I’m Backkkk!!!

***I sent this earlier as an e-mail, so move along if you have already read it.

I am writing this from an internet cafe in Baku! These last couple days have been quite an adventure. I woke up at 3:40 this morning to try and catch a taxi in the rain and I luckily found one immediately.

I have had some insane experiences the last couple weeks. I will try to write about some of them in the future. Backtracking, the China immigration officers confiscated my China lonely planet on my way out of the country. These are banned because their map doesn’t show Taiwan as being a part of China. After discovering my book, the immigration officers put my name on an undisclosed list — who knows what that means. They then made me continuously repeat “Taiwan shi Zhongguo!” This translates to: “Taiwan is China!” Add to this the facts that I couldn’t access my blog or youtube, the Tibet being closed, etc. Very interesting stuff. Despite these experiences, I am unbelievably bullish on China. I will explain this at a later date.

Overall, I had an excellent experience in Kazakhstan — but had another couple bizarre experiences this morning. When I walked into, two police officers immediately whisked me away into a small room. They made me take off my packs and jackets. They frisked me and made me OPEN and EMPTY my wallets! I complied, but wouldn’t hand the contents to them. They then asked me, in Russian, if I wanted to buy tea? I played dumb, as I shook in fear, and I kept repeating, “I don’t want any tea!” This is an old Russian code for, we want a bribe. After a couple minutes, they let me enter the airport!

Next, my Kazakh immigration officer didn’t want to let me through the gates because I didn’t have an Azerbaijan visa or letter of invitation. Kazakh residents need a letter of invitation to get a visa upon arrival, but Americans, Europeans, Canadians, etc. don’t. After talking to about 8 people and 30 minutes of my time — she stamped my passport and let me through.

I didn’t have any problems entering Azerbaijan — other than the expensive visa. This place is madness. On my way into town, I passed tons of development and I didn’t see one worker doing anything. The streets were lined with men just standing around talking to each other. I had the same experience in much of Latin America. They don’t even pretend to look busy. Mind you, this was at 9:00 am. This place would be an absolute shit-hole if they didn’t have so many hydrocarbons.

There is an ungodly amount of money in downtown Baku. Flashy cars and
expensive designer clothes abound.

I arrived completely unprepared, without a guidebook, knowledge of the language, place to stay, etc.! However, I love a challenge and think I have figured this situation out. I am in downtown and found a couple potential guesthouses. I also found the phone number for the only English language bookshop in town. I am on my way now to sort these things out.

This is surreal. I am in Azerbaijan.

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