Hello from Ukraine, all! Another country, another placement, another MFI, and what feels like another world compared to mountainous Tajikistan and arid Azerbaijan. But more about that later! For now, I just want to share some pictures from my last full day in the country where I spent four months of my life.
I timed it well, actually, or rather my nemeses at the Azerbaijan embassy timed it well when they decided the last day of my visa was to be March 21st. As it turns out, that’s the day of Novruz, a major holiday which appears to be devoted to putting traditional Azeri hats on foreigners’ heads and taking their pictures.
Novruz also happens to be the Persian New Year, and it’s one of the most spectacular celebrations of the year in Azerbaijan. The festivities begin a full month in advance, with dance parties, fireworks, and worryingly large bonfires in my apartment building’s courtyard every Tuesday. Alongside these celebrations, in a twist on our Halloween traditions in the US, children go around knocking on doors and swiftly running away to hide in bushes or behind walls, leaving a hat in front of your door; they will return after you’ve gone back inside to find a handful of candies left for them. For the days surrounding Novruz, everything gets kicked into high gear, with street fairs, fire performers, and open-air concerts, and everyone has the week off work to enjoy the coming of the new year.
I was treated to an excellent Novruz in Old Town Baku by Komak Credit Union’s Kiva Coordinator, Afitab, and her family. Here are some of my favorite pictures.
Actually, first, this is me back at the Komak office with a traditional Novruz spread: apples, painted eggs, nuts, chocolates, pastries, and in the middle, a tiny “garden” of wheat sprigs to represent the return of spring.
These “egg duels” are a fun part of the Novruz traditions. Azeris paint hardboiled eggs with sometimes intricate patterns, just as we do for Easter, and then hammer them against each other in a friendly competition. You get to gamble for whatever small-scale thing you want, and whoever gets the egg that doesn’t break wins the pot.