I’ve just returned from a long-weekend trip that had me stopping in Baku, heading up to the beautiful mountains of Zaqatala, and then back to Baku for a few days. Among the awesomeness of my trip, I just wanted to note the a things I noticed during my time in Baku. It seems like every time I go to that oil-pumped city, I discover something particularly irrelevant, insignificant, or anachronistic.
First, the insignificant. Due to the Azeri language’s propensity towards suffixes, we can sometimes be met with some odd word formulations. On this trip to Baku, I was met by a sign near the Peace Corps office advertising the Heydar Aliyev Foundation. In Azerbaijani, the word for foundation is fond (sounds like ‘phoned’). Putting Heydar’s name in front of it requires that you stick a u on the back. And this is how we come up with the Heydər Əliyev Fondu. I can only imagine that Heydar loved fondu. And any fondu made to Heydar’s liking would have had to be made of the signature Azerbaijani salty white cheese.
Second, the irrelevant and anachronistic. It turns out that throughout Baku, you can find tons of signs advertising Esperanto. Next time I go, I’ll try to grab a picture. In the metro subway stations, advertisements for Esperanto abound. I’m curious how this works into Azerbaijan’s plans for developing over the next few decades. Perhaps they, like L.L. Zamenhof before them, are actively in pursuit of unity, peace, and harmony. I haven’t looked too closely at the signs, just close enough to see them say “Learn Esperanto!” This is one of those things that makes Azerbaijan such a curious place. Maybe after I get my Azeri down, I’ll look up one of those Esperanto teachers. Then again, maybe that will only reinforce Azeris’ ideas that I’m a spy, since Stalin declared, “Esperanto is the language of spies.”