Time for a happy post, right?!?! My life is not all drab. In fact I have been having some fun.

Early in May, I went on a pilgrimage in Qax. The pilgrimage is a Georgian Orthodox tradition to celebrate something a specific saint did. I know…. That sentence was filled with informative details about why this pilgrimage happens! Honestly, I don’t remember what saint. I tried to look it up on the internet, but found little information. There are two pilgrimages a year for this saint—in May and November. I believe, one is to celebrate the great deed this saint did and the other is to commemorate his death (again, all this information could be very, very wrong). Qax is in Azerbaijan, not Georgia. There are some orthodox churches in Azerbaijan such as Georgian, Russian, and some other minority groups like the Udi in Gebele.

I, some Peace Corp friends, and a PC’s landlady’s family went on this pilgrimage together. We rented a vehicle that would transport us all there instead of taking the public transportation system where we would have at least 3 transfers. Our vehicle was a van that only seated 6 people, and there were 9 of us plus the driver. I don’t understand why this van only seated 6 people (2 front seats, 2 middle captain seats, and 2 captains seats in the back) since it seemed like a relatively new vehicle. Why would you not put a bench seat in!?!?!? Either way… all 9 of us squeezed in this vehicle by sharing seats and throwing someone in the trunk. Yes, this is all legal in Azerbaijan. Love safety!! 🙂

We arrived at the base of a small hill super early—before 10 o’clock. The crowd was small but the vendors had already set up their booths (no tents, just mostly wooden slabs on the ground). Some sold food like bread and cotton candy; some sold clothes like socks and little kid sweaters and pant; a few sold candles. We started a walk up the hill to go to the church. There were other people walking up the hill, and some people already walking down the hill. Some people even did the trek bare-foot which signifies an extra sacrifice on their part. On the stroll up, we were encased in lush greenery. I love the spring time in Azerbaijan because of the colors and life that comes out. As you can see from some of the pictures, there are animals! Some people bring their sheep and chickens up in order to bless them before they are sacrificed for lunch.

As we got close to the church, there were rocks. On these rocks people would stick their candle, light the candle, and say a few prayers. A few short steps beyond the candle rocks, we reached the church. When you reach the church, you are suppose to walk around it 3 times before going in, then burn candles, and say prayers. That’s what we did! The people who brought their live sacrifices up had their animals walk around the church 3 times too. When you come out of the church, you can walk up and stand on top of this rock. From this rock is a nice view of the surrounding area and of the top of the church. When descending from the rock, many people ring the bell that hangs from a tree. I don’t remember why they ring the bell (I’m full of information, I know).

After hanging out at the top for a while, we headed back down the hill to eat. When we arrived at the base, more people had arrived! All I could think of was “county fair.” That’s what this reminded me of. I have been to a few county fairs in my life (like every summer of my childhood). It reminded me of the small, mostly animal based competition fairs with very few rides. Nothing like a Big E. It reminded me of a country fair because of the parking situation, the vendors, the hanging out, the walking around, the absent minded viewing, and the ‘not much to do’ feeling because you are just waiting for the next event to happen so you can sit and watch it. At this ‘county fair’ there is only 1 main event.

After coming down, we didn’t stay very long. We found a nice place to picnic and chatted. Some more Peace Corps Volunteers arrived to take part in the event. There might have been more activities in the afternoon as I heard there was last year, but the family was eager to get going. We also needed to get back for softball practices anyway.