Baku, Sunday 15th October 2006
Much of this week has washed past in a muddy grey blur. Being non-stop busy accounts for most of the blur but the weather has also contributed handsomely to the muddy greyness of it. Rain and thunderstorms of epic proportions pounded the city during the small hours of Thursday morning seemingly hell-bent on washing every last brick and being into the Caspian. The inadequacies of the city’s street drainage soon made themselves known as roads and junctions rapidly transformed into torrents and ponds of brown water. Loose soil at roadsides has been washed into the streets to leave treacherous slicks as the water recedes; potholes have been gouged out a little deeper by the flow. The lighter showers that followed now seem to have stopped (fingers crossed) but the low, threatening clouds persist and the temperature is not climbing back up too fast. Looks like Autumn is coming.
A far more pleasant part of the week has been Dave the database man coming to visit from Aberdeen for a few days. As Dave virtually built the database I’m working with his help is ever welcome and as we’ve also become good friends during the year it is always good to see him. This time around I have both learnt some new technical details and browsed his memories of the older projects at the Terminal to aid with my new job. We had a couple of beers and a toasty in the process and when we said farewell on the last night of his trip it was sad as ever to see him go.
Ah yes, the new job. Seems to be settling slowly into place now; in so far as a perceived source of change can settle into an environment where everyone is happy with their routine and the idea of change can be somewhat frowned upon. The blokes on high who create the grand plan, allocate the budgets and sort out the contracts appear to have caught up with my existence and have finally ‘approved’ me for duty; that’s the progress. The next and by far more interesting step will be integrating with the ground level people around me. As there isn’t a person at the Terminal already who does what I do there’s no reason why I should automatically be viewed as a threat to anybody. There’s so much other change going on there though that the overall atmosphere seems to be getting unsettled. Fun to be had no doubt…
One little story that seems to have fizzled out to some vague conclusion now might be worth telling. A closer expat colleague of mine who left the project a couple of months ago; let’s call him Julian; was pretty chatty about most aspects of his life but would rarely speak about his love-life or lack of it in Baku. The closest I got to learning anything was when I once had words with him after he had said something unsuitable to Ayla and he claimed that he “had arrangements.” On his final night in Baku the three of us met in The Lounge for a couple of farewell drinks. It was early and the place was virtually empty. Unexpectedly an Azeri woman in jeans and denim jacket with peroxide blonde hair and impenetrably dark, large sunglasses walks straight in, straight up to Julian and exchanges greetings. With a handshake that was barely the brushing of two fingertips she was then introduced as Sveta; silence soon followed. Less than two minutes later Sveta was gone.
Naturally I was curious and demanded an explanation. Apparently Sveta had been deeply in love with an other expat who had left the country several months previously and was still very emotional about the whole thing. Her relationship with Julian was apparently ‘just good friends’ and he was ‘looking after her’ since the other man’s departure. It all sounded a little bit fishy to me but I was prepared to go with it. The whole episode soon left my mind.
A couple of weeks later I received a text message from an unknown number saying “Hi Alastair. How r U? I am Sveta, R U remembering me?” This was a bit of a poser as I can name at least four Sveta’s I know – it is a relatively common name in Baku. As I happened to be in England at the time I could not exactly go and speak to many people asking which Sveta it might be either. After sending a politely confused response I established that she was the Sveta I had brushed fingertips with that evening and that she was still text messaging Julian since his return to England. When I explained that I too happened to be in England at the time she replied “Ok. I hope will see U for talk and drink. I am missing alone. I am sorry.”
This was all starting to look a bit much. First of all how on earth did Sveta get my number in the first place (it is not widely published) and if she’s in direct contact with Julian why should she be asking me to get in touch with her? We’d barely met! Julian had expressed an interest in coming back to Baku with his next job and I am guessing he passed this on to Sveta as she seemed most keen to discuss his work with me. Not wishing to get involved in the situation I did not contact Sveta once I’d returned to Baku. I did however quiz Julian on msn Messenger and when I asked him if he’d passed on my ‘phone number did not give a straight answer. That will be a “yes” then…
Sveta was not about to give up though. A week after I’d got back I received the following text message on a Monday morning: “Good morning Alastair. How r U? What news about Julian work? I am sorry. Sveta.” A perfectly pleasant and courteous text message it may have been but I did not answer. The next day I received: “Hi Alastair. R U ok? Please ask from your friends maybe need massage. I am doing good massage. I need make money.Please. I am sorry..Please answer. Sveta”. Again I did not answer. A week and a half later: “Hi Alastair. R U ok? I know U have girlfriend. Please send me client for massage. It is my job. I need make money.I am not bar girl please try understand me.Ok?”
Now I’ve lead a fairly varied life so far when it comes to work. Roles I have filled to earn an honest wage include ambulance driver, road crew, booking agent, wedding DJ, SCUBA divers’ training body and a bit more besides. You name it I’ll probably try it but pedalling a woman’s personal services? I have to draw the line somewhere!
In the interests of proving the right or wrong of the situation Ayla and I decided to put Sveta’s claim to the test. I sent a message back saying: “My friend Ayla would like a massage on Sunday if you are free.” The name Ayla is quite rare and Sveta may not have immediately recognised it as a woman’s name but if she did recognise it as such and still made the appointment we would incline to believe that she was genuinely a masseuse rather than a woman who uses a massage parlour (if you get my drift). It was Thursday night. I received a reply on Friday morning: “Hi. I got your text now. I will text U on Sunday. Thank U very much.” So far so good?
Sunday rolls round and all is quiet. Then a text message arrives: “Hi. I hope U r ok. U said ur friend need massage”. This might have been good except the time of receipt was after half past six in the evening – way too late for ‘normal’ business hours. Ayla and I concluded that we were probably not dealing with a bona fide masseuse and sent a reply saying sorry it was too late. Sveta came back with “Ok, Thanks” and no more. That was two weeks ago and Sveta has not been in touch since.