Saturday, December 18, 2010

Greetings from the Middle East

So... I am writing you from sunny, lovely Baku, Azerbaijan.  I am here on a mission from the Houston Grand Opera, to meet with Azeri composer Franghiz Alizadeh about a small opera she is writing for production in the spring.

Getting here was quite a trek.  I left Houston at 6:30pm, (flight: @8.5hrs) arrived in London at 11:30am. My next flight was scheduled for 1:20pm, but there was a delay due to weather, then we boarded, then we sat on the sweltering plane for a while. Short story long, I arrived in Baku around 1am (5hr flight).  A very long day and I purposely only slept about 2 hrs on the flights, so I would be able to jump right into local time.  And now it is morning, and here I am!

I woke around 9:30am and got a sense of the place I am staying.... a "guest room" in the Composer's Union building, right across from Sahil Gardens.  There are lots of upscale shops nearby and the building is very grand, if rather sparsely (but nicely)  furnished.  Everything seems to be very large here.... the buildings, the squares.  The ceilings in my suite area are probably 25ft high, and there is a lovely chandelier in my room.  I am on a pulll out sofa but seem to have almost the entire building to myself (it just occurs to me that may be because it is a Saturday).   I am on the 3rd floor, have to take 3 flights of very grand green marble steps.

After a shower and some tea I took a walk around the area to try to get my bearings.  Some observations: 
  1. There are very few streets signs here.
  2. I feel very conspicuous on the street and people are not shy about staring at me. Also they do not smile.  The locals look very Turkish/Russian (as you would expect), so my coloring is a bit unusual.
  3. The light is gorgeous here. 
  4. I am about 3 blocks from the Caspian Sea and there are very nice parks and blvds. 
  5. It is really disconcerting to be in a place where you do not understand the language AT ALL.  It bears no relation to any of the languages I am familiar with.... not even in writing (especially when they use the Cyrillic alphabet).
  6. This is indeed a very modern city.  The "old city" is not too far away and I plan to walk over later on.
So now I am just hanging out at the residence, awaiting further orders.  I do not know at all what my schedule will be like this week.  But I will keep you posted!

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