October 9, 2008 Thursday – Baku/Naxcivan/Baku
I’ve had a couple of days on this trip during which I have been confronted with obstacles and frustrations at every turn. I tend to forget that they are balanced out by days like today when everything clicks and you accomplish a great deal in a minimal amount of time.
The group is doing a day trip to Naxcivan, an enclave of Azerbaijan that is detached from the motherland and entirely surrounded by Armenian real estate. There are a handful of interesting sites there but nothing approaching a world class attraction. Having been there in 2005, I opted to take only my second or third day of rest in the past two months. I will post a couple of photos I took in Naxicvan in 2005.
The group left a 5 this morning and won’t be back until 11:30 tonight, perhaps another reason for taking a day of rest. Thus, I slept until 0930 and then had a big leisurely breakfast, checked my e-mail and, then, talked to a pleasant lady at the front desk.
For the past week I have been having a cellulites flare-up and it hasn’t responded to the antibiotics I’m carrying. In talking with the woman at the front desk, I hoped to be assisted in finding a doctor or clinic that could take a look at my red, swollen shin.
The lady’s name is Yegana which, during the course of our conversation, she told me meant “Holy One”. I don’t doubt the depth of holiness but she also exudes a bounty of beauty and charm. In short order she secured an afternoon appointment for me with a physician whose office can be seen from the front of the hotel. She said he would charge $25 for the consultation. However, when I began questioning her about his English skills she evasively said there would probably be a staff member of his who would translate my complaints.
Yegana sensed that I was uneasy with this arrangement and soon suggested that she call a
German clinic where the doctors speak English. The clinic is a ten minute, eight dollar cab ride away from the hotel. Their consultation fee is $100 but I judged that the extra time and money to be worth it.
I went back to my room to tend to various tasks until it was time to depart to the clinic for my 1430 appointment. In the room I reached down to the floor beside my desk to rearrange a power cord. One of my fingers swiped the edge of the desk leg. There was a sudden sharp pain. I looked at the finger and discovered that a large sliver of wood from the desk leg had lodged itself under my fingernail. I couldn’t extract it with my periodically trusty Wal-Mart tweezers. Thus, I now had another reason to visit the doctor.
I arrived a half an hour early for my appointment and filled out the medical history questionnaire. I was soon greeted by a pleasant 30-something physician who said she was from South Africa.
One of our group members, Loren, is a physician who has practiced in recent years. He had been kind enough to look at my shin and the medication I was taking. He had mentioned that the antibiotic I was taking was a bit antiquated. The South African physician made the same observation and also observed that I had edema (fluid swelling) in the region near the rash.
She prescribed a state of the art antibiotic and another medication cause the discharge of internal fluid build up. She then excused herself to locate the appropriate surgical instrument to extract the sliver from beneath my fingernail. This 15 second surgery would be listed on the invoice as a Minor Procedure that added $25 to the cost of the visit.
I asked her if there was a nearby pharmacy where I could fill the medicines she had prescribed. She replied that the clinic had its pharmacy which I was welcome to use. The two of us consulted with the pharmacist and soon I had a seven day supply of a Wonder Antibiotic. The line item on the invoice for these pills came to $366 plus another $22 for the fluid reducing pills.
The doctor assured me that I would be feeling like a new man within 48 hours which made the $600 invoice marginally more palatable. (As I write this two days later, I indeed feel like a new man.)
Upon departing the clinic I was about a kilometer north of Baku Bay and the promenade that stretches for two kilometers along the bay. I decided that a walk along the coast would enhance the efficacy of the Wonder Drug and thus, walked south on Rashid Behbodov Street.
Within two blocks I came across a well stocked computer store. Since my laptop has only been working sporadically, I wanted to secure CF card reader that would allow me to download photos from my camera to a public computer and subsequently write them from the public computer to my portable external hard drive. The store didn’t have one but they said they would find one within five minutes if I would wait.
I had my doubts but decided to give them a shot. During the five minute wait I noticed a petite, sleek-looking, Maxtor external drive for about $200. I have filled all my flash cards and I’m beginning to reuse them. Likewise, my laptop, in addition to behaving erratically, the hard drive is only a few days from being full. Thus, the only sure fire copy of my photos is on my external hard drive. I decided to secure the second external drive that will allow me to make a second copy of all the photos and then, free up some space on the internal hard drive.
Ten minutes later and another $212 lighter in the wallet, I returned to the streets of Baku with my new drive and card reader.
Within a few minutes I arrived at the street paralleling the Caspian Sea and walked a couple of hundred meters to the northeast to Azadlig Square. The square fronts an attractive, sizeable four storey building that has delicate architectural features that give it the appearance of a wedding cake. I either lost or forgot to bring my Baku guidebook but if memory serves, this was formerly the Communist Party headquarters building prior to the dismemberment of the Soviet Union.
The building appears to have been cleaned up a bit during the three years since I have seen it and many surrounding buildings are also undergoing significant restoration and renovation. The sun was peeking through brief breaks in the clouds every few minutes. Over the next quarter hour, the sun made enough appearances to take several nicely lit images.
I then walked to the northeast end of the Baku Bay Promenade. It is well over a hundred meters wide and now extends for a couple of kilometers along the coast. It is nicely paved and landscaped for its entire length making it one of the two social focal points of the city. The Thursday afternoon activity was light but a friendly, relaxed atmosphere prevailed among those of us who were there.
Approaching the end of the Promenade, I turned inland toward the second focal point of the city, Fountain Square with an upscale pedestrian mall that extends several blocks in at least two directions beyond the square. Along the way I came upon a Clark’s shoe store and secured a pair of leather shoelaces to replace the ones that had snapped on my deck loafers. Another annoying little problem was put to rest.
I was briefly thwarted in accomplishing my final task of the day, getting a haircut. I walked into to a stylish salon that turned out to be entirely manned by women. Without the benefit of any spoken English it soon became apparent that the shop did not service males and I was encouraged to be on my way.
I came upon another salon a few blocks closer to Fountain Square. There were four women stylists and a young man. I was directed to the chair of the young man. I was their Celebrity for a Day and the female manager hovered around the young man and me as he trimmed my hair. He was apparently a trainee and she wanted to insure I was satisfied.
It turned out that the kid was a natural and gave me as good a haircut as I have ever had. The $12 fee was certainly more affordable than many cuts I have received around the world and a real bargain given the quality of the product.
Minutes later I approached Fountain Square and knew that Allah was truly guiding me through the day when a McDonalds appeared before just as the clock struck 6 PM. After a tasty dinner I hailed a taxi to go back to the hotel. The driver agreed to a $6 fare and we began our ascent of a long hill that was clogged with traffic. The taxi was in poor repair and the engine kept cutting off each time the driver tried to disengage the clutch to move forward. After the driver restarted the car over thirty times during the first two blocks of the trip, I gave the driver a dollar and switched to another cab whose driver had been observing my dilemma and was non-verbally inviting me to come with him.
Thus, in the space of five hours I had cleaned my slate of all the petty annoyances that had accumulated over the past several days.