Monday, December 20, 2010

Fun pic from Baku


One of my last days in Baku gazing out of the ninth floor window from the apartment I captured a neighbor across the street doing his morning exercises on his balcony....good to know that others thought about fitness...

Monday, December 13, 2010

Bye Bye Baku

Heading home folks!

Friday, December 3, 2010

My lungs are starting to "say thank you"

The air quality to put it bluntly "sucks" here..but I understand...get the economic engine going and let everything play catch up. That's the rule of the game in most of Central Asia and elsewhere in the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) countries.
Read some interesting yet breath taking-away stats today about air quality in Baku...the levels of dust particle (and it just settles everywhere), carbon dioxide, and nitric oxide are all TRIPLE the normally accepted mg per cubic meter found in the European Union (EU). By 2013, Azerbaijan hopes to achieve Euro standard 3 (the EU is adopting standard 6 by 2014).
With the abundance of respiratory ailments, sneezing, coughing, etc. that I have experienced while living here...I'm a little nervous at what the future holds for my health....Inshallah
(and if you've followed me...you know that basically means 'whatever God wills'....

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Outpouring of Love

I have been dew eyed for a couple of days as the outpouring of goodbyes and farewells continue to be directed at me....my boss-boss, the Ambassador hosted a grand dinner for me last night and made a very touching speech. He even remarked that as he and I are the only grey-haired folks among the 50 staff/faculty that he was really sorry to see me go!
I suggested we write a book together about the founding of ADA...that's a very popular and highly respectable endeavor here in Azerbaijan. Otherwise, how would you chronicle a history of a nation that is only twenty years old...

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Photos frrom my 'hood continue




The old Soviet style buildings have some terrific faces sitting stories in the air and I've just loved looking up to capture some of the scenes here in Baku. The teeth are quite impressive..how a piece of the tongue feel off...who knows. Additionally, newer construction, on the left is a building that sits in the very tiny Jewish community area which is only about one block or so. It has been told to me that there are about twenty or so Orthodox families in Baku.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Urban Renewal Baku Style




Still attempting to capture images of my everyday surroundings and this includes the continued demolition of blocks and blocks close to my apartment. From what I've been told this extensive urban project will result in a grand plaza/park something like the Mall in Washington, DC...stretching for blocks. A number of people remained living in buildings destined for the wrecking ball and I guess this weekend their deadline was up and literally, I watched as people scrambled to save their belongings just as the buildings were coming down. I decided not to take photos of people in such distress rather my photos are of what they were walking away from.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Global facts and 633 days in Azerbaijan

Today marks my 633rd day in Azerbaijan..well could be one or two more...I've lost count..
Global facts:
Climate change...saw a report yesterday...it is relatively cold in Moscow even during the summer...here's a little tidbit...in 2009 there were 0 days above 30 C (which is about 86 F)...get this..in 2010 there were 30 days of 30 or above. The toll on human life and forest fires was enormous....the Russian don't really know how to handle this heat...even the famous and amazing Moscow Metro does not have air conditioning.

Other fact...Nigeria has 150 million people..nearly 16 million in the city of Lagos alone. To put that in comparison...okay, what 305 million in the US--give or take a few million and in
Azerbaijan there is 9 million people...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving 2010





We all have much to be thankful for...the list for me is long and complicated but simply stated I'm thankful that for 631 days in Azerbaijan I have not been hit by a car or bus...
At work today, a lunch was organized for us Americans (three of us) including what I would call free-range baked turkeys, roasted pumpkin and mashed potatoes. I shared with the group a brief history of Thanksgiving, including how it is viewed by many as a turning point in the lives of Native Americans (and not in a positive way). Photos of turkeys, roasted pumpkin and me with the carver...

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A tree unbowed....and I, humbled...


Still trying to capture the everyday scenes around me...if you look just above the word "me" you'll see a 2 x 4 holding up the trunk...and for me....First Lady Michelle Obama's expression of being "never prouder of her country"...I too, after being here for 630 days, have never felt prouder to call myself "an American".....

