Hello, everyone! It’s been a little while since I’ve written in the ol’ web log, and I find this to be a pretty opportune time to give an update.
At this moment, I’m not typing, but, instead, I’m writing in a composition book (I’ll type it later, but that’s obvious, right?). My computer’s not with me because I’m on a three-day visit at the village in Azerbaijan where I’ll do my volunteer service! That’s pretty exciting, eh? I will be serving in a “rayon” of Azerbaijan called Oğuz. Let me give you the description of the rayon that the Peace Corps provided me (To be honest, it’ll be the first time I’ve read the description in it’s entirety as well.).
“Oghuz region was established as Vartashen on Augurst [August] 8, 1930. Vartashen had been the center of the region till 1961. It was established the status of the city type settlement from 1961-1968 and the status of a city in 1969. At the first session of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Azerbaijan in February of 1991 the region was renamed into Oghuz and Vardanly village into Kerimli. Oghuz is a region with ancient and rich history. The book of geography composed of 17 volumes and written by Greek historian Strabon who lived in the 1st century B.C. provided the full coverage of the Caucasus Albania and showed that the Sheki-Zagatala zone that include[s] of [the] region of Oghuz was the place of the [a] dense settlement of people 20-25 centuries ago (that is 2500 years ago [Thank you, Peace Corps, for clearing that up.]). Prominent archeologist[s], coming from Oghuz Saleh Gaziyev proved by the patterns of material culture discovered during the researches on the territory of the region in 1956-1959 that the people lived in collectives on this area in the Neolithic Era (that is 6-7 thousand years ago). Saleh Gaziyev conducted the archeological researches south of the Vardanly (present Kerimli) and Garabaldyr villages in 1948 and discovered ancient settlements and cemeteries. The ancient scientist discovered the following material culture patterns related to the period 2500-3000 years ago in the monuments of Dash gutu (stone box): a bronze knife, lance point, bashlyks [Don’t ask me what those are.], different jewelries (belt, bracelet, ring, pearls and others), ceramic patterns, and others. Some of them have a history of 500 years. The ancient graves of the unknown age belonging to the Oghuz tribes mentioned in the epos Kitabi dede Gorgut [?] and differing from other modern graves with their length are still preserved in the north of Filfilli and Bash Dashaghyl villages of the region. The ancient necropolises of the Kerimli, Garabaldyr, [and] Djalud villages and Oghuz city, the GKhachmaz Govur tower of the 7th century, the Mukhakh tower constructed in the 9th century, the Albanian temple of the early Middle Ages of Oghuz and Djalud villages also provide information of the past of the region. The names Vartashen, Oghuz, Maza, Vengey, Padar, Sazur, Shahra and other toponymies [whatever those are] date back to 12-14 thousand years ago to the times of Avesta and prove the area of the region to be part of Zardush.”
Ha ha. It appears to be a translation from Azerbaijani, and it can be hard to decipher certain words and whatnot. But you get the gist of the history and all that, right?
I can honestly say that I almost feel like I’m in another country. It’s amazing how, in this small nation, there exists such diversity. Some time ago, I visited the rayon of Ismayilli, which is on the way to Oğuz. Clearly I observed a similar geographical change on my way to Oğuz as I experienced on my way to Ismayilli. The elevation and general environment change drastically. The area of Sumgait, for the most part, is flat and not too green, but Oğuz is almost something out of a fairy tale. It’s beautiful, with mountains and rivers all around. According to my host dad, tourists come here in the summertime (Not too many come in the wintertime, though, if I had to guess.).
Culturally, it appears to be different as well, but that also may have something to do with this particular village where I will be serving (which is called Qumlaq, by the way. I probably should have mentioned that earlier.). Nonetheless, I’ve noticed a change, however slight it may be, in how folks dress, how the teachers interact with the students, how a girl interacts with a boy (Believe me. You would notice, too.), etc. Of course, it’s hard to have a firm grip after being here for just a couple days. I shouldn’t worry, though. I have plenty of time left to do that.
Qumlaq has a small, friendly school, and I’m grateful for that. It has about three hundred twenty-three students and forty-eight teachers. The class bell is literally a bell rung by hand outside that bears some resemblance to what you’d hear on the old family farm when dinner’s ready.
My future host family here in Qumlaq consists of a mom (Aybəniz), dad (Fedya), daughter (Hökümə), and son (Rustam). The daughter is about fourteen and the son is about eight (I should double check these ages (and their names)). The father is firm is his Muslim faith, which is wonderful. He doesn’t drink or smoke, and it was something to hear his chanting this morning…and afternoon. They also live on a beautiful piece of property. When I asked Fedya what he did for a living, he simply said that the home provides what the family needs. They live on a farm, fully equipped with chickens, turkeys, cows, sheep, hazelnuts, pecans, fruit, and whatever else. Aybəniz works somewhere, but I’m not exactly sure what that is at this point.
Anyway, this is, so far, a glimpse of what’s to come. It’s nice in that I now have an idea of what these two years of service will be like. I also think I speak for other trainees when I say that I look forward to actually starting the two years of service that haven’t even begun.