Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Cable TV

Okay..each day I learn something about how business works here....and you can easily see why corruption (bribes, pay-offs, greasing the palm exists) otherwise it's nearly impossible to get things done.

The apartment has cable but I wanted to purchased the extended package so I could get CNN, ESPN, HBO...okay, I miss American TV. So a staffer and myself go to the BBTV (their large cable company)...I sign up for 110 channel package...27 Manats a months...or $32 USD. And since they don't send bills you have to go to the office to pay..I said "fine, I'll pay for three months in advance". Go home expecting to see all my trashy TV I left behind in PA..nothing..my staffer calls the cable company..they say it should be working but we'll send a cable guy. Heard that before, two days later the guy comes...he can't figure out why I don't have the 110 BBTV channels...he goes to the roof to look and comes back to tell me that another cable company is servicing the building and cut BBTV's cable...

Life in Baku...

Monday, March 30, 2009

Daylight Savings Time

So the clocks moved forward here on Sunday night...little did I know so I was late for work..oh well.

Speaking of work...here how it's going...we have received just about 400 applications for the 25 or so seats in the inaugural first class of the School of International Affairs...most are from Azeri citizens..but the international pool is quite impressive representing countries like the Czech Republic, Mexico (who knew there is an active Azeribaijan embassy in Mexico City), Uzbekistan, Georgia, Russia, Moldova, Ethopia, Tanzania, Pakistan and Palestine. Imagine folks from these various countries all studying Security and Conflict Resolution...it will be quite amazing.

I did a interview for local TV today..hopefully, I can figure out what channel it airs on tonight. My admissions counselor/assistant/everything provided translation....Gunay Hashimova is wonderful....and it would not be easy to do this job without her assistance.

Tammy and I have had some great conversations and for anyone not using SKYPE..sign up now..it's a wonderful way to stay in touch for cheap....www.skype.com

Also, you could use it to call or video me...but truthfully, I would rather write on this blog...
next time I'll tell you about my trip to the Bazaar and my depressing encounter with the Zoo Market....


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Saturday March 28th

Hooray, two big accomplishments...found a barber shop...and got a great haircut. I was a little cautious about heading into such a "male place"...even more male than any of the typical barbershops found back in the states...but luckily I got there super early so just one barber who was wielding a single straight edge on a guys whiskers...I was welcomed and told to sit..we just dealt with the language barrier...I got the best comb and scissors cut I've ever received! This guy, his name is Nevan, used scissors like I've never seen before...I have a barber for the next two years. I'll post a picture of him in a future post...since now everytime I walk past the shop (it's only three blocks from the apartment...all the barbers led by Nevan come out to greet me.

The second huge accomplishment...I walked to the Hyatt Hotel complex which includes a Park Hyatt Hotel too...treated myself to lunch ( a turkey breast pannini) and an expensive cup of coffee..coffee is the most expensive commodity here..AND, read some Azeri papers that are published in English...This was a treat and I expect to do this regularly. The Hyatt is about 40 minute walk from the house.

The weather has finally changed...the sun appears to now stay out from about 10-3..then the fog and the wind comes in from the Caspian Sea....this reminds me so much of SF in that respect...so don't get caught without a heavy jacket is my motto now. Thank goodness I don't have long hair since it would look like this posted photo.

Tammy and I have had some great conversation this week and Sierra and Dakota have been texting me...I will actually be back in the states two weeks from today..Yippee...

Next time I'll talk about my job and how that's going...

Love to all!

Janice in Baku

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thursday, March 26

This may have been a wonderful holiday season for the Azeris but I can imagine a time (other than Federal Budget not signed) that the entire US would grind to halt for ten days and eat sweets. And, since this is not a hot bed of Christianity, the government has ordered everyone and everything back to work on Sunday...that's an early work week, eh?

Some information about the country...Azerbaijan is about the size of Indianan, with 9 of the recognized climate zones..I understand this is rare for any country of this size to have that type of variation. Baku, the capital, has about 2M residents and if the USSR still existed it would be the fifth largest city. To the north of the city, well I guess way north are the Caucasus mountains..and Caucasus is an Arabic word meaning "mountain of many languages" since back in the real day...well, you get it. So how the word Caucasus ended being the identifiable term for white folks is another issue I'll explore in a later post. One of the main reasons this nation is so secular is thanks/no thanks to the Russian occupancy for 70 years. In the late "20's the Russian changed the alphabet from traditional Arabic to Cyrillic letters which effectively cut the Azeris off from the traditional Islamic culture..

I purchased some dried kiwi slices today...quite tasty.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009


So here's my top ten list of things that make me go ..."huh?" about Baku.

1.The toilet...is there something unique about American's physiology...all the poop seems to miss the water flow here.
2. There is hardly anyone with grey hair...all women and lots of men dye their hair...black. This is one of the reasons people look at me. They are just not used to seeing grey hair on anyone.
3. Women are considered "fast" if they smoke...so only men seem to puff away on cigarettes.
4. The meat hanging in the windows is non-descriptive to me...looks like skinned cattle.
5. Spinach and cabbage seem to the only winter/early spring vegetables.
6. The men smoke in elevators and also do number 10 in elevators too...Yuck!
7. In the gym no one but me returns the weights to the racks.
8. Russians love LeBron and Kobe! oh, yeah Dwayne Wade too.
9. There is no litter in the center of city but plastic bags (I've collected nearly 30 in 2.5 weeks from just my grocery, etc shopping) they seem to love but you'll see them floating around the street.
10. Like the Chinese, they (men only) seem to enjoy spitting where and whenever they can.