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Globalization makes the world flatter than even Friedman proffered

If N. Korea has a modern uranium facility...the question is how did it get it? Well, the going theory in the part of the world...Pakistan helped...and if they did it means that transport likely occured through China which makes them likely complicit.
Largest heroin seizure ever in Nigeria nearly 300 lbs...was discovered in Lagos port in a shipment of machine parts from Iran....most of the drugs were probably destined for Europe or USA.
Finally, my last tidbit...it may seem counterintuitive...but appreciate items you'll find in the US that say Made in China. Here's why...think of three levels of factories in China turning out goods...one factory makes goods destined for the US and Western Europe, another factory makes products that is sold in places like Azerbaijan (yes, most of the items here are also made in China), then there are the factories that manufacture items that are actually sold to the citizens of China...now let me guess which factory's product you want on your back....

Sunday, November 21, 2010

My 'hood

My days remaining in my 'hood are growing closer to the end....so I've been trying to take in some sights and photos of just the everyday images...just up the corner from the apartment at this intersection...I love that fact that the Stop sign and the directional arrow signs are all attached to the gas pipes....so you can see why gas explosions...well, are just another day in the neighborhood....what would Mr. Rodgers think?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Emma....


So I hung out with Emma for a couple of hours...and watched and occassionally helped her feed her crew of cats. Except for a few opportunities when we were able to communicate I just watched as she tenderly hand fed her cat pack. People passing by weren't sure of what to make of us...she a hunched over elderly woman...me taller black woman in a baseball cap. But it was clear that many who passed by have an affection for her, her cats and what she's doing to care for them in this limited fashion. Others...Emma wagged her finger at them as those who had the look of disgust over her efforts....she was unbowed. I gave her copies of the photos that I have taken of her and her cats over the last year....she started crying....so did I.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Emma, China and no sheep sightings

To avoid the sheep slaughter thing....I hung out with Emma (see posting from few days ago) and helped her feed her band of cats. For two hours, she diligently and with care scrapped raw meat from bones (I think mutton) and feed various segments of internal organs to her band of 10 cats. In our non-verbal communication...she speaks Azerbaijani and Russian, she explained to me their names and a little about her life. I gather she's in her 70's and before Azerbaijan's independence...she was a heart specialist and her husband a university professor. And, she's been caring for the cats at this apartment complex (she doesn't live there) for several years.
I was quite touch and at times flooded with tears...her kindness and indeed, our collective helplessness with regard to these animals was at times overwhelming...

Oh, China...did you know that in 2009, China used more steel than the US, European Union and Japan...and in the same year, more cellphones were sold in China than the entire world combined....that's one way to temper my emotions about the lives of Baku's street cats....

Saturday, November 13, 2010

It is time for the damn sheep on the street again!

Guran Bayram is here again. The holiday of the sacrifice....sacrifice a sheep and share the meat with family and friends. I get it. It is a positive event here..sharing, giving to others...all noble human endeavors. But starting tomorrow through Tuesday or Wednesday, little herds of sheep will be seen about town with one hanging upside down---dead, skinned and sliced. Last year I was lucky to flee to Istanbul..this year not so lucky....

Friday, November 12, 2010

Hang Homosexuals

This was the headlines in an Ugandian newspaper twice over the last few weeks. The Rolling Stone (no connection with the more famous pub in the US) listed the names of 100 gay and lesbian with a banner statement of 'hang them'. It was several months ago that the Ugandian Parliamentary considered a bill that would give gay people the death penalty in the country. There was international outcry, including the US government, and the elected officials backed down but I'm sure the issue to kill will be rekindled in the future. In the meantime, the editor of the paper (I saw an interview with him on BBC) is adament as were the average person on the street in Kamapala...there is no place for this abberation in Ugandian society so eliminate it/them.
My dilemna is that I have been providing assistance to our lone Ugandian student here at the academy and I'm struggling with it. I have not engaged him in any conversation regarding this issue and now with only three weeks remaining here. Is every moment an opportunity for a teachable moment?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gonna miss news like this

Last week the American born Yemen cleric Anwar al-Awlaki (who is on the CIA kill list) issued this comment "Kill Americans without hesitation and with consultation".....he is viewed as the impetus for the Detroit underpants attempted bomber, and the most recent toner cartridge bombs found in the cargo planes....

