Sunday, December 21, 2008

My Yolka...

Yolka is the Azeri word for evergreen tree. Being a muslim country, they obviously don't celebrate Christmas here, but, not wanting to be left out of all of the festive fun, they have adopted many of the Christmas traditions for their New Years celebration. Shafta Baba – also known as Santa Claus – comes to visit on New Years – and brings toys for children (according to some of my students. Others say he doesn't bring stuff.) New Year's lights and decorations go up in shops and offices. And, they have a yolka, decorated with lights and ornaments and a star on top.

I of course, do celebrate Christmas. It is one of my favorite holidays. Living on my own this year meant that I could go to town with Christmas decorations. I have lights in my window, little decorations sent by my family last year placed strategically around the house. And, more than anything, I wanted a Christmas tree. A result of poverty, boredom, and an overabundance of craft supplies in my home, I didn't go the typical buy-a-fake- tree-and-ornaments-at-the-bazar route, I decided to make my own. The picture you see is the final product.

The “tree” is made of cardboard from old care package boxes and tissue paper. It took me about a day to figure out and put together I made the star – out of that foamy stuff and glitter. The garland also came from camp supplies. The base is the box for my water distiller covered in white felt – also sent for Camp Jane.

The ornaments are from my conversation clubs last week. A few are the examples that I made for the kids, the rest are all from my students. When we did this activity, I had them each make 2 – one to take home and hang on their New Year's tree and one to give to me for my Christmas tree. They loved it! And it was on of the best clubs I've had this year. I have to say that may favorite ornament is the orange ball near the top – it says “Miss Jane beautiful teacher.” So true. A close second are the American and Azeri flags that 2 boys worked on together. I will be bringing a bunch of them home with me.

All in all, I think my yolka is pretty rad. The entire thing is completely free and completely cool.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Layering Begins...

In a few emails recently I have told people that my winter layering of clothing has begun. I'm not quite at all of my layers yet – it has been pretty mild so far, but I know the time is coming quite soon that I'll be back in all of my layers. Anyway, I thought it might be fun to show you exactly what my winter wardrobe entails...

The first layer – long underwear and socks. There comes a point that this layer doesn't get removed until the end of winter. Last year that point was the first or second week of January. I'm pretty sure I finally lost this layer in the first week of March. Maybe the last week of February.

The second layer – tights and a long sleeve t-shirt. Seems gratuitous, but it is indeed necessary.

The third layer – my teacher clothes. Those are my super fancy corduroy pants that I got at the bazar for 10 manat. I stop wearing skirts in about the middle of December. If, for some rare reason I do wear a skirt to school, I add another pair of tights – and if the skirt is long enough, some running pants underneath. But, for the most part, trousers are the way to go in winter. I actually got lectured last year for wearing a skirt when it was “too cold”. And yes, those are Christmas socks.

The outer layer – this stays on throughout the school day – sometimes I might take off the coat, but that's rare. I wear the fingerless gloves at school so I can still write on the blackboard. When I go outside, I have real gloves I put on. The hat and the scarf are pretty much a constant - around the house and even at bedtime. The boots are azeri – notice the super awesome fur lining!

Ev Paltar (house clothes) - at home the teacher clothes get traded for some comfy, warm, lounge wear. This lovely velor ensemble is courtesy of my sister Kara. The azeris absolutely LOVE it.

A constant for walking around on my chilly chilly floors are the slippers I got when I was on vacation in Poland this year. They are possibly one of the best purchases I've ever made. Warm, soft, incredible. I'm hoping I don't get to the point that I'm even sleeping in them, but it is a possibility!

And I have to tell you, even with all of these layers, in the deep dark days of winter, it is still – to quote a friend – f*%^ing cold! So, as you sit in your houses with central heating and gas log fire places, dreaming of White Christmases and hoping for snow days, maybe add a wish for a heat wave in this part of the world :-)

And, send hot chocolate.