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 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 final, 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'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

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Volunteer work at orphanage

Last week I joined a bunch of our students along with my assistant for a morning of work at a local orphanage (they call them just that here). This facility, from what I understand, much nicer since the First Lady visited eight years ago, houses about 50 kids all under 3...who were abandoned for various reasons...cleft lip (though I only saw two), fathers wishing to remarry (yes, that a legitimate reason to drop off your kid), or families just unable to care for them....
We painted, swept, cut brush, turned soil...etc. was hard work but I'm glad I participated...the director is at my left...

Photo from first wedding--forgot to post

Said and Gulnur had their wedding reception last night.....I've decided Azerbaijan weddings, well actually the reception, no ceremony actually takes like a combo 1) broadway theatre production, including over abudance of food...think...dinner show...2) a disco...lots of continued dancing in order of relationship to bridal couple...a) family dances, b) friends and it's not cool to occupy the floor when it's not your turn to dance and finally, 3) a down home revival...with a shouting, frantic MC (who also sings and introduces the other multitude of singers/musicians....

Here's couple of pictures...couldn't get great shots...just too many people and too hectic of an evening...

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Upcoming weekend filled with weddings

There are two weddings this weekend, Friday and Sunday....both for colleagues at the Academy
The first is the marriage of our CFO and our Career Services Coordinator, like many young Azeris...the work hook-up is quite common and popular...otherwise your mother may pick your mate....Gulnur and Said...I both adore..are having a huge event...400 people and costing probably $60,000...folks here spend a sinful amount of money...then end up living with the bride's family...but in this case they are moving into their own apartment.
Gulnur had her bridal shower...i.e. khna (henna) party (women only) last weekend....also quite an affair....though I would not describe them as the 'traditional type' with regard to the Azeri CAN NOT avoid it...brides wear red for the party...he is just escorting her in..and she being khna --the feet and hands.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

4th of July Party at the Embassy

For all the excitement I generated about going to the invitation only party at the US Embassy, I didn't have a good time...inspite of the hundreds in attendance including a who's who's of the diplomatic community in Azerbaijan and the fab Azeris who are well connected and have to bee was a bust for me. But then again fortunately, my time here in the country has strengthen my resolve never get too excited (except to fly home)....I think it's because I really don't have a community I've stated before...I'm kinda the exception...not part of a large private corporation like BP, yes, they have a huge presence here, I don't work for some NGO type agency...UN, NATO, etc. etc..and I don't work for the US State I'm out there on a limb....and clearly the community of US citizens is small enough that it can be like mini-clans...bummer...but damn the potato chips (that I didn't pay $5) for were really tasty...

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Advertising Azerbaijani Style

With the encouragement of one of my staff members over the last few months I have begun to ride the public buses...previously I avoided them and only minimally rode the underground Metro preferring to walk miles for my outings. However, the summer heat is brutal to send me both on the buses and underground....while on a bus this week I noticed the straphangers and thought...that's a novel way to advertise beverages! I think the cans are empty, they felt empty and light....but honestly, you never know around these parts of the world...

Friday, July 16, 2010

Two great photos but not so clear...

Being such a weather and sky junkie sometimes not knowing much about the fundementals of weather here in why doesn't is thunder often, or where does that freakin' wind in a cloudless sky come from that rips the screens out of the windows of my apartment and it's rare to see the moon. So I was just sitting at the computer and glanced up to see this in the sky...the other photo is the closest (but then who thought I'd be in Baku) I will come to the White House by way of an invitation to the 234th celebration of the Independence of US...a party at the Embassy here in Baku next Tuesday evening......woo-woo....can I get a beer and chips and watch ESPN...Hilary C. was here on the 4th thus the usual celebratory day was think the new US Ambassador can get my ESPN station back...its been off for several weeks...I was told the satelite was out...another woo-woo

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Two weddings, birthday party and kynha party photo...many of on the left, tall blond is Rebecca from California is on the left ...English language teacher but she's leaving in August and Ton my Dutch pal...PhD from MIT teaching internation political ecomony...he's the tallest guy in the very back...
Good gosh...the next two weekends is going to be one be's the lineup
Kyhna Party..think bridal shower with more food and henna painting of all of our hands--Fri
Party for the Dutch Ambassador who is being reposted to Brussels---I've gotten an in...and they don't party to know Calvinist---Monday
4th of July celebration at the US Embassy....can I fall on my knees now....rescheduled from the 4th as Secretary Clinton was here and everyone wants a hotdog, hamburger, and potato salad..Tuesday...CAN'T WAIT
Wedding 1 next Friday...ADA's CFO is marrying the director of career services...they are an adorable couple...400 expected to attend....starts at 6 pm and goes for 6-7 hours...I'm out at 9...
Wedding 1 Sunday 25th...ADA HR director marrying a guy she met just 2 months ago...the pressure to wed is crazy...she only refers to him as her fiance...he appears to have no name...500 expected at this wedding again starting at 6...I'll be out by 9....
oh, yes the staff is overwhelmining woman, young female Azeri instructors...but he void in the numbers studying PhD abroad and wishing to return....something else they will need to content with....

Can't keep ...welll neither can I....

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Venting and not about the screen guy

I must admit I am rather miserable at the moment...the heat has abated for few hours thankgoodness...but you know when I first arrived and during the first few months I imagined that the cultural differences surrounding processing, organization, etc. to be novel and perhaps just a reflection on the newness of the organization and the youthful exuberance of my colleagues and the ambition project before them/us.
Now, nearly eighteen months later what I thought was novel is instead a consequence of a level of dysfunctionality generally engrained into the cultural identity...I realize I might be harsh on this one...but I am soooo frustrated and is becoming increasing mentally painful and exhausting....I thought I was just being another uptight anal American struggling as an ex-pat but conversations with my closest ex-pat colleagues here just confirms that we all share the same frustrations...ugh...Tammy, of course and rightfully so, has little sympathy for my this dear friends is my only outlet...sorry but thanks...

