So this is the end of the road. I’ve still got some writing left to do and some photos to share that I’ll add after I make it home to New York, but tomorrow at 7:15a it’s wheels up and I’m out of here.
Now is a time to reflect a bit on some of my best memories and favorite bits about this program. I remember while we were in Qebele, trying to find the archaeological site we wound up going to and kept getting lost on these back roads. Beyond the fields around us, the mountains shot up out of nowhere. These are some of the most beautiful mountains I’ve gotten to see, just the smallest and outermost shell of the mighty Caucasus Mountains.
Often on the roadside, especially on the longer trips to Ganja or Sheki, there would be such amazing views that flashed by so fast that you can’t whip your camera around fast enough to catch them. Similarly, one night after going to a Georgian restaurant, some of us had drinks on this rooftop bar in İçeri Şeher, the old or inner part of the city. It was a full moon that night which slowly rose behind Qız Qallası or Maiden’s Tower, the city’s most prominent landmark. With the moon at that angle, it glows orange and looks larger than normal. Try as I might with my simple Canon digital camera, I couldn’t get a good shot of it. But I thought that maybe it’s difficult to photograph for a good reason. Some things you need to go out and see for yourself.
One thing that I will never forget about Azerbaijan is the intense pride that people here have of their homeland. As a small country in a world of giants, oftentimes this country must speak loudly and in unequivocal terms to get across its points. They proudly declare themselves a young state but an old nation, rightly so.
There is a great interest in the United States and American culture and I have been very satisfied with how respectful Azerbaijanis are towards Americans. Many young people are now learning English in schools and American TV is beamed into almost all living rooms. While the English spelling or word usage is at times puzzling (see for example the “Health Paradise” moon bounce at left).
I must go to great lengths to thank those behind the Critical Language Scholarship and the US State Department that sponsors it. Thanks to this great program I have been able to learn about a year-and-a-half’s worth of Azerbaijani in eight and a half weeks (though my English probably took some hits along the way). This is an effective and creative tool in our foreign policy that enables young Americans to further their interests in less commonly studied countries, cultures and languages while at the same time sending emissaries to these countries to show a positive image of our country. I must also send out some fruit baskets to helpful professors who helped get me here, both in terms of recommendations and courses on Azerbaijan.
The natural question now is where next. I attempted explaining to one of my Azeri language teachers a few weeks ago that while I wish to return soon to Azerbaijan, I also feel the urge to explore new places. I’ve visited many countries that I love and would wish to return to, but there are so many others out there waiting to be explored. Had I not followed the route of trying something new, I would not have come to Azerbaijan and I’m glad that I did. Azeri could be a bridge to Turkish or other Central Asian languages, and I don’t like getting bogged down in one place for too long. I’ll see what happens, but in the interim it’s back to New York to settle into a job, inshallah.
There are a couple posts that I’ll be putting up in the next week or so, especially Azerbaijani cooking and eating culture, that I feel I owe to certain people. In the meantime, thanks to all who have followed the blog and read even one post.
From time to time I use an Azeri saying for goodbye, that gets Azeris I know to crack up, perhaps based on the weirdness of it coming from an American mouth. Either way, it’s güle-güle, meaning “Go merrily” or “Go smiling.”
Too all of you back home, Güle-Güle!