mom and I chatted it up while I was waiting on the water to boil and till I made it back to my room and ate. And wouldn’t you know it, as soon as I finished my bowl of oatmeal, the host-family gets back. They were concerned that I hadn’t eaten, but I showed them that I had and all were satisfied even if my host-mom was slightly skeptical.

Also this week my family decided to bring back the mid-week shower. So on Wednesday we all got a hot shower and cleaned up. When I first got there last year we took showers every Sunday and Wednesday, but that stopped last winter and we were restricted to Sundays only. While I hate the once a week bath, I had forgotten how nice it is to get that mid-week shower and shave. It was awesome! However, I have my doubts as to whether this will continue in future weeks.
So overall the not being sick, having a night to myself and the mid-week shower combined to make this a pretty good week. Well we still have the visiting relative and the 15 people in the house, but whatever.

Like I said, I spent most of Monday through Thursday just playing games with my kids and making up grades with my counterparts. They are so lax about marking down grades during the semester so on the last week they all make this mad rush to calculate up the grades that I’ve written down in the grade books and add in some of their own to make the final score come out the way they want it. “Let’s give her a 10 because she’s a good girl and him an 8 because he’s good and for the kid that never comes, a 6.” They won’t let me fail anyone no matter if the kid hasn’t shown up at all or even bothered to make any effort. I washed my hands of that last year and now I just laugh at them and make sure that my favorite kids who do semi-consistent work get either 9s or 10s.

As a treat, like I said I played games with the kids who showed up and then took class photos. You’ll see in the pictures below my 5th and 6th grade classes. I didn’t bother with my 9th or 10th graders; none of them were there. I also had 15 minutes left in the semester to teach them Jingle Bells. You’ll watch a shortened version of two groups trying it out below. Not bad for just 15-20 minutes, but one group just couldn’t quite get it. I’m also glad that I don’t have classes on Fridays so I got to miss today New Year’s concert at school. Last year’s was a train wreck and nearly blew my eardrums and bored me to death at the same time. Another Christmas gift. No concert for me this year.

Well I’m off to watch some football games I’ve got downloaded and try and get some sleep tonight. This week despite the fun was not a good sleep week. Ugh. Why is 4 a.m. my brain’s preferred wake-up time? And then again at 4:30, 5:15, 5:35,… and so on till I have to get up at 7:30. Send drugs! I’ve had enough!

Never mind that. I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year’s! I miss you all and hope to hear from you soon.

6G (well, most of them)

6A (half of them)

6B (the only ones that matter anyway)

5B (with my Azeri counter-part)

video video

Monday, December 13, 2010

Rumble and Grumble

Another week has begun and my head-cold is still here. Sniff sniff sniff. Can’t breathe; can’t sleep; the only positive is that I can’t really taste either. Too bad this week we actually had some chicken and beef rather than the usual boiled sheep. They were also just boiled, so no big loss on not being able to taste them. I am feeling a little better today and hopefully by the end of the week I’ll be back to normal.

The not sleeping part is the worst at this point. I’ll sleep for about 3 hours and then it’s awake for 30 minutes, sleep for 30 until my alarm goes off in the morning. Talk about some crazy dreams too. Wow. Last night I had a dream about sitting down and eating a BBQ sandwich and drinking sweet tea. And, not just any sandwich, it was one of those on the plain buns served on paper with the sauce dripping out the sides. And, the tea was in a styrofoam cup with that crushed ice that sinks the lemon somewhere into the middle of the cup. Yum! But, then I just woke up to a dry mouth and needed more water before lying awake for a while thinking about how much I want a BBQ sandwich. There have been a ton of other weird dreams too, but none worth retyping here.

This week in Muganlo is some kind of Shia Muslim holiday. Not exactly sure which one, but it’s an all week Southern Baptist style revival a couple of streets over from my house. To me it just sounds like an extended call to prayer that lasts from 6-9 p.m. every night. It has something to do with the prophet Ali and him killing some Sunni from what I gathered, but don’t quote me on that one. Not a big deal and only one of my host-brothers is going to it. My host-dad says he doesn’t feel like it because he would have to show up late after he gets home from work. I think my host-dad Sunni anyway, (at least that’s what he’s told me) so I’m not sure why my host-brother is going. I need to ask more questions about that later.

While all this was going on, I spent Sunday installing the pecha or wood-burning stove in my room. It’s supposed to turn really cold here this week, so I figured I had better get that thing out of the shed, clean it off, test the pipes for leaks and get it in my room. Last night it was so nice and warm in my room but then I remembered that for the next several months all of my clothes are going to smell like I’ve been camping. Great. But, I’d rather smell like a campfire and be warm than smell like I normally do and be cold.

There really is nothing else to report. Only two weeks of school to go till the Winter break and then another six months after that. I hope everyone is well and getting ready for Christmas.

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Rugby, turkey and other foot and ball based sports

I hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving I know I did. This year was so much better than last year simply because I got to spend it in the company of my friends here in Georgia. My toast was, “When you can’t be with your family, friends are the next best thing.” I went a couple of towns over and spent a great evening with 4 other volunteers and had some good food and tequila! Yes, tequila. It was great, but like every tequila night, I ended up with a black eye. Not a big deal, but let’s just say it was entertaining.

So this week is Rivalry Week in college football and you know I can’t keep my two cents out of that. But, on Saturday the U.S. National Rugby Team (#15 in the world) came to Georgia to play the 16th ranked Georgian squad. A friend of mine got us tickets and so we went into a hostile stadium to cheer on the boys in blue. By the time we got in and sat down the US was down 6-0. Not a problem, they ended up taking a 17-12 second half lead into the final minute of the game. Then, on some kind of fumble and miscue, the Georgians were able to pick it up and score to win 19-17. The place went nuts! It was a really cool game and it was fun to watch. The US team missed four kicks though and it got me wondering, with a nation full of High School kickers, we couldn’t find one that could make a 25 yard field goal? Really?

One of my favorite parts was the translation from the female announcer. Whenever Georgia took the lead she was all excited and upbeat in her announcements. Whenever America went up she just sounded all dead pan and depressed. You’ll notice in the videos below. video

Anyway, on to the real foot and ball based sport. College Football’s Rivalry Week! I’m not even going to break it down by games of the week, just show you some scores that I enjoyed.

#2 Auburn over #11 Alabama 28-27
Wow. Alabama was up big early and then Cam Newton despite all the controversy came back and played one hell of a game. But the real story was the often questioned Auburn defense that just shut down Alabama in the second half. What a game. Auburn should be able to cruse next week against South Carolina in the SEC Championship and right into the National Title Game.

#19 Nevada upsets #4 Boise State 34-31 in Overtime
Ahhh. BSU had to play a decent opponent on the road and lost. Anyone surprised by this? Not me. Now, there is no way they should have lost this game and I’m pretty sure their kicker will never be able to live safely in the state of Idaho, but no big loss there in my opinion. Missing two kicks that were virtual chip shots at the end of the game to lose it is bad bad bad. No BCS Bowl for you Boise State. Better luck next year.

Who loves the Boise State loss more? #7 Wisconsin who blew out Northwestern 70-23; #8 Ohio State who beat Michigan 37-7 or maybe #10 Michigan State who beat Penn State 28-22. Certainly not #9 Oklahoma State who lost to #13 Oklahoma 47-41. And Definitely not #5 LSU who got tripped up by #12 Arkansas 31-23.

