The leaves on the tree outside my balcony are greening just as our Baku adventure is coming to an end, and finally, the long awaited beautiful summer days are here. The decision to bring our stay here to a close early in July has come completely out of the blue and unexpectedly, but life is a kaleidoscope and the picture is forever changing. I say ‘Goodbye’ with one eye smiling and the other weeping, as we say in German. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I am delighted to be going home, home where my heart is, my family, my little cat, my familiar environment, the pulse and stimulation of the big city, I’ve missed them all tremendously, but there’s also no doubt that I’ll miss my Baku friends a great deal too when I’m back in London, and also the fabulous weather, at least for half of the year. 20 months into our sojourn here, and we’ve just begun to establish good, close relationships, so it is sad to feel those being torn apart. Those that have crossed my path here, have left indelible footprints. I will forever be grateful for the impressions they have made, the good and not so good moments we’ve shared, the laughter and fun. Precious jewels in the necklace of my life.
Baku took me by surprise when I first arrived all those many months ago. I’d expected things to be simpler, more exotic and somehow dustier. I was gobsmacked at the prices, the lack of service ethos, the, from a Western point of view, weird interior design of expat accommodation. I struggled with the uneven pavements, literally, and the clash of glossy image against stark reality, the power and water cuts and the ridiculously slow internet. I loved the fresh fruit and vegetables which taste of sunshine and have so much more flavour and goodness than they do at home. I tut tutted at the silly driving practice in which any sensible foresight is replaced by insistent honking, but the traffic, an irritation for so many, was never a problem for me; I come from London after all! Oh my golly gosh, and the taxi drivers who got hopelessly lost but charged anyway or who flatly refused to switch on their meters and often refused to give change! I’ve had my moments with them, believe me! Ha, and then there was that time when I was struck by complete paranoia, discovering a strange looking contraption hanging in that balcony tree, convinced that it was a surveillance camera, only to be told that it was a burnt out Chinese lantern! What a fool! The throbbing basses from the nightclubs in our street and the complete lack of noise pollution control had me tossing and turning in bed for almost 600 sleep challenged nights, but were always outweighed by the sparkling Caspian and the blue, blue skies in the morning. I was touched by the fast and warm welcome of the expat community more than I was occasionally irritated by life in a small goldfish bowl.
It was fascinating to watch the transformation from plain duckling to elegant swan of this city on the cusp of East and West, to sample its historic past and enjoy its ever developing modernity. A year and a half on from arriving, we now have the brilliant Uber taxi service, electric car sales at Green Car, WH Smith, Marks and Sparks, Harvey Nichols (although rumour has it, it will be closing again) and Port Baku smart shopping, a plethora of Western style good quality places to eat and several health food oriented restaurants, services and shops, none of which seemed remotely conceivable when we first landed here.
Best of all, were and are the wonderful new friendships forged, the interesting people I have met that I would never have come across otherwise, the generous support I have been given, the experiences and life enhancing lessons. I wouldn’t want to miss a moment of my time here! Baku has been good to me and life has been pleasant and happy.
So, what of us? Well, let me quote Forrest Gump: “You know, they’ve got these chocolate assortments, and you like some but you don’t like others? And you eat all the ones you like, and the only ones left are the ones you don’t like as much? I always think about that when something painful comes up. Now I just have to polish these off, and everything’ll be ok. Life is a box of chocolates.”The possibilities are endless. Who knows what comes next and isn’t that thoroughly exciting? First we are going to settle back into London life, pick up where we left off, come to terms with the lousy climate and the traffic jams, enjoy being close to our loved ones and the bright city lights, ensconced in our lovely home there by the Thames. There is a certain thrill to that, that’s for sure. Then we’ll see whether we’ve been sufficiently bitten by the expat bug to try another stint abroad or whether we’ll put down roots for good and gently segue into everyday life in the UK. Watch this space!
Fizz of Life will, of course, continue, though the mantle of review dragon in Baku will have to be taken over by someone else and what a lot of fun they’ll have! Soon, I will put up temporary blog posts with all the things we want to sell before we set off into the blue (or more probably grey) yonder, and there’ll be a few more reviews before we leave in early July as well as some repostings of previous articles which may be useful for newcomers to Baku arriving shortly. I hope you will continue to read me and follow my blog from time to time. You can also ‘like’ my Fizz of Life Facebook Page to monitor upcoming posts. Any Baku newbies are welcome to contact me for information and as for the great friends I have made here, please stay in touch and let me know when you visit London. So, farewell it is then. Goodbye, take care, stay well and Au Revoir! It’s been a blast, thank you all for your warmth and goodwill. I treasure each and every one of my encounters with you.