Crossing the Midpoint

wall (Entrance Gates to Old City)

In rather short order, I've crossed the midpoint of my Azerbaijani experience. That means putting together the Azerbaijan/Baku 'must see' list to sort through in my remaining few weekends. But in the meantime...

Since the last posting, the D.C. side of ABA ROLI for the Caucasus Region came for a site visit. I originally met the D.C. staff back home when trying to sort out my visa issues with the embassy. To see them again in Baku was a fun reminder of how small the world can be. While they were in town, there were a number of progress meetings that really helped to bring my programmatic knowledge up to par about all the happenings of the Baku office. It also meant lots of eating out and Baku really does have some tasty restaurants and cafes.

mosqAs mentioned in earlier posts, it's an interesting time with grants starting, ending, and extending. Being a sponge through that process has been a remarkable learning opportunity and really increased my knowledge about how grant funding, rule of law development, and capacity building intersect. A new request for funding from USAID for Azerbaijan was issued last week (which ABA ROLI is not be eligible for) and it's been very interesting to read through the request and see the process NGOs must go through to secure funding.

I found out that I made the Journal of Women and the Law back at W&M. As such, the office is trying to get me plugged in to some of the women's rights projects so that I can return home with some interesting insights (and maybe even a note topic). Over the weekend I attended a training through our Continuing Legal Education Program for women lawyers on marriage contracts. Essentially, a marriage contract is a prenuptial agreement that can be created before or during the marriage. I don't really know much about prenuptial agreements in the States but it was certainly interesting to see how marriage contracts are used to try and protect women's interests, particularly in property, in Azerbaijan.

There's some 'creative' property registration among newlyweds where residences are registered under the parents of the husband (sometimes or usually without the wife's knowledge). If the couple divorces, the residence is not subject to divorce proceedings or reallocation because it wasn't owned by the couple, even if in practice it was. Marriage contracts are one way to combat the problem but like prenuptials in the U.S., there can be some cultural barriers to signing a contract that divides assets in the event of divorce.

Completely unrelated to the law, I went to a horse show just outside of Baku. Horses have always been a big part of my life and when I stumbled across a billboard advertising a FEI show jumping competition (the FEI is the international governing body for equestrian sports), I knew I had to attend and attend I did. With the help of a local friend, we navigated our way to the show and watched some pretty decent jumping. The horses were of a pretty good caliber and the riders had a nice 'kick and go' mentality. The winner was ultimately a Polish rider (the only woman and non-Azerbaijani in the class).

jump 1   jump 2

                             (the winning rider)                                                                 (a 'kick and go' style)

The 4th of July happens to be my favorite holiday and for the first time, I was outside the U.S. for it. As one would assume, I didn't see any fireworks or parades but I did get to attend a party at the U.S. Embassy on July 3. I've actually never been to a U.S. Embassy to make a comparisons but it was an entertaining evening and mixture of attendees. The highlight for me was probably the Cinnabon table. Apparently there's a Cinnabon-Schlotzsky's somewhere in Baku and they were one of the many caterers. It felt right to eat a gigantic calorie heart attack sweet in honor of America's birthday.

Until the next post, stay well!