Catching Up

22 Jan

We got a lot of gladness to catch up on, team.

This past weekend I had the privilege – nay, the pleasure! – to visit a friend of mine in the south and conduct a teacher training project a fellow volunteer and I have had the honor to lead.  While I wish I could have had the chance to get some internet and share the daily posts with you all, I’m also grateful to have all the time dedicated to our project and some bonding time – so hold tight for a quick recap of this past week!

Let’s head back to Friday – a day filled with buses, buses, and more buses.  While there is a bus that leaves from my city to the region in the south, no one could give me an exact answer as to when it departs and when it arrived. To avoid missing any sort of connection or traveling at night – a Peace Corps policy that could get you packing on home – I ended up heading to the capitol to get a bus from the large station.  It added on two extra hours or so, but for this lame adventure seeker, I would much rather know exactly where I’m headed and when than pop on a bus on the side of the road any day. (Maybe this will come later – but I’m still pretty pathetic at this point!)  It was a long day of travel, but at the end of the road lay two good friends, a warm house, and the most delicious curry dinner I’ve ever enjoyed.  So grateful for the generosity of my friend and her host mother for preparing such a nice evening for us to relax!

The next morning, I began the day by going for a run for the FIRST TIME IN NINE MONTHS.  Seriously, you guys, nine months.  I haven’t gone that long without running for over 10 years.  While I make many excuses and could certainly attempt it if the passion was there, I just can’t bring myself to consistently run at 6:30am in the paved, dusty streets of my city before anyone is out and about.  I can work out at home (which I have been doing a much better job of doing!) but running may have to wait for me.

But, damn. Did it feel great.  My friend and I jogged along the hills and through villages, beating the morning sun and hitting the street home just as the first rays were breaking in the distance.  True paradise.

DSCN8371That day, my fellow teacher trainer and I conducted our first “Training of the Teacher Trainers” project, set up by previous volunteers three years ago and still receiving funding from the Rotary International Club of Baku.  We had a stellar turn out – nearly 30 teachers from 17 different schools! – and it was one of my proudest moments thus far.  It felt great to be talking about teaching with those who care to listen and have a passion for professional development – there are those who truly, truly care about their students and it makes me so insanely glad.DSCN8376

On Sunday, I agreed to go on a bike ride with my friend and her counterpart who owns a bike shop.  I should give a brief disclaimer that while I know how to bike and am the proud owner of a hot pink helmet which I wore all over fair Eau Claire, I’m not that good. I mean, I am pretty fantastic when it comes to going slow and steady and very, very straight. I’ve been known to curve up and down a few “mountain” roads and I’ve taken a tumble or two, but mostly I’m just a city focused, boring ol’ biker. I had assumed this would be an hour or so in the outskirts of town.  But you know what they say about assuming…

FIFTY KILOMETERS and FOUR AND A HALF HOURS LATER, I was a champion.  I probably walked that damn bike more than I road it up the hills, and while I sweated like a pig and cursed more than my sailor of a mother, it was the most breathtaking and awe-inspiring afternoon.  Despite falling twice (and you should see my frisbee sized bruise to prove it!) I would do it again in a heart beat.  Green hills, blue sky, the wind in my face and the call to prayer ringing over the villages and valleys – I can’t even put into words how beautiful it really was.DSCN8476DSCN8458









we also visited the "isti su" nearby and hiked around the canyon. heaven!

we also visited the “isti su” nearby and hiked around the canyon. heaven!









That next Monday, I took the same return route home – north to the capitol than west back home.  While I loved every moment of my journey, the best part is always a welcome home hug from that dear old partner of mine.  I’ve become quite pathetic, team, and can hardly function without that dope and his perfect, handsome smile.  We had a great dinner together (which he cooked and cleared up – hollah!) and I was glad for the chance to sit and chat with that love of my life.

On Tuesday my sitemates and I were invited to a birthday celebration for our friend from the village. I’ve been invited to a number of celebrations, and don’t get me wrong: they’ve all been pretty fun. This, however, was the first time I really truly enjoyed myself. We had great food, fun conversations, and, of course, lots of dancing.  I am glad for this friendship and the opportunities it has given us in Azerbaijan.

And finally, that brings us up to today! What I’m most glad for today came early this morning.  As we’ve been sharing, we are in the early stages of helping to build a school in a nearby village.  We are often pausing to consider where next to head – this is new and crazy for all of us!  Today we finally received two letters (one in English, one in Azerbaijani) from the minister of education offering his support and commitment to the school project.  I have met with him several times as he is directly involved with my position as methodologist, and despite his commanding personality is a great guy with a good smile and a sincere desire to help.  He was really enthused about the letters and gave lots of thanks and excitement for us.  One step at a time, and we really can do this, team.


Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,
Healthy, free, the world before me,
The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.     – Walt Whitman

One Response to “Catching Up”

  1. Judy Miller January 23, 2014 at 12:34 pm #

    Hi Livia, I look forward to your posts, but this one was so brimming over with your spontaneous heartfelt enthusiasm that it brought tears to my eyes. I LOVE LOVE LOVE your joy of life and teaching. There was a time I felt almost that passionate for teaching, but of course, I was in good ol’ Rapids……………..not anything exotic like you are experiencing. Keep writing. Keep on truckin”. And good luck! You “wring” the most joy out of every minute!! I love you for it! Judy Miller

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