Friday, December 17, 2010

Don’t Get Lost in Azerbaijan!

This is tip #1. If you find yourself in Azerbaijan, no matter what you do, for the love of God, please DO NOT get lost!
I recently took a quick ½ day trip to a settlement (Yeni Sharif) just outside of Balakan City. I went with my counterpart and Abil. Abil had a driver for the day, but the driver was only vaguely familiar with the area and the location of the settlement. We drove in the general direction for about 15 minutes. At that point, we got to a 4-way intersection. Our driver knew enough about the area to be fairly certain that we were close, maybe 5 minutes away and to the left. We made the left-hand turn and continued down the road. Approximately 5 minutes later, we were stopped by a herd of cows crossing the street. Just to be certain that we were going to right way, the driver rolled down his window while waiting and very clearly asked if we were taking the right road to get to Yeni Sharif. The shopkeeper, an old, wise looking man replied, without hesitation, that the town was, in fact, back the other way and to the right. Figuring that he knew the area better than us, the driver pulled a “U-ey” and went back to the intersection to make the right-hand turn instead. 10 or so minutes later, it was clear that we had been given the wrong directions. Swearing to himself in Russian, the driver turned around and went back to the intersection. This time at the intersection, he asked a posse of 3 men sitting in front of a barbershop. It would seem that asking a group of people instead of just one, possibly misinformed, person is a better idea right? Wrong! The first man spoke up, but was quickly cut off by his friend. Based on the slap to the back of the head that he gave his comrade, it was clear that this second man knew better which way to go. They argued for a moment and then finally agreed on the correct direction. Right as we were about the leave, the 3rd man spoke up, stating that both of the other men were wrong, and that Yeni Sharif was actually straight ahead at the intersection. Miraculously, the other two men instantly disregarded their original directions and agreed with the 3rd man’s choice. We began to seriously doubt the intelligence of these 3 stooges, but we really had no choice. So, we tried our luck going straight at the intersection, our final option. It quickly became clear that we had been duped once again! Just about ready to drive over a chicken on the side of the road in order to let out his frustration, the driver decided to return to the intersection one more time and ask directions from a seemingly reputable individual that Sayarra, my counterpart, would pick out. We got to the intersection and Sayarra picked her target. The driver pulled up next to him, rolled down the window, and with some serious desperation now present in his voice, asked for directions one final time. This man, like all the men before him, answered with such certainty that the settlement was, in fact, back the way we originally came – towards Balakan City. Apparently, and the man found this highly amusing, 4 people (us) had managed to miss an entire town, driving right through it without noticing where we were! Our driver stuck nearly half his body out the window and I thought I was going to have to restrain him as yelled at the man. I don’t understand Russian, but he definitely yelled the equivalent of, “@#!$  %^&*@! YOU IDIOT #$&@%” It was reminiscent of every time I drove in a car with my mother (Love you ma)!!!
At this point, the driver made the executive decision to trust his original instincts and go left. Sure enough, right around the bend from where we had stopped for the cows was the GIANT sign for Yeni Sharif.
The moral of this story is: NEVER TRUST AN AZERI GIVING DIRECTIONS. I had been warned of this before, but had never experienced it myself. Apparently, and I am, of course, speaking generally, Azeris will never admit to not knowing where something is. They are not lying to you, and you should never ever take it as an insult, but Azeris very simply will make up directions if they don’t know. Maybe it’s to save face, maybe it’s perceived as rude to not give an inquisitor an answer; I don’t know. Either way, know 100% where you are going beforehand! THE END

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