Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Holidays

Hi All,

Wishing you a very happy holiday season! All is well and it's divine being home!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Tailored Made Suit in Baku

Okay...when I find something to shout about being here I promised myself I would. First, you all know how much I love my barber...Navai...

Now I have a new love...a tailor named Ghrmud (I think that's how it is spelled)..not pictures of him yet..he's very modest. A co-worker a German South-African (he's a good guy) Attila, who is married to an Azeri woman, and has a black South African daughter (I think from a previous marriage)...turned me and Ton (the Dutch co-worker) to a tailor that makes suits. So now I have this fab hand made Turkish wool suit. Picked it up last night...looks stunning..and the price...absolutely shocking...I might have my entire wardrobe remade...

I wish I could get everyone's measurements and have suits made...I'll try to post pictures after I get my second suit made in January.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

2010 Cat Calendar

Did those of you who ordered calendars receive them? I have learned that unless I actually write Par Avion/Air Mail on everything mail to the US can take weeks otherwise. My brother in Arizona just received a letter that I mailed to him back in mid-September. I don't even remember what I mailed.

If you ordered a calendar and HAVE NOT received it let me

I must say...the calendar came out rather nice and I love the photos I took.

My Barber

Went to get a haircut and my barber Navid, who gives me an amazing scissor and straight edge razor cut, inspite of our mutual inability to speak the same language, he and the other barbers let me know they saw me on the tv show. Here's a picture of him in case you forgot...

After cutting my hair, they insisted I stay and have multiple cups of tea and sweets...I hung out and like any barber shop in the US...or hair was a hoot. I wished them Happy New Year, likewise from them and bid them goodbye for a few weeks.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

ESPN International is off the air here!

Oh, man I am really sports fix (football, American that is; rodeo riding, futbol, drag racing, cheerleading contests, basketball, Ali fights, poker, bowling, strongman, strongwoman, alpine racing, cycling, yacht racing, deep sea fishing, log cutting, log rolling, all the fabulous stuff I've grown used to seeing...gone!

The cable company doesn't know when it's coming back...

Monday, December 14, 2009

Building Construction and Otis Elevators...

The head spinning rate of construction here is mind-blowing. But that does leave the question regarding safety and building construction. I actually want to know the rate of on the job injuries..since you see these guys in flip-flops scaling up scaffolding 15 stories high. Speaking of 15 stories, that's the height of my building and I'm on the 9th floor. I've already accepted the fact that if there is an earthquake and I'm in the building you can kiss my ass goodbye.

Bet you never knew how safe you would feel in an Otis Elevator...well, I refuse, REFUSE, unless I have luggage to ride in the substandard elevator in my building...even though it looks brand new...shakes, doesn't stop level with the floor, sometimes the doors open sometimes not...I avoid them (yes, there are two). So I walk up and down the 9 flights of stairs routinely...and since I do it so frequent ...I now can feel the differences in the various some are deeper than others, some are narrower than others....but I would rather be on a collasping stairwell than trapped in an elevator....

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Hungarian Embassy and Church

Went to a reception at the Hungarian Embassy in Baku...the Ambassador welcomed everyone but other than that nothing else...but the food was tasty. I goobled down as much meat as I could since that's what I miss the most. I've been a vegetarian here for the last few weeks...which is good for everyone who wants it..but give me a steak!

Decided to visit the church today. I say the church since I have not seen another symbol of Christianity here at all..and even this church has no crosses, no nothing that suggests it's a church other than the building, tower, etc. It was a German Lutheran Church that for whatever reason it was not destroyed during Soviet occupation. Now it seems that various faiths rent it out for services. It is just by luck that I happened upon it last spring.

The service is conducted in Azerbaijan, translated from the pulpit in Russian and usually there is someone seated in the audience (us, ex-pats sit there) who then translates into English. As you can imagine most of what is going on is "loss in translation".

What I'm most in awe with is the hundreds of attendees. Remember this country is 90% Shiite muslim, though wonder how anyone who actually believes in Jesus Christ as their savior makes it here....I guess like me...they have faith in something to get them through each day.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Aren't I lucky that the US Government has my email

On Friday I received the following blast email from the US Embassy here in Baku

Embassy Baku
Warden Message
December 11, 2009

The Azerbaijani press is reporting that an Azerbaijani citizen, Azer Misirkhanov, was killed in a U.S. missile strike in Afghanistan. Misirkhanov was said to be the commander of a paramilitary gropu in Afghanistan that was engaged in fighting U.S. and Afghan forces, and was also alleged to be a leader of a radical religious group in Azerbaijan. In addition, a trial of 31 of Misirkhanov's followers, accused of plotting a series of terrorist attacks, is scheduled to begin in Baku on December 17.

The U.S. Embassy is Baku does not have any evidence of a specific threat against Americans in Azerbaijan at this time. However, due to the high-profile nature of this news and the upcoming trial, we would like to take this opportunity to remind all Americans to monitor media reports, maintain a high level of vigilance, and to increase their security awareness, such as varying times and routes of routine travel.

U.S Embassy in Baku is located at Azadliq Prospekti 83, tel (+994 12) 498-03-35. Duty personnel are also available for emergency assistance after hours and on weekends and holidays at these telephone numbers....

Friday, December 11, 2009


Yeah, it's been a long week...and a nice way to end it and start the weekend is with the Christmas Party I am attending tonight at the Hungarian Embassy. I won't have my camera but I'll be sure to report on the event later...

