All week Peace Corps held a Mid-Service Conference for the AZ8's as well as our annual medical and dental check-ups. It was great to meet up with other PCVs, see some city sites, eat at real restaurants, and stay at a hotel. One afternoon I walked with another PCV through the historic old city of Baku where there is a fair trade shop, Enchanted Cottage, which sells items made in Azerbaijan.
In the foreground are buildings in the old city but the background shows one of 3 modern office towers under construction. The old city covers a large area with many shops, hotels, and restaurants within it's walls plus historic sites such as the Maiden Tower.
PCV Elaine and I stopped for coffee at the 5-star Meridian Hotel and took photos from the fifth floor restaurant balcony. We wondered if there was an effective historic preservation organization, since so many older buildings are being torn down or new facades added. It's one thing to have modern facilities, but another to tear down traditional and historic structures.
By nightfall, we walked to the metro station near the old city for a 10 minute subway trip back to our hotel. The entrance to this particular station appears to be a copy of the I.M.Pei design outside The Louve in Paris. No one stopped us from taking photos, and night time felt very safe.
But just to stay grounded about poverty in this oil-rich country, I'm adding a photo of a house across the road from my house in Digah village. The tarp is not a temporary fix; it has been there since last July. I personally think there are people in Baku who have no idea that their countrymen live in such conditions, Hopefully, in time, better education and income will help this family improve their living conditions. Inshallah - God willing.