Bribes

May 21, 2010 at 4:18 am Leave a comment

I found an apartment near the center of Baku which I’ll be sharing with 2 or 3 other foreigners. It’s a big apartment and each of us has our own room, the ceilings are high, many windows and light, fresh air, two balconies, a washing machine, wifi, a kitchen with cupboards full of stuff. And from here, it’s only a 10 minute walk to work and a 10 minute walk to old Baku. There are many vegetable and food shops around and the area feels better than the 9th district, where Peter’s apartment was. Rent is $800 divided by the # of people living here during the month.

Some streets in central Baku are so narrow that when walking on them cars almost touch you as they slide past...

Hundreds (or thousands) of new buildings are being constructed in Baku...

Some of the MANY unfinished constructions sites along Heydar Aliyev Prospect...

There is a rule in Azerbaijan that foreigners staying longer than 30 days must register with the police department and obtain a registration card. This must be done by the 3rd day. Today was my 3rd day in Azerbaijan. I had forgotten all about this registration business until this afternoon when together with several employees from the credit union where I work I set out to register myself. After paying the 10 manat fee to the government bank (plus another man as a “service charge”) we drove to the police/passport office compound where they told us that they only process registration documents on Mondays but that since we needed documents so urgently they’d oblige us for a 50 manat “service charge.” I’m pretty sure Monday would be Friday if I’d gone their on a Monday but since testing out this hypothesis would result in a fine of unknown amount, I paid the bribe. Less than initially demanded by the government clerks, but more than I wanted to part with. Including the photo fees, government fee, and bribes, I paid about $50.

I saw a local man pay the same bribe I did. Just slip it into the draw discreetly as the clerk sat filling out forms. “I’m just not used to it” I said to the two men from my credit union who’d taken me all the way to office and they said “you’ll get used to it. It’s done in Russia, Ukraine, Armenia, Georgia, everywhere.”

Afterwards we went to Ateshgah temple in Surakhany, 20 km outside of Baku center. The temple is also known as “the Fire Place” because it is located over a pocket of natural gas that fuels an everlasting fire. It was rebuilt by Indian merchants in the 18th century on a site that was used by the followers of Zoroaster (Zarathustra) for fire worship from around the 6th century. When Azerbaijan was Islamised in the 16th century, many Zarathustra immigrated to India.

Ateshgah temple

Eternal fire

Model of a dying Zoroastrian

A Zoroastrian and an Azerbaijani trader, i think.

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Entry filed under: travel. Tags: , , .

Visiting my homeland and arriving in Baku Walking along the Caspian

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