Greetings from… Williamsburg! Not exactly Azerbaijan as planned but like all good adventures, this one has had a rather unexpected start.

The original plan was to depart for Baku on Sunday, May 13 and begin working on Wednesday, May 16. But that didn’t happen. For mysterious and likely bureaucratic reasons understandable only to the most seasoned paper pusher, my visa did not process in time. Somewhat humorously, visas for Azerbaijan require a Letter of Invitation from the Foreign Ministry, which I had, but once received by the Azerbaijani Embassy in DC, the Foreign Ministry must approve all applications. And therein was the delay.

After the missed departure, I traveled to DC to argue my case at the Azerbaijani Embassy and the staff in Baku went to the Foreign Ministry to do the same. I ultimately spent 10hrs traveling to and from the Embassy (the length of my flight from Dulles to Istanbul) for a 10min chat. And it rained the whole time, which felt about right.

Somehow, though, I got my visa at the end of last week, much sooner than the Embassy’s end-of-May guess! Now I am leaving for Azerbaijan tomorrow, Thursday, May 26. I’ll start work the following Tuesday – Monday is Independence Day.

Through all the hoopla and uncertainty, I’ve been reminded of the main reason many of us travel to the far reaches of the world: people. At every step of this curious beginning, the people – from Professor Warren at W&M, Robert Steere and Valeriya at the ABA office in Baku, and Cameron Platt and Irina Parshikova at the ABA office in DC – have welcomed and aided me with a kindness and willingness that is truly remarkable. Despite the somewhat rough and uncertain beginning, my interactions with all those involved make it clear that this summer will prove to be a wonderful experience.

If all goes as planned, my next posting will be from Baku!