How is you trip going?
How is my trip going? It depends. The day and the time the question is asked can produce difference answer. The emotions while travelling pass like the clouds in the sky, sometimes under a gray and dark sky and sometimes lightly, under a bleu and clear and sunny horizon. My reflections and emotions navigate as on a stormy sea.
Can everything go wonderfully on a research trip? Perhaps on vacation, when the sea in front of you is beautiful and the book bewitching. But when you try to understand the conflicts, the lows and the highs of a society, of a family, the sea is not always calm.
So the question came yesterday. And yesterday, I went to bed at 7 p.m. I had spend the night in the train from Tbilisi. I had received brutal awakenings every time the train would brake. There have been many stops. Why could it not brake softly?
There was what was surely a beautiful sunrise but the grimy widows only offered me its filth. It make me impatient. Why don’t we wash the train windows? Then through my eyes seem to guess an open-air pipeline on a flat and sandy land of a late autumn morning. After the failed sunrise, on the desert plain of Azerbaijan, this puts the brakes on my soul always in search of beauty. Ugliness is often what is presented to you when you enter a city by train.
I started my first day in Azerbaijan on the reflection of my taste for beauty. And I was a little sullen and exhausted so I didn’t smile when it was time to negotiate the taxis. I managed to go from 40 to 10 manat. Finally it should have been 5. Now it’s Bolt, an Uber competitor in the region. No negotiations and explanations on the destination. As in Georgia, taxi drivers do not know the city and do not seem interested in knowing and memorizing the names of the streets. They often cannot read a map and when you show them your Google map they push it off as if a fly, a mosquito, or a bee had entered the car. The locals laugh when we arrive late and discouraged at our meetings.
The Airbnb apartment is not ready. I put my bags down and look for a coffee shop. There is only one neighborhood shopping center. It’s the opening and I am alone as merchants start opening their shops. I have never been inspired to go eat or have coffee in shopping centers. A certain lack of poetry my mood would certainly need that with the cappuccino I will have when all is warmed up and ready.
As everything is impermanence, I enter the apartment, I go to the balcony and what do I see? The Caspian Sea and the Baku promenade ! All this under a beautiful sun, and a 15 degrees without the arctic winds. Everything will be fine, just relaxe and hit the road!
The most beautiful facade
Not too keen to stay in the apartment. I need a sim card and a phone number. I find the esplanade and the seaside. Art and the beauty of nature are the best medicines for moody moods. The train is forgotten, my glasses are clean to see this new country, the largest in the Caucasus. What I see when I arrive is the most beautiful facade of this oil and gas producing country. The name azer comes from the Persian word fire. Flames just come out of the soil there is so much gas. It has been bringing energy by camel in the region and became the first world energy capital, in 1898 it produced more oil than the USA. That is where the Nobel brothers started their fortunes that allows today the wonderful prices received by Humanity for their discovery and talents.
Then came WW II and Russia, another chapter in a long history of a very desired land. But maybe it is because of Russia that it is now in the list of independent countries in the world.
I walked 4 hours and resumed my spirit and life in front of the charm of Baku where the old, the modern and the Soviet constructions blend richly. I like the color in the city. I can see the color of Malta again and it brings softness to cities.
I came back in a taxi completely exhausted. My feet will soon deserve better shoes. I have a day not to think about, where I come from, and what I will discover tomorrow. Especially since the last person I spoke to before taking the taxi to Tbilisi station had a very disturbing discourse that might have been a first break in my mood. He told me he had been a chef in New York for 8 years and did not like being back in his country. “As soon as I sell my restaurant, I leave the country. Here they are racist, they complain all the time. They are lazy, the women do all the work while the men sit and do nothing.” he said of his people. And it is on this negative statement that I leave Georgia. I am upset because I loved this country and its people. It’s a good thing that I will come back to it around December 25 and that I will leave this second time with, I hope, a more positive message.
We don’t want them to come back anymore.
They Georgian say of themselves they are lazy, and he was not the first to tell me that women work more than men. The women told me that too. They are the ones who go to work abroad and send the money to the family, the husband and the children. An important financial contribution for the government. Women here told me that they are furious when they see the men receiving the money and taking it easy with a mistress without working. These women do the housework and take care of the old people of the western countries and here we no longer want them to come back.
“In the west, it’s beautiful, it’s clean, but it’s boring”
I am now crossing from a poor country with inequalities to a rich country with also its inequalities. But with our governments in the west, democracy will have to get a facelift if we want to promote it. Democracy has lost its reputation. There is something else than what we offer. “In the west, it’s beautiful, it’s clean, but it’s boring”. It is so exciting a country to build! They might just be lucky not to have everything we have. I imagine energy and adventure in building a country.
Caviar no more
Caspian Sea, you who show yourself so beautiful, are you clean? A friend I met here tells me how she cried when her mother forced her to eat caviar. She always had big pots full of them. Today, the sea is polluted, sturgeons are disappearing, and caviar is not for those who can afford it at criminal prices. Because criminal is the word isn’t it?