Friday, October 11, 2013

Election Day in Azerbaijan, or How I Learned that my Peace Corps Efforts Here are Actually Really Appreciated...

October 9, 2013, was the day of the Presidential elections in Azerbaijan.  As predicted, the incumbent, Ilham Aliyev, was re-elected to a third term as President, a position that was inherited from his father, Heydar Aliyev, a former Soviet KGB officer, and President of Azerbaijan during most of the 1990's and the early 2000's.

Quite by chance I met some of the international long-term election observers in Mingachevir several weeks ago.  Since they were in need of translators, they asked for my help in recruiting additional translators, who could serve before, during, and after the elections as interpreters for the short-term international observers and for the international journalists expected in country to cover the elections.  I have a number of very accomplished and dedicated professionals in Mingachevir, who over the past several years have regularly attended my advanced English classes, so it was a pleasure and an honor to recommend them.  After the interview process, some of them were chosen to work this past week as translators/interpreters.  I was pleased and proud to be able to offer them an opportunity to have a chance to utilize their greatly improved English skills, albeit for only a short time, since they show such eagerness and willingness to work hard and improve their skills.

Today, one of the international long-term election observers called me to thank me for the efforts I went to in order to help them find appropriate translators.  Then she told me that every single one of the young women I suggested and whom they interviewed for the positions had such glowing things to say about my efforts as a Peace Corps Volunteer--things like my help and my involvement in teaching them has for them been transformative and life-altering!!  Wow, I'm thinking...I am humbled--I did my part, to be sure, but never have I come across a group of young women, who willingly work so hard and go to such great efforts on their own initiative in order to make improvements in their lives.  Today this group of women told me again that they will miss me and they appreciate my efforts. But the best thing they told me is that they intend to continue meeting after I leave Peace Corps Azerbaijan--even without me, they intend to learn, support, train, and help each other.  Wow!!!  Most of their accomplishment has not been due to me, but to their own desire and their industriousness.  And this effort towards sustainability of my work is truly satisfying.

They say Peace Corps is the "toughest job you'll ever love"--tough because it is definitely full of many living and work challenges.  But Peace Corps service is also one of the most rewarding and satisfying of endeavors.  Today turned out to be one of those very satisfying days!

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