Trip to Azerbaijan

Today’s guest post comes from Jim in Clark’s Grove

Azerbaijan

I had the good luck to be selected three times to serve as an agricultural volunteer by ACDI/VOCA, a nonprofit organization. In an earlier guest blog I wrote about the volunteer work I did in Bolivia. I also worked in Bulgaria and Azerbaijan. On all of these assignments I had the opportunity learn about parts of the world that are very different from the United States. Of the three countries visited, I think that Azerbaijan differed the most from the USA. When you hear someone saying that a place is different they are usually mean it is a place they don’t like. Personally I enjoy exploring places that are different and found many things that I liked in Azerbaijan.

Hydar Aliev

Azerbaijan was formerly part of the Soviet Union and is now an independent country which had as its President a former high member of the ruling party of the Soviet Union, Hydar Aliyev. Hydar’s son is now the President of the country. Azerbaijan is set up as a Democracy. In fact, Hydar and his son have ruled Azerbaijan more or less as dictators because they rigged their elections. I was told by an Azeri, as a joke, that Hydar had visited President Bush and had told him how to rig his reelection. I was also told that Bush would be visiting Hydar because there is a lot of oil in Azerbaijan.

I was asked to help with issues related to vegetable seed production. A stop was made at a tomato processing plant where they were saving the seeds extracted when doing the processing and giving them back to the farmers for planting. I found that this procedure worked well. While at the tomato plant I heard another humorous comment about an American. A man who ran a fish processing company told us that he had been visited by an American who asked him about plant inspection procedures. The American told him how it was done in the USA and the Azeri man said it is the same with us. It isn’t the same because you need to bribe inspectors in Azerbaijan. After that we had a joke about how things are done in Azerbaijan that included the phrase, “same with us”.

A Rug I Bought in Azerbaijan

I was treated very well by everyone. One man told me that the Azeri people were extremely shocked and very sad about the events of 9/11. The food was very good, included delicious grilled sturgeon with pomegranate sauce. I visited an impressive very old walled section of Baku, the capital city, and strolled through an attractive city park at the edge of the Caspian Sea. There are some very poor people in the country, but there doesn’t seem to be much street crime. I felt safe at night walking alone in the central part of the capital. It is one of the most liberal Muslim countries with laws protecting the rights of women.

What is the most different and interesting place you’ve visited?

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74 thoughts on “Trip to Azerbaijan”

  1. Rise and Roam Baboons!

    While I enjoy travelling I am a somewhat cautious traveller. I have a severe mold allergy so I must be cautious about encountering mold while travelling and mold is EVERYWHERE. That means that some of the adventures I thought I would have, I now pass up–too many health complications. However, there have still been some places that seemed different and interesting:

    Kentucky and Tennesse–we could not understand what the residents said to us–in English. Directions anywhere were also a challenge. The basic distance of reference was , “You go aways to the ole Hatfield place.”

    St. Anne’s Jamaica where we were the only white faces.

    A border town in Mexico (many years ago when it was still safe) when a vendor who wanted me to buy a rug picked me up over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes and carried me to his stall. Needless to say, I was younger, cuter and lighter than I am today.

    Nice post Jim–thanks.

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    1. Husband and I have decided to visit a friend in Nashville next month instead of going to Mexico. Didn’t realize we’d have trouble with the language there as well!

