Adventures in Peace (Corps)

Cluster Fusion

I almost broke down and cried in language class today. For those of you who remember how frustrating algebra was for me to learn, well, I hate to say it, but learning Azari is almost as frustrating. Of course I know I must give myself a break because I’ve only been here 9 days, but man, there are so many suffixes to add at the end of nouns and verbs, I don’t know what to do with them all, and because we are in an immersion course, learning the grammatical rules does not seem to be a huge part of the curriculum. I know I will learn in time, but I would love to be able to come home and say more than ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ to my host family, and I would like to be able to tell my host family that I’ll be home late so they don’t worry and call the Language and Cultural Facilitator (LCF) every time I come home late. I feel like I have to read a word a hundred times before it sinks in.

OK…that was my first vent. Not so bad for being dropped off in the middle of a foreign land with very little information.

Now, let’s talk about clusters. All 63 volunteers are broken up into language clusters based on their position out in the field. I am a Community Economic Development Advisor (CEDA), or I will be once training is over–and no, I still do not know what that means in terms of what my job will be. I probably won’t find that out for at least another month—there are also those who will teach English as a foreign language (TEFL) and youth development (YD). The clusters are comprised of 5-6 people in each group and each cluster has an LCF that is assigned to it. The LCF is our language teacher, but is also the person that we go to for almost anything we need. Today I had my LCF write Minaya a note telling her that I would not be coming home for lunch tomorrow because I’ll be in Sumgaiyat at a HUB meeting (HUB meetings happen every 10 days or so and are meetings with all the volunteers at once. Have you noticed that I don’t only need to learn Azari, but I also need to learn a whole other language based on acronyms created by the PC. There’s lots of learning happening in my life right now).

My LCF’s name is Ruzigar, pronounced Roozijar. We call our cluster Ruzigar’s Rangers. He is 24 years old and taught himself how to speak English when he was 18 years old. His English is fantastic. He is fantastic. Ruzijar is very disciplined and very international. He doesn’t drink any coca cola, practices Aikdo three times a week, is only interested in reading non-fiction, and has a surprisingly high tolerance for all the ridiculous questions his trainees ask him throughout the day. He also lived in Russia for five years with his family and he’s been to Georgia (the country not the state). Though I haven’t dared to ask about his bachelorhood, I’m dying to know if he’s got a bride waiting in the wings. I imagine he wants to get his career in order before he marries. Getting a job as an LCF is very competitive. There were over 100 applicants and only 13 or so got the job. In general, I think the job market in AZ is very competitive. Apparently, many AZs pay bribes to obtain jobs, so getting a job with the PC is not only free, but it pays well compared to many other jobs and it looks great on an AZs CV. There are many foreign aid groups in Azerbaijan who look for natives to help with organizational and program development. The PC is a great stepping stone for people like Ruzigar.

I must say that I really like my cluster-mates. They seem to be a group of good, smart people. We range in age from 23 to 70 years old, with a large diversity in skill sets, ideas, and temperaments. It’s important that we all get along as we are going to be working together as a well-oiled machine for the next 9 weeks or so. From what I’ve heard, some of the other cluster groups are not so lucky as there have been some dramatic flare-ups. I guess this is to be expected. Aside from the challenge of being in a foreign land with few language skills and a lack of cultural insight, the other challenge is getting along with each other. Here we have 63 people with different personalities who have traveled half way across the world, and aside from the couples who are married, which there are three, none of us know anyone. We have to start making friends from scratch.  For the majority of the group this will be easy as they are twenty-somethings, and for whatever reason it seems easier for them to make fast and easy friends than it does for the older generations. I am in a particularly interesting age group as there are only three of us ranging from age 35 to 48, and I am smack dab in the middle of those two. I don’t know who my friends are yet. Like I said, I really enjoy the people in my cluster, but I don’t have a sense of who my PC BFF is yet. Oh my, did I just say that?

OK, this girl is getting sleepy. Love to all of you and sweet dreams (Yachun Shirin Olsun!).

9 responses

  1. Julie Sanders

    Wow. I’d be there right next to you….trying to absorb another language is quite the feat. You can do it!!!! Learning all this is hard enough, you shouldn’t be hard on yourself for not getting it in a day;)

    Now show that cluster group of yours how wonderful you are!!!!!! Miss you madly.


    October 6, 2010 at 8:14 am

  2. Wow! What a TTS (terrifically told story). By the end of 24 months, you’ll be VS (very surprised) at your grasp of the language; I guess it’s more involved than ending English words with “bijani” – though that was fun. GYAB, Denie! (give yourself a break)…. It ain’t algebra.

    So let’s see: new language, new environs, new friends, new job/career, new diet, new challenges, new ways of thinking, new…. WTF!! That’s enough to make anyone want to break down and cry.

    Hang tough.