The point I’m trying to make here is that with the #4 team dropping out the Big-10 has a huge play at grabbing 2 BCS spots. The Big-12 is on the outside looking in and the SEC now only has one major contender since LSU isn’t headed to a BCS Bowl this year. Good for #3 TCU though who beat New Mexico 66-17 and should be headed to a major BCS spot.

Other great rivalries that I think deserve a mention here are:
#16 Virginia Tech over Virginia 37-7 gaining their 10th straight win in the rivalry.
#17 Texas A&M over Texas 24-17. Normally I don’t care about this game because Texas normally wins, but this is their first losing season since 1997. Wow.
#18 South Carolina over Clemson 29-7. Thank God. Clemson fans suck and are so obnoxious and I’d rather hear the redneck fans of USC have bragging rights over the redneck fans of Clemson.
#20 Utah over BYU 17-16. Ahhh Mormons.
#22 Florida State over Florida 31-7. YES! Man I hate Florida and with the win FSU gets to go play for the ACC Championship.
Notre Dame over USC 20-16. It’s the Irish’s first win in the series since 2001 and USC can’t go to a bowl game due to their cheating past.
Georgia over Georgia Tech 42-34. Glory! Glory! to ol’ Georgia! I never thought they’d make bowl eligibility this year after they way they started but low and behold a win over hated GT and we’re in.

Oh football. I love you.
Peace everybody!

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Week in Review

And what a week it was. I should stop being surprised by things, but its part of the reason I love being a Peace Corps Volunteer. Every day is different and you never know what’s going to happen until you get up and get to it.

This week was one of the three Bayrams of the year. This one was Eid al-Adha or Kurban Bayram. No, this is not the one where we get beaten with sticks and forced to dance in the street; that’s in Spring. This one is known as The Festival of Sacrifice and closely resembles our Thanksgiving in that families who can afford it buy a sheep, kill it and then give half the meat away to families who cannot afford one. They all sit down on the second day and have a feast and in general give thanks for what they have while trying to help those who have not. There is no drinking during this holiday; however families can eat whatever they like. Guess what they like… sheep.

So Monday was a normal school day since the holiday ran from Tuesday to Thursday. Our School Director told us that we could have one of the three days off from school so we actually voted and chose to be off on Tuesday. Not too bad since Monday and Tuesday are my busiest days and I had no problem with missing both my classes and after school classes on Tuesday.

I did run into one funny thing on the way home Monday though. It always strikes me as funny when someone in my village doesn’t know who I am. I was walking home and gave my traditional Salam to one of the old guys who sits on the side of the road everyday watching life go buy. But on Monday there was a guy there with him that I did not recognize. They both returned my Salam and then the conversation in Azeri went something like this:

“Who is that?”
“Oh, that’s the English teacher.”
“Where is he from?”
“He’s from America.”
“He lives here?”
“Yes. He lives with the Mammedovs down the road there.”

And generally that’s where the conversation stops. Or, at least that’s as much of it that I hear since I’m still walking as they chat away. I guess since we have such a transient population of migrant workers that there are people that don’t know me, but I hear that conversation at least once a month. And, 99% of the time its positive, because all the old men know me and always see me walking to work and back chatting with kids and have seen me at weddings and holidays not being all drunk and stupid. Big respect for drinking and not being a drunk who doesn’t go to work I guess.

Tuesday like I said was a day off and I didn’t do too much since my host-dad went to work and it wasn’t all that warm out. However, I did discover Tuesday morning that we were out of water. Nothing like brushing your teeth outside from a bucket of water drawn from the well while its 40 degrees out. Good morning!

Wednesday it was back to school. The kids were having a soccer tournament all day so a lot of the boys weren’t in class. Not a big loss there. However, I did have a great moment when I got to my last class of the day and all the girls were there with one of the boys who wasn’t playing in the tournament. Their classmates were playing at the time and I asked them, “Do you want to have English class or go watch your friends and then go home?” They voted unanimously to have class! I was like, Hot Damn! I gave them the best lesson I could and made sure we played a game before class was over. Love it when stuff like that happens!

My high was knocked down a bit though when I got home and realized I was too late to help in the sheep slaughter. The thing was not only already dead, but Akif (Host-dad) had already hung it up, given half of it away and was about 75% of the way through cutting up all the meat. (Hence, no pictures with this post.) And, there was a policeman at our house! Now, I’ve lived in Muganlo for over a year and have never seen a cop in our village. Not one. They just don’t come up there. He and Akif were having a very serious talk and I had to sit down with them and have tea. They were speaking Georgian, so I had only half an idea of what they were talking about. Once he finally left, I asked Akif what the deal was. He said, “Our region has a new police chief and he’s sending cops around to check people’s gun registrations. All mine are registered so I let him look.” Um. Okay. I then asked about other people in the village. Akif had a laugh and then said,”Don’t worry, everyone knows he’s here and walking around. If they have guns without registration, they’ll either hide them or pretend they aren’t home or not be able to speak Georgian. He won’t find anything.”

I had to laugh about that. Yes, we all have guns. No, you won’t find them if we don’t want you to. Anyway, we had a good dinner that night of boiled sheep and potatoes. I don’t know why I thought our diet would change just because it was a holiday.

Thursday was just a normal day of class and we closed out the holiday with more boiled meat. The only thing that was really bothering me was that we were still out of water and sanitation was starting to worry me. Not only were we all washing our hands out of a bucket, I’m not too sure that everyone was doing that with any regularity. There was a sheep slaughter, food prepared, food served, dished dirtied, the usual stuff; all without any regular water source. This is nothing new. I would say that in any given month we go without water for at least one week consecutively, and a few random days here and there. But, for some reason this week it was on my mind more than usual. I guess it was all the blood all over the place on Wednesday. Oh well. Hopefully we’ll have water back by Sunday for bath night. If not… well let’s just say it’s not going to be good.

Have a great weekend everyone and I hope you all had a good Kurban Bayram whether you knew you were supposed to or not.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Friday November 12, 2010

Another week down. Yep, it’s only Friday, but my week is over. I love not having class on Friday.

Today I’m off to visit my friend Ben for the night and probably make some good food and watch a football game that I have downloaded. Andrew, what is this post about anyway? Well, I’ll tell you. It is about my day yesterday. On we go…

The day started off ‘normal’ enough. I got up, had some coffee and rushed off to work. I had to answer a thousand questions once I got there about why I had decided not to attend a wedding the night before. I told them I fell asleep while reading a book, but the truth was, I just didn’t want to go. It was one of the teacher’s sons that was getting married. He’s a guy I’ve never met and I’ve only spoken to his mom a handful of times anyway. The only reason I was invited is because they love having a foreigner on video attending their weddings. Like some kind of trophy. No thank you.

All of my classes went surprisingly well and I finished up the day with my little 5th graders. Love those little buggers. So much energy. Too bad not all of it is directed at learning. During one of my class breaks one of the male teachers challenged my to a 3-game set of backgammon. He was talking trash too like he was going, “to teach me how to play.” I beat him 3-0 to the delight of the other two teachers who were watching.

I got stopped on my way home by a drunken uncle asking me to relay a message to my host-dad. The message was, “Let’s drink tonight.” I told my host-dad once he got home, but he laughed it off telling me, “Oh, he’s been drunk for 3 days now. Better to let him sleep it off.” Right.

