Well, my work with IMON International in Tajikistan has more or less drawn to a close. That was fast. And bittersweet.
As you may know, Kiva is now supposed to be shipping me off to Baku, Azerbaijan, where I’ll be performing borrower verifications, social performance audits, and various other tasks at two of Kiva’s Azerbaijani field partners, Aqroinvest Credit Union and Komak Credit Union. As you may also know, the Azerbaijan Ministry of Foreign Affairs, ever alert to spies, agents provocateurs, and opportunities for its bureaucrats to validate their unhappy existence, is doing everything possible to make sure this doesn’t happen.
I am scheduled to fly to Baku on Tuesday, and I have not even applied for my visa yet. The embassy hasn’t let me. First I needed a letter of invitation from Aqroinvest. Then I needed a supplementary letter of confirmation of invitation from Kiva. Then I was told the Ministry of Foreign Affairs needed to give me a certification of my supplementary letter of confirmation of invitation (I’m not making this up). Then my wonderful Kiva Coordinator at Aqroinvest, who has valiantly made about six trips to the ministry in Baku on my behalf, was told that she did not need this last document at all, and no, they wouldn’t give it to her just in case. Then the Azerbaijan Embassy in Dushanbe told me that they would not give me a visa under any circumstances unless I could produce that document. My intrepid Kiva Coordinator went back to the ministry and successfully arm-wrestled the Foreign Minister (best out of three) to get this document out of him. Once all my documents were finally in order, I was informed that I might have to wait up to A MONTH just for the ministry to send my documents to the embassy – in other words, before I could even begin applying for my visa! If I didn’t feel like waiting a month, though (suggested the ministry with clueless complacency), I could go to the embassy in Dushanbe and ask them to write an expediting letter to ask that the documents be sent within “only” 10 days. The embassy in Dushanbe says it has never heard of such a letter and will not write one for me.
Let me repeat the last part: The ministry is now MAKING UP DOCUMENTS that the embassy has never heard of. Friends, this is the point we have reached.
All of this has sprawled across four weeks, during which the country of Azerbaijan has been needling at my constant low-level knot of stress and making my life suck a lot. To top it off, odds are now high that my Tajikistan visa is going to expire before Azerbaijan permits me to enter. I can’t stay here. I have to get out of this country, and soon.
As Kiva and I see it, there’s only one solution…
SURPRISE! I’m going to Georgia!
I am really excited about this split-second decision I have made. I needed to find some other country to crash in, and Georgia has it all. Georgia has cheap flights and cheap hostels. Georgia has a famously competent Azerbaijan embassy. Georgia is within easy reach of Baku. Georgia and its capital Tbilisi are beautiful, with a deep history and a fascinatingly complex society. Georgia has another wonderful Kiva Fellow from KF16, DJ Forza, whose love for the place radiates from every blog post she makes. And most importantly of all, GEORGIA DOES NOT REQUIRE A VISA FROM U.S. CITIZENS. I’ve wanted to visit the country for a long time now, and I’m really happy that my circumstances are giving me the chance.
So. Assuming that all goes to plan, on Tuesday I fly from Dushanbe to Almaty, Kazakhstan, where I’ll be making the most of my two days in the country to figure out what urban Kazakhstan is all about. On Thursday I fly from Almaty to Tbilisi. And then I stay there for however long it takes me to work out my Azerbaijan visa woes. Two weeks? A month? Who knows? I’m sure I’d have no trouble filling my time with exploration, but nonetheless, I hope I’ll be able to spend some of my time helping Kiva in some way – either through remote projects or by working directly with our field partner in Georgia.
Thirty-six hours left in Tajikistan. That’s weird. And I still have five more Tajikistan blog posts to write for you guys.