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Construction Construction everywhere


With the influx of money from oil reserves (7 B last year) and the continued foreign investment flowing in...this place is one mega construction site. Hyatts, Four Seasons, Ritz, even the Guggenheim is considering something off-shore on a created island...Bentley dealership opened and the "seen and be seen" restaurants and clubs are doing brisk business....Sometimes it feels like this fast pace will collapse inward from the weight....well, some of the none city center infrastructures are ...well, questionable in construction compentency...at least for my taste...in deed, watching the construction sights you have to wonder...where is OSHA when you need them...this rig for the crane should be recalled...

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Milano Cookies and sunflower seed hulls

Well, I've decided I miss Pepperidge Farms Milano cookies the most! Stone Cold Ice Cream is a close second.....and third, excitedly and fearfully, I must note that my post about the recent elections got picked up in Google Alerts.....you think some of my other comments would have ranked before now, including my recent irritation ...spitting the hulls of sunflower seeds....gosh, it is just nasty and awful especially when you see a small pile in an elevator....

Monday, November 8, 2010

Political Elections in Azerbaijan

On Sunday the entire 125 seats in the unicameral (my word for the day) government were up for vote. The ruling party of President Aliyeva won 75 seats and the "independent" seats went to those loyal to the party. Not one opposition candidate won. There have been cries of fraud and voter intimidation, the kind where you're a civil servant go vote and do the right thing...ummm. Both Turkish and Russian observes have said it was a fair and transparent election.
It was two years ago that the constititution was changed to eliminate presidential term limits....maybe the Tea Party should start organizing here!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I ran into Emma today!

Over a year ago, while walking a few blocks from the apartment, I came upon this scene. A woman cutting up raw meat for the neighborhood cats. This is Emma with her gold teeth and taking care of her children. I have walked past this spot many times in the last year but I have not seen her...well, today just as I was passing by she was crossing the street. I must say one year has taken a toll upon her...she remembered me and called my name, Canis, otherwise, I would not have recognized her but she had her bag of scrapes off to feed other neighborhood strays. I will go back to the spot and hopefully, I will see her again before I leave Baku.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Yemen, elections in Azerbaijan and bacon

Let the last be first...FOUND BACON!
Elections in Azerbaijan...Sunday Nov 7th...Saturday Nov 6th there is a Presidential decree placing a moratorium on campaigning....
Yemen....if you have been following the news...you know of the toner bombs sent from Yemen...but here are three key reasons as to why Yemen is a hot bed for activity...1) it is the poorest country in the Middle East...ie. they ain't got any oil...2) the government is very weak and having difficulty centralizing the various tribal leaders. In fact, there is continuing civil war in the south, and 3) it will likely be the first nation in the world to run out of water. So to sum this up... Zero H2O + war + no government = what you see is what you get..

Friday, November 5, 2010

Doors and windows of Baku

Sometimes the doors are not leading to anywhere nor are the windows permitting a gaze through but these objects are just a reminder of what was...my time in Azerbaijan maybe summed up this way too....

