Saturday, January 30, 2010

Okay, I was weak today...McDonald's in Baku

Who says it's only the clean restrooms that makes McDonald's a destination point. Heck, I decided to go for a burger, fries and a chocolate shake. Yes, those three items cost me about $12 USD..but I decided I needed a taste of my national food.

The McDonald's is hugely popular here. Routinely packed with families with tons of kids. I don't know how they can afford it. And, believe me, the scary thing...and of course, the best thing...the food right down to the Big Mac sauce.

Azerbaijan have no concept of lining is a mad free for all. I have learned to push and shove with the best of them. I put my hoodie on, the ear buds, (yes, looking as thuggy as I can--sorry for the stereotypying)...but it gets me by fries....

Friday, January 29, 2010

Full Moon over Baku tonight

I love looking at the night sky and miss that about my little town of Carlisle Pennsylvania. You can see the night sky so well there...little pollution, including light pollution...but even in the big cities of the US you can occassionally see the divine lights of the night...stars, planets, etc.

Here in Baku, you almost never see any night sky...okay...I don't make it an habit of being out late enough to see the darkness but you would expect to see some night twinkles...never. I have been dismayed at my inability to see stars...and it's not the first thing that people talk about here celestial events. So imagine my surprise when I arrived back in the apartment tonight and could see the moon from my window...this is a first in nearly 11 months...

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Well is snowed in Baku

I woke up on Wednesday pleasantly surprised to see that it snowed overnight 2-3 inches..combination of snow and ice. Here's a look from my apartment. I immediately had a huge grin on my face as I exited my building on the way to walk..finally something familiar! But as I looked more closely, I noticed what I would expect to be the fresh white stuff was actually quite grey...that damn pollution here...and

things immediately became chaotic even more than usual....there is no organized snow removal, no salt, no shovels, no nothings....people were falling, cars was it was literally a "cold slap" in the wake up call to my reality once again....

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Door in Baku

I was thinking that I should start taking pictures of door, especially the wooden ones. We're not talking about doors being hundred of years old...things here 1) are not very old ---except in some places and 2) preservation is nothing that the Soviets thought much about in the republics during their occupation....but anyway I've seen cool doorways.

I just took this picture on Saturday and thought it was pretty neat.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The weekend

I trust that everyone is doing fine...I'm okay. The usual stuff laundry, grocery shopping, clean the bathroom...but I admit I have no desire to do the normal routine things. I think it's because nothing is quite routine here in Azerbaijan, at least for me.

Thank you all for purchasing one of my 2010 Cat Calendars and for those who would still like one, just email me at and let me know. I can mail one from Baku, takes about two weeks and you can mail the donation to my home in PA. Just email me.

In the meantime, I happened upon this moment yesterday while shopping ...couldn't resist...everyone is looking for chicken!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

National Day of Mourning in Azerbaijan

January 20 in Azerbaijan is called Black January. Aside from the coloration of the date, it is the most solemn day in the country. On this day in 1990, while the country was still part of the USSR, then President Gorbachev ordered 26,000 troops in the capital of Baku to quell the nasient independence movement called the AZ Popular Front. This group was leading the most organized resistance to the Communist Party and the fear was AZ might break away. (We all know ultimately the USSR collasped)...

When the troops and tanks roared into the city nearly 200 people were killed and 800 wounded (including women, children and elders)...some people were killed as they stood on their balconies just watching...shot by Soviet troops. The people never thought that "their own would shoot them or run them over in tanks".

The continued struggled resulted in the explusion of the troops and one year later, the AZ ratified their first constitution declaring their independence....but this day is to honor the heroic matyr's to died or were injured....

I must say it is pretty intense here today...thousands of people are marching, including their President Aliyev to the burial site honoring those killed. I don't think there is currently a comparable day in the US...perhaps immediately after the WW..Veteran's Day, or even the day after September 11...but what comes to mind for the JFK funeral...where all America stopped to watch the riderless horse in the procession.....

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Chilling Article I read today about Azerbaijan

I assume many of us are familiar with the practices in many countries where families prefer to have male babies. Well, I'm experiencing this first hand here in a society where gender defineds just about everything you can and will do. Because people earn so little to begin with, penisions (think Social Security) are next to nothing in terms of money. I've talked before how it's only the fortunate young people who can afford to live on their own vs. in a multi-generational household that most Azeris live in even after marriage or birth of children. Many aged parents depend and expect on their adult male children for lifelong support.

Okay, yes there is a respect of elders that is quite different than the indifference many elders are faced with in the US...but here, clearly having a male child makes financial viability that much more the article I read today, spoke to the increase number of abortions of girl fetuses once the sex is known at the three month mark. First, I am definitely pro-choice but this practice is likely going to send the country (look what China's one child policy and preference for male children did to it's demographics and government policies) into some demographic nightmare in the future. In part due to this practive of selective birthing....the % of girl children is already dropping...that's not a good thing for a country trying to become more important in the global community.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Obama + Bush + Clinton

I just donated $50...match me or surpass me or donate somewhere.....please!

Walking around Baku today

After catching up on some apartment cleaning...I did a few errands today. I decided that I was eating way too many of the Pepperidge cookies I brought back from the US, so I gave two boxes away. One to my barber, Navin and another to the woman who works at the front desk at the gym I go too.

One thing that always amazes how quickly businesses and/or residential dwelling come and go here. In just the three weeks I was away three of the businesses that I have been patronizing have closed. And, builiding (houses) demolished....there seems to be no plan about city development or infrastructure building.....