Monday, March 23, 2009

So what's it like now in Baku

The national holiday of Novruz shuts the country down for nearly 10 days! I mean except for a few business..nearly everything is closed. Most people have gone on holiday or are tourists visting the country. Most tourists in Baku, I've learned come from Iran, since it is more repressive there...those who can travel to Baku to enjoy just somethings. I must say two things gave me a minute of pause this week..one, in the parking lot of my apartment complex..are a bunch of cars with Iranian license plates..don't see that everyday and last week one of the guest speakers here at the Academy was a scholar from Cuban. Meeting her reminded me that somethings most Americans don't...meet someone who actually lives and works in Cuba.

Okay, to answer another question..yes, I'm homesick....and though the time difference (Baku is 8 hours ahead of EST) makes it difficult and I'll be honest...Tammy is pissed off with my leaving her to content with our collective life in Carlisle...has created the best atmosphere to sustain communication...also the cost. Verizon is $4.99 minute..but SKYPE is god send. At least we can argue more cheaply now. I must say just these few weeks have given me a much bigger appreciation for anyone who leaves family behind...I can imagine if I was fighting a war on top of this how it must feel to be deplored.

To past the time I continue to explore the city...clearly some folks are making money here...passed Tiffany's, Dior, and Burberry..to name just a few high end stores..the downtown area is quite fashionable and clearly people are spending money. I also walked to the best recognizable icon in the country...the Maiden Tower. See photo...built in the 12th century depending on who you talk to (or what guide book you read)...it was either built as lookout, since it is very near the Caspian Sea....or it was built at request of the daughter of a wealthy man who had plans to marry her...instead, she climbed to the top and threw herself off.

Anyhow..that's my posting for today...



Wednesday, March 18, 2009

When the President calls for holiday, it's a holiday


Starting on the March 20th until March 29th, in celebration of Novruz everything is closing here.

Novruz is traditional holiday dating back several thousand years and seems to be a combination of the Equinox, spring, ceremonial painted egg cracking (don't say Easter around here), planting of green things, and spring cleaning. Azeri's start small fires to jump over them to leave all troubles to burn...I like that...but I'm not leaping over burning logs just yet.

Tammy and I finally got to talk at length the other day...it was good to hear her voice even if she was screaming at me. I'll take a scream over no conversation any day. My dad's eighty birthday is this weekend both my brothers will be with him..and I'm calling in to wish him well.

Here's a another photo...my apartment building...let's not discuss construction codes and seismic activity. I'm just pretending not to be worried but the country's rush to develop has comprised the safety of many projects. Let's say I've checked out the stairs and figure I can avoid the elevator and run down nine flights if necessary. I keep flashlights handy in all rooms.

Until next time....oh yeah, to make up for the holiday period...the next few Sunday's are official business days!

Peace out, Janice

Monday, March 16, 2009

Caspian Sea

According the SOCAR, the Azeri national Oil Company..there are nearly 100 billion barrels of oil under the sea...and they are trying to get every drop. The US gvt helped build a 4B USD pipeline from Baku, through Georgia (now we know why the geopolitical importance of this former Soviet Republic too), through Turkey and on to the Mediterranean Sea. I walked down to the sea this week...think San Francisco fog with the wind of Dearborn Street in Chicago..it was so windy and there is constant dust blowing.

On the way to the sea...I passed a Nike Store, yes, they are here! Felt strange seeing LeBron and Dwayne Wade jersey's all over the store....that's it for today....check back in soon.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Next week's special election

Last one for today...

I might have mentioned that Azerbaijan is a democratic society (well, yes, it's more democratic than Muslim) yet, on March 18th is a special Referendum Vote to eliminate term limits for their president. President Aliyeva, who became president after his father the former president passed away, is seeking to continue and likely pass the leadership on to his son.

I've been told there is no opposition to the referendum and it will likely pass. The country seems to adore Aliyeva and there are large billboard posters of him all over town and not just because of the coming vote.

Here's a look at him

Janice in Baku

It's me again...playing around with adding a photo..well, here is a picture of the view from my apartment window. I'm on the ninth floor of a 15 story building less than two minutes walk from the school and a block from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (who I offcially work for).

One week down

Hello everyone,

Finally...am I able to get this blog underway. What a week it's been! I arrive after midnight here on Tuesday March 9th. Slept for few hours then came right to work. The staff here at the Academy are all quite nice...and speak fluent English. I've spend the week doing what I've done every admissions year...emailing and speaking with prospective students. Except they are from Georgia (the country, not the state), Czech Republic, Uzbekistan, Molodova and the other 'stans....and no, I don't mean my brother, Stan.

As for life outside of work, well....the Azeris (that what the citizens of Azerbaijan are called) still have a form of polite timidity with regard to me passing on them. However, kids are down right curious, giggle and turn to stare....I guess for nearly all of them..they have never seen an African-American woman with grey hair on the street. So if I was them I would stare too!

Over the weekend, I joined a gym (thank God) and yes, I found one...not much, but it will do for this gym rat! And, the most important thing I brought a coffee pot...coffee is the most espensive commodity here and Azeris DO NOT drink coffee. Ah, no Starbucks here. So I am quite happy to have my java now!!

Pictures, I'll post next time....thanks to my wonderful (now ex-) staff and colleagues at Dickinson, I have great cool digital Fuji...that I'm still trying to figure out how to work. Wanda, another tutoring session when I'm back in Carlisle.

Finally, if you care to write me...only send it to the school address...seems like there is no residential delivery service...um....I'll never trash the US Postal Service, our Constitution or level sidewalks again.

Until next time,
Janice in Baku