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  2. i think traveling is my favorite thing, at least in the top two or three. i have gotten to go to lots of cool spots while looking for partners to make products for the american buying public. i started out going to italy and turkey looking for partners on plastic furnature terra cotta pots and floor tile. the thing that struck out was the age of everything. 800 years old is nothing. the italians have done a nice job of preserving everything and adapting to the skinny streets in the cities and the old buildings that are all historic but difficult to tweek for modern needs sometimes. small rooms low ceilings bathrooms stuck in as an afterthought into a building where there were no bathrooms when it was built. you went out in the back yard. italy was interesting because they take a 2 hour break in the middle of the day for lunch with 2 or 3 botles of wine required as part of the tradition in italy the premise of life is to make life beautiful. beauty is important whetther it be in shoes shirt walls cars appreciation of art music women. they care more than we do here in the midwest as a rule, years later i wnet back to florence where my daughter studied in college and she had picked up on the whole beauty thing. although she lived in a dorm she spent most of her time with her working class boyfriend recently turned fiance. he lived in a little 500 sq ft apartment but meals and wine were important as was the style of the clothes and beauty in general. florence is amazing with the traditions of the meddici family leading the way for all of the italians to follow, turkey was a old beat up poor country full of hard working proud people who commented they were like a poor mans greece full of nicer people the spot i visited was on the sea and they made tile, toilets and bathtubs it was an interesting visit and on the way to and from the airport the feel of the area was one of old culture mixed with an attempt to merge with modern times. new buildings built in an odd fashion with rube goldberg scaffolding tied into the building with twine and bubble gum. the feeling is that they are hanging in there by a thread and trying to figure out how to get into the swing of the world. at the airport we had turkish lira exchanged for dollars. it was a little confusing because the economy was so tough that they just kept adding ooo’s at the end of their paper money until they got enough. in italy the lira was 100,000 per 30 dollars in turkey they added 3 zeros at the end so 1,000,000 turkish lira equaled 30 dollars. pretty funny. i was smoking then and bought some cigarettes and the bill was some astronomical amount like 100,000 turkish lira. we went by a wishing well where they were collecting money for the poor and my partner said he had always wanted to give a million dollars to charity, didn’t know if he’d ever get the chhance but he could sure give 1,000,000 turkish lira. and you got the feeling a million lira would do about the same job for them 1,000,000 dollars would do in ameria. when traveling it is important to get to meet the locals and talk with them. that is the way to get the feel for the place and the pulse of the culture. italy and turkey were two of my early ones i enjoyed the heck out of. many others have come and if i get a chance i will hit a couple of those later int he day but they are all a variation on a theme. people culture philosophy all curious about america and americans and open to sharing listening and learning. good stuff.

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    1. On my trip to Azerbiajan and other trips as a volunteer I was treated as a guest, not as a tourist, and this lead to many good opportunties to meet the poeple as you suggest, tim. I think working as a volunteer overseas is a very good way to see other parts of the world. I especially liked being invited to eat with people at their homes or in restaurants.

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    2. I agree about the age of things and places in other countries – visiting Norway, standing in the Stave church where my grandmother’s family had been married, baptized, etc. for generations, looking at interior paintings that pre-dated the Reformation was awe inspiring. Also, in Seoul, the sharp contrast of the old Korea and its elaborate gates and palaces from hundreds of years before the colonies were settled here with the modern buildings erected after the Korean conflict – there were places you could almost just see where the war had decimated part of a neighborhood but other places were left unscathed.

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      1. Within the old walled section of Baku there were some building that had stables that were used during the days of the Silk Road and there was a very ancient tower that I think was older than the stables.

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      2. I find that sort of age mind-boggling. One of my first thoughts on the train going through German farm fields was that they had been cultivated for centuries. Not a fieldstone or rough bit of ground in sight.

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  3. One place I thought would be more different, but ultimately was not so different than most of the other large cities I had been to, was Seoul, Korea. The open markets were a lot like the Chelsea flea markets in NYC, the bustling main thoroughfares could have been anywhere were it not for the spaghetti-like layout of the streets (5 or 6 roads all coming together and you need one of them…but they’re not really marked, and the building numbers are not sequential – they are sometimes based on when the building went up in relation to the others). I was struck, however, by the sound of the voices and the language – that was quite different than what I was used to. Visting Norway, the general rhythm and cadence of the hum of the language (even if I couldn’t understand the words) was not unlike being here, but Korean has a very different rhythm and tonality. I would sometimes close my eyes on the subway and just listen. The red hair stood out less than I expected, too – it was the fashion while I was there for women to bleach and then re-dye their hair, and auburns were not unusual to see. The curls on the other hand – older women especially would marvel at the curls.

