Whoa… Didn’t See That Coming!

The more things change, the more they stay they same…

Most of us have heard that saying, or some version of it in whatever global language you speak.

Euro miles map- Sochi, Russia to Baku, Azerbaijan- as the

                                                                   Are We There Yet?

I always thought that was true. At least I used to; but these days, I’m not so sure.

When I first came to Baku, it was somewhat remote- by that I mean not many people recognized it by name. Heck, even American Express Travel tried to  tell me it was in Africa (I assured them it most definitely was not in Africa.)

In Montreal, I was greeted by the security agent, checking my bag tag, saying, “Have a nice time in Bangkok!”  Whoa- my bags better not be going to Bangkok! I’m going to Baku!!

In those days, expats showed up and were quickly identified as the new guy at BP, or the new teacher at TISA. The only reason people came there from outside was for work, and about the only work was connected to oil/energy in some way. Things were booming then, but it was still remote.

Nobody had reliably working landline phones, so you physically went to friends’ flats to talk and socialize and share expat pleasures not available in town (if you were lucky enough to have company shipments coming in regularly). Sometimes you might get invited to the Embassy- which sounds exotic to friends and family back home, but was really a little slice of survival there.

Repatriation Move: Boxes- What Does Change Look Like To You?

                         What Does Change Look Like To You?

An expat was someone who had a hard life, working in places where there weren’t enough local workers skilled in your trade to do what you do without having to pay the extra money on imported labor. There is a reason companies “incentivized” (ok, bribed) staff to go on assignments like this.

It was hard work, being without family. Not having internet yet meant waiting at the office until a middle time could be arranged for a call home to tuck the kids into bed via satellite phone.

When I went to Baku to live on my own, I didn’t have any company shipments- I had been the one sending the shipments from Houston for our Baku staff, so I knew what they were missing. But they were all men so I also knew there were certain products they would have no idea how to get when I got there.

This is what 40 looked like

                                              This Is What 40 Looked Like

In one suitcase, I had an odd assortment of 36 pairs of underwear (white cotton- no washers/dryers- who wants to see bikinis and thongs hanging out on a line in the courtyard after they have been boiled on the stove?), 18 pairs of pantyhose (for which I got unending grief for wearing in the hot sticky Baku summer), two dozen sticks of deodorant (I might sweat but at least I was going to smell good doing it!) and a ton of feminine things.

I knew I could get some euro shampoo that would be fine, but haircolor? Geez, I looked at the babushkas with their henna over black or a combination of whatever was in the Soviet-era market and thought this adventure could go south in a hurry!

A couple years after I arrived, so did cellphones- everybody got one… or two. Cars also arrived, as did the internet and new computers.  Gone were the floppies I carried my language course on. Gone was the text of my computer class that began with  C colon, backslash, backslash, D-I-R.

Change had always been incremental. In Baku because of the collapse of the Soviet Union, change came pouring in like water flooding over a dam. There was something new each day it seemed.  Kids in my classes didn’t have computers at home- why would they? There was no software, no internet. Then suddenly they all had laptops and dataplans.  I kept telling my students, “Please don’t say you know Windows on your resume. That marks you as a newbie and no one will take you seriously.”

With all the skills we were teaching and the number of expats acting as bridges, young students began getting good jobs at western companies, making more in a month than their parents did in a year.  We were witnessing a huge middle class developing before our own eyes. Young people travelling to Turkey and the UK, going to school in France and Germany. Increasingly mobile and ready to see the world.

I don’t want to say the expat model is over, but I will say it has definitely changed in many places. Satellite technology allows surgery over cyberspace; teaching and training can be done online; accounting records can be scanned and processed thousands of miles away.  So I knew things were changing- and quickly- but I’m not sure I was ready for this much change in a decade.  It used to take a generation, now it’s the blink of an eye, and if you blink too slowly you may miss the change all together!

Take a look and see what I mean.

Whoa… I didn’t see that coming!

(Thank you to Sophia Besitka at sophiabesitka.wordpress.com for curating these two videos about change and inspiring this blog post.)

Sophia writes from the future as I reminisce over the past. Sophia is building tomorrow while I consider who will remember yesterday.  It’s an interesting place to be right now.  I wonder, if you had asked me 10 years ago to predict the future of work, what my answer would have been.  I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been close at all.

Take a look at this clip from ODesk (now Upwork) and then tell me if you work in a job that didn’t exist 10 years ago or are working in a job that may not exist 10 years from now? Does this fascinate you as it does me?

