I did it again today. Got completely lost in Baku thanks to my total lock of Azeri…
I was looking for the office of AZ magazine on Nizami Street, the main shopping street in Baku. I had precise instructions and I had given myself plenty of time. The taxi dropped me off in Fountain Square and I started walking down the street from the junction of Nizami and Azerbaijan Prospect.
I looked at every sign I passed. I spoke them out loud as I passed them. I found the first way-marker, the fancy lingerie shop Etam. All I had to do now was find Vector Travel and I was home and dry. I walked a few paces down the street, I walked left, I walked right. I scratched my head. Finally I screwed up my courage and entered the den of knickers and bras to ask directions…
“Do you know where the office of AZ magazine is? Perhaps you know the whereabouts of Vector Travel? Is The Caladonian Bar somewhere close by?”. Polite smiles and shakes of the head. “Is there another Etam further along Nizami, perhaps?” I point down the street. More smiles and pointing in the same direction. I think I’m on to a clue and stride away but in retrospect, they were more likely to be looking for any distraction that would have gotten me out of the shop and out of their hair.
Some time later I ran out of shops and dripping with sweat, I called into the Landmark Hotel [perhaps a mile away] and asked if they could call the AZ office for me. [Yes, I had picked up Sandra’s phone on the way out and the battery was dead]. Kindly they obliged and I was mortified to find out that not only was the office very close to where I had just come from but Lynn Craig, editor of the magazine had another appointment coming up, so we would have to put our meeting off until Wednesday.
Some time later, I crawled back up to Etam and noticed two doors up, a sign that read Vector Travel!
When Sandra and I lived in Cairo, we picked up enough Arabic to tell a taxi driver where we wanted to go, to order a meal and pass the time of day at a superficial level at least but so far, all I can say in Azeri is “hello” and “goodbye’. There is an old joke that goes, what do you call someone who knows three languages? Tri-lingual. what do you call someone who knows two languages? Bi-lingual. What do you call someone who knows one language? English! ha, ha, ha!
If I had been more observant, I would have found the place, if I had some Azeri and I definately have found it. So, today’s resolution is:
LEARN SOME AZERI!!!