Wednesday, 7 September 2016

About beautiful Azeri mountains. And bears.

'Ma’am', my maid said this morning, showing me her mobile phone. 'Look, my auntie. She had a heart attack'. She showed me a photo of an older woman in a hospital bed. I said I was sorry to hear about it. 'Ma’am', she added…'My auntie, she is a lesbian'. That information was not really relevant, but I nodded respectfully. 'Ma’am', she added, 'Three of my aunties are lesbians'.
'Well', I said, 'that’s really quite a lot of lesbians for one family!'
'A lot of lesbians in Philippines, ma’am!' she replied.

And that is my random fact of today for you.

I know, I know. I have been incredibly lazy.  I was planning to write about summer trips, and then a few more things…and I was planning to write about Baku…Just like in that song, if you know it? 

I was gonna clean my room until I got high
I was gonna get up and find the broom but then I got high 

Sadly, I don't even have that excuse. 

I mean, I have a bunch of topics right here, in my lazy head. Just need to find the motivation, somehow. It got lost somewhere between all the air planes, suitcases and hot weather.

Anyway. Today, I wanted to tell you about my trip to Ilisu, in Azerbaijan. 

You see, I had to admit something to myself this summer. Deep inside, without a doubt, despite all the shit that is still going on there; I still love my country. Shocking, I know.

Like a prodigal son, I returned again, mentally apologising for all the…hmm... unkind thoughts I had about my homeland before. 

Look, I thought, as we sat outside the little cottage in Illisu, surrounded by stunning mountains, look how beautiful it is! Just amazing! Never mind that I could not sleep at all on the train, convinced it was about to fly off the rails, killing us all. Somehow, I felt better staying awake for that. And never mind that the first cottage we were shown to in this little family owned resort, with its two tiny dark rooms with narrow single beds reminded me, disturbingly, of an episode of 'Orange Is The New Black' (without the lesbians). And never mind that behind the cottage, there was a wild, I mean, proper wild forest, with noises at night, with mean, hungry bears plotting how to get in and eat my children. You see, nature and me are like two people who, although find each other attractive, could never live together, knowing that it would just not work, and would end up badly, with one of us killing the other. I do realise that I could never live so close to it, yet I still can appreciate its beauty. 

How come, I thought, I never really saw all this before? I spent years living there, focusing on the negative parts, complaining, just like all the locals still do, about the prices, the corruption, the summer heat and the pollution. But now, living away from you, Azerbaijan, I can really see how charming you are, in your wonderful, quirky way.

I enjoyed all the little things. Watching the locals dance Azeri dances to terrible YouTube videos on a big screen, in an outdoor terrace every night after dinner; the owner, in his woolly hat at 30+ degrees, in his seventies, dragging all of us out to the dance floor.  

The young locals riding horses bareback, on the old bridge, a foal running after them.

A stranger stopping his Lada to give us a lift back to our resort (as we walked slowly back from the restaurant, in the dark, tummies full of lamb kebabs) refusing to take any money for it. 

Sitting on my little balcony at the front of the cottage at night, seeing something alive in the dark on the alley, running bravely to check what it was, discovering was a hedgehog, getting amazed at how cute it was and then noticing a dying, twitching mouse hanging from its mouth...

Discovering hiking! Discovering I was good at it! Except for, you know, all that forest around. The friendly neighbours from the resort were determined to climb all the way up, thinking it was funny that I thought bears were right there, waiting for us, patiently. Ha ha, they said, you are funny. No bears are sitting there, waiting! Yeah, I said, have you not seen  'The Revenant'??? They went quiet and we turned back.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip.

How foolish was I in my younger days, really, when I had no interest in exploring my own country?  And now, feeling more foreign there than anywhere else, I enjoy every visit, every minute of it.

Look, my mother pointed to the mountain right in front of us one morning, as we sat on the terrace sipping one of the tastiest cups of chai I had ever tasted, you see the cave up there? That’s where they say some local criminals used to hide years ago.

My mind, inspired by all the fresh air and the green mountains, quickly formed an escape plan. Maybe, one day, I will drop out and hide in that cave, all the way up the mountain. I will eat berries and drink from waterfalls. Nobody can find me there. Nobody but the bears. OK, maybe not. 

And so I am back to Doha. Till next time, beautiful country of mine. 


  1. Enjoying the little things are one of the secrets of happiness and we tend to forget that quite a lot!

  2. Well done for keeping your promise to visit your homeland more often. It's heartwarming to read this post!

    regarding your regrets about not exploring your own homeland, I will dare say it's not your fault, really. I remember a segment that considered anywhere beyond the boundaries of Baku below them, a segment that was so busy being arrogant and belittling their fellow countrymen that never noticed anything than "chushkas, uneducated Ill mannered peasants that don't speak the word of Russian. A segment that hated passionately everything that was outside their self isolated small society. Does it sound familiar to you, Scary? May be, at one point of your life, you were in there without realizing it and finally managed jumping out of it due to life experience, maturity, shift in priorities and values?

    By no means, I'm trying to offend you, its just me trying to sound clever 😊

  3. nice artikel

  4. @shafag & @Crazy: Nice, interesting post and comment.
    I believe the 'city vs nature' thing is not about one being arrogant and the other humble, but about looking for order vs spontaneity. Both are important and valuable.
    The thing is, as Crazy well expressed, one doesn't mix well with the other.
    You cannot have your home "spontaneously clean and ordered". You need to "artificially" clean and order your home, because it helps you make more out of your day.
    How much you clean and order, or how much you allow things to get in your way, is a balance you later choose, but first we need to know there's both ends, and each has its gains and pains.

    Cities tend to offer you some order, and Nature is indomitable, made of spontaneity at the extreme.
    You don't find clean, neat, structured office buildings in the wilderness. Meanwhile, you don't go to a forest and start scrubbing, do you?
    There's a time for everything. When you look for something - let's say we choose the city's structured, 'architectured' life -, you better go where that something is most easily found. Then, you find what you were looking for, plus many more extra things you didn't expect, some of which may be excesses of it, some may be the total lack of the other virtue - in this case the 'as is', wildly real, spontanous, unordered thing we call Nature.

    The artificial aspect of the orderliness makes it 'smell' like arrogance, which it can be there in us or not. I am sure many people use their skills to all their capacity each day without arrogance but out of a sense of duty and professionality. And I cannot forget how hard peasants work their ass3s of each and every long day, and that's not in the city, but they too need it.

    The wild aspect of the spontaneity makes it 'smell' like laziness and irresponsibility, perhaps. However, where orderliness tends to make all things match some patterns, spontaneity breaks any pattern in its way, and that helps human beings be like human beings are, each different and unique. And unknowable, may I add. Sometimes it's beautiful, sometimes not, it just is.

    There's a reason to exist for every drive that urges us. I don't believe it's bad to follow it.
    I also believe everyone will ideally look for a different personal balance. Which is interesting too, for it makes us able to live together and complement each other.

    Just my two cents to extend your very interesting comment, if I have understood you well.