Besides, my host-dad had a ‘special’ treat prepared. “We’re going to have a great dinner. Nana is in there cooking it now. Go wash up!” Now I never like when he uses the words exotic, special or delicacy. But, I had my hopes up since for the three previous days all we’ve had to eat is bread and a soup that lacked anything anyone would call a flavor. And no, oil is neither a flavor nor a member of any food group. I didn’t smell anything like sheep wafting out of the kitchen so I was doubly happy. Be careful what you wish for when you wish for variety!

What came out was this giant bowl of… something. Grease was the main component I could tell right off the bat but the rest took some investigating. “Wait! NANA! Bring the Cha-Cha!” my host-father screamed. “We need to have a lot of cha-cha for this delicacy.” There was one of those key words again. And cha-cha for those of you that haven’t read about it here before is the home-made vodka. So as we munched on some bread waiting to make the first cha-cha toast my host-dad explained what we were about to eat. “Potatoes, and goat! Very young goat. Very best. Here is all insides. Very good for your health. Very exotic.” Now that he had covered all the key words that translate to gross and we had taken our first shot, it was time to dig in.

Now I hate liver of any kind or source. The taste is bad and I can never wrap my mind around the fact that I’m eating the filter of the animal who was eating God knows what. So naturally I scoop a piece of that on my plate first. To tell you the truth it all looked the same so I wasn’t sure what I was getting at first. There were also pieces of lung, heart and intestine. Lung; chewy but not bad. Heart; not as chewy and pretty tasteless. Intestine; not that bad of a taste but again there is the idea of what its function was. Not that I could have enjoyed it all that much anyway. Everything was coated in grease and the cha-cha has a tendency to overpower everything else anyway. Plus that damned liver taste. Now, was this the worst thing I’ve ever eaten? No. Not by a long shot. But it was bad. Good thing host-dad was in the mood to put back 7 shots of the home brew and have me there with him every step of the way.

Needless to say, we had a few laughs and I made it through the meal without any problems then went off and slept like a rock. However, this morning’s trip to the outhouse was a particularly bad one. I was about the 6th person to drag my hangover in there this morning and everyone had eaten what I had eaten… well we’ll just leave you there.

This morning one of my aunts was on the marshrutka to the capital with me and berated me as soon as I got on. “You look too thin! Are you not eating at home? Do they not feed you? What will your mother say when she sees you? You need to eat more!” I was laughing my ass off because all I could see was goat and home-made vodka and I was thinking, ‘amazing I eat at all.’

Today, like I said I’m going to visit a friend and am in the capital for just a few hours to pick up some documents from the office, take a shower and then head out. Have a good weekend everyone! And, eat something exotic would you?

Monday, November 8, 2010

November Update

I noticed that I haven’t been writing this blog the way that I’d like to and it’s time to recommit to doing some more writing about my time here in Georgia and posting some more creative stuff as well. Meaning, the college football blog may be no more for this year at least. I have a hard time getting Internet on the weekends a lot of the time and to tell you the truth, I think I already know how it’s all going to play out based off of what we’ve seen this year so far. So, let me get that out of the way first before I move on to an update on what’s going on here in Muganlo and with me in general.

The BCS standing this week are as follows:
1. Oregon .9638
2. Auburn .9611
3. TCU .9259
4. Boise State .8662
5. LSU .8170
6. Stanford .7454
7. Wisconsin .7349
8. Nebraska .7298
9. Ohio State .6613
10. Oklahoma State .6211

Oregon should run the table and play for the National Championship. Auburn will lose a game, either by being upset by Georgia this week (yeah right) at Alabama in two weeks, or in the SEC Championship Game. That will knock them out of the Championship Game because no way does TCU or Boise State get locked out of playing if both are undefeated. LSU or Auburn will go to the Sugar Bowl, while Stanford will go to the Rose Bowl (since Oregon will be in the big game) and play either Wisconsin or Ohio State. Nebraska will end up playing either TCU or Boise State while Oklahoma State will get the loser of the SEC Championship Game (South Carolina or Florida). That’s just how I see it happening and I could be way off, but I just don’t see keeping up with it till Championship weekend cause there are too many possible upsets in the 10-20th ranked teams and the top 10 should remain solid till the Championship Games are played.

Now on with the news of me. This past week was spent at a compound outside of Tbilisi for what Peace Corps calls an All-Volunteer conference. Meaning not only was my group there but also the new group (all the volunteers). It was a good couple of days and we learned a little, laughed a little and had some fun. I taught two classes (one on stress management and one on teaching to multi-level classes) both of which were highly rated by those in attendance. So, that was good. Glad that the other volunteers thought that what I had to say was useful.

I also took an exam in Russian to see how I’m progressing in that. I scored an Advanced Low. That may sound good, but to me it just means that I haven’t gotten any better since I got here. And, while it may be hard to move up once you get into the advanced category, I thought I should have done better. In fact, my examiner said that while my fluency and confidence was way up, my accent was down and I was making a few too many grammatical mistakes. Basically what she said was that I’ve been living in a rural village for over a year and I’m starting to sound like them. What does that mean you ask? It means I’m speaking Redneck Russian! Ugh! So, I spent what Internet time I had this week downloading Russian tapes and dialogues so that I can spend some time this winter listening to real Russians speaking Russian. I’m also going to commit to spending at least 3 hours a week going over grammar and new vocabulary so that I can try to erase 18 months of bad habits.

At the end of the conference we all had a nice Thanksgiving dinner. It was only November 5th, but it was the last time that we would all be together, so why not? The turkeys were great (provided by the Radisson Hotel Group) and a group of volunteers also got together to cook all the side dishes. They worked really hard and it was very appreciated by everyone. I did none of the cooking by the way to make sure I still had the energy to eat my fill of non-boiled sheep based foods.

We also got together every night and played games (flag football, baseball tossing, Frisbee, monopoly, cards and other games). Football was fun and it was nice to have enough people to actually play a decent game. I and a volunteer from the new group won at Monopoly one night so that was fun. I forgot how much trash talking you can do during board games. “Pay up B#@*H!”

After the conference a small group of us went out and played fast-pitch softball with the local Georgian school in Tbilisi. The girls (with our help) are getting a lot better after what was our 5th or 6th game with them. We still won 14-4, but they are getting better. I spent some time with their catcher working on her stance this week so that she can improve her throws and do a better job of blocking balls in the dirt. My friend Ben is working on a grant right now to try and get them some money to improve their field and so we can go for a few weeks in the late Spring to run a camp for them on the fundamentals of the game. That should be a lot of fun and good for the girls to take the next step.

Speaking of grants, I finished writing the grant for my school and we should be getting a little over $2,000 sometime in December. At that point I will be spending a lot of time working with a few teachers to overhaul one of our classrooms and outfit it with new windows, a door, bookshelves, desks, chairs, install a light, paint the walls, patch the roof… Yeah, it’s going to be a lot of work. But, the end result will be a better learning environment and a place where I can put all those books that I had sent over. My kids will love it and it’ll be a source of pride for the school.

Speaking of school… There are 7 more weeks till the Winter Break. This conference was the half way point of the semester and a much needed rest. I still feel motivated and ready to go every day, but I’m just having problems motivating my students. It’s so hard and they are so unwilling to do anything outside of class. A lot of that blame goes on their parents, but part of that is my job as their teacher. I’m trying, but man is it tough. For example, one of my 9th grade girls (a 14-year-old) just got engaged this past weekend. She will finish out this year and then stay home getting ready to start a family. Now how am I supposed to motivate her to do a damned thing?
She didn’t even bother bringing a pen to school today much less a notebook or a book. I tried the ‘what do you want to be when you grow up’ thing as an overall motivational tool but what 6th grader thinks that far ahead? They all want to be soccer players or police men. Hard to be a police man in Georgia when you don’t speak Georgian. I don’t know. Like I said my motivation is still high and it’s year two; the year when you make that push to turn the corner and make a difference in your community.

