The Sumgayit Station cluster in Baku
Ayten was my Language and Cultural Facilitator (LCF) during Pre-Service Training (PST) for Peace Corps (PC). She was a lovely woman who had the difficult task of teaching me and my 4 cluster-mates about the Azerbaijani language and customs. Now, I must explain that PST is the most difficult time of PC service. We met every morning at the school and spent 4 hours learning (it was often always above 95 degrees before 9am) about the language and culture. Then we went on to a neighboring village (2 buses, 45 minutes later) to learn about our job – Teaching English as a Foreign Lanugage (TEFL) for four hours (then the buses back…). We were doing all this while dealing with the initial culture shock and apprehension of being able to actually be Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs). PST was hard. Ayten handled it beautifully.
At Swearing In
She was so patient with us during all our ups and downs. I have to admit that I was probably not the easiest student. I had a difficult time during PST. Ayten was a lovely LCF who kept me motivated and focused. My whole cluster made it through PST and out to site. One of my cluster-mates even gave a speech in Azerbaijani at our swearing in ceremony. Since my time in PC, Ayten has moved up the ranks in PC and still works for them during PST. I am so happy that new Peace Corps Trainees (PCTs) get the benefit of her outstanding teaching.
Ayten and other LCFs at our Swearing In party
I met Kate at Columbia Lodge my second year at OSU. She was one of my very favorite friends there. We would go to the dining hall to get stir-fry and bagels (sounds like an odd combination, but it was delicious!) When OSU shut down Columbia and we had to move into the dorms, Kate and I became roommates.
We had a lot of fun at Cauthorn. We convinced everyone in the dorm that we had been friends since we were in ski school together as little kids. We even found a photo of two kids skiing and put it on the door and told people it was us (you can kind of see it in the photo above).
Kate was only at OSU for one year, but I feel like that year was full of adventures – painting, driving to the coast (racing the sun) and getting our hair wet in the ocean, drinking mimosas in the empty lot next to Columbia, dance parties, dress up, hot springs, the list goes on and on and on and on… I will always cherish the year I got to live with Kate. She was always so full of light and life and love. I always felt inspired when I was with her!
Filed under Friends, People
I don’t know if there’s really a band that’s influenced me more than Dave Matthews Band. It was the first band I really became obsessed with. During high school I would drive around in my little white Ford Escort playing cassette tapes of DMB songs that my friends I would make and pass around. I have so many great memories of driving around Eugene with the windows down and Dave blasting out of the pathetic little speakers. Memories don’t get much better than that…
I saw DMB for the first time in 1999 with my friend Echo (turns out Jesse was at the concert that day too… we would meet about 2 years later). I felt like such a grown-up going to a big concert of the band that I loved more than anything. Fun times.
My obsession lasted quite a while. I had posters during college, went to see many, many shows. One day, one fateful day, at the Gorge in Washington, I met Dave Matthews. Yeah, you read that right. I’m kind of a big deal. Not only did I meet him, but he signed my shirt. Not only did he sign my shirt, but he also drew a man smoking a joint on said shirt. That’s right.
If you watch the following video you will see the aforementioned white Ford Escort (and subsequently hear my friend and me scream) around the 2:49 minute mark. You will also see various bits of my head and face in the foreground from 3:32- 3:48.
I still listen to DMB from time to time, but I’m not nearly as obsessed as I was during high school and college. I still love the music and the memories it brings up for me.
Mallory, Grandma, Michael, Me
I love my cousin Michael. He is one of the best people in the world. He is about 6 years older than I and I always looked up to him. My earliest memories of him are from visits to him and his family in Huntington Beach, California. He was a great tour guide at Disneyland. I proposed marriage to him on the Queen Mary. Who could have blamed me? He’s such an awesome guy!
On Saturday Michael got married to a lovely woman named Michelle. I really couldn’t be happier for them. They are such a wonderful match and I’m sure they will have so much joy and happiness in their life together! They are both hysterical and crazy. If you need evidence of this, watch the following video I took at their wedding reception.
One of the ways that Michael has most inspired me is with Peace Corps. I had talked about joining Peace Corps for years… ever since high school. I would send away for the application packet and start filling it out about once a year, but never sent it in. Michael beat me to it. He left for Chad not too long after I graduated from OSU. He ended up being assigned a site that was really close to Darfur. I was so in awe and amazed to hear about what he was doing. I was so proud of my cousin. Unfortunately due to protests and the generally unsafe environment of Chad, Michael and his fellow PCVs had to be evacuated to Cameroon and had their service interrupted.
The evacuation boat from Chad to Cameroon
I found the above photo on the internet (on one of the returned Chad PCV’s blog.. it’s amazing what you can find if you look hard enough!).
When Michael came to visit after he returned State-side, Jesse and I were enthralled by his stories and photos. That night we had the either-we-buy-a-house-and-have-babies-or-we-finally-apply-for-the-Peace-Corps discussion that every married couple has (right?!?). The next day we applied and a year later (to the day) we were on a plane to Azerbaijan.
Michael was a constant inspiration to me during my time in the Peace Corps. I knew that I had things a lot better in Azerbaijan than he had in Chad, and I constantly reminded myself that if he could survive that, I could survive this.
I love my cousin and I hope he’s having a wonderful time on his honeymoon!