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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

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?