I doubt I’ll be taking a winter vacation since I need to get this classroom built and I don’t have enough money to take both a winter trip and one for my birthday in March. I think it would be better if I just stayed here, got this project completed and saved my money so I and take a killer trip in the spring. Our COS conference should be in mid-March so I can go to that and then just jet out of here for two weeks. Amsterdam is looking like my destination of choice at this point with Budapest in a close second. I’ll just have to wait and see.

Well that’s all that I can really think of to update you on right now. Hopefully I’ll be able to do more of this and spend less of my Internet time on football. Congrats to the Giants by the way for winning the World Series and GO FALCONS!!!


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Bye Week

I'm taking a bye week to muorn the loss of hope in Athens, Georgia. What a great 4th quarter. What a heart-breaking OT loss.
The sun will come up tomorrow.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Week 8 Looked Great!

While Week eight did in fact look great, I have to say that I had a bad taste in my mouth leading up to it. I sat and wondered why that was for the longest time and then remembered that Week Eight is the Return of the BCS Standings!!!. Duhn Duhn Da Naaaah! Let the complaining begin! Computers and computer nerds will now tell us who the number one team in the land is. This week’s winner: Oklahoma! Not Oregon… Oklahoma! Forget it. I’m not even going to spend the 10 pages I need to explain this.

Instead, I’ll say Happy Birthday to my Mom! Happy Birthday Ma’! While she is a much bigger NFL fan and probably only reads this because I write it, she does follow the college football blog loyally. Thanks mom.

Let’s get on with…

#11 Missouri over #1 Oklahoma 36-27
Oklahoma turned the ball over 3 times and gave up 16 points in the 4th quarter. Hope they enjoyed being the #1 team for a week. Their defense also gave up 486 total yards. Wow. Not that I thought Oklahoma should have been ranked number one this week, but I did think they had a better defense than that. Congrats to Missouri who now sits at 7-0 and in control of the Big-12. They should also get a big push from the computers this week and could be sitting in the top 5 come Sunday afternoon. But, next week is going to be a big test on the road at Nebraska.

#4 Auburn over #6 LSU 24-17
I’ll admit I laughed a few weeks ago when somebody said they thought Cam Newton was the front runner for the Heisman. I’m not laughing any more. He is leading Auburn in every category. This week he only passed for 86yds and 0TDs going 10 for 16. But, he ran the ball 28 times for 217 yards and 2TDs. Auburn is now 8-0 and the SEC’s last remaining undefeated team thanks to Mr. Newton and should be able to cruise to the Iron Bowl matchup against Alabama at the end of the year. LSU has a top 10 defense and lives by that defense. However, in this back and forth game they just had no answer for Newton and Auburn’s run game.

#13 Wisconsin over #15 Iowa 31-30
What a game! Fake puts, 8 lead changes, a final drive to win it and positioning for bowl games for both teams. Ohio State has the Big-10 under control for the moment, but both of these teams were looking to make a claim on Saturday night. Did you know that with the Badger’s win this series is now all tied up at 42-42-2? They’ve played each other 86 times and this was a great one to tie it all up. Man I wish I could have seen this game.

#16 Nebraska over #14 Oklahoma State 51-41
What happens when Oklahoma State’s offense meets Nebraska’s defense? A low scoring game right? Nooooo. Offense! Offense! Offense! See below for our player of the week from this game. Nebraska to me got two wins this week. One they erased the loss to Texas last week and two they beat another top 15 team to help them get back up in the rankings. They also showed that they are a much better team than they were last week by going on the road and taking care of business. The Huskers are now 6-1 and have a chance to take back the Big-12 next week when Missouri comes to town. I hope they win so they can have a shot at leaving the Big-12 as Champs.

Unranked Iowa State over #19 Texas 28-21
Unranked Syracuse over #20 W. Virginia 19-14
Unranked Baylor over #22 Kansas State 47-42

Don’t call them upsets! Anybody could have seen these coming. Listen, I’m not even going to justify each of these losses with a comment. Only K State was playing on the road and not even in a “tough” environment at Baylor. Texas just got back into the rankings by beating Nebraska last week and now they just lay down for Iowa State? W. Virginia hasn’t looked all that great all year, so no surprise that a 4-2 Syracuse came in and beat them. The 20-25 spots in the rankings should be a revolving door from here on out.

#2 Oregon over UCLA 60-13
The Ducks are ready to be the Nation’s #1 team. They should have been this week, (yes, I know they were the AP #1, but we have to live with the system we’re given by the almighty BCS) but they weren’t. Oregon is really tough at home and this week was no exception. Tons of yards (582 total/312 passing/270 rushing), a backup running all over the place while the starter got some rest (Alston Jr. 8 carries for 75yds and 3TDs) and a QB that is damn good (Thomas 22/31 for 308yds and 3TDs and 5 carries for 48yds); Oregon’s offense is scary! This week they travel to USC (the one in California) and hopefully we won’t see them as the next #1 team to get knocked off.
Honorable Mention to #10 Ohio State putting up a 49-0 score on visiting Purdue.

Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez. If you’re talking about the Heisman, this guy has got to be in the conversation. This week he led Nebraska to a great win after losing last week by going 23 for 35 for 323yds and 5TDs. That’s right 5TDs! He also ran for 112yds on 19 carries. Remember, this guy is a FRESHMAN! He may be just a freshman, but he is impressive. And, while he may be in the conversation, he’s just a second place candidate at this point.

Just to take a quick look here at the 2 QBs I talked about this week and their numbers so far:

Cam Newton; QB Auburn, 6’6” 250lbs. Junior: Passing: 90/138 for 1,364yds and 13TDs with 5INTs. Rushing: 157 carries for 1,077yds and 14TDs with 0 fumbles.

Taylor Martinez; QB Nebraska; 6’1” 205lbs. Freshman: Passing: 66/111 for 1,046yds and 8TDs with 3INTs. Rushing: 100 carries for 870yds and 12TDs with 0 fumbles.


Thankfully I didn’t buy that plane ticket to Vegas that I was talking about. Last week I picked Akron over W. Michigan as my pillow fight. The Western Michigan Broncos beat the Zips 56-10 driving Akron’s record this year to 0-8 overall and 0-4 in the MAC. Ouch. It must suck to be an Akron fan in these dark times.

This week I’m going to try and rebound like Nebraska and make a trip to the Patriot conference. I’m going with the Bucknell Bison (1-6, 1-1) to defend their house against the visiting Lafayette Leopards (1-6, 0-1). What is the Patriot conference you ask? Why it’s the power house that includes: Lehigh (5-2), Georgetown (3-5), Colgate (4-3, but they have clean teeth), Holy Cross (4-4 but leading the Nation in Hail Marys), Bucknell (1-6), Fordam (3-5) and Lafayette (1-6).

Thank you for reading. This is the end.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Week 7 Smack Down

How many upsets can college football produce in two weeks? A lot. When is a bye week a good week? This week. Is Boise State poised to get more first place votes than Oregon or TCU? We shall see. This week showed off some parody in college football which to me is a good thing and this year’s spots in the National Championship game are still up for grabs. I think Oregon has the best chance but also has a tough schedule coming up and could be the next number one team to get knocked off. The SEC west is about to get crazy as 2 undefeated teams (AUB and LSU) and once beaten Alabama are about to go round robin. But we’ll get to that later.

