Traveling to Baku and the First Day
I left the United States on Sunday June 14th from Dulles International Airport. Approximately 28 hours later and a layover in London's Heathrow Airport, I arrived in Baku, Azerbaijan. After spending so long in airports and on airplanes I can definitely tell you how happy I was that I brought my noise-canceling headphones as two infants on the plane decided to test their lung capacity and vocal cords during our flight.
I arrived in Baku at approximately 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday morning, local time, approximately 4:30 p.m. on Monday EST. Upon my arrival I had to go to customs to get a Visa to enter the country, I didn't actually need to get a Visa in advance. It wasn't the easiest process, however, first, I had to go through "passport control," then through customs, and finally I paid $131 to get into the country.
Afterwards, ABA's driver (how nice was having a driver!) Javonshir, picked me up and we drove approximately 30 minutes to get into Baku so he could deposit me in a hotel for the night. I was so exhausted I went straight to bed without even unzipping my suitcase.
Obviously, the next day I woke up without getting a full night's sleep. I was definitely suffering from the time-zone change. I met my boss, David Rubino, the Country Director for the ABA in Azerbaijan, for the first time. We went to an apartment pretty close to the office that I planned to rent for $500 per month for the duration of my internship. I know this might surprise you but this means that I went half way around the world without having a place to live. I didn't actually find a permanent place until I arrived in Baku.
I was pleased to learn that between my apartment and work are a grocery store and a place to exchange money. I was not pleased to learn that since this grocery store was frequented by ex-pats that it was really expensive, almost twice what we pay in the states.
After finding housing, I went to the office for the first time. Funny enough, because of my dark hair and dark eyes, everyone thought I was Azeri. I work with a couple other people: Parvis - heads up the traveling lawyers program which sends lawyers to Baku from different regions of the country on weekends to help with local issues; Narmin - works with the Women's Bar Association in Azerbaijan; Jessica - is here on a fellowship working on a guidebook for lawyers and journalists on freedom on expression; and, of course, Dave. There are also many others in the office, however I have only had short introductions with them.
We had lunch in a local Turkish restaurant called Izmir. When we returned to the office, I got my first assignments which I'm sure I'll write about in later blogs. I also was able to participate in an office custom - it was the Office Manager, Sabina's birthday so we all had cake and fruit. The office rule is that the birthday person buys a cake to celebrate at the workplace.
I went home early on my first day. I was exhausted. I'll keep you updated on how the summer goes.