I arrived safely in Azerbaijan Saturday at about 2am local time. Thanks to road closures due to Eurovision, I made it successfully to my temporary home with the ABA ROLI program director about 3am local time, nearly 40hrs after leaving Williamsburg.
Eurovision side note…source of my visa issues (or so I say) and housing troubles came to an end Sunday night with Sweden claiming victory in the purpose-built venue (pictured below). Supposedly, only about 5,000 visitors came to the show but the city is covered in Eurovision visuals and memorabilia. Admittedly, it was fun to arrive when the city was abuzz with activity.
Anyhow, after catching a few hours sleep on Saturday, the ABA ROLI director, Bob Steere, took me on a walking tour of the city and to the ABA offices. After meeting some of the staff, we grabbed a drink on the Boulevard (a picturesque 5k walkway along the Caspian). Mr. Steere is an avid runner and marathoner (and for those of you that know me, I’m not exactly an expert), but I’ve laced up my running shoes the last several days and joined him for running tours of the city.
Sunday brought an unexpected twist when Mr. Steere and I were invited to join a local staff attorney at a home-church. Registering a non-Islamic religious institution is very difficult in AZ so many have taken to the home-church model. The day’s lesson, translated from Azeri to English by an NGO worker in attendance from Texas (out of a bible donated from New Mexico), was about the patient man, which seemed like a fitting ‘welcome to international law’ life lesson.
Today is Independence Day in Azerbaijan but there were no parades/celebrations that we found. Tomorrow, Tuesday, will bring the first day of work and this upcoming weekend, I’ll head out of Baku and in to the villages for an in-country training. So hopefully there will be lots to share (and good pictures) with the next update!