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    1. I didn’t notice any unusual hair styles in Azerbaijan. Most of the women did not wear head schafs which are worn iby muslim women in some other parts of the world.

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      1. I expected to stand out a bit in Seoul for my height (which was especially noticeable when I stood next to folks in my parents generation), but the curly hair I hadn’t given a thought to, since it is not too uncommon here. Both my sister-in-law (my traveling companion) and I have curly hair, and that really pegged us as “not from around here” as much or more than the pale Northern European skin…

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    2. Trying to get around Seoul with a kid in a wheelchair made me aware that in spite of the surface appearance that it is different from other big cities.

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      1. I’d believe that – thinking back, it was not an accessible city at all. Pretty good for walking, but if you weren’t independently mobile (or needed a wheelchair accessible WC), you’d be sunk. I can only hope Washington DC has improved vastly since I was there many moons ago – I went with some students in the OH program at my high school and was appalled by how many things in our nation’s capitol were not wheelchair friendly.

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  4. Great post, Jim. What a wonderful experience to have had.

    Santa Fe, NM. I spent 4 months working at the opera there, living in an adobe house. I felt far more like I was in a foreign country there than I had in Germany. I had paid for something in a shop and the shopkeeper looked at the name on the credit card and asked, “how do you pronounce this?” In Germany, my surname is as common as Smith. To look at it with Spanish-speaking eyes, it is something quite different.

    I found it fascinating and true to form, got a library card so I could read as much as I could about the local history, but I could never live there. The constant feeling of unease I felt would make that impossible. Reading the history of the area did nothing to dispel that feeling.

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    1. To what do you attribute the feeling of unease there?

      I have heard from other people that something feels otherworldly about the Santa Fe area – that it seems, for lack of a better word, haunted. One woman thought that the place she stayed in was haunted, literally.

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      1. I don’t know about the feeling of unease, but on my one trip there, I felt disoriented. It is very much a town in the old European style of Paris, Rome or London. There is not a square corner in sight. And it does feel otherworldly. I agree. Sedona AZ feels that way, too. When I am in Sedona I hear this deep vibration sound and when I leave and the sound ends I feel exhausted. Santa Fe is similar.

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      2. Interesting Jacque, as I could find nothing European about it. European feels “homey” to me, and this was totally alien. The adobe house I lived in was very cozy and the woman who owned it had lovely stories of coming home from her job, collecting her kids from the neighbor (as well as the neighbor’s kids, so she could then go to work) and all of them stomping and forming the mud for the addition she put on and lived in during Opera season, so she could rent out the main house. There was a wood burning stove that had been made in Mexico City in the kitchen.

        Part of it, Linda, is that I just felt so displaced, like when you look at a map of the world from another perspective, and North America and Europe are not at the top (and no real reason why they should be, but that is what one expects). This culture did not derive from the East Coast of North America, but was a northern outpost with Mexico City as the source and center of things.

        Reading the history of the place, I was struck by the incredible violence that is such a recurring theme. The Sangre de Cristo mountains are named partly for color, but also because many people, IIRC priests, were massacred there. Wikipedia will not back me up on this, but I do remember reading it. It seems to have always been a fierce place.