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Still enjoying the glow of Istanbul

It's amazing how my time in Baku has given me opportunity to understand the culture of a post-communist society and even through something as simple as a queing line, the color of an outfit and the height of a heel seem Orwellian, all are evident in Azerbaijan . For many of the young and enlightened it's understandable why Azeris enjoy Turkey as it is a delightful distraction from day-to-day often chaotic life in Azerbaijan.
A couple of other photos from Istanbul and I'll be sure begin to let go and accept my reality of being in a very, very hot was 102 degrees yesterday.....and nearly as hot today. The photo of beautiful marble wall is inside the St. Sophia Basilica built by Constantine the Great in 4th century and later rebuilt and named Haghia Sophia as a Islamic mosque, I think in the 6th century...during which time many of the Christian symbols were covered (interestingly not destroyed). This angel was covered over and recently fact, when I was there in November the workers had the scaffolding up 14 stories inside working to uncover this image...there are still three more that need to be exposed. Have you noticed that I rarely post photos (or take photos) with people in it...ummmm...more on that next time...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Up close and personal with a camel..well not too close

During my cousin's visit we had opportunity to explore some places in Baku and Azerbaijan including the Carpet Museum and historical site in Gala ( a region about 35 miles away)...the carpets I've seen before and the country is still working on resolving how best to display its precious works...nailing them to a wall is probably not the best way to showcase think...and the Gala Museum, a collection of archaelogical artifacts...mixed in with a little of everything else...all in the blazing sun. It's been over 100 degrees here for several weeks....ugh

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Photos from tornado in Carlisle

Finally, I am able to upload some photos....first the tornado...three days before leaving PA to return to Baku the northeast was struck by a series of major storms....Tammy and I were in the house and as I went to check on the second floor porch...I thought I was Dorothy...I screamed for her to run to the basement....just as the sky was a black I've never seen before...we both ran to the basement after a few minutes (probably seconds) the sky was blue again...when we looked around...our front tree, a hundred year old oak, lost a couple of large branches right on top of a neighbor's Saab smashing the car's roof and destroying the rear window and a tree in the back came down on our fence....lots of other damage as the reported 60-80 miles weather event cut a path through our one injured and I guess that's why we have home owner insurance....for the fence...the car...his insurance...act of God so we're not liable....

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

In Istanbul again

I'm in Istanbul again this time with my cousin Bernice who is visiting with me in Baku. We came here for 2.5 days and then returning to Baku where she will begin her journey back to NJ. Istanbul is much more crowded than when I was here last November...hundreds, thousands, well, millions by there standards of tourists. It is so interesting to see folks from places that you can only guess where they might be living in Central Asia and traveling more around the region I can tell an Uzbek from an Azeri from a Turk from a Georgia from a Russia....the same way an astute person can tell a Korea from a Japanese from a Chinese. Russia and China are such vast is interesting to see those from regions that border those countries....
BTW...I lost my USB cord that would enable me to upload pictures I hope to find one some where in Istanbul or I'll have to wait for a shipment from the sorry for the absence of photos..

Monday, July 5, 2010

Heat wave, my cousin and Secretary Clinton

Okay, I'll admit it is hot here...yesterday 104 degrees and today even hotter. Thank goodness the Bakuvian winds have stopped...felt like a blow torch over the weekend. I don't think I mentioned this but first cousin (actually the oldest cousin on my mother's side)...came back to Baku with me. Bernice is quite a traveler and so far has enjoyed Baku and the sights.
We are going to Istanbul for 2.5 days later this week before she returns to the US on the 10th.

Secretary Clinton arrived in Baku on the 4th for a few hours...she met with the President and other officials. I learned that 25% of the non-combat supplies used in Afghanistan come through you can see why this little nation has huge strategic importance to the US. Clinton also expressed the US' position on ending the frozen conflict with Armenia over the occupied terrority Nagorno Karabakh and the continued imprisonment of the two young men charged with hooliganism for spoofing the President in a video widely seen on Youtube. And, yes, you can be charged with hooliganism here and receive prison time like five years...
Hope everyone enjoyed the holiday! I wore my Old Navy 2009 t-shirt with a Old Glory all day on the 4th...felt kinda good and patriotic!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Shout out to my readers

Of course, I appreciate all of you who stop by to read my postings...but a special shout out to a couple of you...

Beth F....thanks for keeping up with me
''ve always been there...the W...ummm NY'er...thanks for keeping me real law school colleague....

And, to all of you ....thanks and more to follow ...always...

I have no clout

Secretary Hiliary Clinton is going to be in Baku, yes, Baku, tomorrow....and I thought I was all that but obviously, I ain't....couldn't get a ticket on the 4th of July....I'm bummed. I guess I'll do the next best possible Americana thang....going to McDonald's for fries and a coke!

Happy Holidays...and whether or not you're a believer...go out and sing and shout....Born in the USA......and better yet, living in the USA.

Oh...let me add some humor....returning to the apartment...the elevator doors would not open on my floor...the I go back down to 8....get off and walk my luggage up the flight....the next morning....I walk down (I usually do anyway)...went to the building office...made enough gestures and comments in get the guy to follow me back to the building. We got in the elevator, I pressed 9....we go up the doors don't open...he looks at me and then pounds, pounds...on the inside doors ....they open...and he shrugs his shoulders...I press 1 and we go back down. Needless to say...I'm walking up and down the stairs for now...whoa!