.comment-link {margin-left:.6em;}

Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Excellent Blog on Georgia

If Kaukasus blog doesn't make you want to visit Georgia, nothing will. I hope I get another chance to scoot over there before I get the flock out of here.

Scroll down to early October for some fantastic shots of Caucasian shepherds and their huge dogs in Tusheti. Even farther down is an strangely compelling photo of a burning horse carcass. But don't miss earlier shots of the "Geogian Kitchen." Doesn't look all that different from the "Azerbaijan kitchen." Wine's better, though!


Cocktail Party Tidbit for Azerbaijan

Did you know that Freddy Mercury was an Iranian-born Azeri? You didn't? Well, he was.

Azeris don't actually talk about possibly their most famous son all that much, given that he died of AIDS and all. Must have been because he was born in Iran.

Who knew?

UPDATE: OK OK. I COULD have consulted the source of all accurate information before posting, but it's not like standards for truth and accuracy are all that high in Baku. In my defense, an Azeri friend (who didn't even provide me with the initial tidbit), confirmed that Freddy Mercury was an Azeri from Iran, not Parsi from Zanzibar! He went so far as to tell me the Bohemian Rhapsodizer was not such a hero in Azerbaijan because of the shame of his disease.

Anyway, it's Azerbaijan's loss.

Sunday, October 16, 2005


Azerbaijan is a strange place

Today's adventure led to Besh Barmag, or Five Finger Mountain. Lumbering Kamaz dumptrucks hauling sand to feed Baku's building boom jockeyed for space on the highway with ancient Volgas packed to the domelight with apples, spare tires presciently tied to their roofs. It was a perfect, warm fall day.

Besh Barmag, from the mosque on the highway

Besh Barmag is a Pir, or shrine, that attracts pilgrims from all over the country. Many arrive in packed-to-the-gills mashrutkas (minibuses). Bent-over grannies in flip-flops, headscarfed girls and young guys in shiny pinstripes and pointy shoes scramble up hundreds of stairs and rusty ladders to reach the shrines perched high on the rocky pinnacles. Old men and women stake out steps, imploring pilgrims to share a bit of the wealth as they pass. Almost everyone does and the beggars respond with "Allah is happy with you."

The vast majority of the pilgrims are women, most of whom come to appeal to pre-Islamic deities for big families or protection for the ones they've already produced. In some shrines, they tie strips of cloth to tree branches, a common practice across Central Asia. At others, they lay scarves and tablecloths on rocks and parade around them, bending over to kiss the rock at each pass. Holy men with Korans chant prayers from other rocky enclaves, surrounded by metal hands wrapped in pilgrims' cloth.

On the descent from the rocky fingers, beggars, who easily recall foreign faces, shout out more blessings. In the grassy picnic area at the base, families celebrate the pilgrmiage by slaughtering sheep to cook over open coals, sharing bread and grapes and drinking tea at long picnic tables. Stray dogs root through piles of trash and Azerbaijan's national bird flips and flaps in the wind.

But what made this whole scene really unusual?

It's the middle of Ramadan.

Saturday, October 15, 2005


Drama in Dogistan

The oft-asked question of "just how bad is vet care in Azerbaijan?" has been answered: very, very bad.

Mo, the most precious dogchild, was attacked by a German Shepherd Monday night while we were still in the States and he was staying at his Russian dogwalker's out in Baku's nether regions. The dog's owner took responsibility and Lena the Russian dogwalker was extremely diligent, taking him to her vet and obtaining a medicine cabinet full of antibiotics, antiseptics and vitamin shots (a key component of the Russian pharmacopoeia. Got a kidney infection? Here's a vitamin shot.)

Yes, this is the second time he's been attacked by a German Shepherd. He sends out signals to larger dogs that say "go ahead, kick my ass." I wish he'd stop. He always loses.

The injury was not very serious, but I wanted to take him to the vet used by most westerners and Embassy people here to make sure everything was OK.

Next time, I'll resist that impulse.

If you were willing to overlook the staff standing around smoking cigarettes in the waiting area, the storefront office met minimal cleanliness standards. The equipment was fairly medieval, but in a country where people are treated with leeches (no, seriously) and tumor is blamed on the victim having gotten cold, it wasn't all that bad. The vet seemed competent as he examined the wounds and declared there was no infection and everything was OK. He then used a French-made antiseptic on the wounds that looked like hair mousse.

As I stood talking to the vet about getting dog passports and microchips (now required when they travel) Mo had a rather violent allergic reaction to the anti-septic. He went nuts, scratching and rubbing his face and ears on the hard tile floor. The vet told me this was normal.

As Mo became more distressed, with his eyes getting blank and tongue hanging out, I became somewhat mental. The vet, sitting at his desk smoking a cigarette, told me to calm down and denied that anything he had done had caused this reaction. I told him to do something to help my dog. Someone ran across the street to the Aptek to get an injection, probably of an anti-allergant, but who could tell since the labeling was in Russian.

After a few minutes, the shot took effect and he started to return to normal. I walked him home, but he was clearly uncomfortable.

An hour later, they barked at someone at the door, but Mo barked in a "weird voice" and shook his head like he had a migraine. His ears were hot and swollen. At this point, I pretty much lost my mind.

-- The Producer was still in the US (not that he would have providing any calming influence whatsoever);
-- I refused to call the same vet again;
-- I considered calling our vet in Portland, but it was 3 am, I wasn't clear on what he'd been given so wouldn't able to explain the problem in a helpful way and, given where I live, I was certain that I couldn't implement any recommendation;

Even though I had one of my staff translating for me all along, the language and cultural barrier seemed insurmountable. I simply did not know what to do.

A friend knew of another vet that made housecalls. Since I was out of options, Dr. Anar was called and showed up within an hour. Meanwhile, Mo lay quietly with a bag of ice on his head.

Dr. Anar carried a little cooler with his stethoscope, thermometer and had a very soothing manner. He took Mo's temperature, looked at the wounds and his ears. Satisfied, he declared that the wounds were fine, the allergic reaction would pass and that Mo is too fat. All this for $10.

My staffer, who admitted to never having met a vet in his life, volunteered that Dr. Aziz (the Embassy vet) was a total quack and Dr. Anar, the housecall vet, was the real deal. I had to agree with him.

Mo still isn't 100%, but he enthusiastically greeted Lena the Russian Dogwalker, who comes to give him his shots. She calls him "Moka" (little Mo). Every 10 minutes or so, I resist the urge to put them both on a plane and send them home to their father


Straight Outta Chicken Street

My cleaning lady complimented my new carpet yesterday. I assumed she was referring to this:


It's a wonderfully faded old Karabagh (1957 is woven into it) with an outstanding and unusual border.


I hurriedly purchased it last week when my return to Baku was in question. I worried that I hadn't bought enough carpets.

However, since she normally doesn't comment on my new carpets, it occured to me that she might be referring to this one:


The International Man of Mystery brought it from Kabul. He was confident I didn't have one just like it already.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?