Thursday, May 14, 2009

First Impressions

Visiting a new country is always exciting. There are things to learn, places to see, and people to meet. Even though I've only been here for one full day, I've already learned that Baku is full of interesting people, sites, and surprises. Riding into the city from the airport, I noticed the distinct lack of traffic lanes. To someone who is not used to people moving their cars about wherever they please, this kind of driving induces a lot of white-knuckling. Once you learn to trust the person that you're riding with, the next thing you notice is the buildings. This city is enormous and sprawling, but not as tall as most cities of this size. "I'm still shocked at the size of Baku City. Many people in the states have not heard of Baku City, so the general assumption is that it is not an urban area. This is not true." (Manci, C. May 13, 2009) There is a great contrast throughout the city. Historic twelfth-century buildings contrast the more modern architecture of buildings built for the twenty-first century. Dilapidated buildings of the Soviet era sit across the street from polished glass store-fronts. Even the cars in the street portrays these contrasts: shiny new BMWs honk and speed past dirty Ladas on their last set of tires.
"Baku city is undoubtedly beautiful and has culture and history included in absolutely everything, which incorporates some western European and traditional Eastern style." (Knapp, K. May 13, 2009)

"People themselves are very curious. Everyone we met had a lot of questions to ask us about how we like everything, and they truly seemed concerned about our responses. Their concern did not seem like simple small talk, but instead people were interested in our opinions and perspectives." (Knapp, K. May 13, 2009)
"The clothing is an aspect of the culture that I find very interesting. Most of the people are formal most of the time. For example, I have not seen any person in shorts or sweatpants on the street. The women wear a lot of black and high heels, while men wear suits. Women's clothing tends to have a Western silhouette with Eastern influences, such as jewelry, make-up, and embellishments. People seem to take time on their appearance, and I really enjoy this aspect of the culture. I am interested in the difference in the perception of beauty here in Baku." (Manci, C. May 13, 2009)

"So far it has been a fascinating experience, one very different from American life. I did not know what to expect coming here because it is not exactly a tourist destination and I did not know anyone who had ever been in Baku so there was no one I could question. It is much more full of culture, history, and beauty than I had imagined. I am looking forward to memorable adventures." (Knapp, K. May 13, 2009)
"I am most curious about what people value the most here, and I hope I can have an open mind." (Manci, C. May 13, 2009)

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