Şəki [Sheki]

Leading into break, I was preparing to travel to Belarus to visit my dear friends. Unfortunately, I ran into some issues that kept me from going this month, so I have changed my tickets for Spring Break. This seems like a much better time to visit, and I think I’ll be much happier when the trip comes around.

As I was preparing to move to Azerbaijan, I read a blog about life in Baku. The author encouraged newcomers to travel outside of the city a few times to help create a feeling of returning home after each trip. I think this is an excellent idea for any country, not just when living in Azerbaijan. Since I had to move my trip to Belarus, I was concerned that staying in Azerbaijan all break would be hard for me. We have three full weeks off for the holidays, so I could imagine becoming homesick and depressed very quickly. Luckily, a group of teachers and their families from school were headed to a city in another part of the country, Şəki [Sheki]. Şəki is considered one of the oldest settlements in the Caucasus. Much of its history dates back about 2,500 years. To be perfectly honest, I knew nothing of this city before traveling there, but I knew I had to get out of Baku! As we arrived after our 6-hour drive, though, I was pleasantly surprised by its incredible, ancient architecture and beautiful scenery. What a drastic difference between Baku (cars, pollution, people) to Şəki (mountains, fresh air, space)! It is as if I took my first breath of fresh air since I boarded the plane in Gainesville. Everything has happened at such an accelerated rate over the past [almost] two months, so along with the poor air quality in Baku, I have also felt the pressure to perform and stay busy. Suddenly, I was given the opportunity to breathe and slow down. I am not sure I truly understand how much I needed this getaway, but I do know I am so refreshed and content now that I have returned.

I was one of the only ones on the trip who had not been to Şəki before, so I missed out on some of the informational parts of the trip. I know I can just google information on the different sights we visited, but instead I’ll just share the information I already know. Şəki was a stop on the Silk Road, actually the largest. Below, you will find several pictures from the Caravanserai, which is the trade post where travelers would stay with their camels. We also spent time at an elaborately decorated palace called Khanserai. Click each of the pictures below for a description of what it is and any other information I have about the photo.

Tomorrow is Christmas Eve and I will spend it wrapping presents, baking cookies, attending a teacher’s party, and spending the night at an American family’s home. I am so thankful that I do not have to wake up to an empty house on Christmas morning. I will not be home with my family, but at least I have a sweet family here to make me feel warm and loved. Wishing you all a very Merry Christmas from Baku!

Seasons Greetings,


It has been a month…

I have officially been living in Baku for over a month now. Life has become pretty normal now, and I am enjoying each day. As any first year teacher would say, I’m exhausted! I officially have 20 little 4yo’s in my class, 13 of which are boys. For the past week, most of them have been out sick, so I’ve only had two girls and 10-13 boys. That makes for quite the interesting time trying to get anything done. These boys are something else!

Friday night, we celebrated winter with our school at the holiday program. Each section of the school was assigned a continent or region in the world and asked to sing a song representing that region. The preschool was assigned Africa. This was pretty Much my first executive decision as the new 4yo teacher when I arrived. I had to come up with a song by Friday of my first week. Well, my idea of what should represent Africa and the other preschool teachers’ ideas were a little different. I figured an African Christmas song of some sort was the way we were supposed to go, but they felt jungle animals was the clear direction of our program. Fortunately, I found “Kye Kye Kule” and they compromised. We started the show with “Kye Kye Kule,” and they followed with their two jungle animal songs. All in all, the whole preschool basically steals the show. My fellow teacher said, “They’re preschool, they just have to get up on stage and look cute and everyone loves them!” They’re just the cutest little kids! I don’t have any pictures, yet, but I’ll try and find one to share.

After the preschool performed, many of them left for the evening. I followed them to the classroom to make sure everything was okay, and was greeted by warm thank you’s from mothers who trust their babies with me each day. Some of these moms have little to no English, so our communication is limited to a few words or through one of my paras. I know things in the classroom would run smoother if the language barrier wasn’t such a struggle each day, but I don’t think I would want it any other way. There’s this incredible way God has of communication through people with or without words. I’ve noticed it before in Haiti and Belarus. There is something He conveys through the warmth of a smile, kiss, hug, thank you that reminds me how much He loves me and how He is with me every step of this journey.

Last week was Thanksgiving, which was both a struggle and a beautiful time with new friends God has provided. Last week proved itself to be very difficult, but it was mostly due to some unforeseen work-related issues. As far as the holiday itself and the weekend, it was such a wonderful time here. I was able to eat three thanksgiving meals, laugh with friends, and celebrate a holiday with my class that means so much to me. I’ve never really enjoyed holidays with gifts and expectations of giving or receiving items. I enjoy Thanksgiving because it is a time not to expect gifts, but to sit and reflect on the incredible blessings received through joyful times and hardships. I am so grateful for the opportunities I’ve been given here in Baku. Sometimes I get caught up in the exhaustion and administrative issues that I forget how incredible it is to be here.

This weekend, I am meeting some American girls who are here for a year. I am amazed by the number of expats living in Baku. Each day, I feel my circle of friends growing larger and larger. My life isn’t tied down to school, which is a blessing in itself. I’m able to break away from school and enjoy people and life as me, not just Miss Kanani.

Thank you for your continued support and prayers!