#7 Auburn over #12 Arkansas 65-43
I can’t remember the last time a score shocked me as much as this one. I thought Auburn had a chance to win especially playing at home, I knew both offenses were much improved and I knew this was going to be a good game, but I didn’t expect both defenses to part like the Red Sea. Wow. 1,036 total yards in the game! Auburn ran for 330yds and Arkansas threw for 428. Really this came down to Arkansas’ 3 turnovers 2 of which were INTs and Ryan Mallet isn’t looking like the Heisman candidate that he was earlier in the year. Auburn is now sitting at 7-0 on the year and could be poised to make a play for the SEC West crown.
There were a few others of note, but this week, like last week, is about the upsets.


Unranked Texas stings #5 Nebraska 20-13
Nebraska had so much to play for in this game. Ranked #5, leaving the Big-12 after this year, revenge for last year’s Big-12 Championship Game loss… the list goes on. Statistically this game was close but Texas just jumped out to a first half 17-3 lead and just managed to hang on in the second half thanks to a lethargic Nebraska offense. This win probably won’t salvage Texas’ season, but it must feel good to stick it to Nebraska one more time.

#18 Wisconsin over #1 Ohio State 31-18

The Big-10 is now Wisconsin’s to lose or Michigan State’s to win right? This marks the second straight week that the number one team in the land has fallen. Oregon the new number one by default? I think so. Ohio State looked way overrated in this game even if Wisconsin is one of the toughest places to play in the Big-10, they should have put up a better performance than this one. Again, this game was fairly statistically even, but The Badgers just scored early and then again late in the game when OSU probably thought that they would just cruise to a victory. It’s hard to call this one an upset and I really think Wisconsin can now make a play for the Rose Bowl depending on Michigan State’s next few weeks.

Unranked Kentucky defends their house and takes out #10 South Carolina 31-28

This had trap game written all over it. USC took out #1 Bama a week ago and then had to go on the road to play a tough Kentucky team. UK is better than their record indicates and now the SEC East is just one big mess. Kentucky owned the second half of this game after trailing 28-10 at the break. Kentucky QB Mike Hartline threw 3 of his 4 TDs in the second half the last one coming with just 1:15 left to go.

Honorable Mention
to: Unranked Mississippi State taking out #22 Florida 10-7 in The Swamp! Where are you Tim Tebow? Oh that’s right; in Denver. Florida is looking rough right now and has fallen to 4-3 on the year with all 3 losses coming in SEC play. Also thank you to unranked Hawaii for knocking off #19 Nevada and getting rid of a pesky fly in the BCS ointment.

#3 Boise State over San Jose State 48-0
Blah Blah Blah. Please somebody schedule these guys so they’ll have to play a real opponent. I give them credit for playing VT and Oregon State this year, but they need to get out of the WAC.
I’m giving this to Auburn’s Cameron Newton. The QB is 6’6” and 250lbs. and can run. Saturday he threw for 140yds going 10 for 14 with a TD. Not a big deal. But he ran for 3 TDs and 188yds on 25 attempts. This guy is huge and can move. Expect more from him in the coming weeks and if he keeps playing like this he could take Auburn a long way.


Florida International over North Texas was my pick for this week and once again I was MONEY! Fla. Int. 34 N. Texas 10. I’m going to test the power of my picks and this blog this week and go to a MAC matchup. W. Michigan (2-4, 1-1) at Akron (0-7, 0-3). I’m picking Akron! Go Zips!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

It’ll be a Brave new World

Well the Bobby Cox era came to a close this week and I have to say that while I am sad to see him go, I’m not all that disappointed with the Brave’s finish this year despite them losing in the first round. It was a good year for the Braves all things considering. They spent the better part of the summer overachieving and in first place and they made it to the playoffs as the NL wildcard team when a lot of people wrote them off after the loss of Chipper Jones late in the year.

Freddie Gonzalez will take over as Braves manager come spring training and he’ll have a lot of tough questions to answer. Who will play 3B? Who is going to be in the outfield? Who is going to close games out of the bullpen? Where are the runs going to come from in the lineup?

Surprisingly, the Braves finished the year 13th in runs scored, 14th in batting average, 18th in slugging percentage, and 4th in on base percentage. At no point did they ever look like that kind of offense to me. While those numbers are in the middle of the pack, I never saw this year’s team as any kind of offensive power. The strength of this year’s team was obviously in its pitching. (3rd in ERA, 5th in WHIP,, and 7th in BAA). Tm Hudson was a stud all year long and D. Lowe was awesome down the stretch. It’s no wonder that out playoff series was the first in history to have all the games decided by one run.

Next year has more questions than answers right now. While the starting pitching should be improved with the return of JJ and Tommy Hanson entering his third year, the offense needs to be overhauled. Only Brian McCann put up solid numbers throughout the year. Martin Prado should return fully healthy but can he put up those kind of numbers again? Will Derrick Lee be playing first base? Will Jason Heyward get it together and perform at a consistent level all year long? Who knows?

I do think that the Braves can contend next year. But, they are going to need to pick up some offense in the market because I just don’t see chipper Jones coming back and even if he does, you know he’s only good for about 80-90 games.

But, all that can wait till Spring. For now, it’s time to say goodbye to Bobby Cox. He’s been with the Braves since I was a little kid and I’ll miss seeing him get thrown out of games. I had to look it up, but Russ Nixon was the manager in Atlanta before Cox. Who the hell is Russ Nixon? Anyway, Cox managed 4,508 games (he won over 2,500 of those) and led the Braves to 14 straight Division Titles and that one World Series Championship. He won manager of the year 3 times in the National League and once in the AL with Toronto.

One of my favorite Bobby Cox quotes about being thrown out of games was this one:
"I’m like, ‘What do I do?’ He said, ‘Go have a couple cold beers and get in the cold tub or something and relax. And then you’ll probably have to write a $500 check. Or you can do what I do, write a $10,000 one and tell them when it runs out, let me know'."

Here’s to you Bobby! Atlanta will miss you!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Week 6 Rivalry Relevancy

Let me not delay this beyond the first sentence; yes, Alabama did lose to South Carolina. There are also too many important upsets to even include an upset section so, I’ll just have an expanded games of the week section.

This week however is about the relevancy of rivalries once again. Michigan v. Michigan State, Miami v. Florida State; neither of those games has been interesting since the late 90’s. This week however all four teams face each other ranked and looking to move up the rankings. The SEC put up some good matchups this week and the ACC is trying to sort out their conference as well. Kansas State tried to make a play for the top 25 by upsetting Nebraska but that didn’t work out and Penn State tried to salvage the start of their season but failed when Illinois came to town and laid a beating on them 33-13.

Let’s not delay; on with…

#19 South Carolina upsets #1 Alabama 35-21
Alabama had won 19 straight games coming into Saturday’s visit to Columbia and South Carolina had never beaten a #1 ranked team. Didn’t matter when Spurrier, Stephen Garcia (17/20 201yds 3TDs) and Lattimore (93yds and 2TDs.) decide to put in their best efforts. And it’s not like Alabama killed themselves in this game. Both teams had 1 turnover and really it was just a story of USC’s run defense shutting down Alabama’s run game. Alabama couldn’t have expected to win when they only rushed for 36yds. Is this the year that South Carolina turns the corner? They’ve already beaten Georgia, Florida isn’t looking all that good this year and their only loss is to Arkansas who is going to end up in the top 25. I wish I could have watched this one.

