Russian Alphabet flashcard app by

Russian Alphabet flashcard app by

It’s our back-to-school-week, as well as my back-to-learning-Russian week. You may be wondering why I’m learning Russian instead of Azeri, the official language of Azerbaijan. Isn’t Russian outdated in this part of the world? Isn’t Azeri the language of the Azerbaijanis’ hearts?

My answer is really simple. I have 13 students in my class. (I was blessed with one new student this week so I now have four girls named Leyla in my class! But I will save that story for another blog entry.) The majority of them speak Russian as their first language, and the ones who don’t can understand many Russian words. So guess who was the only one who couldn’t speak a word of Russian in class?

Also, most Azerbaijanis can understand and speak basic Russian. It will also give me access to a bigger part of the world, including–Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Belarus, to name a few.

After a month of being in Baku, I made an effort to learn the language. I downloaded a couple of apps and hired a tutor. I was able to learn the alphabet, but after a few weeks, I was COMPLETELY overwhelmed. There are too many words to memorize. The words have soooo many syllables. Gender? Russian has three genders for their nouns? You’ve got to be kidding me! I need to memorize all these words before my tutor comes!

So like most frustrated students, I quit.

Thankfully, I have friends who have encouraged me to get back on the learning wagon. I also admire them because they’re making an effort to learn a new language by putting in quite a few hours per week. For now, I’ve decided to make my own curriculum using my resources and to practice speaking whenever I can.

Here are some of my decisions and methods to help me learn the language.

This an iphone app called 50 Languages.  I'm not sure if I would recommend this or not because I have yet to maximize this app.

This an iphone app called 50 Languages. I’m not sure if I would recommend this or not because I have yet to maximize this app.

1. Invest one to two hours per day learning the words. I do this when I have breaks in school and in the evening.

2. I’m learning the same words that I teach my students. This week we learned about the people in our school community and three-dimensional shapes. Since the words were relevant to me, I was able to remember them more easily.

3. I’m now focusing on words that I can use in everyday life. I downloaded this app called The Spacing Effect. I don’t recommend it because the audio that I paid for doesn’t work (so I have to check the words’ pronunciations through Google Translate) but the app propagates a learning philosophy that matches mine. I’m learning words like, “I want”, “How do you say…” and “chicken”. The app also doesn’t encourage drilling. Instead, I learn the words, and then the next day, the words come up again, and if I get it right, it will probably come up again a few days later so it gets stored in my long-term memory. If I don’t get the word right, it will come up again the next day. This releases me from the self-pressure of memorizing too hard which leads me to frustration.

The Spacing Effect app for Russian.  I don't recommend this because the audio I paid for doesn't work.

The Spacing Effect app for Russian. I don’t recommend this because the audio I paid for doesn’t work.

4. I’ve stopped worrying about grammar. My goal at this point is to express myself in Russian. Grammar inhibits that so I’ll save it when I’m more confident about my speaking skills.

5. I’m applying my knowledge of speaking Russian whenever I can. In school, in restaurants, in stores.

I want to connect, slowly.

29_museum sign

I thoroughly love museums that house modern art. I’ve had the privilege to visit some in Manila, New York City, New Haven, Philadelphia and Mumbai. After browsing through, my latest guide to exploring Baku, I decided to visit the city’s Museum of Modern Art. It’s my way of kicking myself out of the Icherisheher periphery, which has begun to feel like a soft comfortable cave that I rarely want to escape.

So with Google Map direction in hand plus my iphone 4S, light, multi-purposeful, I set off for Neftchilar Avenue. (On a side note, I love my Canon Ixus. It takes wonderful photos, almost like an SLR, but there’s something about Instagram. Instagram equals instant gratification. It’s got these really cool filters which make my photos look artistic and I get to share my photos with people of similar interests as well as those who live in Baku. There so many mind-blowing photos in Instagram that also inspire. It’s a great cyber-community and I have yet to explore it’s complete potential. So for now, I’ll stick to taking photos with my iphone.)

