Monthly Archives: April 2010

Day 43 – Donny Stevens

Donny was one of the first AZ5s (5th group of volunteers in Peace Corps Azerbaijan) we met.  He was one of the 11 volunteers from Oregon.  We met up with Donny, Jeff and Vy a few weeks before we embarked.  It was really great to meet some of the other future AZ5s and get to talk about our expectations and trepidations.

I don't really know what's happening here...

Donny is one of my favorite people from Peace Corps.  He was always so positive and motivating. I honestly can’t remember seeing Donny without a smile on his face.  He was so amped to be in Azerbaijan and working with youth.  He was really inspiring. I don’t think I could have made it through training without him.

Donny (aka the Golden Ticket) and his lovely girlfriend Sarah at the Rose Bowl

We have been able to see Donny a few times since he got back to Oregon last year.  I am so happy with the little enclave of AZRPCVs in Portland.  It is great to see them again!  This weekend we’re going to Portland to pick up Kelsey and Sally (other AZ5s!) and I couldn’t be more excited!  I am trying to get them to join the PDXAZRPCV group!  I’m sure Donny will help show them an amazing time and inspire them to move our here!

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Day 42- Valley Library

I did (a little) studying at Valley Library… I had a favorite table on the 2nd (or third?) floor of the library where I spent a lot of time the Winter of 2000.  My table looked right at a beautiful still life painting by a painter whose name I cannot remember… Now that I think about it, I’m not sure how much this building has really affected my life except in its constant reminder to study (not always heeded).  It is one of the anchors on the OSU campus, and I really do love it and I loved the academic comfort it provided.

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Day 41- #41

#41 is one of my favorite Dave Matthews songs.  I love the beauty of the lyrics, the simplicity of the presentation and I especially love the guitars in the Dave and Tim versions.  I also love how it continues into Crash Into Me on Crash. Dave Matthews brings back lovely memories of summer nights, swing sets, chai tea and wonderful friends.

I wanted to stay, I wanted to play,
I wanted to love you
I’m only this far
And only tomorrow leads my way
I’m coming waltzing back and
Moving into your head
Please, I wouldn’t pass this by
I wouldn’t take any more than
What sort of man goes by
I will bring water
Why won’t you ever be glad
It melts into wonder
I came in praying for you
Why won’t you run
In the rain and play
Let the tears splash all over you


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Day 40 – Ole Frosaker

Ole Frosaker was my dad’s dad’s dad.  He emigrated from Norway in 1883, when he was just 4 years old.  I wasn’t able to find where he first landed stateside (perhaps Dad knows…?).  He ended up in North Dakota where he bought an automobile dealership with his brother in 1921.  This dealership – which became Frosaker Motors – was a successful business for him and later my grandpa.

I wonder what kinds of stories Ole told… He lived almost a century – from 1869 until 1962.  I’m not even sure what kind of a man he was.   I will need to ask my dad about what he remember of his grandfather.  I wish that immigrants in those days tried harder to hold onto their cultures – I think it is such a shame that they gave into the ‘melting pot’ idea that was so popular at the time.  I would love to know Norwegian or at least know more about the Norwegian culture.

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Day 39 – Gulnaz

Gulnaz is one of my Azeri friends.  She was one of my Azeri counterpart teacher – we co-taught English to students at School 13.  Gulnaz was so motivated to speak English and learn new teaching strategies that it was often overwhelming for me.  She was very involved with her students and worked very hard to give them opportunities to work with Americans.  It was because of Gulnaz that School 13 gets Peace Corps volunteers; she is unyielding in the application process for volunteer placements.  She was also really involved in the local branch of the Azerbaijani English Teachers Association.

It was really nice to have Gulnaz when I first got to Mingechevir.  She showed me around town and introduced me to people in markets and internet clubs.  She helped me navigate my way through registering with the KGB (or the new Azeri version of the KGB anyway) and getting permission from the school direktor to use rooms for my clubs.

Gulnaz (in orange) and some of our students

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Day 38 – From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler

This has always been one of my favorite books.  I love Claudia and her plan to run away to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I don’t know when I read this for the first time, but I know that I have read it dozens of times.  It has everything I want in a book – art, mystery, strong characters, pictures and adventure!  I love how Claudia and her brother run away to live in the museum… they sleep in Marie Antoinette’s bed, bathe in the fountain (where they also collect money) and spend all day learning about history and art.  Love it!

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Day 37 – Dr. Kobrine

Dr. Arthur Kobrine is one of my all time heroes.  Here’s the back story of how I met this amazing man:  While I was in Peace Corps, my back started hurting a lot and my feet started going numb.  Not fun.  Eventually (after drinking lots of hot liquids, gatorade, sleeping with the windows closed), I convinced the PC doctors to get me an x-ray.  They found that I had a mass inside my spinal column.  Pretty freaky.  They ended up sending me (with Jesse, thank goodness!) to the Peace Corps headquarters in Washington DC.  We packed up everything, said goodbye to our friends and family and headed back state-side.  By and by, PC hooked me up with Dr. Kobrine.

Now, you have to understand this:  Dr. Kobrine is the absolute best neurosurgeon in the world.  Understand?  Good.  He operated on James Brady when he was shot (apparently there’s a TV movie made about this in which David Strathairn plays Dr. Kobrine (which totally makes sense!  They totally look alike!)) and even performed back surgery on Heydar Aliyev’s sister or daughter or something (he had an Azeri carpet in his office… weird).  So, here I was, getting ready to have surgery by the best neurosurgeon in the world.  He explained the procedure like it was as easy as brushing his teeth.  I never, for a moment, felt nervous.  I knew I was in good hands.  Looking back, that seems kind of strange, I feel like I should have been nervous.

I was out for about 7 hours.  In that time, Dr. Kobrine completely removed the lamina from my T-8 and T-9 vertebra.  When he got that off, he could see that I had an olive sized tumor that was basically filling my spinal column and my spinal cord was being compressed to the size of a ribbon.  He removed the whole tumor (yay!), sewed me back up and now I can walk.  He later told me that I was probably a month or two away from being permanently paralyzed from the middle of my back down.  (phew!)

When Jesse and I left his office a week after surgery, we both had a very surreal feeling.  How do you thank and say goodbye to the man who essentially saved my life?  Well, that’s pretty much why he’s my hero.

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