14 Apr

If you don’t really know me, here’s a fun fact: I like to sleep. A lot. I mean, I am a champion sleeper.

It is frankly the most fun thing for me to do.  I feel like there is this huge negative attitude about sleep, like if you waste your days dozing or choose to hit the hay early, you are missing out on life and not pushing yourself.  But honestly, a solid night’s slumber sits right between a eating a whole bag of M&Ms and using a new tube of toothpaste on my pleasure scale. Which, if for some weird reason your scale is different than mine, that is a super high, awesome level.

To summarize our Peace Corps experience thus far, I think it would be fair to note that sleep is a MONSTER. I think my internal clock has nooooo idea what is going on, as I am still waking up far too early and though my days are full and exhausting, I lie in my bed for far too long counting up as high as I can in Azerbaijani (bir, iki, üç!) and still waking up before the sunrise.

One of these days, I am just going to have the most perfect night’s sleep ever and be the happiest gal this side of the Atlantic.

Restless nights aside, we have been here nearly a week and life is crazy good.  Let me share brief updates below:

[Super important side note: these are my personal beliefs and preferences based on ONE MEASLY little week here. Things are different from gal to gal to guy to friend and I am most certain they will change tomorrow. So, just note, these are teeny notes based on this beautiful moment right here. : )  ]

view from our hotel in baku. awesome city, but nothing like the rest of the country.

view from our hotel in baku. awesome city, but nothing like the rest of the country.


I am dining like a boss. I love the food my host family makes for me.  We eat an awful lot of bread and I love it. Our family has been making us many traditional Azerbaijani dishes our first few nights here, so we feel very fortunate to try lots of great new things.  Our host sister and host mother do most of the cooking, and I’ve been struggling to remember the words for “So good!” and “Thank you for the great meal!” and “You are a great cook!” Mostly, I just smile a big dumb grin and give the thumbs up and I think that works, but who’s to say.

Additionally, Matthew and I are grossly supplementing our lunches with purchases from little markets across the street from our schools.  I don’t know why, but there is something totally fascinating and awesome about seeing familiar foods but with new names in Azerbaijani.  If you are ever worried about finding chips, Coke, or M&Ms – say, like some spouse of mine was – don’t be. They are everywhere.


so good yet so bad


I don’t think I can express just how truly fortunate we are with our housing placement. We have such an awesome family it is nuts.  Our host sister speaks AMAZING English and has been a great assistant with everything from how do we use the shower? to where do we put our stuff? to showing the way to school.  She is totally hilarious and helpful.  Our mentors have been really trying to stress how important it is not to speak English at home. And to an extent, I totally agree immersion will work better than anything to help us gain language skills.  But I also think I have gained tremendous insight into our community and conversations with her help.  There is no way I would be at this comfort level without her assistance – mostly in English. We are also tremendously fortunate as she is an English teacher.  She gives us lessons in Azerbaijani in the evenings and it is way too much fun.  These are great times.

We have our own little room which is a great space for us to turn to, though we are still navigating when it is appropriate to seclude ourselves and when we should be making an effort to be part of the family.  Will get there someday I hope!

We also live with her mother, sister in law, brother, and their two kids.  It is a full household, but it never seems too crowded – just warm and happy.  The little boy is hilarious and has taught us crucial words such as ball, apple, “throw it!” and from his mother, “Don’t!”


I LOVE language classes.  I am a total geek, though, and would happily sit and copy words from a dictionary if that was somehow a possible, respected career choice.  I don’t know what that says about me. Don’t read too much into that.

matthew on his way to our first hub day

matthew on his way to our first hub day

Really, though, it is so engaging.  I feel like I can keep up okay. When placed in the real world, I don’t always remember everything, but everything in time, I think.  I also can confidently ride the bus to and from school AND today I got off a few stops early and walked into a book store. What a world, I tell ya.

There are many more small things I feel I could discuss, so perhaps I will save them for their own moment. I will note all the great people we have met and the amazing volunteers we work with. In general, I think I tend to struggle meeting people for the first time; I know I come off as a big ol’ stick in the mud, but I try everyday and know it will be great in time.

We are just so damn lucky.

All goes onward and outward – nothing collapses;
And to die is different from what any one supposed, and luckier.
– Walt Whitman

7 Responses to “welcome”

  1. Anonymous April 14, 2013 at 6:21 am #

    Great to hear about what’s going on. I know how much they appreciate our use of their language. What a great experience. Uncle Mark

  2. Allyson Loomis April 14, 2013 at 7:21 am #

    Olivia! Matthew! Sounds like you are having a wonderful time and I am SO HAPPY to read your blog. Henry & Ava talk about you all the time, Olivia, and Ava likes to get out her little world-map placemat and point out Azerbaijan and say “Olivia is right there.” Henry thinks “Azerbaijan” is a hilarious word to say, but not as funny a “defenestrate” which he recently learned. Cheers! Love you! A

    • livjnelson April 22, 2013 at 11:09 am #

      Allyson, I just adore you so very much! Your comments are always the highlight of my day. Cannot express how much I miss your amazing family! Thank you for your always positive notes and updates – they are the best!!!

  3. Tricia Baldwin Cole April 14, 2013 at 4:39 pm #

    Absolutely love reading your posts! You are so funny, and I look forward to hearing of more experiences and your change in outlook as time goes by. By the way, I would totally copy words out of a dictionary, too. I used to read the encyclopedia when I was a young girl — totally love to learn about everything. Hugs to you both. You are in our prayers. Love, Tricia

    • livjnelson April 22, 2013 at 11:10 am #

      Thank you, Tricia! I cannot tell you how much we appreciate your constant support. It is so very wonderful. : ) Maybe we could become scribes or someone will pay us to learn Latin… maybe? One can dream…

  4. Anonymous April 14, 2013 at 8:43 pm #

    We are so glad you made it to a part of the world not many know about, Amanda & I pray that you both have a wounderful time there and learn a lot of what that part of the world has to teach you both. Keep in touch. AK

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