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Just a Little Rain

26 Feb


After what feels like weeks of dark heavy skies, this evening all broke open into a soul washing downpour of spring.

On the trek to the bath house, it was cool and dark and damp and perfect. And the scent! Nothing announces spring better than that deep, full smell of rain in the air.

It couldn’t have picked a more perfect day, either. With all the great things that have been moving and shaking, and with our clubs picking up momentum, a smooth re-beginning is exactly what we need to push us through til summer.  And what could announce that better than rain showers and buds on the trees?  So glad they have made their return to our city.

And, so as not to miss a day: yesterday I received the closest to a compliment I have ever received – and probably the closest she’ll ever get – from my counterpart. After a long hour of conversation lessons with my group of teachers, she looked me in the face and said, “You worked hard today.”  With a nod, she took off.  I’ll take it! Glad for that, my friends.

Collecting I traverse the garden the world, but soon I pass the gates,
Now along the pond-side, now wading in a little, fearing not the wet,
Now by the post-and-rail fences where the old stones thrown there,
pick’d from the fields, have accumulated.    – Walt Whitman




10 Feb

I experienced one!  First (and, really, hopefully last) earthquake for this gal.  I’d like to recap a wild and hazardous tale, but frankly it was over in five seconds and at first I just thought it was real windy.

However, earthquake it was none-the-less!  We finally arrived home again at site after our stint in the capitol and after washing dishes (at last! water!) I plopped down on the bed to catch up on some emails.  A few seconds later, the bed wiggled a bit. I thought Matt had bumped it, but when I looked up he seemed to be staggering a bit and the floor shook slightly again. Our house made a stretching, creaking sound and then, just like that, it was done.

I thankfully haven’t heard any reports of injuries or problems as a result and I’m insanely glad for it. Hopefully, everything stays positive and it we can look back twenty years from now and say, “Hey, remember that time we survived the earthquake in Azerbaijan?” How bitchin’ does that sound?

Fierce-throated beauty!
Roll through my chant, with all thy lawless music! thy swinging lamps at night;
Thy piercing, madly-whistled laughter! thy echoes, rumbling like an earthquake, rousing all!  – Walt Whitman

Thursday Rundown (4) … and catching up

30 Jan

As you know, my friends, I will never make excuses for missing a post now and then. Personally, nothing is more off-putting in opening a blog than the first lines of “so sorry I haven’t posted in ages!”

However, I would extend a teeeeeeny weeeny apology, as I love sharing moments from each day and feel a bit of sadness for those I miss.  I have been in the capitol WAY too many times this past month; additionally, I’m fairly certain we have attic rats messing with some wires as our power at home keeps going in and out and in and out…  fun times in the palm, amigos.

Yet, as is tradition, let me give you a more in depth of Thursday (and then do a brief catch-up on the highlights of this past week).

My dear partner and I are fortunate to both serve as mentors for the incoming group of AZ12s -the 12th group of volunteers to serve in country.  Today was our meeting to discuss the program logistics, chat about what info is good to pass along, and get acquainted with our role these next few months.

Before our gathering, however, my crew from back at site snuck in an early morning breakfast meeting with one of our staff members and had a wonderful, thought-provoking discussion about our village school project.  From the beginning, we’ve known this was a huge stretch and dream, but it was actually rather uplifting to hear our options and recognize the ways in which we can focus in on our goals.

After the mentor meeting, we had a chance to grab a late lunch with some fellow friends and volunteers at one of my favorite places in the capitol.  Squeezing back onto the bus later, it was a return to the hotel to catch up on site work and emails – on which I am still falling sadly behind.  This evening, the partner and I caught up with some other volunteers who were also in town for various mid-service meetings and had a great time talking over food and drinks.

And now… its back to the hotel.  I often feel both insanely pleased and terribly uncomfortable staying in the capitol. On one hand, nothing is better than waking up in a real bed and having an instantly hot shower with a big breakfast and heating.  Yet, at the same time, there’s always this pang of missing out on my work and life in the region. When I’m walking around in my hotel slippers and robe, sucking up all the electricity and internet I can find, I think back to where I would be at this moment back at site; instead of dining with volunteers in a swanky restaurant, I’d be sharing the afternoon with my great 4th formers, singing songs in a language they don’t quite know, wearing jackets in the classroom to stay warm and waving goodbye as they cross the muddy streets back home to swash through the beauties and struggles that come with life in Az.   I’m glad for all these experiences – both high and low – and only hope to better understand their connection and meaning the longer I am able to serve in Peace Corps.