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Disparity between rich and poor


You have seen some of the spectacular pictures I've posted of the wealth to be seen here..but like most places in the world the disparity is great but given the tiny size of the country both in geography and population it all seems to be so much more in your face....the leveling of blocks and blocks near the apartment are continuing...but some people seem to be holding on to the lives as long as possible....captured here is a small image of a family trying to hold on....they live in the top apartment with the satellite dish

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Just say NO to ......ah, Nancy Reagan would love this


While riding the bus today I passed this billboard...and the message is clear to the young...play futbol (soccer) and you'll stay free of cigarettes and injectable drugs. The country has only recently begun an active anti-smoking campaign...but that will take years to undue smoking culture and cheap price of cigs...also, this country is considered a transit point for heroin flowing from Afghanistan destined for the Russian and European markets...AFFA is the Association Futbol Federation Azerbaijan..the national organization

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Why are the light switches outside of the office doors?

This morning when I arrived at the office with my hands full a colleague who I like and respect alot. He is German/South African and been living here over 15 years and married to a Azeri woman...he's a consultant...anyway, he opened my office door for me as I couldn't reach for the knob. But as I walked into the dark office, I said, geez why do they put the light switches on the outside.....he looked at me and said "control".....I said "dang, I have not been in the country long enough to make those assumptions"....he quiped back..."what do you mean assume".....oh yeah.....life on the wheel, life in the absurd....

55 billion dollars......spent where? China resume rare earth exports

Since I have far greater access to international news here than anything we are fed in the US...my thoughts about the US role in Afghanistan and Iraq has changed greatly in the nearly two years that I've been here...I won't speak on how I feel directly here but absorb this fact between 2007-2009 the US spend 18 billion dollars in Afghanistan...and a total (though spending figures are inaccurate) of 55 billion since 2002.....this is not even for the war...this is for construction of infrastructure including roads, etc...oh,yeah, China has agreed to continue the level of export for rare earth mineral...geez...this will keep the newest cell phones and laptops in our hands...thank goodness they came to their senses...

Universities and colleges in Azerbaijan

Since the society is very photograph sensitive this is regretable since I would love to take photos of the interior of the colleges and universities that I've visited (and conducted presentations at) here in Baku. They are fascinating.....both in terms of the physical appearance of the facilities and also what the student culture is like....like much of the social structures in the country the legacy of bureacratic systems...almost is enough to knock ones socks off....

And, students...thousands, without books, pens or pencils...just milling around....no wonder the recent grads who enter our academy have such a major adjustment...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Can I be pissed at the absurdity of things.....

If you have ever seen Tom Hanks in the "Terminal"....well, it maybe become my reality very soon...Tom, plays a foreign national who upon arrival in NYC learns that his country (let's say somewhere in Eastern Europe/Central Asia) has had a revolt and no longer exists as a soverign country that the US has diplomatic ties with...he is not allowed to enter the US...thus, spending his existence in limbo as a tenant of the airport.
Well, just last week and I was hesitant to report this but turf war (or pissing fit---it's all boys) has erupted between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (who issues visas) and Migration Services (that protects the borders from foreigners)...the process issuing short term visas at the airport for arriving foreigners has been halted....so this means if I leave the country I may not be able to re-enter....I was hoping to escape from Nov 11-17 to avoid the scene when they slaughter the lambs....but just this morning no agency wants to sign my letter....gosh, at least Tom was stuck in an airport that had a salad bar.....I'll keep you posted....but it's freaking absurd! even more absurd that I've had to pay into their social security system....

Monday, October 25, 2010

During in my outing to Mickey D's and always looking up




You know I see so many interesting buildings here especially those built during the Soviet times...but it is better to keep on walking then to stop a snap a photo. You just never know when the Polis will swoop done to hurry your along or worst...so even though my weeks are coming to an end here...I am still cautious....
But this building caught my eye as the relief works were quite extraordinary and detailed...I think it was a building devoted to musical studies....the picture (sorry it's not clearer) is of a trio with a small audience....and the other photo the top of the building the flame is a symbol of Azerbaijan

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Still feeling under the weather and Mickey D's

Can't figure out if my bronchitis has finally left my lungs, or if I'm having a major reaction to the mosquito killer plug-ins that are so prevalent here....but as miserable as I've been how much worst can malaria be?
Luckily the sun came out today...and it's Sunday...so the obligatory trek to McDonald's for coffee and fries was the only thing on my agenda today....caffeine and grease...great combo!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Bronchitis...and the right of Americans to act stupid

Still recovering from bronchitis this week, in fact nearly half dozen co-workers are also sick. I brought a bottle of handsanitizer (courtesy of a CVS shopping trip last time I was in US)...but I think on Monday...I'm going to start wiping down door knobs, etc...this is something that they wouldn't do...

