"The Only American in Naxcivan (Nakhchivan)" Naxcivan Muxtar Respublikasi by mickeyd302

From Las Vegas to Nakhtown

I am a teacher. Nothing particularly amazing about that, but after my second trip to China and Thailand with first time excursions into Cambodia and Hong Kong, I had to ask myself why I was staying in the US when I was not really happy there. I applied for a Georgetown University English Language Fellowship with hopes of returning to China, Thailand, or some other country in Asia. I had not heard back from Georgetown in a few months and decided to start applying for teaching jobs in China. I was expecting a call from a university in Guangzhou. They had not called when they said they would, but with the time difference I was not surprised. I had the phone placed next to my bed expecting the call. I received a call at 5:30am while I was sleeping. I glanced at the caller id. It read "Unknown Caller." I rushed to answer it, thinking it was the Chinese university, but instead it was the US Embassy in Azerbaijan. At first I was wondering where in China was Azerbaijan. I was asleep after all. I interviewed and was asked to go to Nakhchivan. I was told that I would be possibly the first American to live there. The idea of being the first at something for once in my life intrigued me. So I agreed and moved there in September of 2006. I lived there for 10 months as the sole known native English speaker in the Republic.

I sold or gave away most of my material possessions, including my 1969 Mustang (my baby!) and my two cats, El Diablo Negro and Bukowski (my other two babies). I put my condo in Las Vegas on the market. I was fortunate that the housing boom was still going on but on the downside and it sold within two months.

Aside from giving away my cats, whom I had since their birth, the hardest thing was finding new owners of my things. It is amazing what one can accumulate in one's life. Several items from my travels into Asia were shipped to my parents' home in Indiana, other items were sold on eBay, a rummage sale was held, and charity organizations were called. Still, as I left for the airport there were still some items in my home. I was fortunate some friends of mine agreed to help me out and clean out my place for me. If I was going to move overseas I was going to do it right. The less things the better. All of my CDs (over 700) were put on iTunes on my laptop. Nevertheless, I went to the airport with no sleep for the previous two days and three very heavy bags.

Onward to Baku

I spent five days in Baku when I first arrived in Azerbaijan. The Embassy met both the other English Language Fellow, who would be staying in Baku, and me at the airport. We were taken to the City Mansion, which was a comfortable albeit somewhat out of the way hotel. The next five days were spent in meetings with the Embassy. When I was introduced, I was always referred to as "the one going to Nakhchivan." This usually garnished a response of a surprised look and hearty, "Really?" This left me wondering what in the world I was getting myself into.

Life in Nakhchivan

The flight from Baku to Nakhchivan was crowded, but it was short. The university met my Embassy escort and me at the airport and I started my life in Nakhchivan. I met many government officials. I also had to find an apartment. After seeing the virtual palaces that were available in Baku and being told that Nakhchivan was the second most cosmopolitan in the country, I was thinking that I could find a decent place. Was I ever wrong. I looked at many different places before settling on one. As it turned it out, I was overcharged for the apartment, which is a common practice there as the belief is that foreigners have more money and therefore should be able to pay more. I also had a landlord that refused to repair anything including a heater that quit working in the middle of winter when it was -40 degrees C. To make matters worse, the electricity was cut off every few hours, so the two space heaters I bought to keep me warm were of little use during that time.

Aside from my landlord, most of the people I met there were some of the warmest and nicest people I have met in my life. Most of my friends refused to allow me to pay for anything even when I invited them out. My students were wonderful and I came to love them all, even the ones who drove me crazy. Being the first American many of them ever met had a profound affect on me. I always had time for them. Many wanted to discuss what the US was like and I tried to tell the good and bad and dispel any stereotypes. Others wanted to teach me all they could about Azeri culture. But I knew if I ever needed any help my friend and my students would always be there for me.

I openly admit that I struggled with the language and Nakhchivanians have a thick accent. This presented its own brand of frustration for me and for others not as well versed in English. Oftentimes, I would not get informed of meetings or gatherings I was supposed to attend until 15 minutes after they started. Sometimes, I could only use my own warped brand of sign language, which usually turned into a very bizarre and comedic dance to get my point across.

Nevertheless, I consider Nakhchivan another home. The people there have a special place in my heart and I do miss them.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Great people, good food, interesting from a cultural and historical perspective
  • Cons:Police state, sometimes blantant overcharging of foreigners, very conservative
  • In a nutshell:Well worth the journey
  • Last visit to Naxcivan Muxtar Respublikasi: Jul 2007
  • Intro Updated Jul 18, 2007
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Reviews (9)

Comments (1)

  • Mikebond's Profile Photo
    Apr 30, 2008 at 9:52 AM

    Interesting tips on this almost unknown region. I "only" knew its name and location before...

mickeyd302 Used To Live Here!

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