And, to stay true to the Year of Gladness, here’s a snapshot of some of the best things (both momentous and mundane) that happened each day this week:

Last Friday: I found my grey and white striped hat I was SURE I had left in Tbilisi; the best bottom-of-purse-find ever!

Saturday: Coming back to site to find water, gas, electricity, AND internet all in tip-top shape; a productive evening if there ever was one!

Sunday: so glad for sunshine! Beautiful, fluffy-clouded, ray bursting sunshine to dry all the clothes and warm up the house.

Monday: easily getting visa renewal photos taken. Any time I have to complete a new adventure in Az, I’m always preparing for the worst and most confusing time ever.  And yet, we were in and out in five minutes, with actually decent looking photos in hand. Score one for paperwork!

Tuesday: back to the capitol yet again.  This time, I took a wild stab at it and took a small marshrutka bus into the capitol and boy did I win big!  For whatever reason, this fella was not stopping for ANYTHING.  The normally 4 – 5 hour trek? Busted that record in 3 1/2.  Loved it.

aaaaaand Wednesday: despite having to visit for some medical reasons, I loved getting to ride around with one of the Peace Corps drivers.  I’ve wrote about this ridiculous, food and car loving former professional driver before – he is always ready for a good story. I had the best twenty minutes listening to him and the PC doctor holler and laugh about what constitutes food.  No matter what she said, he refused to believe vegetables, put together to make “salad,” would ever constitute as real food.  Truly, he had some valid points…

And there’s the week. Here’s to another great one.

Every moment of light and dark is a miracle.   – Walt Whitman

The Mountain

14 Jan

Today after my medical appointment in the morning, it was off back to the bus station to catch a ride home.

For once, it was NOT the hottest ride this side of the desert; rather, I had the most delightful journey home on lofty seat up front, a quiet seat companion, and I tackled another 200 pages in The Fellowship of the Ring. (I’ve officially fallen deep into the category of full-fledged nerd, you guys, if there was still any doubt remaining. I even sat for a long moment, gazing out at the passing hills and cars,  considering the book and films my new favorite trilogy. All while wearing my Star Wars t-shirt and feeling guilty for being such a terrible traitor. After I decided I could love them both, I considered if it was worth it to order a map of Middle-earth and have it sent to us… that’s normal, right? HOW SWEET WOULD THAT BE?)

It was such a good trip home. I knew at the end of my journey I’d be reunited with my partner; we’d do a killer workout together, dine on some plov given to us by one of our friends, and jump back into some work I’m falling behind on – all of which was accomplished in the smoothest of fashions.

And to top it all off, when I climbed off the cool and tranquil bus, our big beautiful mountain was in view. Some days you can see it far in the distance; other days it remains hidden.  But with the setting sun and a clear sky, I’m so glad it was there to welcome me back to site.



(But seriously you guys, if you ever wanna geek out with me and talk about the journey to Mordor, you can always send a map to the following:

Liv Nelson, PCV
Bərdə Mərkəzi Poçt
Bərdə, Azərbaycan  0900
Azerbaijan  )
O the great patient rugged joys, my soul’s strong joys unreck’d by man,
(For know I bear the soul befitting me, I too have consciousness, identity,
And all the rocks and mountains have, and all the earth)  – Walt Whitman









Bus Rides

3 Jan

Though I never really totally dread the bus ride back from the capitol to our city here in Az, I certainly don’t look forward to the 4 – 5 hour bus ride with dewy-eyed love and affection. Sometimes fun things happen, like the time Matt went to grab his bag only to find three chickens sitting on top. Or the time I sat next to a sweet old xanim who gave me sweets and later fell asleep and drooled on my shoulder. Or, the time the woman sitting across from Matt opened her shaken soda and to prevent it from spilling over herself leaned over to douse Matt in sticky, tangy Fanta. Or the afternoon our bus just pulled over to the side of the road and waited for two hours. No mechanical problems, no cows or sheep or dogs blocking the way – we just waited and after a few packs of cigs smoked by our driver and two guys popped on board we were off.

