Sunday, October 6, 2013

Old City, Baku, Azerbaijan

This morning we met with other members of the conference.  Opah, a missionary from the Phillipines and Bridgette a missionary from Sierra Leone joined us for breakfast. Later a Turkish Teacher living in Germany but now exploring her ethnic routes in Azerbaijan joined us.  Phillip was in good form as usual telling tales of his work at the University of Hong Kong and sailing stories in the Atlantic, Caribean and Pacific Oceans.  The hotel had a fine breakfast reminiscent of those I had at Best Western motorcycling across the US this summer. The views views of the old city and harbour from the this red decorred restaurant were splendid.  The company was what mattered though.  Each person sharing of travel experience.
We learned much of Baku. The flag in the harbour seen from our window was  apparently the largest in the world reported in the Guinness Book of Records. The Caspian Sea is much like a huge lake with no opening to the sea and seriously polluted in the city harbour. A little further north people go swimming without concern though.  The famous three Flame Towers I'd seen lit up at night, were still impressive , not lit up but juxtaposed clearly in the day against the old city.  Much of the development of the city is in anticipation of the upcoming European Winter Games. Further there's a desire politically to make Baku a city like Duban to attract tourism and serve the developing mining and petroleum industries.  This is all going on while some of the oldest Christian groups are found in the area as well as some of the oldest evidences of civilization at all.
"We learn most about a place from the foreigners visiting it, " said Phillip who went on to tell me he'd wanted to take me to the Garden of Eden.
"But I told him it's now in Iran rather than Azerbaijin", said Opah.
"Mount Ararat is near here too" said Phillip who answered the Turkish teacher's question of the significance of that.
"It's why this hotel is named Noah's Ark because Mount Ararat was thought to be where Noah's Ark landed".
After breakfast we all met outside downstairs where we were joined by academics from Bangladesh .
We were joined by a lovely Dutch lady working here who drove us to the Baku International Church, an evangelical english speaking church, where we joined in worship.  As Phillip said it was like we could be walking into any evangelical service in the world, the songs and service being individual but similar.  I felt right at home and enjoyed the discussion of Jerimiah and especially the lead singer in the service.  After we talked with a professor who told us that as Azerbaijan was principally a muslim country there was no advertising and no evangelizing.  As the Russians had once controlled the country the influence of the KGB was still present with everyone being cautious about not breaking the law. That said, there was an equal pressure to modernize and join the world at large especially with such moves as having the Winter Olympics. Several of the other members we met were American who worked in the petroleum industry. Because the English speaking community was transient to some degree the church had maintained a relatively similar size, robust and growing but limited in growth.
Opah went off with her Fillipina friends after church to eat Fillipino food.  I told her I really thought they were going off to sing Karaoke and they all laughed, karaoke, being a favoured Fillipino past time.  I told them my assistant had channelled the 'genetic impulse' to karaoke in the Fillipino by being the music director of her church but I wasn't sure that alone would protect her from her roots.  Bridgette went off to explore the old city while Phillip and I had a traditional lamb kebab meal in an Old City cafe.
Soon we'll be meeting with a local psychiatrist and family physician before going out for dinner this evening.  I've a talk to give tomorrow and while I have the slides I don't have them arranged yet.  Maybe a midnight activity since I'm more interested in recording the events of this day here while Phillip has a nap.
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