Observations of an American journalist in Azerbaijan, Russia and USA.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
My last class
A beautiful new set of Azerbaijan postcards has been introduced to the stores in downtown Baku. It's a welcome addition to a postcard selection that previously was composed solely of photos from Soviet days. These cards were amusing & quaint - but really not that scenic. The new ones, however, feature scenes from the deep mountains and remote villages, places that probably 99 percent of the tourists will never see.
No surprisingly, no scenes from the stretch of land from Lenkoran to Baku are included on these new postcards. I returned from Lenkoran today - returning from teaching my last group of students in this country. This stretch of land makes the middle of Ohio look scenic. Mile after mile after mile of flat salt marsh and scrub land. It's not on the postcards - but it's real Azerbaijan too.
I'll include a couple of shots from the trip - and also a less scenic but very gratifying shot of a newspaper. This is the newspaper article that one of our students published in the local newspaper. Each of our students has to complete a video project, maintain a blog, and write a newspaper article. This is definitely the best newspaper article to come out of this term. To be honest, however, I asked him to delay publishing it because I wanted to see more documentation.
The article is about corruption at Lenkoran State University. The headline says roughly "An open bazaar behind closed doors." We talked quite a lot about the article yesterday. After the article was published, all his sources were summoned into the office of the university president or dean. (I'm not sure which.)
Will one article change the climate of corruption in the educational system? Of course not. But - perhaps such articles might get people talking about the subject more openly. And corruption shrinks from public examination. So - if the forbidden layers that surround corruption are peeled away, perhaps the problem will become less pervasive and powerful.