Wednesday, December 22, 2010

A to the z to the erbaijan Pt. 1: Prep and Arrival

Part of the responsibilities/perks of my job is that I have to go visit programs during the year, which is great. Another part of my job is knowing the requirements and policies for some of the most frustrating visa regimes in the world, which is not so great. Unfortunately, in the time that I transitioned into my role as the new regional director, the visa regulations went from very easy (you stepped off the plane, payed $140, and got your visa) to nobody-least-of-all-the-consular-officals-knows-what-is-going-on.

So, after getting my Azerbaijani visa beforehand and finally getting my Kazakhstani visa after numerous problems and delays, I was off! Sort of. I left Seattle with Elizabeth to spend a few days with my folks in Redding and celebrate an early Thanksgiving with them. It was a very short visit, but it was great time and I was glad Elizabeth was able to come and spend some more time getting to know my family.

I flew out of Sacramento and connected in Chicago and Frankfurt before finally arriving in Baku, Azerbaijan. Upon arrival I was immediately reminded I wasn't in the US anymore. Passport control wasn't exactly an orderly line, with one lump of people going through the booth for foreign citizens and another lump for Azeri nationals. It was time to leave behind American ideals of fair play and order and embrace the chaos of the CIS: after seeing the Azeri lump of people dwindle down to two or three, I rushed over to that end and figured, with a learned Russian impudence, that the rules wouldn't apply to me. And guess what? They didn't. I passed right through the line supposedly reserved for Azeri nationals and stepped into Azerbaijan. Fortune (and life in the CIS) favors the bold.

Oh, hello, Seattle

Whenever I mentioned to people I was moving to Seattle, everyone makes a comment about the weather. People wondered how a poor California boy from the second sunniest city in the United States would cope. Pretty well, actually. After living for two years in St. Petersburg (which is roughly the same latitude as Juneau, Alaska), where it was dark 20 hours of the day in winter, with snow on the ground for 5 months solid, with rain and cold winds coming off the Gulf of Finland in the short fall and spring, and record breaking (extremely humid) heat in the summer, a little bit of rain isn't so bad.

So far, I've only been to one of the Man Vs. Food Seattle locations, Red Mill Burgers. Which was, indeed, one of the best burgers I've ever had. Another location, Beth's Cafe, home of the 12 egg omelette, is about a 5 minute drive from my house. Elizabeth and I have been talking about going there for breakfast some lazy Saturday morning. It's funny how those don't really happen for us anymore... I guess we'll have to make it a special point to make it over there. Once my parents make it up here, I want to take them out to the Crab Pot and complete the Man Vs. Food trifecta.

I live at the intersection of three different neighborhoods in northwestern Seattle: Crown Hill, Ballard, and Greenwood. I usually just say Ballard because it's the nicest of the three and one of my roommates is the treasurer of the Ballard Merchants Association; so, I like to give a shout out to Ballard when I can.

Nice Work If You Can Get It

Let's see where did we leave off? Ah, yes. I'd just moved up to Seattle... Well, I'd started talking to an NGO I'd been involved with before that basically sends English teachers to places normal people don't want to go. I'd be more specific about it, but there's some internet sensitivity issues (if you want to know specifics, I'd love to tell them to you. Just get in touch). The job itself was a perfect fit for me (and I was a perfect fit for it), but there was one problem: it was in LA. Also, add in the factor that was recently affianced and had just moved up there to be close to her and her family. My decision making process had changed. LA was never a place either of us had had any desire to live in, but after a summer of having doors shut we decided to check it out. I started talking to them and basically said if I can distance work from Seattle until we got married, I'm interested. The majority of my work during the fall, winter, and early spring is calling and emailing, and they said that worked for me to distance work until after our wedding in April.

So, I'm now the regional director for our programs in the former Soviet Union (CIS). I spend the fall and winter recruiting new teachers, taking care of teachers already overseas, and visiting administrators of the schools we work with. In the spring and summer I'll be doing team formation and training. Lots of training. Like I said earlier, it's a perfect fit and means I can keep working on projects in the CIS while being able to spend a majority of my time in America. The best of both worlds!

My Poor Neglected Blog

I've been horrible about updating. That's going to change. Upcoming posts:
1)new job
2)life in Seattle