Sunday, 8 March 2009

Sustainability and other funny things

Sustainability is very cool right now. If you don’t do something sustainable you are sooooo yesterday, mate. We buy sustainable light bulbs, paint for our walls, build sustainable houses... procure sustainable everything.

You might ask what is so funny in that? It is a serious matter after all. Well, of course. It might be to the world. But not to an Azeri. I just think it would be quite a challenge trying to explain back home what sustainability actually means.

We Azeries laugh at certain things Westerners are very serious about. We laugh at how serious they are about those things. Like Safety.

In my job back home, I often had to walk around construction site with my Western bosses. I had to translate and explain to Azeri construction labor guys that flip flops were not appropriate footwear for their jobs. And that they really had to wear hardhats. My boss often asked me if they actually intended to die. And I explained that to an Azeri man wearing protective gear was like announcing they were gay. And so they would rather risk their lives but appear Macho and cool.

Don’t you think though, that this obsession with H&S got to be a bit of a joke? Where do we stop? Back in my old oil consortium job in Baku, our FM guys were stopped on the stairs while carrying A4 size paper in boxes. They were told to hold on to the handrails to be safe on the stairs. They were somehow expected to carry the box and hold on to the rail at the same bloody time.

But as I said before…Funny how living somewhere different changes you.
I used to get in a taxi back home and not even notice the speed they drove at. I would just sit there with window open, fag in my hand, sunglasses on…..You know. A sexy and cool babe. Whatever happened to me?

I don’t smoke anymore. Also these days, when I visit back home, I am terrified of local taxis. First I seek out the newest looking vehicle on the street. I then look for seat belts, which are often removed from local cabs as some unnecessary decoration. As we take off, I grab hold of the driver’s seat and shut my eyes tight all the way. If I had any God in my life I would pray. Since I don’t really believe anything out there gives a shit, I just shout to the driver to slow down in two languages. He glances in the mirror in puzzlement.

I have changed. Of course I have. I am not only British now, I am also a mother. I often think how terribly sad my child would be if her mummy suddenly died in a nasty car crash. I also live in the country where government spends a lot of money on adverts with killed children haunting careless drivers for the rest of their lives. I was wondering, whether such a strong advert would work on changing Azeri mentality? Would our guys stop drinking and driving if they saw those adverts on Azeri TV? Would the road rules apply to them? And even to those VIP’s in Mercs? What does it take?

But at the same time, as I sit there at meetings trying to look concerned about levels of our last project’s sustainability, a tiny Azeri devil inside me grimaces and giggles naughtily. I am what I am after all. Years of careless living lined my stomach with thick layer of a Soviet attitude that can’t simply be removed by relocating to the H&S possessed country. So I make my own mind on how far I am prepared to go.


  1. Very good. If the system isn't broken why change it. Having spent many years in the Military where there was no such thing as safety never mind health, I think our H&S Regime has gone a bit far.

  2. great post :)

    but that picture!! it's opposite the ministry of finance or something, right? i spent a couple of summers with some relatives in one of those red brick houses in the background.. the kind of place where, upon arrival, a fatass guy asks you "atan kimdi". and refused entry to a friend of mine because he didn't look the part (i.e was wearing baggy jeans) although he lived there.

    i'm soo off-topic.