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


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