Friday, June 11, 2010

Becoming a Prima Donna

These are some things that have happened to me lately:

Last week I had to go to the airport in Baku. It is about a $25 taxi ride, so I took the bus. That involves being dropped off a couple of miles from the airport and hiking along an expressway with no sidewalks.

Since I don’t have much call to go to the airport, I didn’t know how far it was and how difficult the walking would be. I saw no taxis coming or going.

But what did happen is that many, many drivers stopped to offer me a ride. Some backed up on the expressway, others pulled over abruptly. Ninety eight percent of drivers in Azerbaijan are men—so many men traveling alone offered me a ride.

Later, I found out that on this stretch of the road, it is normal to get a ride to and from the bus stop.

I think I have written before about another volunteer who was flying to Europe to meet her parents. Unbeknownst to her, her flight had been rescheduled for two days later. When she arrived and learned the news, she was unsure what to do, since she lives about 6 hours away from the airport. Several airport staff invited her to stay with them for two days.

After I left the airport, I was in the subway. I asked a woman sitting in an information booth which train to take. She was so thrilled that I spoke Azerbaijani (most foreigners working in Baku don’t speak Azerbaijani) that she invited me to her home for tea. She was ready to pack up and leave. I had to tell her that I was in a hurry to get back to my town.

Yesterday I needed to go to a notary. Someone told me where the office was located, but when I got there, I didn’t see the office, so went into a travel agency in the same building and asked. They said the office had moved. The owner of the business told me where they had moved, but insisted on driving me there.

When I got to the office, they did my transaction and when I asked how much it would cost, they told me that since I am a guest in the city, it would be free.

The Peace Corps tells us that most volunteers experience reverse culture shock when they get back to America. I remember that in America I was not a celebrity, but I am not sure I will like this fact!

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