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Love Affair with the Azerbaijani Media

The media coverage of both the Academy, me personally and my role with the Academy has been overwhelming the entire time I've been here. I understand, heck this is a relatively small country 8 million, with the majority living here in the capital-Baku. There are several public, state owned and private TV stations, internet new agencies, newspapers and magazines all eager to get "the breaking story". Yes, the breaking story consists of the innovative and very different education the Academy is offering, but also the person behind (or in front) is also a breaking story...especially, if they are a woman, American and African-American, with gray hair. So I have done my fair share of interviews, press conferences, and article writing...but last week was a first for me. I was on their morning talk show...think Good Morning aired lived!

My assistant and our admissions counselor Gunay (it was her wedding I attended back in August--see that post), who is an amazing simultaneous translator accompanied me. It was fun and I remembered to keep it light and fun as the anchor played with her hair....following the segment I asked to take a picture with them..Mehman Mediyev is on my left and Gunay (very popular name here) Nazarova is on my right.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

We're coming home for the HOLIDAYS too!

Hello friends....well Janice has finally let us post....AND WE'RE COMING HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS TOO...

Lamb Chop and Platy

More photos from Istanbul

I haven't been to all of the world's major cities..who has? Though Istanbul with its' beautiful waterways, slight hills, ancient building and bustling full of definitely high on the list as evident by more pictures...but for sheer beauty I still must believe it is Cape Town. I was there last September and Table Mountain, the meeting of the Atlantic and Indian Oceans...well it is down right breathtaking....any way more of Istanbul

Monday, December 7, 2009

Free Market and McDonald's

Okay...I'll admit I was near desperate...went to the McDonald's here in Baku for fries and coffee during my lunch hour. Not only is it fully decorated for Christmas even with the tree and ornaments...the music blasting over the speakers....I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, Santa's coming to town, Sleigh was way too freaky for even my American sensibilities!!!!

But you know what made me even more freaked out...I've decided THEY CAN'T POSSIBLY TEACH ANYTHING ABOUT THE WORLD BEYOND THESE BORDERS IN THE K-8 SYSTEM....

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Authoritarian Government

Authoritarian.....of or pertaining to a government or political system, principle, or practice in which individual freedom is held as completely subordinate to the power or authority of the state, centered either in one person or a small group that is not constitutionally accountable to the people.

Azerbaijan has never held an election that has been considered fair and without election fraud.

Elections are going to be held on December 23rd. I doubt if their dubious honor of recognition by the UN and other global elections watchers will change.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Still great pictures from Istanbul

Okay several mores pictures from Istanbul..beautiful stained glass windows inside a mosque and an LED board in front of another mosque announcing the daily teachings...I thought that was rather interesting
Also if you've been following my adventures you know of my post office goings on...but my brother in Arizona just received this week a letter I mailed to him from here back in September...slowly but I guess it works. Anyhow, the post office lady, Mehriban, my friend, called me on my cell phone this morning. Though we don't speak the same language, I gathered that there was a letter for me...she calls when something arrives for me since actual door delivery doesn't really operate here. I went there this afternoon and it was not one letter for me but months worth of mail for the Academy....oh well....

Friday, December 4, 2009

Few more pictures from Istanbul

The thing that is so striking about Istanbul is that it's a mixture of Europe and Asia, of Islam and where is it more pronounced in St. Sophia the ancient basilica built by Constantine the Great in the 4th century and reconstructed by Justinian in the 6th century. When the Ottoman Empire ruled it was converted into a mosque and now it's a museum/tourist site.
During many of the renovations, mosaic panels were discovered. One in particular is quite spectacular. It is the Virgin Mary between Justinian, who is presenting St. Hagia Sophia and Constantine presenting a model of his new city.

The next photo is a marble jar (standing nearly 5 feet tall) made from one single slab of marble from the Peragamon area of Turkey. The jar was presented by Murad III who was the Sultan ruler from 1574-1595. It is quite an extraordinary piece and there's two of them.

Thursday, December 3, 2009


The persimmon trees are in heavy with fruit here. There are several types here. The one I enjoy the most is extremelly hard, with very hard seeds inside...but it is sweeeet.

They also have the type most often found in US...soft and fleshy. I understand that Azerbaijan is very well known for growing this fruit. Along with pomegranates, persimmons are among the country's leading exports.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

More photos from Istanbul

Istanbul has somewhere between 2000-3000 mosques depends on your tour guide that day. Nonetheless, the mosques are impressive sight...especially the world famous Blue Mosque.on the right. The thousands of tiles that adorn the inside of the mosque are blue...hence, the name. It was build in 1616 and is an architectural marvel the large dome is not supported by walls but the columns inside. The other building with four minarets (three in my photos) is the St. Sophia built by Constantine the Great in the 4th century and reconstructed in the 6th century. It was a church, then mosque and now basically a museum. Inside photos didn't come out so great...but enjoy...

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Istanbul, city of 14-16 million people in both Asia and Europe

Istanbul was/is an amazing city, it sits as a link to Asia and Europe divided by the Bosphorous Strait which was filled with enormous tanker ships. I was really struck by all the historic and ancient sites...we're talking thousands of year old. There were lots of tourists from far away places Brazil, Italy, Hawaii....yes, I met all of them on the tour bus (it was the easiest way to maximize my time and money there).

My first stop was the Obelisk and Hippodrome area, where horse races where held 3600 years ago. Though the actual Hippodrome sitting area was destroyed in an earthquake in the 1400's you can still image the oval track, the people cheering and the sound of the hoof beats...