I've also decided one of the most vital fundemental rights enjoyed in the US, not freedom of speech, or the whole bearing arms things....but our right to be stupid or more politely called ignorant....here...if you think about the image of hamster spinning madly on its wheel...if you can imagine just that here in Azerbaijan...your entire life is the wheel...

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

World Facts....gosh I'll miss hearing these things nightly

China is responsible for 90% of the mining of the world's rare minerals...that go into cell phones, laptops, turbine wind mills....they have promised not to limit production and export...but the Chinese government announced today that they will regulate the tonnage.

India has become the world's leading surrogate baby production site. Americans, there we go again, are paying on average $5,000 to female villagers to carry their children...

I am sick, suffering yet again from another bout of bronchitis. Luckily my US Dr. gave me some antibiotics for various ailments...skin infections, intestinal distress, and now this...I just feel like this environment especially the air is generally not good for one's health....I guess you need look no further than the average life span at 58 to understand this. Also, I see why my colleagues and others who can afford it....either shortly before or immediately after giving birth will head to a EU country...like Germany or England to spend the first few months of their newborn's life....makes you go ummmm, huh?

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy


Here's a photo of the outside of ADA's current home. The first floor windows (lots of them) on the right is a cafe/bookstore/gallery/classroom space. My office is on the second floor of the building. The towering red apartment building on the left is where my apartment is....so I'm only 2 minutes away....

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Can it be? Janice no longer in Baku....soon...

Well, friends...now you'll have to contend with the mixed emotions that I'm bound to experience as my exit plans are now underway. I submitted my resignation effective December 3rd, with my US bound flight two days later. It's time and opportunity awaits for me state-side.

In the meantime, guess what the government did yesterday, effectively closed the borders to foreign citizens....I got a message from the US Embassy...it's rather strange and abrupt behavior even for the state controlled system here. One of my expats colleagues noted that countries do this when war is in the air....this closure even caught my Azeri colleagues (who have one foot in ADA and the other in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs)...by surprise...I'm not scared but slightly concerned...ummmm....I'll keep you posted...

Friday, October 15, 2010

Family photos....




Here's a photo of me with both brothers Stan and Bobby and our parents. The other picture is me along with Sierra, Dakota, Tammy and my brother Bobby. My mother turned 80 and my dad is 82.....

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Back in Baku again...Mom's 80th and Women at ADA


Mom's birthday celebration in Florida was wonderful and I'll post more along with photos in the next day...but back at work today and Gulnur (in the red dress) sent this photo from her bridal shower....

Monday, October 4, 2010

Mom turns 80!

Well friends, I'm heading back to the US for a week to join in the celebration of my mother's 80th birthday! It will be the first time in quite a while that me, both brothers and parents have been together and given the rapid pace of her Alzheimer status....who knows how much longer she'll be able to recall our names......so I'm looking forward to the next few days.....and as always I'll let you know when I'm back in Baku!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

New additions to the apartment building


Okay..I understand why people get screens installed ...only to have them blow out...no, that seems like it was only experiences! You should know by now that everytime I return to Baku the "uncertain of what to expect" is always quite high...even arriving at night the drive in from the airport shows you something that wasn't there when I left...
Well, I needed to look no further than the balconies in my apartment building...ironwrought....ummmm can't figure out other than "look I have money to spend"...what's the purpose but for a society that enjoy a level of consumerist voyerism that I thought was only a disease that creates spoiled rotten Americans...WRONG....the iron works on the 10th floor...guess one more thing to get crushed by in an earthquake...oh, yeah, the white box to the left is the gas hot water heaters and the yellow box is the gas dispenser...all of which are on the outside of the apartments for safety....ummm another issue, ah?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

