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!).