    October 6, 2010 at 8:16 am

  3. Lori

    Hi GW, from LHP in LA,CA, USA! AZ PC sounds very challenging but what a psychic and intellectual stretch! Don’t worry, your AZ BF will emerge! I sent you an email letter through yahoo a couple of days ago.

    I still want to know about your laundry facilities, the condition of your shower and the water (hard, soft or glow in the dark), what the weather is like (it’s been raining here for two days straight!), etc.

    So glad to hear that you like your PC people, another group was fighting? Geez.

    I happened to see the article posted below in the Jewish press, so FYI. Who knew?

    Listen, it’s your PC and you can cry if you want to, Glendeniebaijani! And then you’ll have more room in your brain!

    Hang in there. Love you and love these postings. Miss you, LHP, USA

    Azerbaijan Welcomes Jewish School
    October 6, 2010 by eJP
    Filed under In the Media, Life in the FSU Countries
    Leave a Comment
    Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev received representatives of Jewish communities who arrived in the country to attend Monday’s opening of the Chabad Ohr Avner Jewish school, the AzerTAj state news agency reported.

    The President said historically, representatives of different nations had been peacefully coexisting in Azerbaijan, adding this tradition successfully continues today.

    Aliyev highlighted the opening of the Chabad Ohr Avner school, which took place earlier in the day, saying projects for national minorities in Azerbaijan contributed to strengthening the friendly relations among nations.

    Lev Leviev, President of the Federation of Jewish Communities of the CIS and chief of the Ohr Avner Foundation, thanked President Aliyev for the hospitality and praised both his tolerance and attention to all national minorities in the country. He said national leader Heydar Aliyev`s wise policy of tolerance was successfully continued by President Ilham Aliyev. Leviev also praised the Heydar Aliyev Foundation’s and first lady Mehriban Aliyeva’s contributions to strengthening tolerance in Azerbaijan.

    Berl Lazar, Chief Rabbi of Russia, also praised tolerance in Azerbaijan, stressing the necessity of promoting this experience. Lazar said the construction of the Chabad Ohr Avner Jewish school in Baku was a prefect example of this tolerance.

    Azerbaijan is a moderate Muslim nation and among the first of the former Soviet republics to pursue diplomatic relations with Israel. The Jewish community is about 12,000 strong.

    October 6, 2010 at 8:30 am

  4. Wow, all the cluster group personalities and new challenges sounds like the perfect reality show formula. Are you sure you’re not on the Real World – Azurbaijan?

    Languages are HARD, but I know you can do it!

    October 6, 2010 at 9:55 am

  5. Shizzy

    Oh Glendeenie, I love reading your posts! Such great detail. They make me smile and get a little teary at the same time. I can only imagine how it all must feel, but you got it in you, girl! One day at a time.

    Much Love from the Oakies Howaii!

    October 6, 2010 at 10:11 am

  6. Rosalie

    Yes Yes Ms Wolf! Thanks for keeping us all so looped in. I love it.

    Go ahead and let yourself cry lady! It will make you feel wayyy better in the long run. Don’t forget that you have only been there for a very short time. Eventually you will be an expert: speaking Azeri slang with your BFF while practicing Akido and bribing folks to give you jobs! Or something like that


    October 6, 2010 at 12:48 pm

  7. P o E

    oooohhhh. wouldn’t it be fun to make a REALITY show about a PC cluster that was always fighting??? oooohhhh, i think i see your future jobbaijani!

    October 6, 2010 at 5:33 pm

  8. Hello there, Glendene! Wow, you certainly have your work ahead of you there! The HUB meeting thing is a bit different than we had here in Romania and I think that your friend there who lived in Russia sounds quite interesting indeed! I wish that it goes smoothly and rapidly for you to get out in the field to your site and start making friends with the locals…you will be a fabulous neighbor for sure! BFFs are anyone who sticks by you when times are hard and those who always have a kind word to say or a nice thing to share…remember…you are one of those, too! All good things and a great weekend on the continent,


    October 7, 2010 at 4:32 am

  9. SallyL

    My dear dear Glendene,

    You are truly having a time juggling the AZ culture, language, food (sounds like there’s LOTS of that – LOL!!!), the PC peeps and acronyms (love it!) … I am thoroughly enjoying your descriptions of what you are experiencing and learning on your journey. I saw “Eat Pray Love” (don’t know if you’ve read the book or not) and I thought of you right after I saw the film. What an amazing time as this chapter of your life will be filled with personal growth. I realize you are at the beginning of this journey but I know when you look back it will be filled extraordinary moments that you will not ever forget. Cutting yourself LOTS of slack is important because you are juggling so much and there is so much to juggle … you are strong … you are resourceful … you are great … you can do it!

    I sent you photos of the Nazarian event @ UCLA and of my place at the beach … let me know if you receive them.

    You are missed and loved,

    October 17, 2010 at 10:12 pm

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