Blog the Sixth

This week the person overseeing the program for USAID is in town.  She’s quite friendly and really gets at the heart of things, which is nice.  She was originally scheduled to come earlier, but there were some delays.  I think, since it is, after all, connected to government, foreign aid is also very much in the “hurry up and wait” category, especially when there are two governments involved.  On the bright side, they finally have gotten go-aheads on the program for the third year, so now it’s all about revising and getting the plan finalized.  

On the downside, the head of the office is now off for a month to the U.S. on home leave.  Well, it’s a downside for me; he and his family have been very welcoming to me, and were also my ride to church.  Also, his daughter’s seven.  I love seven.  It’s a great age - much greater to be friends with than to teach English to, I’ll admit, but a great time period.  Plus she likes to read.  They kindly invited me over for dinner and I promised book recommendations for her.  That list definitely showed I used to teach her age group - colors, descriptions, fun fonts - or maybe that’s just things I like. :-)  I also got to tell her some saints stories she really liked, so some saint books made their way onto the list. 

As far as work goes, I learned this week that there was a bit of a mix-up and my time probably should have been allocated a little differently, but we’ve got a plan in place for the rest of my time here that I think will be good and also more legally-oriented.  Rather than try to fix the translation on the Handbook on Access to Information, I’m instead focusing on making it more user-friendly, so looking at its current form and deciding how we can better present the information.  It’s good analytical experience, and also good practically.  The handbook has really useful info, but regular people probably are going to be a little daunted by going straight into the legal analysis.  So far I’ve come up with an alternative order and also am going to recommend putting the process into a question and answer form.  This won’t require a lot of new content, mostly just shifting around, which is relatively easy to do.

The other thing I’ll be doing is updating research and analysis comparing laws on public participation with other nations in the region.  I’m thinking this may be good practice for Comparative Law with Professor Warren come fall, although it might be easier to do these in reverse.

I had three small adventures this week.  The first was that I created a recipe for a contest.  It’s supposed to be inspired by the Chronicles of Narnia, and voting started Tuesday so I started Sunday (and ended up finishing Monday because I burnt my sugar).  There aren’t that many entries so I actually may stand a chance.  The prize is a weekend trip to London and a set of the books.  I own the Kindle editions, the audiobooks, and the radio plays, so I’d love the hardcopies and I think my very much not-Baku-weather-built body would appreciate a trip to a rainy place.  Keep your fingers crossed for me, will you?

My second adventure: On Tuesday night, I came home after dinner with the boss’s family, turned on the lights, and saw what at the time I thought was a cockroach flee behind the sofa.  I killed a cockroach a couple weeks ago, and put a slug outside in the middle of the night after nearly squishing him.  So when I saw a large, pitch black shape run away, I was freaked and determined.  But I was also a little stupid, because I pulled the end of the sofa out that was farther from the bed, and he scurried under that end of the sofa and, when I pulled that end, behind my bed.   

Dear readers, it was bad enough pulling down the dish towel to have a cockroach land in the sink without thinking there was one near my bed.  I’d actually been crawled on by a cockroach in Senegal while lying in my bed and had been rescued by my host cousin.  I have no idea if it’s true, but my perception is that cockroaches don’t like light and will stay away if they hear noises (this one scurrying off seemed to match that).  So I slept horribly with music on repeat and all the lights on all night.  I woke up around 6, and at about quarter past when I started really getting up, I stood up to find that same bug had just come out from behind the bed.  

He ran back, but I did confirm he’s not a cockroach.  I think he’s some kind of beetle, although he didn’t fly so I don’t know if that excludes him (not very biology over here, sorry).  He has very long, spidery legs.  He did peep out again later, investigated my computer cable, and went back behind hte bed.  I tried to force him out from the bed with the broom but it wouldn’t go down that far and I can’t move the piece (it’s heavy wood with storage under the mattress).  I had all sorts of thoughts running through my mind.  It wasn’t a cockroach, so maybe I could capture it.  Then, I had the worst one to have, because I couldn’t unthink it.

“His name could be Herbert.”  I knew immediately that would make getting rid of him a lot harder.  My thoughts then proceeded as such: That’s a pet name.  I’d have to feed him. Maybe I could lure him with some sugar water, trap him and put him outside. Maybe I could lure him with sugar water, but then actually poison him.  Maybe vinegar would work.* Vinegar and sugar, um, death by gastrique?  I can’t kill Herbert though; I named him.  I also thought maybe Georg was a better name (yay for having added some classics to my reading list) but it was too late.

