Ujar Revisited

I’ve been Ujar and i lived to tell the tale.  In all honesty it was nice.  If anything, I feel like a bit of a jerk for being so upset about getting placed there.

The story goes, for those who haven’t been keeping score, is that I am now in at the training site, finishing up the last few weeks of pre-service training (PST).  After PST everyone will be distributed throughout Azerbaijan.  We all got a preview of what our lives will be like last week, as we spent four days visiting our future.

In a lot of ways, I’m moving up in the world.  I’m currently living in a ‘settlement’ that is comprised of some pretty dense housing, which is surrounded by the Caspian Sea and garbage.  In Ujar (spelled in Azeri Ucar), I’ll be living in a house as opposed to the fifth floor of an apartment building.  I have a huge room to myself, and live with a really nice family, comprised of a grandmother, mother, father, and three brothers who are 19, 17, and 6 years old.  Along with the new family, I’m also had to spend some time marvelling at the clean city streets, which include sidewalks of all things.

I spent time meeting my counterpart, who is named Hamlet.  He’s my link into the community and we spent time walking around town, being introduced to other teachers, educators, and administrators.

Most people seemed pretty happy to meet me.  There wasn’t as much gawking as happens here, and I think that’s because they are used to having volunteers around.  One of the volunteers left last month, and a lot of people assumed I was his brother coming to take over for him.  A funny conclusion, but at the same time, it’s some footsteps for me to follow in.

While it was nice to see the town, at the same time there was one blaring issue at hand; it was completely boring.  I saw everything in the town in the first 12 hours, and other than that it was biding my time until I left.  The other volunteers who have been stationed there took their vacations to turkey for the summer.  It was an indication of things to come.  Overcoming the lack of direction and boredom that might come will be, in my opinion, the hardest challenge to overcome.  I did get to start and finish Everything is Illuminated, which was amazing.  So i guess I’ll read a lot for the next two years. 

When I actually move there, I’ll take some pictures and post them here.


6 responses to “Ujar Revisited

  1. Jeff, took your advice and traveled…not quite as long as you but hey. I’m in Rwanda. Its crazy. Your adventure sounds like its just beginning. Enjoy

  2. NWJ! I’m catching up on your travel diaries from my hotel room on the last leg of my graduation roadtrip with the parents. I would rather tell you about it in a letter, so send me your address if /when cans. Mine is 633 sw sherman st. portland or 97201. But enough of me, you sound like you’re having adventures enough for the both of us. And nonsense about it being boring, you are halfway across the world! That alone is exciting just to read about, let alone experience. So if you think you are lacking in stimulus, just remember Rasheed. That day alone told me what kind of guy you are: courageous, even if it can be a blind, stupid courage. You are also not afraid to make mistakes, and you grow all the faster because of it. So make the most so your story is all the better later on. In the meantime I want to also send you a book if you cannot buy it called The Alchemist. If you have read it already then you know where this conversation is headed. And if you haven’t, then you are in for a treat. I think it especially fitting considering your current state of affairs. Don’t forget, whatever happens is happening for a reason! May God bless your travels and keep you safe homie. I’ll be in touch. Aloha

  3. Boredom is being at the same job that you dislike for 30 years. Boredom is sweeping floors for other people when you 65 years old. Just think you could be pulling green chain at the local mill. Make the best of this incredible adventure that you have created for yourself.

    Relax and Enjoy.

    Happy Trails


  4. word to that jim. thanks for the reminder. I think about that sometimes, how even though it feels like nothing sometimes, I’m still here, still doing things.

    Thanks GOD i’m not pulling green chain at the mill. I’m very glad i’m here. Maybe i’ll call it ‘downtime’ instead of boredom. sounds better.

  5. Jeffy: I have been following your blog and am so interested in all that you are doing. I detect a bit of skepticism about your boredom from the above commenters. I think what you are saying is that you are in a hick town which lacks stuff to do, culturally and otherwise. I get that……..I guess that means you’ll have to cook up your own action! Probably easier said than done in a third world country, but I have faith that you’ll figure it out. You could always get someone to teach you how to knit…..tee hee.

    I too LOVED Everything is Illuminated. What a writer he is! You must follow it up with Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. It is a post 9/11, which I generally try to stay away from, but it is from a child’s point of view and is mesmerizing. If you can get past the first few pages, you’ll be hooked. His wife, Nicole Krause, wrote The History of Love. It is equally brilliant. Let me know if you want me to send them to you. Do you have access to a lot of books over there? Is it hard to send you stuff?

    U. J. and I just got back from a sail around the Mediterranean – Malta to Sicily to Sardinia and Corsica, ending up in Nice. It was a great trip.

    Keep the reports coming and let us know what you are doing to fill up the “downtime.” I’ll bet once you get the classes going things will get livlier.

    XXX, A. P.

  6. Hi Jeffrey,

    Well first of all good luck!I am from Azerbaijan,but currently in NY, Columbia doing my master’s at Public Administration. To tell you the truth I’ve never been to Ujar,I can imagine it is pretty boring. But on a “third world country” thing let me disagree,I can guess Ujar is far from paradise, but go up to the mountains Lahic,Qabala,Ilisu,Qakh,Lenkeran,Lerik,I mean foreigners travel much more than locals do,so they know better.And then maybe half of Americans I’ve met at Columbia have done Peace Corps and it has enriched them somehow and Azerbaijan is not that homogenous as you may judge.The essential is invisible to eye as said Antoine de Saint Exupery,don’t try just to hang out with Westerners,get a touch of culture as well.The life is exactly as you perceive it, so now that you are there for a year,try to make the best of it.And it is not just my patriotism speaking:)

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