I realize I'm living in their society and their culture but it is still hard to wrap my brain around their values. Somtimes I think I must accept their status quo and in many ways I do and have...but somethings are unmistakably just absurd to me. It doesn't help that I'm reading a book called Absurdistan...which many believe is a spoof on this's hysterical...

Friday, January 15, 2010

International News Reporting

The photos of the destruction and suffering in Haiti have been taken over my English reporting channels here in Baku...and just this minute I decided that the photos...just one of them...ought to be today's Emmett Tillet.....for those old enough or aware enough will remember that he was the young black boy brutally slain for supposedly whistling at white woman. Once his disfigured body was pull from a river and shipped to his home in Chicago...his mother demanded that the coffin be opened for the world to see what had happened to her son add to that the images of African-Americans being water-hosed....all of these images compelled change!

I only a similar result happens with Haiti and the Haitian people....

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Adjusting back to Baku

Aside from the jet lag, which feels like it will never end, the hardest thing is just getting your sea legs back to wrapping my mind to being here. Though I have returned to the office this week, I have not been able to be out on the streets just yet, even during the day. It takes a couple of days to bring my senses (visual, audio, and smell) back to this place. I feel an air of uncertainty just navigating around.

I hope the weekend provides me with the space and time to get readjusted. Including doing some light grocery shopping...but I'm loving my baby carrots and string beans (now blanched) that I brought back from USA with me....ummmm good.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Earthquake in Haiti

Did you hear about the 7.0 earthquake in Haiti...for several reasons I have been very emotional about it...

1) I have many Haitian friends who have family there and I can only imagine what they are feeling.
2) I realize that living in a quake prone place like Azerbaijan...if a major quake hits I'm likely a goner...especially if I'm in my apartment or even our campus. Building codes are non-existent here. I guess I would try to make it to the US Embassy and wait for the Chinooks to fly in from Afghanistan to rescue me. You think?
3) Can Haiti stand many more natural or man-made disasters? The population of that tiny island, estimated at 9 M, is 1 M more than the entire population of Azerbaijan...that amazed me.
4) Fragile infrastructures permit innocent people to die. It could happen here in Azeribaijan. Where will the food and water supplies come from, let alone the heavy machinery to lift the collasped rumble off of those trapped?
5) Even with my stash of USD in my apartment, if disaster strikes here in AZ...the airport will much for my one way ticket out of town.
6) Inspite of what we think and feel about America and even the horrific aftermath of Katrina...the government does work better than most in protecting us all...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Back to work today

Okay, I was able to drag myself out of bed today at a normal hour and get into the office. Everyone was glad to see know I'm still trying to find the words to describe the cultural atmosphere around ADA. It is very different than the US.. perhaps it is because most nearly everyone, except my big boss are all younger and it's a respect thing. Perhaps it is I think deep down inside many of my colleagues are envious that I am American and live in America...they all love the US...but have no chance of ever living there. The government here makes it tough is you have studied there once, not issue you another visa for at least five years for extended stay...

I handed out lots of bags of M&M chocolates and several boxes of Pepperidge Cookies (Thanks Tam for convincing me to buy them as gifts)...they loved the stuff.

Finally, I opened one of my cans of Chief Boyardee Beefaroni....forgot how yummy it is...

Oh, and guess cable TV is on the blink again....I called the company and they said ...oh, yeah we know maybe by the end of the week it will work know when Allah is ready, it will happen...

God Bless America

Monday, January 11, 2010

Whew, what a flight back to Baku

After nearly 30 hours and a 9 hour time difference, heavy snow in Frankfurt (delaying flight for 2 hours) and scare of lost luggage I arrived back in my Baku apartment. I originally thought I would go to work on Monday, but I stayed up until 3 am, took a mild sleeping pill and woke at 2pm on Monday afternoon.

Rather than head to the office, I decided to use the day to organize myself, unpack, do laundry and endore my new food booty that I brought back with me. I'm loving all my goods including the fresh stringbeans, baby carrots and cheese...

My last day in Philadelphia was spent having a fabulous BBQ dinner at Favorite Dave's with family and's a picture of me with Tammy, Sierra and Dakota, Justin and little Jackson....

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Back to Baku

Ah, that refrain sounds way to familiar now...but will I be saying on Monday, OMG, I can't believe I'm back in Baku. But I will be dear friends, flying back the weekend of January, heck of a flight. Philadelphia to Chicago t0 Frankfurt to all should take quite some time. But I have lots to occupy my wonderful memories of being in the US during Christmas, New Year and my birthday.

Once again, I'm returning to the South Caucausas with renewed vigor and determination to be back home again in 10 weeks and ultimately, home for good later this year. Some interesting professional and educational opportunities may just open up for me....will keep you posted and of course, we post regularly from my humble Baku apartment starting on Monday, the 11th.


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Back in Baku soon!

Like clockwork, I'm starting to feel anixous about returning to Azerbaijan. It's Wednesday and since Monday I have not been able to sleep and just feel my brain, my pulse, etc...working overtime. It doesn't help that I have so many last minute things to attend too. I think it is very gratifying to know that I'll be back in the states for another USA/God Bless America fix in ten I don't have to take five boxes of my favorite Post and General Mills cereals with me.

The return flight is a humdinger least a 36 hour trip with flight time and layovers.....if I don't post again before departing...continue to enjoy paved roads and running potable water....

Monday, January 4, 2010

Thankful for H2O

The list would be long..but running clean water is high on my I've discovered most people in the world don't have this luxury...let's protect our water today and this year.