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      3. i am smiling and remembering running out of money in santa fe and looking for work. i was traveling with another guy and they thought it was funny to have a couple of 20 year old hippies applying for grunt work in santa fe. evidentlyy the illeagal mexicans do the dishwashing and bussing in restraunts and the mopping up and we were not accustomed to portraying ourselves as entrapranuers. that was my pre awarness days. i was still a wheeler dealer in buying and selling guitars, my friends would always bring me along as my dad would call it for my horse trading skills and in the world of recrecational drugs i basically keet myself in stash by buying 4 and selling three for what i paid for 4 seemed the worlds most natural thing to do but on the road it hadnt occurred to me that this artform was a way of keeping off the streets. most likely that was good thing but in santa fe it was obvious that a couple of midwesterners were simply out of place and should go find a place where there was a better fit. you were ok if you showed up there with what you needed but if you needed to pick it up while you were there and figure out how to do a maintenance program that would allow an ongoing existence there was a challenge. it was from there i came back to minneapolis and studied art music and business to begin my current song and dance. guess i should than that mysterious enchanting beautiful foreign feeling city that shares the same country as i do but not much else. taos down the road felt foreign but because it was so far removed from current day involvement. santa fe for other reasons.

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      4. I think you’re right, mig, there is something fierce about that entire landscape. I’m thinking of those cliff dwellings in remote, and inaccessible localities in New Mexico and Arizona; you’d have to be fierce to live in places like that.

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      5. Oh Linda, I do hope so. I enjoyed that book very much.

        Clyde, I know many people feel as you do about Santa Fe, and I can see why. The people who lived there that I met were so very kind and welcoming, the food, oh my, the food. I had many memorable experiences (when you work someplace like that and are saving every penny to pay off your student loans, you really get to know a place, because you do what the locals do-the Corpus Christi procession especially sticks in my head).

        There was just something about the place itself that kept me off-balance the whole time, but I am funny about “place” like that.

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    2. Artists love that whole area for the light. Taos is Taos because of the light that artists find there. I like the light better at Santa Fe actually. But the light is odd. And it is up in the air, 6800 feet. If I could live any one place in America, without need to think about family and such, it would be New Mexico, but I would choose the Carlsbad area. But I would always choose a more reclusive, quiet place. I like the stark landscape of that area. Santa Fe and Taos are high-priced places to live. Carlsbad is for now a cheap place to live.

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      1. PJ – my truffle-making friend lives (at least part of the year) in T or C. Someday, maybe I’ will visit her there.

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  5. I love to travel, and, as you know, have been fortunate enough to do a fair amount of it. Not sure there’s one place that qualifies as the most different and interesting.

    When I was 21, I was lucky enough to be invited to a three week road trip by car to Central Asia. We visited three ancient cities in Uzbekistan: Tashkent, Samarkand, and Bukhara, the latter perhaps the one I found most interesting. I agree with tim and Anna, that the people you meet, the food and customs, the sounds, and in the case of Central Asia, most definitely the smells, are among the lasting impressions. I love the food from that region, and our daily meals, more often than not, consumed sitting on our haunches in some local bazaar, was exotic and full of flavors that this Danish kid had never experiences before. I loved visiting the bazaars buzzing with activity, fruits and vegetables, craft objects and exotic spices. Few westerners visited these places in those days, and because of our western dress we stood out, and were regarded with friendly caution.

    Bukhara is an enchanting city with lots of old mosques, minarets, fortresses and mausoleums that attest to its long and rich history. The magnificent architecture was unlike anything I had ever seen before (or since for that matter). I took lots of pictures that I had developed as slides. I’m sorry to say that over time they have all completely faded away. I’d love to go back.

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    1. I was served the most delicious bread in Azerbaijan that was cooked in clay ovens along the road side over wood coals. I later learned that those clay ovens are tandoori ovens and can be found here in restaurants serving Indian food. However, Indian restaurants that I have tried do not have tandoori bread as good as that produced in those road side ovens in Azerbiajan. Another interesting custom in Azerbiajan is to start the meals with a plate of varous herbs, such as dill and parsely, which are eaten sort of as appeitizers. The traditional way of drinking tea there is to hold a cube of sugar between your teeth while sipping the tea.

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      1. I make a reasonably good naan bread using a very hot oven and pizza stone, but I agree, there’s just nothing like roadside food when it’s good and fresh.