Let me start again. With Google Map directions in hand, I walked to Neftchilar Avenue and meandered around broken sidewalks as I looked for Pasha Travel. I never saw Pasha travel, but I did see Pasha Bank. I was supposed to turn left onto Yusif Safarov but I didn’t see any street sign on the road that I suspected was Yusif Safarov. I turned left anyway and around 100 meters away, I spotted copper sculptures outside the museum building.

The entrance fee is five manat and it is well worth it. Baku’s Museum of Modern Art is a beautifully designed space.

The museum is all white, shiny with interesting doorways, pillars and lighting.  There were also only around five visitors when I came in, so I pretty much had the whole museum to myself.

The museum is all white, shiny with interesting doorways, pillars and lighting. There were also only around five visitors when I came in, so I pretty much had the whole museum to myself.

I absolutely loooved these couches.  You could literally almost lie down on them as you soaked in the art.

I absolutely loooved these couches. You could literally almost lie down on them as you soaked in the art.


The lighting from the ceiling added to the breath-taking space. That's also a wheeled installation hanging from the ceiling by the way.

The lighting from the ceiling added to the breath-taking space.

But, of course, I went to the museum, not just for its space but for its art. I felt blase and disconnected as I browsed the paintings, and I had to ask myself why.

Perhaps, I’m tired of modern art. I don’t care much anymore for deformed bodies, splintered souls. Images of monsters. These days I prefer the simplicity of open blue skies and the Caspian.

Perhaps, I was looking for something Azerbaijani. I’ve only lived here since August, and I am no expert on Azerbaijan culture. But I didn’t sense the warmth or beauty of the people within these paintings. Instead, I saw copycats. I don’t mean this in an offensive way. Perhaps a better of saying it is–maybe these artists were in the process of learning about modern art from the masters, so many of the paintings looked very similar to those of the masters’.

Picasso?  Sorry, I somehow can't make this photo turn upright.

Picasso? Sorry, I somehow can’t make this photo turn upright.

Action Jackson?

Action Jackson?

And my favorite.  The red-orange Matisse.

And my favorite. The red-orange Matisse.

The saving grace of the exhibit was Melik Agamalov’s work. Alas. I found a familiar face. Something unique. Beautiful. Something Azeri.

The painting is simply entitled "Lady".  It felt good to look into the eyes of a confident Azeri woman clothed in traditional garb.  There are gold splotches on the painting, which to me, signify a fading traditional culture.  Vintage.

The painting is simply entitled “Lady”. It felt good to look into the eyes of a confident Azeri woman clothed in traditional garb. There are gold splotches on the painting, which to me, signify a fading traditional culture. Vintage.

I ended my visit with a trip to the library and the coffee shop. The library housed Azeri, Russian and English books on famous modern artists. Unfortunately, there was no one manning the library when I dropped by.


All in all, it was a good experience. I would definitely recommend this museum to people who visit Baku. It’s an amazing space.

But still, I would like to see something Azeri.

I started this blog in July, took a hiatus in August, and leaped back into the blogging wagon on January 2 of this year. I’ve been posting every day since, and I’m pushing myself, and just hoping I won’t stop. (Oh the backlog guilt! I still have 2 series that I haven’t finished!)

I’ve also been exploring the WordPress Site Stats section, and have been quite amused with the posts that have generated the most hits.

So, here goes–

10. Mumbai Scribbles, Day 3 — My Mumbai Scribble photos are inspired by WordPress’s Project 365. My goal is to catalog images every day that tell the story of Mumbai, a place I’m visiting, or something I’m engaged in. Cataloging images has sparked wonder in me, and it’s inspiring me to appreciate what I have every day.

9. Flounder Flops — It’s funny how this entry seems to pop up on the “how to not make flounder mushy” Google search. I haven’t found the answer, but since misery loves company, I hope that some cooks out there have discovered that they’re not the only ones with flounder flops.

8. Broccoli-Mushroom Curry and the Rat Race — I’m glad that many people have found this quick recipe. It’s a healthy no-brainer for busy people.

