Current Post: Baku, Azerbaijan
Three words to describe your current post:
a bit exotic, dirty (as in pollution and general filth everywhere), bright sunshine with little relief
Best thing about your current post: Small close expat community
You have visitors in town for the weekend at current post, what does the weekend look like?
Dinner out at Georgian or Azerbaijani restaurant, drive out to local village in mountains (maybe Alti-Agash, Besh-Barmaq or mud volcanos in Gubostan). Walk around winding streets of Icheri Sheher (old city), Maidan’s tower, Shirvanshah’s palace. Maybe stroll down Park Bulvar and Fountain Square or, instead, through Teze Bazaar to get a real local feel.
If you’re in current post, you must try:
I’ve only been here 5 months, but we loved going to Alti-Agash and Cennet Bagi (old resort, restaurant in the mountains). The drive is intense but really beautiful through Candy Cane mountains. The restaurant is great in the summer, you can eat outside in little gazebo-like huts up on the hillside and then take a 10 minute hike up to the top of a great look-out tower to see the valley. Also just went to village of Laza on Russian border of Azerbaijan, stayed at stone mountain cottage resort called Suvar. The views and hiking were outstanding, I swear we were transported to Ireland or Scotland. Just breathtaking.
Most difficult about living in current post:
For me, the food. I find the meat to be unacceptable, as well as the produce most of the time. The produce has gotten better in the summer months, but I dread the winter. I hear pretty much only onions look appealing… I do need to get out and explore some more bazaars though, maybe I just haven’t hit the jack pot yet on this.
Biggest adventure at post?
Driving! Or even being a passenger in a car. We have a driver, but soon we’ll get a second car which will mean I can start venturing out on my own. The traffic circles are definitely the most scary to me.
When did you realize you were far from home?
When I had to drink water from a distiller installed in my kitchen as well as scrub and soak all of my produce.
For my 2 young children, their toys and bedding. Our iPod and sound doc help bring familiarity too with our favorite tunes. We bring wall stickers and pictures that we hang up for them as soon as possible to make the surroundings look familiar. In our previous post, we did not bring any of our personal furniture and I found it hard to get settled. To Baku we brought all of our personal furniture, including our nice leather couch, and it makes our living room feel like home to me.
Three things you can’t live without at post?
I bring for myself and my children all bathing products from the US (facial cleaners, lotions, shampoos)
Free and clear laundry detergent and hand soap (the scented stuff over hear is insanely strong)
Trader Joes’ kids snacks! (I have friends on a rotating schedule sending me our favorites!)
One thing you thought you couldn’t live without but have had to?
Green space. It’s few and far between here. The school’s play ground is kind of just a big sand pit. There are a few nice parks that are really great, but it is against the rules to walk in the grass. We have a huge private residence, but we have only a very small courtyard that is mostly stone tiles. We’ve hired a gardener to try to grow us some grass in the two small little garden plots that are currently there but haven’t been able to with 100 degree (30 plus Celsius) summer so far. Can’t believe I went a whole summer with no grass for my kids to run in. Thankfully we escaped to my parents in the US during August to swim everyday and run around in the grass. I think this will be a must every summer we are here.
You’re having guests over on Saturday night, what’s on the menu?
Gosh good question… We barbecue alot, shashlik style meats, tendir bread (big naan style bread but thicker baked in a cauldron-like oven), simple salads of tomatoes, cucumbers, parsley, walnuts, bulgar wheat, azerbaijani cheese (called pendir, like salty dry feta). Maybe some grilled zucchini, eggplant.
Dream post for next assignment? Why?
Vienna. Why? Why not!! After living in Moscow for 2 years which is borderline 3rd world, and now Baku which is definitely 3rd world, I’d like to live someplace that is uber clean, ordered and where modern amenities are available. Plus Austria is just lovely with its mountains and lakes. Easy trips to Prague, Italy, the Balkans. Of course, I’d take the usual first picks too… London, Paris, Rome, etc etc. Although I have to say I’m a still intrigued by Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.
Image via National Geographic.