. Sheila, Fariz and I did a trip out to the Airport Bazaar for me to try on some winter coats...I was looking for a deal, but there were none to be had. oh well....not really many deals here anyway. Then we went to go see 'fire mountain' which was more like 'burning dirt'. It was cool, I mean hot, natural gas coming out the side of a hill that was lit on fire, but it is surrounded by incredibly ugly scenery and a cruddy tea house...so it all seems kind of funny. It's probably nice to sit there in winter though. We topped it off by driving out to the beach. It is crowded with cafes and cabanas and it was sunset, around 9:00ish, so a great time to feel the cool wind and sit on the sand with a beer. We were the only ones on our part of the beach, so we hired a table and put it right by the water....ahhhhh. We did a little rug shopping for Sheila. This country is famous for rugs, you see them everywhere, so it was high time she bought some! We had lunch at the Caravanserai Mugam with Fariz and his family, a lovely old courtyard where the camel caravans on the silk road would spend the night, and they charge you a lovely price (high!) but we had a good time, more good Azeri food! I took a day trip with Fariz out to the petroglyphs in Gobustan...very old, thousands of years BC...and another little side trip to the Mud volcanos...those were the funniest. You drive out this random dirt road into the hills and eventually you end up in a place full of little hillocks with cold mud blurping out the top
. It is so cool, but because there are no signs and it hasn't been commercialized, you feel like you are the first to discover it, or that you have been very sneaky in finding it. ( We played it smart and took the guide from the petroglyph place to show us the way). A couple Peace Corps volunteers came to stay so we cooked them some Mafe (peanut sauce with rice) to show them some african style corps de la paix eatin'. It's just impossible to compare our experiences...we were in the boonies in mud huts, no water/power, and these guys have kitchens and cell phones and internet...and the conversation consists of how they got here and only had dial up, but thank god now they have dsl!....give me a break!!! Again, I can't compare, but it is hard not too.....I guess we were lucky. I made chocolate chip cookies for them thinking it would make their day...but she said she had just made some last week....jeez....okay, I'm stopping now....
Last day in Azerbaijan, did a great day trip out to Five Finger Mountain, north of Baku, with Fariz and his wife, son and mother-in-law. It was a beautiful place looming up above the Caspian. Lots of people go there as a pilgramage spot for healing...so there are many old ladies there that are happy to rub a rock on you where it hurts for a small fee. It was a speedy trip again, mostly because we had sheila's car with the red plates and we could go right through all those police checkpoints. Came home starving and luckily there is still leftover mafe...yum!
I was first worried that I had planned to stay here too long....but now that it is my last day here I feel like it was just right...just enough to get used to the place a little and find my way around...even the ladies sweeping on the freeway don't seem as odd to me now....lots of really beautiful parts, and lots of really ugly ones.....it's an endearing place. Thanks to Sheila for making this part of my trip so easy and fun...I learned a ton.
Time to get to know Baku a little better and do some day trips out of the city, buffered with some serious lounge time in air conditioning considering the boiling hot air outside. I did many walks into downtown, takes about a half hour from sheila's, usually on a sidewalk with steps every once in awhile. So you can never really look up for very long otherwise you will take a giant airstep going down like I did the other day, luckily without falling. There are millions of cell phone shops, practically every other store, and then there are houseware stores, doner kebab places. The other day I saw a chicken just walking around....just a few blocks from Tiffanys....This place is definitely a mixed bag. I still can't get over all the construction...who is going to live in all these apartment buildings? So, as sweaty as I am walking around not looking up, this place is growing on me...the one biggest thing is that I can walk around alone and noone says a word to me...they really leave you alone which is wonderful and unusual