Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Two Sides of the Logic Coin

Azerbaijan doesn't provide the same day-to-day shock value that Mongolia, China, India, and Egypt did. At least in Baku, anyway. You wont see a guy picking up a lamb by its hind legs and walking it across the street. Nor will you see two men get out of a car at 3 AM and start dancing on the sidewalk. And forget about riding camels on the way home from the bar because it's not going to happen. I did stumble upon a Russian band playing a cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd. That was just plain weird.

So far, the oddest thing I've noticed is that although apartments have microwaves, none of them have microwave-safe dishes. All of the plates and bowls have metal decoration and create quite the spark show when zapped by microwaves. Makes me think the microwave is just for show; serving no real purpose other than to increase the rent price.

If the above example demonstrates the shortcomings of Azeri logic, the next one exhibits sheer brilliance. In an effort to decrease the number of bribes solicited by police officers, the government increased their salary and outfitted them with BMW police cars. The move had immediate effects. I mean, cops still cruise around like they own the place...but at least they do it in style. Oh, and bribes were no longer necessary to subsist. 

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Saga Continues

Apparently I grossly overestimated the demand for orange bell peppers in my neighborhood. I think the entire stock was still there when I walked by 8 hours later. Innocent mistake in my mind. The people I see on the street really do look like devourers of the juicy pepper.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Orange Peppers

I noticed that most of the vegetable vendors on my walk to work had brought in some orange bell peppers this morning. Today is going to be a good day.

Although judging by the seemingly inexhaustible demand for such peppers in my neighbourhood, I doubt there will be any available on my way home. One can only hope that the sweet, albeit expensive, goodness that is an orange bell pepper is available so my Thai green curry will be that much better.

Friday, November 23, 2007

From the "I Can't Believe They Named a Restaurant That" Annal


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Miss Canada International 2008


It was brought to my attention the other day that someone I know has been crowned Miss Canada International 2008. Amazing. Her name is Alesia Fieldberg and we had a couple of history classes in University together.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Real Life Terminal

Poor Dody. He's been stuck in the airport for the last 17 hours. They won't let him in the country because of some bureaucratic nightmare.

Let's hope we get him out tomorrow.

Friday, November 16, 2007

A Few Visuals

Maiden Tower

Downtown


Late 19th Centure German Architecture


Central Bank

Concert Stadium



Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Building that Just...Fell Down


A few days after I had arrived in Canada, there was a news story on the BBC about a building that had collapsed in Baku and killed a number of people. I didn't know what to think at the time. Azerbaijan still seemed like a far away place, not within my reality.


Fast forward about seven weeks. I'm being driven to my new apartment. After a couple of turns, my friend points out "Oh, and there is the building that collapsed." Naturally, my apartment building is located diagonally adjacent to the site of the collapse. Great.


What's stranger is that the video footage from the news story was shot from the street that I walk down every day.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Happy Remembrance Day

This is a day late, but...



Happy Remembrance Day.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Riga















Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I Can't Say No to Old Ladies


I don't know what it is. Old women seem to be able to sucker me into doing or buying almost anything. There was the tea lady in Egypt. Her generosity kept me coming back every single day. And there was this old Mongolian woman that convinced me to buy about fifteen more Communist pins than I needed. I'm sure there were more instances, but my memory isn't serving me well at the moment.


I had a chance to do some serious walking around yesterday. On my way to potentially getting lost, I made a right turn and ended up walking in the direction I wanted to be going in the first place. A few blocks down the street was this sizeable outdoor market selling pretty much everything, from vegetables to unidentified Azerbaijani liquors to watches. The highlight of the venture was watching men chop up animal carcasses with axes. That's right, these men don't use wussy knives. They go all out with axes and full chopping motions.


One type of stall seemed to be everywhere. It was stocked with a variety of pickled vegetables, dried fruit, nuts, green tea, mint, and copious amounts of sumac berries in ever form imaginable (leather, dried, crushed, candied, pickled...). It was the proprietors of these stalls that brought me back to the other countries I have been to. "Please, sir. Come take a look. What would you like?" The difference was that it wasn't done in a sleazy way or in strangely/poorly accented English. It was all in Russian and sounded a lot more authentic.


On my way by one stand, this old woman with a mustache thicker than I could ever hope to grow (ok, a bit of an exaggeration) called out in Russian, "Please, come here. Do you want something?" I'm pretty sure she would've called me "habibi" if she spoke Arabic. How could I say "No" to her?


She showed me her green teas, mint, sumac berries, random black liquids, chocolate spreads, dried flowers, cumin seeds, and even asked me how "turmeric" was pronounced in English. After about five minutes I felt completely and utterly obligated to buy something. So I settled on some green tea, and perhaps more worrisome, I paid the quoted price of two Manats (about $2.30 CDN). As she was scooping the stuff from the big sack into the bag, she said, "The first two scoops cost two manats, the third is a present." That was nice of her.


Turns out this green tea is mixed with black tea normally, but is also used as a rub for kebabs. I tried some last night, although just on its own, and it had a nice flavour. Minty is about the only word I can think of to describe it.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Foreign Goods Aplenty

There is this supermarket, the "New World Supermarket," close to my apartment. It is, in short, an inexhaustible well of foreign goods. It was quite an experience perusing the different products available. I was simultaneously drooling over potential meals I could cook and balking at the exorbitant prices. Upon closer inspection, though, there were some reasonable deals.

Here is some of the brands/products available:

  • High-grade imported spirits like Grey Goose Vodka
  • Imported beer like MGD and Erdinger
  • Old El Paso
  • Real bacon (both back and regular)
  • Huge bags of basmati rice
  • Italian espresso
  • Indian tea
  • French and Italian wine
  • Vegemite
  • Black Forest Honey ($30 for like 250 ml)
  • and a lot of Indian food items...

It's definitely a luxury to be able to buy pretty much anything, although I'd still rather go to the more "local" merchants for the necessities.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Thwarted Terrorist Attack

I got up one morning last week to find an email in my inbox from a friend back home. It read:

"Azerbaijan is in the news. Did you hear anything about this?"

It's rare that this country gets any sort of press, so I had no idea what to expect. Turns out, an extremist group in the region threatened to blow up strategic buildings in the city (the US and UK Embassies among them). Apparently a renegade army officer had stolen some weapons and explosives to commit these acts.

While the embassies were closed, business went on as usual. There wasn't an increased police presence or any paranoia. Had I not received the email, I probably would never known anything about this.

Friday, November 02, 2007

London - In not-so-cliche Pictures

Definitely double-taked this Busker.


Seagull. Ahh...the benefits of a 12x zoom.


I'm sorry, but I can't help but chuckle at this one.


Beautiful sidewalk art.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Chicago





The buldings are so tall that I had to use portrait orientation for every shot.