This past weekend was interesting.  For one of the first times in my adult life, I went 5 days without a cell phone!  During that time I decided to travel to another town where I had never been and did not know where I was going.  And no, my American mother would not have approved.

It started out on Thursday when I was walking through the streets and went to step over the storm drain system.  I call it a storm drain system but it could be the water run-off system or water channel; whatever you call it, it is that thing the Germans made.  While stepping over it, my phone slipped from my hands and into the rushing water! I watched it fall in and my mind went “NOOOOOOO”.  But I stood there shocked, not knowing what to do.  Finally I decided to put my hand into the water and see if I could find my phone.  Now, the storm drain system isn’t the cleanest of all places to put your hand.  The water is muddy and trash abounds within the channel (yes, that means broken bottles).  But this is my Peace Corps phone.  The phone I need in case of emergencies.  The phone is my main source of communication with fellow volunteers and the Peace Corps staff.  The phone that doubles as my flashlight and alarm clock.  So the decision to reach my hand in the icky water was well thought out.

The storm drainage system


I rolled up my sleeve, knelt down on the ground, and searched for my phone in the freezing cold unclean water.  Since this isn’t normal behavior, I attracted attention.  Some men standing nearby came over and asked what I was doing.  I told them, “I dropped my phone in the water.”  They all went, “OOhhhhhhhh” and starting looking—only with their eyes—for my phone in the muddy water.  As I continued to look, more men came over and asked what I was doing.  The men I initially told explained what I was doing.  The new men started to help by making suggestions and looking—only with their eyes—for my phone.  One man had a great idea to shut the water channel a little bit downstream and get a shovel to scoop up the contents in the water.  I was thankful for this because my arm and hand were FREEZING!  But still, no phone.  The rushing water had swept my phone away, nowhere to be found.

I accepted that I had no phone, but that doesn’t mean I was going to change my plans for the weekend.  I was going to another town, Barda, to see some friends and help out with OXFAM Winter Youth Camp.  I had never been to Barda, and therefore had no idea where I was going once I got there.  But I figured, people didn’t always have cell phones and they traveled places.  It couldn’t be that hard to travel without a cell phone.  So Friday afternoon, I went to Barda.  Once I got there, I had no idea where to get off the bus.  I waited until the final stop to get off.  Not knowing where I was supposed to be going, I started walking down the street.  After a little bit, I asked a bunch of men if they knew were OXFAM was.  They said yes and started to give me directions.  I must have looked confused though because one of the men decided he would walk me to the office.  He led me part way and then told another man to take me the rest of the way.  We got to the office (a large house with the organization’s sign out front); I went in, and asked if the organization was OXFAM (in Azeri), and the lady says “No” (in English).  Since she spoke English, I asked if she knew my friend, Donna, and the lady said, “Yes. Donna does not work for OXFAM; she works here.”  FANTASTIC!  We then called Donna to have her pick me up.  The weekend turned out to be great.

They breed us brave (or with a bit of stupidity) and resourceful in the Peace Corps.  Could lots have gone wrong?  For sure.  But for some reason I believe things will work out.  I find people here very friendly and caring.  Many go out of their way to help a foreigner like myself when I’m completely lost or when I don’t understand.  Many Peace Corps volunteers have their own stories about how kind strangers can be here.  Sure, Azerbaijan has its creepers and not-so-nice individuals, but as a whole their kindness is overwhelming.