Friday, December 12, 2008

Shaking up expectations


I rode back to Baku this afternoon, a rollicking and rapid ride in a taxi that jolted along the road at an average speed of 120 km an hour. Perhaps faster. Our driver took the task of conducting us to Baku as some sort of incessant contest, attempting to push the other vehicles off the road with his front bumper.

In other words, he was a fairly average taxi driver.

Roughly half way on the road between Lenkoran and Baku, we stopped for tea and I sat with the four other men. The driver and one of the passengers spoke some Russian, so we chatted a little. Naturally, about American politics. Obama provokes a lot of curiosity here. Is he really an American? How can that be? What a funny name? I answered their questions - and gave my abbreviated lecture on America & how Americans are white, brown, black, yellow, red & maybe green too.

The fact that Obama is black is strange for them, because there are very few Africans in Azerbaijan. But - I got the feeling that some of the men liked the idea that his father was raised a Muslim.

On my last night in Lenkoran, I was invited to an Azerbaijani wedding.

Invited may not be the right verb. “Dragged” is more accurate. I really wasn’t in the mood for a big party - but of course - that’s what I got.

The wedding was very large and very loud. Lots of food. Lots of dancing. Lots of drink. We got there about 10 p.m. and the party was in fully swing. My friend said a few words to the father of the bride, and soon the waiters came to our table, bringing bottles and dishes of the famous lavangi chicken and fish, the kebabs, and other delicious examples of Azerbaijani cuisine.

It was a fine way to spend my last night in the city. The December climate in Lenkoran is damp and cold, but the people are very warm.

(Above is a photo of the market in Lenkoran. Note all the beautiful apples.)