Unranked Oregon State upsets #9 Arizona 29-27
All this game really means to me is that Oregon is in the fast lane to the Rose Bowl. The PAC-10 has some parody now and it’s not just the So. Cal show. (unranked USC lost to #16 Stanford 37-35 this week) With Alabama’s loss Oregon should be ranked #2 this week. But I will give Oregon State some credit here for playing in a back and forth game on the road and winning by 2. This is also a good win for the boys in blue Boise St. because one of their wins is over the Beavers who will move up in the rankings this week as well.

#17 Michigan State over #18 Michigan 34-17
Denard Robinson is human after all. He threw three picks in this game and despite his 301 total yards and 2TDs, Michigan State collected a huge win in the return of their head coach to the sidelines. Sparty exposed Michigan’s defense raking up 536 total yards and scoring 24 unanswered points in the second and third quarters. MSU is now 6-0 for the first time since 1999 and, like South Carolina, is looking to take advantage of a conference down year and claim a conference title. I’m just glad this rivalry meant something this year and I hope that despite my hatred for Michigan, that both teams continue this for the next few years.

#23 Florida State over #13 Miami 45-17
Remember when I said that if Florida State got blown out by Oklahoma a few weeks ago that it might just send them on a downward spiral? Well I guess I was wrong; since then they’ve won 4 straight and outscored opponents 144-58. This is a huge win for this program on the rebound after that nasty business with Bowden and in Fisher’s first year. It doesn’t hurt that Ponder is now a Senior and is playing his best football since coming to FSU. He’s already thrown for over 1,000yds and 10TDs this year and has FSU with the best record in the ACC. Again, I’m happy to see this rivalry relevant again and like Michigan v. Michigan State I hope it continues for the next few years.

Louisville over Memphis 56-0
Memphis on the right, Louisville’s numbers on the right. That’s all that needs to be said.
1st Downs 13 22
3rd down efficiency 3-16 6-11
4th down efficiency 0-0 0-0
Total Yards 223 574
Passing 184 275
Comp-Att 16-30 17-22
Yards per pass 6.1 12.5
Rushing 39 299
Rushing Attempts 34 34
Yards per rush 1.1 8.8
Penalties 6-38 4-26
Turnovers 1 0
Fumbles lost 0 0
Interceptions thrown 1 0
Possession 33:14 26:46

Remember last week when I thought 62 pass attempts was good enough for player of the week? Well I’m going to make that claim again. Except this week I’m going to go with Taylor Potts from Texas Tech who threw just slightly less and went 42 for 59 for 462 yards and 4TDs with only one INT.

I am ON FIRE!!! Last week I picked New Mexico State to beat New Mexico while both teams were winless. And… they did. New Mexico State collected their first win by beating New Mexico 16-14 on a 4th quarter field goal. This week we’re going back to the SunBelt for Florida International’s (1-4) visit to North Texas (1-5). I’m going to go against my instinct to pick the home squad and go with FIU to win.

That’s it kids. Sorry for the rushed version this week, but I have no power and am running on battery. Thank the good Lord that the Dawgs got a win this week over UT 41-14.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Week 5

Yet another week and not too many surprising outcomes. You’ll have to excuse me if this post seems a little disjointed because I’m distracted by the fact that my Atlanta Braves are unable to win one game and make it into the playoffs. Tonight is the last night of the season so its win and you’re in time for the Braves. Hopefully tomorrow I wake up a happier man and see my team headed for the first round of the playoffs.

But as far as college football goes there were a few good games on the slate but not too many that proved to be very surprising. I think that this week was just one of those weeks where the games just needed to be played to make sure that the teams that were supposed to win did. Did that make sense? I told you I’m distracted by baseball.

Some interesting facts that I saw this week: with Notre Dame’s loss to Stanford last week, they have now not beaten a ranked team since 2006. And, there are now 5 undefeated teams in the Big-12 with K-State, Missouri and Oklahoma State still unranked among those undefeated teams. But, Texas is still ranked with now two losses. We’ll get to that in a minute.

In other news apparently my mother went to her first college football game in her life yesterday. She attended the Citadel vs. Western Carolina game. Too bad the boys from Charleston’s military college lost 24-13. Don’t worry mom, with better teams come better games. Maybe in the comments section we’ll get a full report on this one.
On with the…

Sorry SEC fans, Alabama cruising by Florida 31-6 doesn’t count as a game of the week.

#4 Oregon takes out #9 Stanford 52-31
Big big big win for Oregon. This maybe the PAC-10’s year to challenge the SEC as the nation’s top conference and Oregon looks to be the conference’s best contender. Stanford has a good squad this year and I expect that they will rebound from this nicely, but Oregon was expected to win, needed to win and did win. Having Oregon’s RB James run for 257yds and 3TDs doesn’t hurt either. The only drawback to this game was the 3 turnovers by each team. They can’t continue to do that.

#8 Oklahoma over #21 Texas 28-20
The Red River Whatever is always good even if Texas just dropped 14 spots in the rankings after last week’s loss. Do they drop out of the top 25 after this one? We shall see. Oklahoma didn’t look great and played sloppy ball, but came out with a win and really just avoided being this week’s big upset.

#24 Michigan State upsets #11 Wisconsin 34-24
This game doesn’t belong in the upset of the week because both teams came in undefeated and this was what a lot of the pundits had predicted anyway. Plus, I love to see Wisconsin lose when they’re overrated anyway. MSU has now quietly started the year 5-0 and has the emotional wave of their coach having had a heart attack but still coaching the team. Big effort from MSU’s QB Cousins who went an amazing 20 for 29 for 269yds and 3TDs and he’s also quietly putting together a nice start to this year. Too early to say he’s an early candidate? Hmmm… You heard it here first.

#12 LSU survives Tennessee 16-14
Tennessee had this game won. The clock struck zero with Tennessee ahead 14-9. Game over right? Nope. The Vols had 12 men on the field and gave LSU one more play at the one-yard-line. LSU had screwed up the snap on that play and Tennessee should have had one of their biggest road wins in the past 10 years. Instead they gave LSU one more chance and they took advantage of it. This game just goes to show that good teams capitalize on mistakes and bad teams just keep making them. But, weird ending aside, this was a great defensive battle and deserves to get one of this week’s nods. By the way, LSU is 5-0 for the second straight year and the third time in the last four seasons.

Unranked Washington (2-2) goes to So. Cal and takes out #18 USC 32-31
Like I said earlier, this maybe the PAC-10’s year. Washington looked bad in their two losses (especially their phenom QB Jake Locker, who I’ve made fun of on this blog before) and had many thinking they were not going to come close in this game. Others thought that USC was ranked that high on name alone, but still thought that they would have no problem with Washington at home. But, this ended up being the second straight year that Washington has upset USC and Jake Locker passed for 310yds, 1TD and rushed for 110yds in this one. Locker had a great game and the kicker did his job as time expired. A lot could be said about this game, but I’ll just say it was huge for both teams and for drastically different reasons.

#3 Boise State over unranked New Mexico 59-0
The Lobos were involved in one of our pillow fights a few weeks back and lost to UNLV. So what happens when they play Boise State? They make another appearance on the blog in the beat down section. Boise State, like I said plays nobody the rest of the year and this is just the start of that. New Mexico managed just 208 total yards but still won the time of possession. If that’s any consolidation to them.