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      2. Have you ever tried naan in a cast iron skillet on the stovetop? I haven’t tried it, but I hear it can be done.

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      3. A technique suggested in the book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day – you heat some ghee or butter in a cast iron skillet, add the rolled dough, and cover the skillet to trap the steam and keep it moist. I haven’t tried it yet.

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  6. East Berlin in 1987, before the Berlin Wall came down. The feeling of depression, repression, poverty, lifelessness, was palpable. It was like going from the Land of OZ (West Berlin, an exciting, vibrant, lively city at the time) back to black-and-white Kansas.

    Chris

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    1. Chris, have you been back since the wall came down? I was in Germany at about the same time, but there was no question of going to Berlin. Too difficult and expensive. The fact that people now travel freely amazes me. It amazes my son that it was ever not so.

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      1. My sister happened, by chance, to be on a long weekend in Berlin when the wall came down. She describes the incredible feeling of witnessing an historic event unfolding before her eyes. Has been back many times since and everything has changed.

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      2. I haven’t been back. That trip was basically a one-shot deal. My wife’s sister and brother-in-law were there for a few years whe he was posted there by the Army (he was a captain then). We had wanted to visit Europe for the first time, so them being in Germany gave us an incentive to add a third week to our trip at minimal cost since we stayed with them.

        I would like to go back and stand at the Brandenburg Gate to see if I could visualize that magic dividing line between Oz and Kansas again.

        Chris

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    2. Azerbaijan was behind the Iron Cutain and was a member of the Soviet Union. They choose to become independent from Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Haydar Aliyev lead Azerbaijan away from dependence on Russia and brought in International oil companies to develop the oil fields that the Russians had left in bad shape. I think life behind the Iron Curtain in Azerbaijan may not have been as bad as it was in East Berlin, although I’m sure that the Azeri people are glad to be free from Russian control.

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    3. i’ve been sitting here enjoying everyone’s contributions and thinking that East Berlin was not exciting enough to talk about – thanks, Chris, for agreeing! my cousin and i went to Europe in 1971 and had a Eurail pass, that i believe got us to West Berlin. we stayed in WB and took a day to go to EB. we entered with a young Asian man – he had long hair. we were quite afraid of the guards who looked very stern (straight out of central casting, almost) and one questioned our friend about his long hair – saying he should “get a haircut” but letting us in. i remember we had to cash out a set amount of Western money and HAD to spend it or lose it in EB. the biggest impression i got was the vast, empty space in the city – always called a “plaza” like Karl Marx Plaza or something. but it was really just a whole city block or more that was paved over and called a plaza. there weren’t people enjoying the plaza. there was nothing enjoyable about the spaces at all – no trees, nothing. the art museum we visited had only state approved art which glorified war, etc. the people were friendly. everything was expensive.
      thanks, Jim – nice job.

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      1. biB, some of the more incredible places I have seen are right here. Hell’s Half Acre in northern Wyoming blew my mind when we stumbled on it 40 years ago. That was before The Badlands and the Grand Canyon did the same thing. For some reason, I find those landscapes much more fascinating than mountains, and I just love the prairie.

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  7. Robin asked last night about any advice for a trip to Montreal. I left her some info last night and I hope she sees it. We haven’t travelled much since we had our kids, and we are looking forward to doing more once our daughter is launched in college. Jim, your travels sound fascinating. One of my coworkers is going on a Titanic cruise this April. She is pretty excited. They plan to be at the spot the ship sank at the time it sank 100 years ago. She says they have more lifeboats on this ship. We are thinking of getting her some flippers and a snorkel as a bon voyage gift.

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      1. We are going Fargo for the weekend to see our son and DIL for a very belated Christmas, and to hear our daughter sing in a regional ensemble at a choral directors convention.