Point is, as much as these bus rides are totally and in all other ways often inconceivable, there’s something about the 4-5 hours it gives me to stare out the window and gaze and think that I am wholly glad for.  It could be the fumes or the heat talking, but I will forever happily associate my time passing through the country with thoughts of future plans and images of tall, leafless trees and shepherds on horseback in the distance and families gathered to send loved ones off on the side of the road for whatever journey they might have ahead. Some moments I feel a sad, melancholy pang for all those things that are not and are somewhere else. Other times, I’m playing the best pump-it-up-and-be-awesome playlist through my head while flying past fields and streams and creating a million possibilities for tomorrow’s project and next years big adventure and everything and anything seems within arm’s reach.

At any rate, today I am glad for these buses filled with thoughts and opportunities. And, of course, the occasionally poultry.

The morning glory at my window satisfies me more than the metaphysics of books. – Walt Whitman

The Glad Game

2 Jan

I watched the sunrise in Istanbul and now, from my hotel window, can see the end of the day here in Azerbaijan.  After five days in glorious Istanbul, we are back to reality – but what a way to welcome in the new year.

As with any travelling experience, I never want it to be over and am sad to see it end. For many reasons, though, it seems infinitely harder going from the life and adventure and touristy-times in Turkey back to serving as a volunteer in AZ. I love my life here, but I find myself at times easily falling into strange and bumbling funks.

However! It is a new year, friends. 2014!  Unlike 2013, I will spend this entire year in country, which seems both daunting and amazing all at the same time.

I make a lot of commitments on this blog that I don’t always fall through with (book challenge, anyone? though more on that later…) but I have discovered a resolution I both love and find to be a perfect commitment in this Big Year of Big Things.

Growing up, like any normal child would do, I often played Hayley Mills, a game in which I reenacted scenes from some of the actress’ famous roles in all her various forms. Like, it was ridiculous how much I loved this child star from the 50’s and 60’s. Sometimes I was finding my twin at summer camp; at other times I was dancing in summer magic.  If I had to choose a favorite movie, however, it would be the classic 1960 hit Pollyanna, in which young Hayley, an orphan, moves to a small, close minded town to live with her wealthy, crabby-ass Aunt Polly.

The whole movie is a delicious cheese-ball of sweetness and adventure and the best scene involves Pollyanna arguing with her new house staff about how to see the best in life.

As an adult(ish), I love this scene even more. I love Pollyanna and all her beautiful optimism.  At one point in my life, I like to imagine I was equally as enthused and pleased about everything, but somewhere down these last few months I’ve lost it. But its a new year. A new year, a new attitude, a new chance to make it great.

So here’s my resolution, team. Each day – and I mean each day (granted we have internet) – I am going to find and share one thing I am glad about. Three-hundred and sixty-five beautiful things noticed in this great big world. I feel so fortunate to have this experience and need and want to do better promoting and sharing all that happens in life in Az.  (Plus, another chance to play Hayley Mills? Hollah!)

Today is a two-for-one, as I missed the first of the year, a day I spent alternately tossing my cookies and lazing in bed after too much celebrations… all worth it, though, you guys. Welcoming in the new year in downtown Istanbul with friends? Perfect.  On that day, I was glad for big, corporate, pop-up-everywhere Starbucks and their giant coffees and bagels, just what a girl needs post too much wine and noise making.

And today, this day of commitments and returns to host countries, I really am glad for Azerbaijan and the welcome in from the airport. While being followed out by twenty men pushing you into a taxi from the airport and being less than forward about fares isn’t always the most intriguing and welcoming of returns, I was glad to have a friendly police officer lead us to a kind driver with a working meter, giving him our hotel address and wishing us well. There really are great people out there, no matter how often I find myself wondering where they might be.

A Big Year of Big Things – and I will be glad for all of it.

Give me the splendid silent sun with all his beams full-dazzling.  – Walt Whitman
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