Leaving home to return home

Baku Travel Blog

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All of my possessions, which at one time were spread throughout the bedroom, the bathroom, the living room, the kitchen and the hallway, are now neatly tucked away in three suitcases.  They are waiting me for me to drag them down three flights of stairs, load them into a taxi and check them in with the airlines.  Then I am gone – soon to be merely a memory here.

I am leaving the country I have called home for the past two years to briefly return to the place that was my childhood home before moving onward to my new home in Shenyang, China.  I have called so many different places “home” for so long; I am beginning to wonder what the word “home” actually is.   It would be easy to use the cliché “Home is where the heart is,” but when my heart is torn between so many places, home is everywhere and no where: it is temporarily a berth in a train I may find myself upon; it a grassy bed with a blanket of stars; and right now it is my apartment in Baku, Azerbaijan.

I am blessed and cursed to have had so many places to call home throughout my life.  Blessed because I am never too far away from some place that has held some special memory in my mind.  And cursed because there are times I long to go back “home” more than I care to admit.  But in the same light, I recall buying a condo in Las Vegas and trying to “settle down” a bit.  Within months, I was pacing like a wild tiger confined to a small man-made cage.  Within a few years I was willing to bite off the zookeeper’s hand if it meant my freedom.  I just did not realize at the time that it would have been my own hand.

I know how much I will miss this place and I will probably miss it more in the up-coming weeks.  I had a real love-hate relationship with Azerbaijan.  For everything that I truly loved, there was always something that I really disliked.  But that is that way with every place in the world.  Still, my friends here have asked me if I will miss them and I have been able to truthfully tell them all the while looking them straight in the eye that there is not a word in the English language that could describe the immensity in which I will miss them.  After all, most of my friends here did not want anything from me aside from my friendship in return.   They were always a phone call away.  They were the ones who opened their homes and fed me.  When you really get down to it, the best gift in the world is food because we all need it to live.  My friends here were the true definition of the word friend.  

And truth be told, I really entertained the idea of staying one more year or perhaps the rest of my life. I am sure that my Azeri friends would be the first to ask me why do I have to leave.  That question of why has always been the query asked of me whenever I have left one of my previous homes.  It is so hard to explain to anyone who is content with his or her life or has accepted as fact that their location of birth must be their location of living.   To try to explain it as best as I can and as simply as I can, it is just this urge in me.  Some people have the urge to drink, some people have the urge to smoke, and I have been given the urge to travel, and perhaps more comically, I just have the urge to leave.  My entire life has been spent wondering what was over that next hill, what was past the next city and to keep moving.  Maybe deep down inside I fear that if I did not continue to move then somehow I will cease to exist.  Perhaps, I am still trying to find myself and after discovering that I could not find myself on the highways of American, I needed to find myself somewhere else.  So, my friends, take to heart, there was nothing you could have done to get me to stay.  It is entirely just the way I am.  To borrow some lines from a Gil Scott-Heron poem that put things much better than I ever could,

...because I always feel like running.
not away,
...because there is no such place.
...because if there was
i would have found it by now  

It is kind of strange thinking my time is coming to a close here.  It does not seem possible.  I need to reflect that I did what so few people would be able to do –be totally isolated, alone and ostracized in Nakhchivan as the first and only American to ever live there and the only Westerner living there at the time.  I loved, got lost, found myself and lost myself again to only find some odd form contentment that has been up to this time alien to me.   The person I was before I came here no longer exists and while I know that there are some facets of my life where I have improved, I wonder if I am really that much of a better person now.  

Recently, as I walked along paths that knew the echo of my footsteps as well I knew the silence of opening the door to my apartment, it dawned on me that these moments were my last moments to see this place as it is right now.  If I returned in one month or in several years, everything would be different.  And there is this overwhelming urge to hold onto something that I know is fleeting and a futile attempt to slow down time.  But I know that these fleeting moments could happen anywhere.  Tomorrow I could be dead and it would not matter if I were here or in the States, anything that I see could be my last time to see them, -- life is too painfully short.  Then again, I have come to the conclusion that death is life’s way of making sure we get things done.  If we had an eternity to do anything we wanted, everything would always be there waiting for us and excuses would be that much easier.    

I am happy to think that within a day I will see my mother, brother and sister again, along with some old friends.  I am looking forward to drinking some Arizona Green Tea, watching some baseball and talking about the upcoming season for the Colts.  There are things I have missed being far from my native land.  In the same light, I hate to leave here.  I am going to miss how incredible the State Building looks when the wind is blowing with a cloudy blue sky behind it as I get out of the Baku Soviet metro.  I am going to miss eating donar lavash and dolma as well.  I am really going to miss getting smiles from the incredibly beautiful Azeri women who were entirely out of my league.  I am just going to miss Azerbaijan.  

I have this poem by Charles Bukowski running through my head.  It seems to fit my mood.

The finest of the breed.

there’s nothing to
there’s nothing to
there’s nothing to

it’s sad
it’s not

seems the
most sensible
a person can
with a drink in
as the walls
their goodbye

one comes through
with a certain
amount of
efficiency and

some accept
the possibility of
to help them

take it
straight on

and to these

I drink

Goodbye Azerbaijan.  Thank you for everything.  I hope we will

My one year anniversy on TB

It is appropriate that I am traveling on my one year anniversy of being a member of TB.  But I have a feeling my bags are going to cost me a lot of money.
Kenul says:
Wow, I'm touched. There's something we take for granted though. Freedom of choice as to where you want to be. We are truly blessed, as we are free to move. Think of people who are confined to spend the rest of their lives at their location of birth.
Posted on: Aug 11, 2008
tvillingmarit says:
I have been folowing your Azerbaijan blog and loved our writing. Good luck in China I`m looking forward to read new blogs from there. You are a true "COW " Ronnie.
Posted on: Aug 01, 2008
SoloSister says:
Love this entry, makes me feel the pain and the excitement.
And home is wherever the soul finds rest and comfort.
Enjoy your new adventure!!
Posted on: Aug 01, 2008
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