First full day back in Baku and what's ahead

Well..back in Baku and back to work...everyone was glad to see me though I can feel the angst starting in recognition that I'll be leaving for good sooner rather than later. It is an interesting feeling...it feels like folks are beginning a sense of abandonment. I suppose the feeling(s) are not far beneath the surface in the psyche of many Azeris....in some ways they face abandonment quite often....heck, the Presidential Scholarship that provided full support to those wishing to study aboard for BA, MA or PhD has been scaled back as many young Azeris were not returning to the country upon completion of their program...me, on the other hand, am filling with anticipation at the thought of coming home for good...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Back in Baku once again

After five fabulous weeks home in the US with trips to Southern Cal and Baton Rouge, I've just returned to Azerbaijan. I guess I'm starting to be on the downside of my time here...contract officially ends in February but I'm keeping my options open, though it is unlikely that I would extend my time beyond that.

Upon arriving in the Heydar A. airport..I immediately remembered how miserable cigarette smoke is when it just floats around you before being sucked into your lungs....and for some reason or other the Welcome mat that I've had in front of my apartment door for over a year was no where to be found. Not sure what that means...someone else wanted it or is welcome not a cool word here...what's eerie is that of the four apartments on my floor...currently mine is the only one occupied.
Welcome back to following my fleeting time in Baku!

Monday, September 13, 2010

My oh my...time is flying

Sorry for the lapse in postings...still enjoying my time in the US...and returning to Baku later this month (September)....not sure what I know for sure but I am feeling fairly relaxed and increasingly mentally prepared for the countdown on my final few months there. The good news is that in my absence things are moving forward at the Academy and the normally massive amount of processing (I would call it being on the hamster wheel) is occuring without my presence which makes me immensely happy.
Nearly as happy as a drive up Starbucks and a salad bar at Whole Food's!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Sweet Home Pennsylvania

Yes, folks I have slipped home for a physical and mental break from Baku and Azerbaijan. I'll keep you posted of course, but I'm not scheduled to return to Baku until the end of September and then, we'll see how things go. Both of my other expats colleagues, Ton, the Dutch guy and Rebecca, the California have decided not to renew their contracts and have indeed left ADA. I will sorely miss them...and their energy and professionalism will be missed too. The rats are leaving the ship just yet, but truthfully, it feels like we're starting to take on water and me....well, I'm starting to cast my eyes to the horizon for safe landing spot.
Cheers

Monday, August 30, 2010

August almost over and I'm traveling

Hot August has finally ended and I'm heading across the Atlantic to visit the family for a few weeks....I'll try to keep everyone up to date on what's happening with me and of course, still in Baku. My Dutch pal, Ton is heading to Astana ...he's crazy...but can't wait to see pictures...Kazakhstan..there's a new university opening there in partnership with a university in London....not me....I've had my share of start-ups in the former USSR.... :0!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Two more photos from Sheki




I was fascinated by the fencing made of branch...think of a stone wall but not stone...definitely takes some time to make. Most of the fences were not more than knee high and sturdy...you can just tell...and speaking of work...Azerbaijanis will work hard and work in large numbers to complete a project. There was recent flooding on the main street right next to the inn. The river (sorry don't know the name) came over the banks and tore the asphalt up...now they are putting bricks in as a replacement...

