International day 2015

I have said before, International day is my favourite school event. Always a great chance to get photos and see what a wonderful community we have here at TISA. This year there are 52 different nationalities from all continents, except Antartica. TISA Times, the school magazine, has this pie-chart showing where all the pupils come from.

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The day starts with a whole school assembly, there are about 700 pupils aged between 3-18. Last year the assembly was in the old gym, which was crowded, hot and it was very hard to see the stage. This year we were in the new gym, TISA5, which was a huge improvement. Plenty of space for everyone.

The assembly started with the Azerbaijani national anthem followed by the parade of flags. Students were picked from both Middle and Primary sections (where there are enough numbers) and every nation at the school has a flag. Then onto the performances, all the primary classes performed, fortunately the upper classes were grouped together otherwise it would have over run by even longer!

There was a second assembly in the afternoon, this is usually held outside on the field but Friday as the day the weather turned from summer to autumn, so it was back to TISA5. The Caspian Choir sang at this and there were performances from the Middle and High School students.

There was also the celebration of food for lunch, which is Katrine’s favourite part of the day. I didn’t go this year to take photos but I had good feedback from Katrine and Gregor. Katrine couldn’t pick a favourite food – though she said the Chinese table was extra yummy, Gregor’s favourite was the scones from the British table!

The students also take part in workshops though out the day, Katrine went to:

  • India – henna designs on her hand
  • South Africa – drumming
  • Scotland – highland dancing
  • Turkey – marble painting
  • Holland – learnt about rivers and dams.

Gregor went to:

  • Chilli – Zumba
  • New Zealand – played a traditional game
  • Trinidad and Tobago – Limbo Dance
  • Lebanon – wrote their names in Arabic and a dance.

2 Shakespeare performances in 1 week!

I don’t know how long it has been since I have seen any Shakespeare and now I have just been twice in the last week! First was to see the Globe to Globe production of Hamlet – this is a two year world tour from the Globe theatre company taking Hamlet to every country in the world!

The show was preformed in the Azerbaijan State National Drama Theatre, which is an impressive building and a grand auditorium. The show is a quick moving adaptation with the cast providing all the music and set changes (which were minimum) and several actors playing several parts. It shows the skill of the director and actors that this wasn’t confusing and it was always clear who they were playing.

I went with a group of friends and we were seated right up in the Gods (auditorium 2)  the view was slightly obscured by a random safety pole but there was no problem hearing anything. There was a bit of fun when the lady next to us had a toy gun on the floor next to her feet, it wasn’t immediately obvious that it was a toy which caused a few raised eye-brows.

The second Shakespeare was Midsummer’s Nights Dream by TISA high school, I took Katrine to this as her first experience of Shakespeare. It used rock songs though out the play, preformed by some of the actors as well as additional musicians, which tied into the plot really well. It felt a bit gimmicky at first but it was used to great effect and  made the flow of the story work very well. It also helped identify the  fairy characters and the humans and they danced to the music differently, which helped the understanding of this very complicated plot. Katrine got the main bits, I was impressed with her following the story. It was a very enjoyable night and didn’t feel like a school production. They are taking the show on an European tour in November!

Caspian Choir

This time last year I was persuaded to join the Caspian Choir, I hadn’t been in a choir since school aged (complete with red cassock and white surplice). It is a great bunch of expat ladies who meet once or twice a week to sing. We work towards performances throughout the year – at some of the balls, as well as the school concerts and out own recital at the end of the summer term. I missed the recital this year so really hope I can do the next one.

On Friday we were asked to perform by the Baku Rotary Club, who host regular cinema nights. This weeks showing was a French film The Chorus. We sang two songs, Keep You in Peace, By Sarah Morgan based on a traditional Irish blessing and  the second was Girdim yarın bağçasına, a traditional Azerbaijani love song. It is quite a challenge singing the Azerbaijani song as the words and sounds aren’t familiar and the harmonies are very different from those I am used to. (Here is a youtube video of the song with traditional Azerbaijani instruments – we were accompanied by a piano)

It was a really pleasant evening, temperature was perfect and wonderful group of friends to spend it with.

We were all given a rose as a thank you to take home. IMG_1054

New supermarket

I haven’t written very much about food shopping in Baku, which is odd as it takes up a lot of my time. There aren’t any big supermarkets here, just small to medium sized ones. And there isn’t one supermarket that you can go to and get everything you need. I go to a combination of shops now and, after a year (!) getting much better and knowing which one to go to when.

