Saturday, January 31, 2009

Conversation at the market

When I was buying vegetables in the market yesterday, a young man asked me in English where I was from. I replied at first in Russian, but it was clear the man spoke English well and wanted to practice the language, so we began to speak in English. I never do this in the market. For one thing, I very rarely meet anyone who speaks English. For another, I don’t like to be a more obvious foreigner than I am. So - I usually just speak a mixture of Russian and Azerbaijani.

Perhaps out of habit, the young man invited me into his store, but I joked that there didn’t seem to be much there for me. (A gay array of multi-colored bras hung in the window.) Yes, he acknowledged, the shop is mostly for women.

The young man spoke excellent English. He had earned a master’s degree in economics four years ago. I didn’t ask why he was working in a little lingerie shop in a run-down shopping area. The fact is that there are scores of well-educated Azerbaijanis who cannot find good work in Azerbaijan and can’t get the necessary visa to emigrate.

We chatted a bit about the nearby retailing areas, the high prices in some of the other places. Prices are better in this little bazaar area, we agreed.

Working in the shop, he said, is just a part-time job. Something to do, to get some experience.

(Above are a couple of photos taken during a long walk through Baku on a uniformly gray day.)