Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Nowhere in particular in Azerbaijan

Settling into our allocated beds on the scruffy sleeper train from Baku to Barda, I was given the baby. It immediately started crying, so I passed it on to James, where it seemed much happier. We were attracting a lot of attention on the train. Our carriage attendant, a young petite woman with 80s curls, an untucked shirt, her top button undone and tie loosened, was firmly in charge and concerned that we had a comfortable journey. We eventually managed to give the baby back to its owners and went to bed.

After saying our goodbyes we got off the train into the crisp, dark morning and headed to the station waiting room. We had come to Barda (say with a Liverpudlian accent for the correct pronunciation) to see a friend, Jo, who James had studied with in Moscow many moons ago. Jo had been working for the International Red Cross in Barda for the last 2 years. This town is located close to the disputed border with Armenia and has a large population of Internally Displaced People (IDP). The unresolved situation with Armenia means Barda is a sensitive area, combined with the fact that there is really nothing for tourists to see, any outsiders raise suspicions. Whilst we waited for Jo to pick us up a constant stream of taxi drivers popped their heads around the door to enquire if we needed a ride. Then three men in suits entered the deserted room and, instead of sitting in the empty row of seats across the room, they chose to occupy the sits either side and opposite James. After a long silence they struck up some small talk. After appearing to get the information they were looking for they got up and left abruptly.

At Jo's house we had all the home comforts we had been craving and had been denied since our stay with Phil and Alison in Tashkent. We completely indulged, having a great shower and devouring Jo's DVD collection. The sights of Barda were left for another visit.

At the scrapyard we met someone familiar.

Jo and James pose next to Jo's work car.

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