7. From Louie’s Kitchen: Lemon-Pepper Tilapia — I’m sure Louie would be happy to know that people have been browsing his recipe and hopefully trying them out! I’m surprised that quite a number of my recipes are on my top 10 posts. Maybe it’s time that I go back to trying at least one new recipe a week that I can share!

From Louie's facebook status update on July 14: Todays menu via the garden and friends. Tomato soup (Thanks Sacha) with Parsley, Sage, Rosemary, and Thyme (Thanks Simon and Garfunkel). Maple Glazed Lemon Squash (Thanks Sacha), Cucumber/Scallion/carrot Salad, grilled Green Squash / Eggplant Sandwich on fresh Sun dried tomato/Parmigiana cheese bread (Thanks Laurie for my French bread pan, I really like it), and lemon pepper grilled talipia (Thanks fish farmers)

6. Greek Garbanzos Salad — Another healthy eat! I also bought these dishes to make my food pop out in photographs. It’s a sign! Time to generate healthy eats again!

Students representing South Africa!

5. Mumbai Scribble, Day 18: International Day — My favorite special event in school!

4. Pig Roast in Nancy’s Graduation — The fourth of July last year was one of the most beautiful days I’ve seen and experienced. This was a happy memory with B, my honey, and his family. Nancy tragically died in a car accident a few weeks before Christmas. But she didn’t die in vain. Her smile, kindness and love have left and indelible impact on thousands of lives.

Louie, Anne Marie and Nancy in the Lapp's breathtaking farm

3. Weekly Photo Challenge: Ready / Mumbai Scribble, Day 28: Kala Ghoda Festival — I love doing the Weekly Photo Challenge. It’s another venue for bloggers to share their creative ideas. I find that many of my followers discover Scribbles through this page.

2. 10 Things I Learned from Dilip D’Souza’s Travel Writing Workshop — I scribbled this entry in less than an hour. It was based on a workshop I took a couple of days ago. Little did I know that it would generate so many hits. I’m still happy to have found Dilip and the group. We’re meeting next month in either Bandra or Thane, and we need to work on our first assignment–pick two travel experiences and write an essay that connects them. What a challenge!

DD's Travel Writing Bus in Elphinstone College

Silent Noise by Saini Johray

1. Mumbai Scribble, Day 27: Kala Ghoda Festival — Never in a million years would I have thought that this photo would generate so many hits. It pops up in Google Images when you type in “Kala Ghoda Festival 2012”. I accidentally tapped into something called “Search Engine Optimization”. Thank you, Google!

In the meantime, I’m on the 10% mark of my blogging goal this year, which is to post every day.

I’m trying. Persevering. Writing. Taking photos. And posting. One day at a time.

I’m taking a brief hiatus from my Mumbai Night series. I’m just so excited and a bit high that I’ve passed the one hundred mark on two counts, which translates into I’ve officially entered WordPress geek-hood. The blogosphere is new to me so I’m still focusing on content content content, while finding my way through tags, giving constructive feedback to other blogs, and using my blog reader .

But today, I’m taking the luxury of pausing and celebrating that I’ve written 107 posts! I’m delighted! But I know also know that it means I have to raise the bar. So I’m off to my next goal of writing 200 posts, hopefully with better writing and photos. (Help help help, Daily Post! I miss your inspiration!)

Here's proof!

I was also surprised this afternoon when I saw that I was about to pass 100 site views today!

More proof!

I know it sounds like a low number but it’s a big deal for me! I waited, obsessed, until I saw “99 site views” and then “102”! When I looked at my referrals it said (not verbatim): Google Images Kala Ghoda Festival 2012. Of course, I searched it and found the photo of my favorite sculpture from yesterday–

I love technology! I love WordPress! I love Google image!

But tomorrow is a new day. A day to sober up and pretend my site views are zero. A day to search for travel adventures around the corner, camera case slung around my shoulder. A day to squint, strain my eyes, crave for quiet, write, slap out my editing knife, and practice practice practice. Write write write.

Whether anyone reads or not.