So I go the Meyevli, a greengrocers based near Sederek fruit and veg market. Then I go to Grand Mart if I am looking for meat and tinned tomatoes, I go to Bizim for store cupboard essentials – pasta, tinned beans and chick peas, cleaning products that sort of thing – and Bizarre store if I am passing, or I failed to find what I wanted from the other shops (or because I like their plain flour). All of them have milk, bread and cheese though not necessarily the brands that I want and have a small fruit and veg section as well, so useful for topping up. Grand Mart is dry so no good if you want a bottle of wine. There is also Gastronomy, which has a lot of imported products and prices to match, but is great if you just want a taste from home you can’t find else where.

Last week a new Bizim store opened, so today I went to check it out.

It isn’t as big as the old Bizim but it is a very clean, modern supermarket and closer to Stonepay so will definitely be added to the rota.

Testing the mini fire pits

Having brought mini fire pits/BBQs for Guides last week, we all felt that we needed to test them to make sure they worked. And obviously a sunny Sunday is 34 degree heat was considered the ideal time to have a fire in the back garden!

We roped in some extra children and headed off to gather firewood, in the scrub land behind the tennis courts. We easily managed to get enough small bit for kindling as well as some bigger branches for proper burning.

We then headed to our back garden to get everything going, we used tumble dryer fuss as the tinder, but probably didn’t need it as all the word was so dry it caught incredibly quickly.  And it wasn’t too long before the marshmallows were being toasted and enjoyed by all. Gregor likes his marshmallows extra blackened (you can see how hot it was that day by how sweaty he is in the last photo).

The Guides will have a lot of fun with these, perfect for practising fire skills and they can use them to cook with in the summer.

Hunting down random things.

I seem to spend a lot of my time hunting around for various bits and bobs that either I, or my children need or things for Guides, which I am often not looking to use for their original purpose which can make disturbing the items harder.

This weeks lists was

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A practise drum pad for Gregor, he has just started drum lessons, from the TISA music academy. He wants to get a full drum kit straight away but we want to a) protect our ears as long as we can and b) see that he really wants to learn to play the drums and will practise. This was probably the hardest item to find this week, but we eventually tracked one down in a music shop in the Baku Outlet Mall (at the bus station). Electra just fancied being in the photo.

IMG_0980A cheap keyboard, Katrine and I have started singing lessons, so I need something to be able to tap out the tune and rhythm to sing to. I don’t need anything fancy or particularly good, so I’m happy with this. It cost 70azn (£43 at today’s exchange rate), from a music shop in Sederek (row 12). Cheap and cheerful and does the job.

IMG_0981 (1)A giant bag of polyester stuffing. This is to make Liquorice a dog bed (which he is currently using curled up at my feet). Katrine made herself some curtains – well she got some ikea curtains, cut them to size and added heading tape, which I count as making curtains. Which left a large bit of material left over, just perfect for a dog bed. Here is the finished article and the dog being very happy sleeping on it.

4 mini BBQs for my Guide unit. We are going to have a fire skills meeting (we are thrown out of our regular meeting place for a week as there is a volleyball tournament), the girls will have to light their our fires in small groups with no firelighters or starter fluid. They will then toast their marshmallows to make s’mores. Plus we can use this to cook on when we camp in the summer.

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I’ve passed my defensive driving

And I have a certificate to prove it!

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To drive here in Baku BP insist that you go on a defensive driving course (the same as they do in Korea), this is on top of your regular license not instead of it. The driving in Baku is not the same as back in the UK but it is improving and more of the rules are being followed than they were 10 years ago.

Our course started off on the wrong foot as we went to the wrong place. Which I was quite happy with as the first place was a bit intimidating.

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The new place is  very nice house in the Badamdar region of Baku, which had been converted to a modern office and teaching rooms. The course started with the theory, mostly all known but it is always useful to have a refresher, it is very easy to get complacent about driving and forget about the hazards and how much information you need to process on a daily basis.

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My UK car, I love my little yellow Clio.

Dougal 2, our car in Baku.

Dougal 2, our car in Baku.

Then was the practical, which I had been dreading. We have a Mitsubishi Pajero (or Shogun if you are in the UK) which is way bigger than any car I have driven before – though Richard says it is similar in size to the car we had in Korea I disagree, it feels a lot bigger. And it is certainly bigger than the car I have in the UK!

Richard went first and then it was my turn. It wasn’t as bad as I had expected, yes the cars crowd round you and make more lanes than are marked on the road, yes there is sudden lane changes without indication. But there was no crazy driving and I love the traffic lights having a count down telling you when they will next change. The only difficult is roundabouts, sometimes they are true roundabouts, like I am used to, sometimes you give way to the cars to your right entering and sometimes (if there is a yellow rectangle) the main road has priority. There are signs to tell which is which but they are sometimes hidden in bushes and trees. I’m sure I will get used to it.

Not actually been driving since the test though. I am a wuss and I’m putting it off as long as I can. I think I might give it a go on Sunday and head out of Baku a bit.

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