I should give this to Michigan’s Robinson again with his 494 yards of total offense, 3 passing TDs, and 2 rushing TDs in a win over Indiana. Not too early to say this guy is the front runner for the Heisman. But, I’m going to switch and give it to Jerrod Johnson from Texas A&M even though his team lost and he threw 4INTs. Just hang with me for a second. His defense sucks and he had to throw the ball all over the field to receivers that had a lot of busted routs. He just kept throwing and kept trying to win. He went 40 for 62 for 409yds and 5TDs with those 4INTs. 62 pass attempts!!! Damn.

I should go to Vegas and start picking these games because I’m on fire this year. Last week I picked LA Lafayette to beat North Texas and they did 28-27 in a great pillow fight.
This week I’m going to keep picking on New Mexico. It’s a classic MWC at WAC instate smack down as New Mexico (0-5) goes to New Mexico State (0-4) to settle the argument over which New Mexico team is the worst. And, I’m going to ride my hot hand and say New Mexico State wins it.

That’s it kids. I’m out of here to go pray that the Braves figure out a way to back into the playoffs.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Week 4 is no more

Ooooo… Ahhh… Lots of that going on in week four. There were some juicy matchups and a few that didn’t disappoint. A Biiigg upset to get to this week and an actual “test” for Boise State. For the Georgia Bulldogs (who won’t get another mention in this blog after this) it was another disappointing weekend falling to 0-3 in the SEC thanks to the other Bulldogs from Mississippi State. First time in my life I’ve seen a Georgia team this bad. Ouch. But not a game of the week. I should mention #5 Oregon’s win over Arizona St. 42-31 but I don’t feel like it because Oregon should have won by more and needs a defense. Good weekend for the SEC as you shall see in this week’s…

#1 Alabama goes to #10 Arkansas and wins it 24-20
I don’t want to think that Alabama was shocked during the first half of this game being where as it was their first real road test against a quality opponent, but Arkansas jumped on them early and took a 17-7 lead into the half and was up 20-7 through most of the 3rd. The game was the story of Alabama’s Heisman Trophy winner Ingram and Arkansas QB Mallett though as both determined the outcome for their teams. I don’t want to go too stat heavy here but: Ryan Mallett vs. Alabama 1st Half / 2nd Half Comp pct 68.2 (15-22) / 62.5 (10-16) Yards 250 / 107 TD-Int 1-1 / 0-2 Score Led 17-7 / Lost 24-20. Whereas Mark Ingram gained 80 of his 157 rushing yards (on 24 carries for 2TDs) against Arkansas after a defender made contact with him. Two competitors went out and played. One wanted it more than the other and his team won the game. That simple. Alabama has Florida visiting next week for another top 10 matchup. Can’t call this a soft spot in the schedule.

#3 Boise State over #24 Oregon State 37-24
Boise needed a bigger win than this to justify that #3 ranking. Sorry to say, but they don’t play anybody else the rest of the year and Oregon State to me was their last ‘quality’ opponent this year. But, they did win the game and that has to count for something. And Kellen Moore is one of the better QBs in the nation so they have that going for them. He threw for 288 yards and 3 TDs in this one and made Oregon State’s defense just look bad. And, Oregon State was playing on the road and seemed to be playing catch up for the whole game. But, I still don’t believe in this Boise State team.

#17 Auburn over #12 South Carolina 35-27
When the number one SEC rushing offense (AUB) meets the SEC’s number one rushing defense (USC) what happens? Auburn rushes for 334 yards. South Carolina just looked way overrated in this game. I know they deserve to be in the top 25, but top 15? Not so much. They proved it with 4 turnovers ALL IN THE 4th QUARTER!!! Auburn QB Cameron Newton rushed for 176 yards and 3TDs and passed for 158 yards and 2 more touchdowns. Looks like Auburn had better protect him this year. By the way anyone else notice that Auburn may be a year early on their projection to make a run at the SEC West? They are 4-0 now with 2 of those coming in the conference already. I think this year’s Iron Bowl should be a good one.

#14 Arizona escapes unranked California 10-9
Down 9-3 with 1:15 left to play, your offense hasn’t scored all night, you’re at home for your conference opener and you’re ranked in the top 15 about to lose to an unranked Cal team. What do you do? Throw a TD pass and win it 10-9. Arizona has got to feel like they truly escaped from this one. Not only did they overcome 3 turnovers and a late push from Cal but Arizona more importantly stayed undefeated and alive in the PAC-10 race. Not the prettiest game of the week, but one of the better ones.

Honorable mention this week to #16 LSU taking out #22 West Virginia 20-14.

#7 Texas loses badly AT HOME to UNRANKED UCLA 34-12
Wow. Not since the 1997 game against this same UCLA program (UCLA 66 Texas 3) has Texas pulled such a crapper at home. The score should speak for itself, but the Bruins forced four first-half turnovers and chewed up the nation's #2 rushing defense with 264 yards on the ground. UCLA isn’t even that good. And, 7 of Texas’s points came in garbage time. What you wanna’ bet Texas stops scheduling UCLA as a non-conference opponent? I have no words for this one. Only; wow!

#11 Wisconsin over Austin Peay 70-3
What the hell? Really. You needed to score 70? You scheduled the Austin Peay Governors from Clarksville, Tennessee? (Yes, even I had to look that one up, and here is what downtown Clarksville looks like; pictured left) I know teams schedule crappy opponents to get easy wins, but Austin Peay? At least Wisconsin stopped passing once they racked up 3 touchdowns on 272 yards. Too bad they also rushed for 346yds for SEVEN! more touchdowns.

Whatever. This week should go to Terrelle Pryor of Ohio State who accounted for 348 total yards and six touchdowns in a 73-20 rout of Eastern Michigan (0-4 from the MAC) but that would be like giving a game ball to Mike Vick if he played the West Virginia School for the Blind. So, I’m not giving it to Pryor. Like Reggie Bush’s Heisman Trophy, this week’s award shall be vacated. Ouch.

Last week I went with UNLV to beat New Mexico in their MWC slap-fest. And boy did I pick a winner. UNLV won it 45-10. Way to go Rebels from a state that wasn’t in the CSA; but whatever. New Mexico is now 0-4.
This week we’re taking a trip back to the SunBelt Conference for (1-2) LA Lafayette’s visit to conference opponent (1-3) North Texas. I’m going to go out on a limb and pick the road team this week and say the Ragin’ Cajuns take out the Mean Green. Yes, those are their actual mascot names.

Have a great week college fans and I’ll try to be back next week with more sarcasm and fewer stats.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Back at it for another exciting year

Well this past week marked the start of year two in Muganlo’s fabulous public school. We technically started back on the 15th but that day there were absolutely no classes and the morning was spent out in the yard giving out certificates to the “good” students from the past year. I had to laugh about that too because as you moved farther and farther up the classes towards the 12th grade, the certificates became fewer and fewer. I think by the time we got to the 8th grade the criteria probably dropped to ‘did the student stay awake for at least half the year last year?’

Anyway, this year’s start was a lot more organized than last year that’s for sure. Last year after they made all the announcements and rang the bell, there was a bum rush style stampede for the doors as all the students ran to their classes. This year, I was prepared with my camera to record the chaos, but our assistant director actually managed to stop the herd and make them go in one grade at a time. She’s a tough woman and nobody is going to mess with her. See video below.