All day thoughts of Herbert recurred in my mind.  I imagined myself a bit like Francis of Assisi; I envisioned Herbert becoming my pet.  I realized at the time that it was absurd, but crushing big bugs sucks and Herbert had grown on my subconscious by virtue of not being my arch-enemy cockroach and the fact that I’d named him almost against my will.  This was interspersed with plans for capturing him and figuring out a way to spray vinegar everywhere.*  In the end, when I went home I was almost hoping to see him.  Fortunately, I haven’t.  Whether I accidentally got him with the broom after all, or he, afraid or with curiosity satisfied, left by whichever large-bug-entrance-enabling route he came, I shall never know.  I think I’m over the ridiculous pet insect idea, though. It does caution one that we might not change as much as we think over the years; I used to name ants in the back yard, while ostensibly helping my sister’s Indiana Jones-inspired quest to dig up the Ark of the Covenant (which clearly was under our swingset).  On the bright side, there’s only one Herbert, so I wouldn’t have to convince anyone I really could tell them apart.  

My final adventure was getting to church on my own.  (A far nicer part of this adventure was getting back afterwards.)  I mapped it out via Google, which oddly couldn’t fathom a public transit option, and left nearly an hour early today to get there.  (I went to the Saturday vigil Mass, because I figured if I were going to walk a lot, it might be a bit dimmer and breezier in the evening, rather than doing 10AM and 12PM tomorrow).  I can say it’s quite straightforward;  essentially, it’s 3 turns, and between the last two you just walk 2 kilometers.  The whole trip was about 2.6km, or 1.6 miles, which really should be about half an hour or so of walking but I find unless it’s really a pedestrian area, cities make walks take longer, and not even just because of traffic lights.  I regret choosing partly-shaded over just walking alongside where the road went to an overpass, and I had to make a couple strategic dashes and side along some construction, but I made it in about 45 minutes, arriving not too long before Mass and choosing the side under the air conditioners (which hadn’t been turned on much before, but were especially nice considering).  There weren’t many people and they all skedaddled, so I had to decide whether to try to find the metro station that had shown up not too far away.  Google Maps can only show me where I am, not do any directions here, but I’d taken a photo from my computer screen so between that tiny map and the app I figured it out.  

When I got to the station, I first checked out the bus stop outside, thinking perhaps that would be a better way to travel, as I hadn’t ever taken the metro before and had only a vague idea of where to get off (my Baku metro app was less than helpful here).  But there wasn’t a station list or map in sight, only a TV screen, presumably touch-sensitive, and there were people sitting practically under it.  I saw only Azerbaijani (although there probably were English and Russian buttons), it was a bit high up (and not well angled for a five foot person), and I just felt like using it would not only expose my foreigness much more publicly than I wanted, but also might require geographical knowledge I don’t have.  I knew the metro was Soviet-era, and I’ve used a couple of those before, so I figured it was a safer bet.  

Inside the metro was an information kiosk.  I hit “English” and immediately regretted it, as it played an English voice loudly.  But it did show where stations let out, enough that I figured going one station would save me a lot of time and actually drop me only about 3 or 4 blocks from my place (the other station, one further, I’d passed once before walking another 20 minutes home).  Then I saw a kiosk for rides - but it required a card, and wouldn’t give me one for putting my 20 kopek coin in.  Then a curious thing happened.  I went to the kiosk thinking I could buy a single ride coin, the lady got a little frustrated with me (understandable, if a bit too quick), reached out and gave my coin to a guy using the kiosk.  Well, he put the credit on his card, and another 20 kopeks from another stranger, and then led us to the turnstiles and flashed it at the sensors for each of us.  I had seen other people putting money in on another’s card, but I hadn’t realized they were all strangers!  This is really fascinating.  It’s also kind of annoying; I’m going to have to use the metro a bunch more times to get to church, so I’d rather not rely on this method.  

Anyway, tomorrow off walking around and seeing some sights.  Hope you all had a lovely Fourth of July.  I wore red white and blue for the day, of course, and the office offered their congratulations on the day.  

Have a great week.



*I've come to realize that somehow between my grandma saying vinegar's good for cleaning glass and my own discovery of its great properties in cooking apples, vinegar has become my equivalent to windex for Toula's dad in My Big Fat Greek Wedding.