To go to Baku, at that critical point of history and to see where we are today is breathtaking in the scope of all that has changed.  I wonder where we will be in 10, or 20 years from now. What do you think will be around that we can’t imagine today?

I feel like a human contradiction, writing this minutes after having just been on a Persicope with friends from all over the world, instantly teaching each other about the latest technology, then writing about one of the oldest societies’ race to catch up with today.

Do you ever have days where you feel like this?  Why don’t you share it with me? Tell me how change is affecting your life… or what you didn’t see coming!  😉

Thanks for being here with me today-

Signature for Blog post

7 thoughts on “Whoa… Didn’t See That Coming!

    • Hello Valeria! Thank you for your kind words. I was very happy in that photo, and life was good. This one has been a wild year, but I am so glad we have not lost touch. I see your posts from time to time as the come across the feed, and confess I have not made my comments known as often as I could have.

      I am coming to a milestone in 10 days time… I will be turning 60! I’m excited about the occasion but, truly, it has caused me to think about what I need to be doing. I really am starting to understand the saying, ” So many (____), so little time!” 😉

      How are you doing these days? This is winter/coming spring for you, yes? I hope the seasons are being kind to you and you are enjoying life! Thanks again for saying hello!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hey! Yes, you looked beautiful and very happy! It’s good to go back in time and remember how you felt, it often can serve as inspiration for the present time and the days ahead! Don’t worry, it’s good we’re still in touch from time to time. I actually haven’t been writing that much from April till July, but now I’m hopefully back on track.
        60 is I guess a big milestone, but I know you’re ready to live it with the same enthusiasm of that wild year!
        I’m good, recently relocated to Zurich, so we’re aligned with the seasons now. I’m discovering and adapting to my new city, exploring a passion maybe a possible new career in jewellery. So I’m excited! All the best, happy birthday and celebrate well! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  1. Wow- would never have guessed Zurich for your next move. That’s quite a change from Australia.

    Personally I loved Zurich- flying in, I always loved the glimpses of the little squares of varying shades of green or fallow brown fields, everything neat and orderly, clean and fresh. Sitting outside the train station on a bench in the sun one time, I remember seeing the trolley go by and when it had passed, a little band brass started playing traditional music. People gathered and everyone was smiling.

    Of course I realize that little vignette doesn’t reflect everyday reality, but I was happy there. Sure, some people lament the “lack of drama” (excitement), but for me Zurich holds very nice memories. I hope your new place will for you as well.

    As mulit-talented as you are, I can see you doing well in a creative outlet with jewelry (or jewellery, as the euro spelling goes!). I wish you much success- it will be exciting to be part of your launch in this new phase of life.

    Thank you for your kind wishes. Congratulations for New visions for both of us! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much for your kind words and best wishes. I really do appreciate it, even if we don’t personally know each other, your encouragement is a source of energy and inspiration to do my best and better everyday! Zurich is probably partially as you describe it, a happy place, peaceful, neat, very well organised, but I was told by friends that thank God in the last 2-5 years, it has sprung. There’s much more happening, it’s very lively providing not only “peace & order”, but also a nice lifestyle and it’s attracting a lot of foreigners. Well, keep yourself tuned and eventually you’ll discover a bit more of Zurich through my posts 🙂 thanks once again for your note, you made my day today! ❤

      All the best for a new beginning for both of us!
      p.s. while living in Australia, my English has changed! It has indeed improved, but also my spelling has turned from more American into more British eheh

      Liked by 1 person

      • I look forward to reading more about your “new world” in Zurich. It always amazes me as to what causes a renaissance in places (like Baku with its oil money) and what happens to the lifestyle and culture when it changes- some, like Baku, lose an old culture, while others view the changes as progress for the good.

        It will also be interesting to see if the incoming foreigners assimilate or congregate, whether they create a new circle within a circle or they mix and adapt.

        I’m glad you are there commenting on life as you see it- you have always had a very positive outlook on your adoptive homes, and I very much look forward to what you find in Zurich! I’m glad you are making friends locally- it sounds like you are settling in well! I wish you “good steam” (as they say in Baku- from one of my very early posts!) Be well… 😉

        Liked by 1 person

      • I’ve been a bit busy, doing a course and then away for a few days, so I can reply only now. Yes, moving places it’s always a renaissance and it is indeed for me once again this time. It’s interesting to khow how I’m perceived by others, although we don’t know each other personally, and I’m glad what reaches you it’s a sense of positive energy. Thank you for the “good steam”, I definitely need it! All the best and thank you for stopping by. I’ll write more about Zurich in the coming weeks 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

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