Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Heading to the UK

Last post from Baku for a bit as I leave in the morning to head to London. I've needed sleeping pills these last few nights since I'm soooo excited. Tammy and the kids arrive on Friday morning from Philly...looking forward a rented duplex across from Hyde Park.

A couple of interesting things will happen in this region over the next few weeks...

1) all eyes are on the presidential election in Iran...the Green Party (not for enviromental reasons )hopes to topple the current crazy Ahmadinejad. The demonstrations in the streets of Tehran against the crazy guy have been the largest since the Islamic revolution. The election in Friday and if the Green Party candidate wins...clearly, the Obama administration will rejoice as this will move the country to wanting a less adversial relationship with the west and Israel.

2) The Israeli President is supposed to visit Baku later this month...Israel is the second largest trading partner with Azerbaijan..Germany first, and the US just passed Italy for third.

3) I have two Mexican students enrolling and every here is freaking out believing that they will bring the swine flu to the country.

4) If Tammy approves (when she visits me July 1-8-we're flying back together) I am going to move to a new apartment. People move here every's crazy. But in the course of looking for apartments for our international students...I looked at terrific place..another 2BD but with 2Baths, a wonderful view of the Caspian, a washing machine (standard) and a dishwasher (it's fashionable to have one), and the landlord pays for the maintenance, gas and water (of course, you still can't drink it)...all this will be less expensive than my current place...the only will mean a 20 minute walk vs. the 2 minute walk I have now...oh, well the trade-off will be worth it.

5) I'll post photos from London...

Hope everyone is fine...Maggie are you and the family back from London..sorry we couldn't hook up...maybe next year in Paris or Istanbul.

Peace out,

Monday, June 8, 2009

What I am here for...I

On Monday evening I hosted a reception for the admitted Azeri students to meet each other and members of the ADA community. It turned out to be a nice event...15 of the admitted 16 students came. None of the 10 international (Kenya, Pakistan, Mexico, Czech Republic, Russia and Syria) students attended as I don't anticipate their arrival until closer to June 18th.

I've been hosting events for admitted students for nearly 30 of course, standing in front of them making remarks felt incredibly was completely different...and I think I'll treasure that for quite some time. Without bragging, but it's clear I've made an enormous impact on the country and the people in just a short time...but more important to me...I did this as Black American woman.....who is also a gender my students at Penn State would say...."Thanks Dean Austin, for representing"!!!


PS..Gosh, almost forgot two days before heading to London and the rendevous with Tammy and the kids...YAHOO!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

City view of Baku

Only a few more days, Thursday in fact, and I'll be heading to London to meet Tammy and the kids. Need I say how excited we all are!

I took this picture last week from the top of a ferris the edge of the Caspian Sea. I was checking out new places and came across. I decided to pay the 2 manats (3.50 USD) for a ride. Scarier than I thought especially as I started focussing on the rusty mechanisms controlling the wheel...oh, well.

The photo is looking back over the you can see lots of high rises and lots of cranes. The financial meltdown has not stopped the Azeris from building....and remember there are 4 million here in the capital and a total of 8 million in the country which is about the size of Maine...

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Washing Machine

After three months I finally have figured out how to properly put fabric softener in the washer.
Since everything is labelled in Russian...and since no one has a clothes dryer here..knowing how to effectively use fabric softener is crucial. Otherwise, all of your aired dried clothes, towels, etc look like stiff cardboard and covered by dust (remember this city is dust bowl capital).

So I can not stress the importance of using fabric softener and the timing of placing your clothes outside to dry....the small achievements are huge in this place where everything is hard to do or accomplish.....count one knotch for JLA....

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Just watched President Obama's speech

Perhaps it is just the fact that I'm physically so much closer to Iran, Iraq and Afghanistan than DC that seeing and hearing President Obama talk about some the issues I feel on a daily basis resonates deeply with me. I actually started crying.....

For example his comments about the women's rights..well, I live this issue everyday. He stated in the USA, Muslim women have gone to court and won the right to be veiled if it is their desire to dress traditionally. Here in Azerbaijan though it is 99% Shiite Muslim, women who wish to be veiled can not wear veils in government offices. I had a rather uncomfortable conversation with a prospect young Muslim veiled woman, who accused me of discriminating against her since I told that she was welcome to apply to the masters program but would not be able to seek employment at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs if she remained traditional. This was a very interesting turn of events for me the black, female, American admissions director....

Also, he spoke about nuclear weapons...yes, Azeris fear that Iran is attempting to develop nuclear power/potential weapons. There is still bitterness among many Azeris since northern Iran was once a part of southern Azerbaijan thus making millions of Iranians ethnically Azerbaijani. In fact, the Azeri surgeon that I'm working on conversational English with told me just last night that he hates Iran.....It's complicated over here...without a doubt.

As I was preparing to leave for this job, many folks were, that's wonderful working overseas, how cool is that! But as I tried to enlighten them being here would not be like hanging out in Paris or is, and will remain quite different....and impact me, my country, this country, this region, and our world...

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Geopolitics of the South Caucasas

To really appreciate the issues facing Azerbaijan and other countries in the region...look at a map of this area and note the other residents of the neighborhood...Iran, Turkey, Armenia, Georgia, Tukmenistan, Russia...tough neighborhood....yet, just like in the Middle East...the resources (oil and natural gas reserves) make the land vital to the interest of fact, there is a huge power struggle going on as to which country will sell natural gas to the European market, Italy, Greece, Germany, ...even England ....all those countries that have no reserves and aren't willing to develop nuclear power the way the French have. Russia wants to sell gas and partner with Azerbaijan but the Azeris would rather partner with the US, Turkey and Italy to develop a pipeline...alas, the Azeri president doesn't want to piss off Russia...or Iran.

It's fascinating to say the least and it's very easy to see how as Americans we don't necessarily think twice about these issues...but our appetite for fossil fuel needs to come from somewhere....but the photo shows you what the land looks like once it's been drained of its oil..there are miles and miles of the country that look like this...doesn't matter that GM fell so far so fast....we're not going to have fuel one day....damn...and I really miss driving my Land Rover...
Americans, we are full of contradictions...don't you just love it...hope everyone is well.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy

I haven't posted much about the people and where I bad. And, not that I have a lot of pictures but here's a group shot from a birthday party for the receptionist..Ayhan. It's taken me three months to get everyone's name...let alone the pronounciation. The gent in the suspenders down front it Galib, he's the vice-rector (think vice-pres), my boss and the visionist behind the college. He got an MBA from Emory, loves the US and gets to DC every few weeks. The folks in the picture range from the HR manager, to the CFO, Registrar, libraian, IT director and sitting to my left is Gunay Hashimova. She's the admissions counselor, my assistant and assistant to the ambassador/rector.