Last week we had a two-day meeting here in Ganja with Peace Corps Volunteers who started with me last September. It was the first time we were together in a group since we left for our assignments in December. It was interesting to see everyone and hear how they are doing.
Our assignments are broken down into three categories—those who work as English teachers typically live in small villages and team teach with an Azerbaijani English teacher. Often they are the only foreigner for miles and have to travel on the weekend to see another volunteer. Some villages have no electricity or gas at night and even in the daytime, gas and electricity are not guaranteed. A few villages do not yet have gas lines. So some volunteers keep warm with wood stoves.
Others are youth development workers—which means they primarily serve those under 25 years of age. They are assigned to a youth organization and spend part of their time working there. These workers are located in small villages and larger cities all over the country.
My group is the Community Economic Development group and we work in businesses, mostly in larger cities. All of us are to spend part of our time with our organizations and part on our own projects that interest us. I work 3 ½ days a week at a micro-credit organization and work on mostly non-business project with the rest of my time.
Last week, for example, I led a weekly English conversation club, which is a group of English speakers who want to improve their spoken English. I get to know Azeri people this way.. I also met with two different university students and walked around my city with them. We get to know each other and talk about things that interest us--half of the time in English and half of the time in Azeri. I taught two yoga classes and had one women’s health discussion group. I did these things with my friend Elaine, who is a Peace Corps Volunteer in my town.
Elaine is unusual for several reasons. After serving in the Peace Corps in Honduras some years ago, she has great perspective on the job. She has lived an interesting life and is extremely active and outgoing, dresses beautifully, (which is difficult here) and has lovely long hair that curls when it gets damp. She is a huge feminist and has volunteered for different women’s organizations all her life. She reads prolifically and text messages people all day long. Elaine is the oldest volunteer of all Peace Corps Volunteers world-wide and willl be 80 this summer. A party in Tblisi, Georgia with other volunteers is her plan to celebrate her birthday. I will be there.