Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Ways to Avoid Being Ripped Off from a Taxi Driver in Baku if You Are Foreign

Let's face it, if you a foreigner traveling abroad, or you just look foreign, sometimes you get screwed over when it comes to something like paying for a taxi fare. Being a college student and living in one of the most expensive cities in the world, you do what you have to not end up homeless. And sometimes locals equate foreigners with dollar (or Manat) signs. Here is a list of helpful advice, and the ones with the asterik I have already tried, and succeeded. 
  How to Not Get Cheated Out of Your Taxi Ride:

1. Take the Metro or Bus instead. It's way, way cheaper. So what if the handle bars are greasy, or someone asks you to hold their child? Deal with it. *everyday

2. Learn your numbers in Azerbaijani. Also, learn how to say "How much..?" Also, learn how to negotiate. BEFORE you get it the car. Act like you have no interest in their pricing, and then they eventually give in. Sometimes. *

3. Fake-cry your way out of paying way too much. Nothing is more uncomfortable and obnoxious than a foreign, crazy girl (or guy even) who is crying in your taxi. They will not want to deal with you. *

4. Yell at them in Russian. They might pretend to not understand. But they do. *

5. Get your cellphone out and tell them that you are calling the U.S. Embassy. I am pretty sure they would not like this. Don't actually call them.

6. Wear your hair kind of fancy and that skirt that makes you look like a hooker. Can't say if this will work for a guy, or if you are just an ugly motha, then, well, let's be serious.....skip this one...

7. Take someone with you who is a native Azerbaijani. *

8. Take another foreigner with you. Nothing is better than 2 or more dumb foreigners in the taxi. The driver will think he has hit jackpot. If he tries to screw everyone over, just have everyone start crying.

9. If the driver guy finds out your American, and wants to express all of his political opinions about America, agree with whatever he says. Bush or Obama? Yes. It doesn't matter if he is wrong. He will be nice to you. *

10. Start your own taxi service.

Baku State of Mind Music Video

So, a couple of Peace Corps volunteers made this video in Baku some time ago....and I wish I could be cool enough to do something like this...
but many of the places shown in this video I have been to! Enjoy, and it will make you want to watch it at least 7 times a day. Not that I do that.....

While In the 'Baijan........Caspian Dreams are Coming True.

     I think 2 months is enough time to think about creating a decent first time blog dedicated to my travels and stay in Baku, Azerbaijan. Hey, I needed time to get over my jet lag.
        Hello American friends, family, colleagues, whoever is actually going to read this thing; I will try my best to write this for the perspective of those who have no idea what Azerbaijan is all about, but let's face it, I am not even entirely sure what Azerbaijan is all about. So, I advise you that I cannot guarantee that I will hold my caution for the sake of the wind when it comes to what you want to hear about my abroad-i-ness (or making up of words). I was thinking about if my Blauogh (it's how I am pronouncing the "blog", because it sounds so much classier that way) should have a specific theme to it, like it being only about the political science-y/international relations/foreign language subjects that I am studying here. But I am pretty sure I would bore the hell out of you after I write 5 paragraphs about Azerbaijani foreign policy. Except for Dr. Williams of Campbellsville University. I think he would have a freaking ball with that. I also just considered writing about personal experiences only, like all the emotional, culture shock crap that people tend to blog about while not in America. But that would make me want to shoot myself. So, it's going to be a bit of everything. And I cannot promise you that I won't cuss. Because life is gritty. And I like to say the word "gritty". So, Campbellsville University, you being a private, Baptist-valued institution, I have warned you.
     Hmmmm, seems like I am not much for words after being here for over two months, which, by the way, is the time when you start to realize that you can either dwell on the fact that you are in a different, different world and "culture shock" (what does that even mean??) happens on a regular basis, or you can learn to adapt. My English level has dropped significantly here, since my America departure, because for the most part, I speak slow, simple words to many Azerbaijanis that may or may not understand me. Oh, and hand gestures work wonders but it also says "I am an idiot". My level of Azerbaijani (come on, its the official language here! You should know that.) is that of survival level, meaning I can bargain for food, a taxi ride, or for a extension on my midterm paper. But its also hard to keep speaking Azerbaijani, because everyone around you asks you to teach them English. Like 97% of them. And my classes at Khazar University in Baku are taught in English. Thank God. Or else I would still have no idea what democracy means. Haha, jokes CU professors! But, the best way to throw your whole self into the foreign language experience is to live with a local host family. It's what I am doing now. Besides being some of the nicest people ever, they also teach me to speak in Azerbaijani. They mostly tell me to eat food. It's so difficult here. :)
    One word to describe Baku, or Azerbaijanis, would have to be Mosaic. In terms of culture, socially, the people are a mixture of things that make them an Azerbaijani. Some things contradict each other, while other things have come from an evolution of tradition and modernity. Probably some of the most hospitable people in the world are in Azerbaijan. But many are wary of outsiders, those particularly outside of Baku, but the glares and stares prove that you don't become best friends on day one. Azerbaijanis, especially the younger generation, like being modern like anyone else, but there is a strong presence of tradition. Hell, if you were a small country sitting in the middle between Turkey, the Caucus, Russia, and Iran, of course you would want to hang on as much cultural identity as possible. But, another word to describe them is Realists. When it comes to politics, their role in the world, these people are strategists. I mean, the students in all my classes. They get that the world doesn't work on nice ideas of "everybody hold hands". Maybe it has to do with all what they have been through, with being under Soviet rule in the past, or their regional conflict of Nagarno-Karabakh.....also, if you lived in a small, landlocked country with a surplus of oil, then maybe you would think strategically as well. In a final thought, there is so much I don't know still about the Azerbaijani people I am meeting here, but I am sure that I am learning more from them then they are from me.
  I don't want to overkill this first blog, since technically I would write thousands of words to make up for the laziness I have been with my posting. Yeah, that's right, I'm lazy. Let that excuse resonate in your gums. Because it's the only legitimate excuse I have.
   My host mom, who's name I would love to spell for you but can't, has been planning her brother's wedding this past week or so, and she just came home....and when I went downstairs to see her, she gave me a little frilly bag full of candy! It's part of all the wedding preparation they are doing. I was so, so freaking excited to hear that her brother is getting married because I thought that meant I would go. To the wedding. If you don't know, weddings in Azerbaijan can be a pretty damn big deal. But I just learned that they are leaving for Kazakhstan to have a small wedding ceremony. WTF?? Why can't I come?? Because I can't. I'm going to be stuck here with the kids. Teaching English as usual. But hey, how often do you say you have to go to Kazakhstan to see your brother get married? I am not entirely sure if he has even met his woman yet. But back to the candy bag, she told me to eat half the candy tonight and put the rest under my pillow and I will dream of the guy I am supposed to marry. Something magical like that. If I wake up only to find melted chocolate under my pillow, I am going to be pissed. Because what will George Clooney think if I have melted candy on my pillow?! Not attractive.
    Ok, I am tired of typing. I am going to say that I will post now more frequently, as I realize it's not that bad. I do enjoy writing. Really. I just don't enjoy explaining things to people. Oh, also, I should post cool pictures of me doing stuff in Baku, just to prove that I am really here. Or to prove that I am becoming culturally sensitive. Or to prove I am not that much of a loser. Let me figure out technical things with my camera and you might see me.