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  8. Thanks, Jim – reading of your (and everyone else’s) experiences makes me want to check out volunteering abroad. I haven’t been overseas, so the most different and interesting places I’ve been are Hawaii – the Big Island – and Puerto Morelos, Mexico, just south of Cancun. In both cases I loved the parts where I could get off the beaten path and find unpaved roads, small villages with people who would tell you about the area. Found a black sand beach in Hawaii, and beautiful rolling green hills. Happily while we were in Puerto Morelos there was a community festival that was so beautiful – the dancers, the food vendors…

    I love Santa Fe, and hope to visit there some time this year. I have a friend with a casita… I’ve only been there a day or two at a time so far – will pay attention to the “feel” of the place after this conversation. It’s unique in that there’s a “ring” within which any new building must be done in the adobe style. That’s pretty and good from the tourist angle, I suppose, but it feels more “organic” outside that ring, where you find board houses and buildings as well.

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    1. There is also a listing of the colors your house can be within that ring.
      I don’t think they do that for the tourists, I think they do that for themselves. The folks who live probably prefer it continue to look like Santa Fe, not gradually transform into Anyplace, USA.

      I think I know how they feel.

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      1. finishing the thought here.
        I find it very hard to live someplace where, as Gertrude Stein said about Oakland, “there is no there, there”.

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      2. Would have liked to see some of these places – Santa Fe and Oakland – when they were small, fledgling communities. Can’t imagine what it was like “there.”

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  9. I thought of another kind of “different and interesting” place I’ve experienced – the hippie “commune”… esp. the ones “off the grid.” Stayed o’nite at a place near Bodega Bay north of the SF Bay area – you had to drive over hard-packed dirt (the driver could apparently tell where the road was; I certainly couldn’t) several miles after leaving a dirt road, and then… there it was — a 3-pod structure made of (if memory serves) adobe. It really looked like something from another planet. Inside was beautiful, 3 rooms including one with a claw foot bathtub in it, but you had to bring in your own water. Wish I could remember more detail.

    And we have friends outside of Ukiah who have made their home (not off grid) in the back of a large barn, part of a barter arrangement with the owners… They’ve built in a living room/kitchen, and then take a ladder to the upper loft where there are 2 bedrooms and a beautiful bathroom (again, bath only) overlooking the stream and a bit of woods. There is a firehouse type pole that you can slide down to get back to ground. Very compact, lots of built-ins, wood stove – the guy is a master woodworker). Composting toilet outside…

    Each time I’m in one of these places, I want to chuck 90% of my belongings and move to a similar place.

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  10. Loved this post, hearing about people’s travel experiences and how they open our eyes to differences. Especially after my snarky remark about the everglades yesterday where I’ve never been and have no basis for said snarkiness. I DID see your email Renee, very late last night and have been gone all day, but thank you for all your memories and suggestions for Montreal. We love to travel but don’t get out of town often what with work and babysitting grandchildren, but now something to look forward to!

    Once we followed a tiny road on the Isle of Skye till it simply ended at a little hut in the middle of nowhere with nothing in sight but the hills and the sea. Not a soul to be seen. It was incredibly eerie, as though we were standing on the very edge of the world. Scotland was like that – barren hills to the horizon with one tiny crofter’s cottage waaaaaaay up high. The solitude was palpable. Disorienting to this city girl. I’ve been many places and never felt that alone. Amazing to find such solitude in such a small country. You’d expect every corner to be populated.

    I grew up in post war Japan (1949-1966), a very different place than present day Japan. More densely populated than Scotland, but incredibly beautiful. It wasn’t strange to me at the time; it was home. My parents taught at a university there and we lived in a Japanese house, ate Japanese food, went to Japanese public school, played with neighborhood children, had the run of the whole city by street car and bicycle. It was a very safe and even innocent time despite the fact that no one had many belongings or conveniences. The city I lived in, Kyoto, had been spared from both the fire bombing and the nuclear bomb so it was more or less intact, but food and fuel were scarce everywhere in 1949. Taxi cabs ran on charcoal and had to be stoked up every few blocks. Houses were flimsily built and not insulated for cold weather, and it does get very cold there. We wore layers. Food was scarce and we carried trunksful of food/powdered milk with us on the freighter ship. My parents gave most of it away. No army bases in Kyoto, no PX. The city I lived in, Kyoto, had been spared from bombing so it was not as devastated as other cities, but food and fuel were scarce everywhere. The city I lived in, Kyoto, had been spared from bombing so it was not as devastated as other cities, but food and fuel were scarce everywhere.

