Sunday, July 7, 2013

My First Weekend in Baku, Azerbaijan

Dear readers and potential participants,

The first two days spent in Baku were amazing. I was quite surprised to see such a diverse group of participants from different parts of the world. For the next two weeks I have an opportunity not only to interact with the locals and learn more about energy and oil from professionals in the field, but also to explore more about other countries from the natives of Israel, Mexico, Hungary, Poland, France, Italy, South Africa, and etc. There are five of us from the AU.

Reception hosted for us at Retro Club on July 6 was a chance not only to introduce ourselves in front of each other, but also to taste local Azerbaijani cuisine, listen to traditional live music, and try some moves of national Azerbaijani dance. I really enjoyed the food.

Today was a tour day around the Old City of Baku and a field trip to Bibi-Heybat oil field. The thing about Baku is that it's one of those cities which combine elements of the three cultures: Russian, Persian, and Turkish. If you do not speak local Azerbaijani language that is similar to Turkish, almost one out of three people in Azerbaijan can easily interact in Russian.

It might sound weird and abnormal to some extent, but I found oil field a really picturesque place despite its industrial,  almost frightening looks. After a tour around the Old City, we had lunch at the "Old Baku" restaurant where hospitable staff were giving us one national dish after another. My dad probably knew what he was talking about when he mentioned that I would return home, back to Belarus, pretty fed up after the program was over.

Also, I would highly recommend people to be careful with the local souvenier 'dealers' who have a lot to offer and  extremely polite to you. They love to take advantage of foreigners in every possible way. By saying this, I mean that there is no set price for a thing, but it's important for a buyer to negotiate. Then, who knows, but a miracle might happen and a trader would agree to sell you a scarf for just 10 AZM instead of "initially established" 20 AZM.

I am looking forward to the first seminar class tomorrow. Generally, I am very pleased to be here and feel almost privileged. As one of the program coordinators mentioned, I am the first participant from Belarus despite relatively close ties between the counties and common Soviet past, which gives me even a stronger incentive to absorb whatever the program has to offer. So far, it has been nothing, but great.
SIS Representatives

Participants of the 7th Annual Baku Summer Energy School at the Bibi-Heybat oil fields

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