Friday, August 20, 2010

An article in the NY Times caught my eye

Yesterday, I saw an article in the Times that stated that the Obama administration recently tried to reassure Israel that Iran was still nearly a year away from having nuclear capability. The silent collective sigh was audible here...well, great a year away......this development will absolute disrupt the balance of power in this part of the world...also, remember that I mentioned much earlier in my blogging career, that there are 30 million ethnic Azerbaijani's living in northern Iran...which if you look at the map is really southern Azerbaijan....that's over 3 times as many Azeris that live in the actual country of Azerbaijan....there is a definite fear that if something kicks off in Iran...the number of refugees would be like anything the world has seen yet....a year...geez!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

The Skeletons




Okay, at Kic, the Albanian Temple...they discovered the crypts of folks (some folks) not sure who they were but likely some important folks who were actually buried within the temple's grounds....this is how they are displayed...

Monday, August 16, 2010

Photos from Sheki continue




Sheki is a small town in the northwest section of Azerbaijan...a four hour drive from Baku through some amazing countryside...at points it looked like the dry brown hills of found at the Arizona Utah border, or even west of SF....but further in the drive, green mountains actually the Caucasas mountains...snow top peaked...then descending into these little valleys...where you can see evidence of the heavy flooding when the mountain snow melts....In the mountains is an Albanian temple...all of these lands share a history and a people...so it gets complicated really quickly...as the various ethnic groups don't always get along....The Kis Temple built in the 7th century...and completely restored in a joint effort with Norwegian government...is quite lovely..

Saturday, August 14, 2010

The walls inside the Khan's Palace







The Khan like many men of his time had a rooms for different purposes...one the harem, one to entertain his male friends, and another for guests that he wanted to impress. The room for the women is decorated with flowers, trees, you know the nice stuff, the room for the male friends shows battle scenes including beheadings (which was popular in this time) and finally, the place to entertain guests that highlighted pictures of the coat of arms....I must admit the women's room was pretty boring...the battle scenes...well check them out...oh, right in addition to the heads on the ground...which are being presented as a gift to the Khan....the painting of the troops includes some rather dark faces...interesting given the population of the time 1700's ...might have been from Iran, or Turkey...who can be much darker than the Azerbaijanis

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Khan's Palace finished in 1762







Sheki's foremost "sight" is the palace..the Khan was the main man of the times...the building is not very large, two short stories high and only one room deep. The photo the doorway, you have to take off your shoes in hopes to protect the wood flooring...the stained glass set intricate wood frames is quite stunning...

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Making Halva in Sheki







I was given a back room tour of a candy making process...Halva...no, not what you might think of halva in the US...this halva is way more sweeter...I'm talking about putting you into diabetic shock and you ain't even diabetic...but it was kinda of cool to watch these guys doing their thing...

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Journey to Sheki




Sheki is a town of about 60K persons, northwest of Baku about 4 hours drive....thank goodness the roads have been paved and smoothed. The drive up on the edge and through the Caucasian Mountains, more the that later....was quite spectacular....we arrived in Sheki and stayed at the Karavansaray..which in the middle ages were way places for travelers and their camels or horses..now it is unique guest house...

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Heading out to the regions tomorrow

I'm joining a couple of colleagues for a weekend trip to a village, Sheki...it is about 4 hours northwest from Baku. It's reported to be a lovely, green town founded in the mid-1700's.
I hope to have some great pictures posted when I return...check back on Monday.

Have a great weekend....oh, did anyone hear Naomi Campbell's testimony at the Hague regarding the gift of diamonds she received. Regardless of her role, if any in the Blood Diamond trade that supported brutal wars in Liberia and Sierre Leone...but she was a reluctant witness clearly stating that she didn't want to be there...for fear of her family and "it's an inconvenience for me"....excuse me...sorta sounded like the BP executive..."I just want to get my life back to normal"....what are these folks smoking!