    I was just thinking about my old school recently when Newt G singled out poor children to work as janitors in their schools. It wasn’t the janitor part that bothered me as much as the race baiting. Being singled out vs. sharing an experience shines a totally different light on things. A typical day in Muromachi elementary school in 1953 Kyoto would have gone like this:

    – No bus; everyone walks however far they need to. After all no one owns a car. We compare how ‘many layers we’re wearing – a three layer day, a five layer day. . . We girls all wear tiny short skirts and long thick stockings held up by bright red and orange loops of elastic.
    – 2500 kids in the school, 50 to a classroom, one teacher, no exceptions
    – Daily all-school meeting each morning at 8:00am rain, snow, or shine out on the playground — we would line up by class in a long line front to back in order of our height, do calisthenics, listen to our principal’s daily pep talk. He was a dear man. The boys at the back of the line would horse around, naturally. It was freezing cold much of the year. Again, no exceptions, no complaints.
    – Large wooden school building, rather like a barracks, with one pot belly coal stove in the front corner of each classroom. Each day 3 or 4 of us would be in charge of getting buckets of coal and stoking the fire. The back corner was cold enough to freeze ice. Tallest kids sat back there.
    – Stand and bow to the teacher when he/she walks in.
    – Multiplication tables learned by chanting
    – Lunch time: A team of 6-8 of us would put on our face masks and hair net, go get buckets of food, bring them back and serve our classmates lunch before going out for recess. Noon meal was government funded, sometimes the only hot meal the children had all day. No complaints, everyone ate the same thing, even if it was the icky kombu soup or bowl of hot milk.
    – After school we all cleaned the classroom together: Some washed the blackboard, some washed the windows, 15 or so of us would push the desks to the wall and line up shoulder to shoulder with wet rags – we’d all crouch down and crabwalk race across the room and back and the floor was clean! All this took roughly 10-15 minutes because we were doing it together. Rather sloppy, maybe, but it gets done.
    – All jobs rotate daily. No whining, no exceptions
    – All vaccinations and screenings (for pin worms etc) done en masse through the schools
    Children’s welfare was paramount, but we weren’t coddled. We were safe, fed, mostly warm, educated, and we had a stake in our school and community. There were common expectations and a feeling of camaraderie that I haven’t seen elsewhere since. That’s the up side of a homogeneous society. In a diverse society like ours finding common ground seems to be more and more difficult. But worth aiming for, to be sure.

    Sorry this is a long post. What are the rules of blog etiquette?

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    1. Fascinating, Robin, thanks for sharing. Don’t know that there is such a thing as blog etiquette that would dictate how long you could go on like that. Common sense tells me, there isn’t. I for one appreciate that insight.

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    2. Loved hearing these details, Robin. Long is no problem – you’ll just give tim a run for his money. :)

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    1. Just got home late from babysitting and wanted to wish you a happy birthday, Renee. A musical weekend will be a great way to celebrate :-)

      And reading back over today’s posts, have to say how lucky some of you have been to travel in central Asia when you did. Opportunities like that are rare and not to be missed. Travel in any form. Yes to reading travel books. Planning a trip is a trip in itself, reading up on the history and lore of a place. Listening to your stories is a trip.

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  11. Evening.
    It’s been a long day at work… I’m just going home now.
    Happy Birthday Renee!
    I have only been to a few places… I need to travel more. And we plan too. It’s just hard.
    good night.

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