Like I said, there were no classes the first day since of course the schedule wasn’t written out yet. In fact today is one week into school and the schedule still hasn’t been finished. Our assistant director is taking it one day at a time, which means everyone has to show up for the first lesson to see if you actually have classes that day or not. For example on Tuesday I went in at 8:45am to find out that I didn’t have a class till around 11am. Oh well, such is school in Muganlo. I’m pretty sure this year I’m going to have Wednesdays off as I told my assistant director that I would not be the only one this year teaching all five days. Every teacher at my school has at least one day off every week and I’m doing my best to try and get the middle of the week off.

So far so good on my classes though. Despite the fact that my school has reduced rather than expand our English program and my director decided not to give me a room to use as an English cabinet, I’m finding some things to focus on. For example all three of my 6th grade groups whom I taught in 5th grade last year are doing just fine to start the year. One of the groups got split into two separate groups so they are a lot easier to handle and I got to be involved in splitting the groups (actually I stepped in and did it myself rather than having their home-teacher who knows nothing about their English ability do it). The other two groups seem to have some decent knowledge retention from last year. However, two of my star students from last year seemed to have fallen back to the pack and can’t even answer the simplest of questions. It’s really weird too. What is your name? My names she is Anvar. What?

Whatever, the school year has started and now it’s time to take it one day at a time and watch one lesson plan after another blow up in my face either due to lack of students, lack of teachers, random school cancelations or just lack of execution. But that’s why I like it. You never know what’s going to happen from one day to the next.

In other news, I am over my illness. For the two weeks leading up to school I was suffering from some food-born amebas that I picked up from somewhere. Fun times when you live with an outhouse. But, I was able to spend two nights in Tbilisi for the worst of it so I had showers, toilets and some peace and quiet. I was just happy that I recovered in time for school to start. Also, I had my teeth cleaned and my mid-service physical earlier this month. All is well and I am still in overall good health. Teeth cleaning here wasn’t as bad as it was in Kazakhstan, but it was interesting. Can’t wait to get home and have them properly cleaned.

Also, in celebration of the new school year… My family bought me a pig! That’s right; the Muslims bought me a pig. This is how it went down between me and my host-dad:
Me – Wait, that’s a pig.
Akif – Yeah a guy at my work has some and he gave me one, so I’m giving it to you.
Me – Can you eat it?
Akif – You want to eat it?
Me – Um yes.
Akif – You don’t want to keep it?
Me – No. I want to eat it.
Akif – Ok. I know a guy who can kill it and cook it for you. I can’t do that.
Me – But I can’t eat that thing by myself. I could try believe me, but I don’t think I could eat the whole thing.
Akif – We’ll help you eat it.
Me – You sure about that?
Akif – Oh yeah. Just don’t tell anybody around here.
Me – Ok. You bring back a cooked pig and I’ll be here ready to eat.

The next night, Akif sure enough shows up at around 7pm with this entire baby size pig cooked up. We’re talkin’ whole hog here. That skin was golden brown and delicious. And, in an effort to make the sacrifice to whatever, we cut the head off and with the feet, arranged them on a separate plate not to be eaten. I was cool with that. Head and feet are never some of my favorites. While I had some concerns for my family’s eternal damnation over their dietary slip, they were quickly washed away by the warm and greasy meat sliding from my hands into my mouth. Mmmm…

So that has been me these last few weeks. From amebas to good health and a teeth cleaning to school starting to pig picking. I know, it would sound strange anywhere but here.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Week 3 was Weak

Yeah so week 3 didn’t look that exciting on paper and it really didn’t disappoint on the field either. There were just too many predictable outcomes and too many lopsided matchups. There were a few games that I thought would turn out to be close but other than our upcoming games of the week there wasn’t much to excite the college fan on Saturday. I thought TCU 45 – Baylor 10 would be better, Nebraska 56 – Washington 21 would be better, and no, just predictable outcomes with large point margins. In fact the only game that was a lot closer than it should have been was Michigan 42 – UMass 37. Michigan almost landed in this week’s upsets. Close.

#16 Auburn over Clemson 27-24 in Overtime
This was one of the few games I thought would be a good one this week and it didn’t disappoint. Clemson looked athletic and very fast to start this game and found themselves with a 17-0 lead early. But Auburn’s defense proved their toughness and had a ton of hard hitting tackles throughout the game. OT was interesting with neither team converting a TD but Auburn making a field goal and then watching Clemson miss their 31-yd attempt to lose. So the question is, did Auburn win or Clemson lose this game? I want to side with Auburn just based on their defense, but that’s a close call.

#7 Oklahoma over Air Force 27-24
This was a lot closer than I thought it would be. Tied up 10-10 in the 3rd quarter The Sooners pulled this one out after converting a crucial 3rd down on the last drive after AF pulled within 3. Oklahoma should be a little worried about their defense after giving up 458 yards of total offense with 351 of those coming from Air Force’s running game. Also, going 7-15 on 3rd downs is not all that great for an Oklahoma team that typically moves the ball well and can put together some long drives. A good win for Oklahoma though.

#11 Wisconsin over Arizona State 20-19
The Badgers of Wisconsin got a scare this week at home and it took a fabulous play to block an extra point to pull out the win. This game gave credence to the phrase ‘The all important extra point.’ Arizona’s line let a 5’9” safety get through the line and end their hope of an upset on the road. The game as a whole was good, but the ending here saved this one and maybe Wisconsin’s season.

#12 Arkansas over Georgia 31-24

Georgia did everything they could to try a pull an upset in Athens on Saturday. Well, everything except play pass defense. Granted Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett is one of the top QBs in the country but two of his touchdowns went to receivers that were wide open and he ended up passing for 380yds and 3TDs yesterday. Georgia while showing some guts this week (as opposed to last week) just doesn’t have enough offensive firepower without AJ Green to be a threat this year. But, all it would have taken for a win would have been a catch on the last play of the game. Georgia literally came within a finger tip of catching that Hail Mary pass and pulling out this upset. Well that and like I said pass defense.

#24 Arizona over #9 Iowa 34-27
I was not drinking the early season Kool-Aid on Iowa. I mean its Iowa. But they are good and this was sure to be a tough road test for them early in the season. That it was. Arizona played some good defense and Iowa just made too many mistakes. Missed extra points, interceptions, that just can’t happen when you’re playing a quality opponent and you’re supposed to be a top-ten team. This game really was just Arizona jumping on Iowa early and then playing good defense at the end to win it.


#5 Oregon over Portland State 69-0
Ouch. Not only is Portland not a state but a city in Oregon, they also gave up 668 yards to the Ducks from Oregon. A real state. What can be said about this game that hasn’t already been said about Afghanistan? It was that bad.


So last week I kind of snubbed Denard Robinson from Michigan and went with Bryce Beall instead. But this week he was the reason Michigan avoided the upset and pulled out a win. Robinson rushed for 258 yards on 28 carries and passed for 244yds for one touchdown. He had a better performance last week against Notre Dame and he should have been the player of the week. So cheers to you Denard! I still hate Michigan though.


My pick was LA-Monroe at Arkansas State. And your winner is… Arkansas State 34-20 over LA-Monroe in an early SunBelt Conference matchup. Ask yourself; are Arkansas and Louisiana in the actual geographic Sun Belt? Just a thought.
This week I’m going to go with New Mexico (0-3) going to UNLV (0-3) in a MWC pillow fight of the ages. I think I’ll pick the home squad and go with UNLV. Who knows though. I had forgotten the MWC even existed any more.

That’s it college football fans. Week three is in the books and thank God for that. Week four promises a lot more quality games and I’m looking forward to it and your comments on this blog.