Entering Naxcivan and Trying to Find a Place to Live

Naxcivan Travel Blog

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The embassy picked me up from the City Mansion early on the morning of September 10.  Azal Airlines flies several times daily to and from Naxcivan.  Foreigners have to pay more ($100 each way) than citizens (20 AZM).  Afet from the Embassy met up with me at the airport.   I do not know what type of plane it was but it was old.  Every seat was sold.  It was not the most comfortable flight, but it is the quickest option for an American trying to get to Naxcivan from Baku.  The other option was to travel into Georgia and Turkey by land and get into here the back way.  As I am a guest of the Azerbaijani government, I am not allowed to enter Armenia with the long standing territorial dispute between the two countries.

I was told to expect many personal questions from the people and I should not offense as it is just the culture here.  If I did not want to answer, I could refuse and it would not be considered offensive.  My first conversation with the respresentive of the university went something along lines of this:

Rep: Will your children be joining you?
Me: No, I do not have any children.
Rep: What does you wife think about this?
Me:  I don't have wife.
Rep: Why?
Me: Just lucky, I guess.

In the past few days, this conversation has been repeated several times with several different people.  Here, everyone is expected to get married by 30 and most get married before the age of 25.  Being in my late 30s and having never been married is an oddity here, but so is being an American.

While I was officially in Naxcivan, finding a place to live was a different story.  I was suppose to stay at the guest house at Naxcivan State University.  I should explain before going any further as with most things, different lands place different priorities on most aspects including housing.  I was fortunate to go apartment hunting with the other English Language Fellow, Glenn, in Baku.  From Western standards, the outside of the building is almost as important as the inside of the building.  This standard does not apply to Azerbaijan.  Many of these buildings which would be labelled as a "slum" from its appearance in the US contain virtual palaces.  Glenn got a very nice apartment, but if you looked it at from the outside, the stairway and hallway leading to his door, you would almost expect to see cockroaches bodyslamming rats upon entering.  But as soon as the door was opened, there was a beautifully designed apartment.  We looked at several apartments like this and as Mark Twain stated, "Never judge a book by its cover."

 The university was one of the first place we, Afet the rep from the embassy and I, went to in Naxchivan.  I was ready to move in.  I thought I was on the first floor, but I was moved to the second.  Upon entering, I thought I had stepped into a Charles Dickens novel.  There was this big massive room with parts of the ceilings coming off, big cracks in the wall and badly faded paint.  There were some original oil paintings that were really cool and a very large kitchen table. 

There was a door that lead to the rest of the house.  For the most part, most places I have seen in Azerbaijan have a seperate room for the toilet and a seperate room for the shower/bathtub.  I think it make sense.  I mean, how many times have you had to use the toilet but someone was hogging the bathroom (namely my older sister when she was teenager....man, it was a miracle I did not have to revert to wearing a diaper during those days).  This place was no exception, except it had an eastern style toilet.  Nothing against eastern toilets as I have left my mark in many those things during my travels in Asia, but to have to use one for 10 months might be torture on me.  It is a myth that most western men come up with their greatest ideas while sitting on the john, but I am one of those men who thinks better while sitting and letting nature take its course.  If I had to use an Eastern toilet for 10 months, I would probably blow out a knee.

The shower was basically a shower, nothing else.  There was a small kitchen and two bedrooms.  The bedrooms contained small beds.  It looked more for children than for adults.  I need a big bed so when I am worried I can toss and turn during my sleep and not worry about falling off the bed.  Falling off would be painful and pain hurts me.
Afet was not happy with the guest house either.  While the university was willing to make some changes, these changes would take months to actually happen. 

I felt bad about turning it down.  I said it was too big for me (Chinara, do not tell the Rector), but it just needed too much work.  I kind of felt like a prima donna, but I have to be comfortable with where I live.  If this was only for a week or two, I could handle it, but 10 months is a long time.  If the university asks, I would be more than happy to give some ideas on how to make the guest house much better.

