azerbaijan

I remember (with embarrassment, now) Azerbaijan as a place where at least 30% of my interactions were astoundingly negative, occasionally progressing to in-your-face yelling by both parties.

Xinaliq, then, stands out so brightly in comparison to the rest of Azerbaijan precisely because everyone I met seemed so kind. These two men, shepherds who spend much of their day on a hillside above town keeping an eye on flocks of sheep and cows, watched from a long way off as I herded their sheep in the attempt to take a close-up photo. Given the rest of my experience in the country, I expected hard words or at least annoyed questions as I made it up the hill to where the two of them sat.

Instead, they offered a cup of tea. We sat on the lee side of a nearby boulder, and as tea boiled in a remarkably ashy camp pot I tried to ask (in pitiful Russian) more about them. We struggled severely with language, but the simple act of sitting together out of the cold wind over a warm cup said as much as necessary.

Every person I talked to who’d been to Azerbaijan told me they’d had a bad experience. I went anyways, thinking that there must have just been something about their experience. You should go anyway, too, because no matter how many unhappy memories I have of Baku or Sheki or crooked cops on the highway there are always moments like this one in Xinaliq as a reminder that good people are everywhere.

 

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