Oh, one more than..if you followed my post telling you to find the Time magazine cover of young Ashitani (the Afghani woman)...she left for the US today for reconstructive surgery...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

What I know for sure...I miss

1. A fluffy towel just out of a dryer.
2. A newspaper in my hand.
3. A cup...a paper cup, a styro-foam cup...just a dang cup in my hand.
4. Half and half for my coffee.
5. A cigarette smoke free environment...even the bus drivers smoke here.
6. Whipped butter.
7. Being able to walk barefoot on grass, heck I'll take just walking on grass with shoes.
8. Getting junk mail.
9. Watching ESPN...it's gone. The channel is now programming from United Arab Emirates.
10. Being oblivious to how crazy the world really is.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Hot Tuesday in Baku and why there are no ceiling fans here

I know I may be dwelling on the hot weather here...but it is so oppressive I can see why everyone (who can) leaves in August. Last year I was back in the US for the early part of this month...this trip will have me heading back for a visit at the end of the month. I've developed a fairly good system to cool down the apartment. Keep the windows and curtains all closed and thank goodness, unlike many Bakuvians who normally only have AC in bedroom, there is also one in living room. So it becomes possible for me to cool apartment if I keep the second bedroom door closed (there is no AC in that room).
For quite sometime I've been baffled about the absence of ceiling fans here....well, after a lengthy discussion with my Dutch, soon to be ex-colleague (he's calling it quits here) the MIT trained political economist Phd......here's the likely reason. Economies/societies such as this one where the timeline for rapid growth has been so condensed will view such nascent technology as undesirable....fans seem primitive....go directly to AC once you have electricity....in fact, you see this mentally in other examples too...elevators or escaltors in buildings with no stairs....
There are also no communal or public laundry facilities...you went from hand washing to owning a machine....no need to have the in between step...no machine, hand wash.....another enlightened day in Baku....

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Critters of Baku....and what I know for sure....



Okay, I've read Oprah's mag a couple of times to know that she writes a column...what I know for sure...and I've taken that to mean what life is like in Baku....yes, i know that the tap can turn on, but will water come out, yes, i know the bus that i can take to my new gym is #90 but will the route be the same, yes, you can purchase toilet paper at the market, but don't get used to the brand it may not be there on your next shopping trip...the air of uncertainty is thick...i understand why people don't plan or organize...since you can't...but i have learned that seeking out critters is what helps me stay sane....here are two of my new favorite photos...this i know for sure....

Friday, July 30, 2010

Beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel and North Korea

Yes, it's true I can begin to see the gleam of my departure from Baku...still several months away but I find myself trying to not let the frustrations be as frustrating....this helps a great deal.
Speaking at tunnel....I saw a fascinating segment on North Korea on the BBC Channel...of course, it is true for every nation..."if your government doesn't tell you stuff, how are you expected to know"...especially if as a society you are uninformed, unconnected and isolated. And N. Korea fits all three of these...on top of it the shortage of nearly every commodity has really the physical development of people..the miltary which is enormous had to lower the height requirement as many men just aren't growing due to lack of food, nutrients in their early years....when college students were asked to name world leaders...Stalin and Mao were their answers....scary stuff....but I can see just how easy it is for government to keep folks in the dark....ummmm

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Took my breath away

As joyous as my female Azerbaijan colleagues appear in these wedding photos...another photo took my breath away today and for those you who can...go buy this week's Time magazine...and see the cover photo of Aisha...and read her story and the other stories of the price the Afghani women have to bear.....this should not happened..do something to protect the life of a women today, right now...right here, anywhere....

Monday, July 26, 2010

Final Azerbaijani wedding...whew








Hopefully, you checked out my post about the wedding..well, Sunday was the last of the weekend marriage receptions...that's what they are...and as I described the wedding ritual here...one final comment....family, friends are expected to pay. Yes, pay. As you enter there is a big fancy box...with the groom listed on one side and the bride listed on the other side...and you're supposed to drop an envelope with cash inside..and if you don't the attendants (likely employees of the wedding palace) don't hesitate to remind you to pay....yes, I dropped an envelope of 25 AZ manats which is $30 USD....anyway...the entire wedding scene is quite unique..here's Turan (the HR administrator) and her new hubby Mamhammed, he works for an oil compay...the other picture is a traditional AZ instrument called a saz....nice sound...but much like a screaming violin....enjoy