This set off a chain of apartment searches with a broker.  The first place was on the ninth floor.  I think that there are only a few elevators in Azerbaijan and most are in government buildings and hotels, but I have only been here a few days so I am probably wrong on that assumptions.  It was a long climb to get to one of the smallest apartments I have seen.  It had old furniture in the living room that also contained a small bed.  It did have a western style toilet, but it was broken.  The kitchen had enough room for one person.  Afet was mad at the broker for wasting time. 

The next place was bigger but the landlord was remodelling it.  He said that it would take several weeks but I needed something sooner. 

The next place was nice but the landlord wasn't.  She first complained that I did not take off my shoes when i entered the apartment - a cultural faux pas on my part.  she also wanted 6 months rent paid in advance, in other words $1500.  Afet told me that the landlady said that she would keep an extra set of keys and would enter whenever she wanted to enter.  Sorry, I cannot live like that.  The landlady tried to change her tune and say she "only" wanted 4 months rent in advance and eventually changed it to 2 months when I was walking out the door.

I was ready to ask the university to just put a big bed in the guest house along with a chair with a big hole in it.  Afet was ready to take me back to Baku.  The broker said he had another apartment that he could show us on that day.  He did have a mansion but it was $700 a month, more than what Georgetown would allow for housing.  But if the mansion was haunted, it would be cool to live there.  Just imaine having ghosts saying things that you do not understand...that would be karma in action as most of my friends do not understand what I say most of the time.  If you add beer into the mix, you would need a tape recorder and a lot of spare time on your hands to understand my immediate fall into Swedlish (sorry, it is an inside joke with some friends from high school). 

Back to the apartment....this place was nice but not great to western standards.  The kitchen is small, but I cannot cook that well at all so that is not a big deal.  The bathtub is small, but how much of one's life is spent in the tub?  It has a western style toilet!!!!  The living room is big for me and has new furniture.  The couch folds out into a bed.  There is a big bed so I can toss and turn.  The important thing is the landlord seems like a  decent guy.  He is a the Deputy of Youth and Sports in the Parliment.  He was concerned with who he rented the apartment to.  He is also going to get me full access to the big governement gym and swimming pool.  He has also promised (threated) to get me out jogging with him which is something that i wanted to start doing again.  We have also discussed trying to generate interest in American football here.  I will have to get the football I left in Vegas shipped out, but who knows, maybe I can convince the NFL to hold a preseason game in Nakchivan?  I have already had several people ask me about my Colts hat.  My plan to convert all of the populace of Naxcivan into rabid Colts fans is finally taking shape.

The apartment is on the main street in Nakchivan.  This is a very interesting place.  The late father of the present president of Azerbaijan, who himself was a president, was from Naxcivan.  There is a lot of money beng put into Naxcivan as a testimony for the late president.  Most of the main street is being redone.  There is a beautiful museum being built, but the guards will not allow me to take any photos.  a new hospital has been completed but is not yet opened.  And most of the buildings here are being given a facelift. 

The people here are very nice for the most part.  I am not an American here, but THE American.  The desire to learn English is great here and I have already given my cell number to many people and sometimes my phone rings off the hook and I have been here a little over 24 hours since moving into my apartment. 

I have met some very important people here, including the Minister of International Affairs.  He would like for me to teach English to some members of the Parliment.  I have also had a nice talk with the Consulate from Turkey.  He is a very nice and eccentric individual.  Neeedless to say I liked him from the beginning.   He gave me a lot of literature on Turkey.  I cannot wait to visit there sometime. 
PhinsAndGills says:
Reading this made me grin. Even in my small Midwestern town in here in the states, my husband and I get "looks" when we tell people we don't have kids. :) They think it's HORRIBLE! :)
Posted on: Jun 16, 2008
Marius1981 says:
man you really i a great writer! really! and funny as well! i really like readin yer blogs!
Posted on: Apr 09, 2008
IceTea says:
lol I love the chair with a big hole in it idea hahaha... that made me laugh! :)
Posted on: Apr 08, 2008
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