Just three more days (plus an extra nine hours of time difference) until I will set foot in the States! The most exciting thing I did during my last weekend in Baku was eating dinner in the television tower—the highest point of the city. Watching the sunset and the city come alive at night was one of those magical experiences you can only know from traveling. The rotating restaurant was decorated so beautifully (and the prices and fancy decorations went hand-in-hand, unfortunately), but it was worth it to see everything from the mountains, to the sea, to the city and everything in it. The pictures don’t do the view justice, but you can get some idea of what I mean…
My final (half-) week at work will mostly be editing for the quarterly report of SEDA, and editing some more success stories and PTDs (Project Technical Descriptions) from SEDA’s projects around the regions. Last week I edited a PTD for a community playground area, with volleyball and football (meaning soccer, of course) fields to keep the community members active and healthy. The sports fields will be shared between two communities, which will also help strengthen relationships between neighbors.
It’s hard to believe this is my final week in Azerbaijan. Although some things have been difficult here, there are many things I will miss—the fresh bread, the nearby beach, the view of the city at night, with the beautiful fountains and futuristic buildings, and the new friends I have made here. I have learned so much about myself, and I’ve learned to adapt to a very different place; this trip has been my longest time living in another country, and the only time I’ve traveled abroad alone. I’ve had a few funny moments where someone asked me how something is in America, and sometimes I’m not too sure if I remember things correctly! For example, I know the process of buying fruit here is different (you put the fruit in bags at the produce section, and then you have to take it to the grocery store worker standing nearby to weigh and put a price tag on it—if you take it directly to the cashier before doing this, you will not be allowed to buy the fruit or vegetables), but I had to think twice about how it is back home!
My knowledge of the non-profit business has really impacted my career decisions, and I am so thankful to have had this experience. I can certainly appreciate the difficulties faced by organizations like SEDA, and the unexpected actions of others (such as the government or other organizations), which make the goals and activities of the project more challenging and complicated. I am grateful to the environmental manager for allowing me to get involved in drafting our environmental scoping statements, and I am glad I got to attend roundtables and experience the attitudes of NGO representatives about the changes in legislation. This has been a tremendous learning experience, and I am so thankful to everyone who helped me.