Traveling to Baku

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.