60_baku city mall

I absolutely loooove my Sundays.

Last week, after church service, a fellow Pinoy, let’s call him G, invited me to hang out with his friends in Baku City Mall. I’ve never been there and, well, I’m cringing as I type this, I needed sweatpants. (Yes, I’ve caved in. I’ve been freezing in the shorts and leggings that I sleep in.)

Baku City Mall in Bina, reminded me of Greenhills minus 95% of the population. The mall has several wide aisles, where each aisle focuses mainly on either shoes, women’s clothing, men’s clothing and, as you’ll find out, jackets. There were also several shops that sold household items. The quality of things sold are slightly better than Sederek Mall and the prices are also higher. A pair of sweatpants costs ten manat. I’m sure I could’ve gotten the same thing for two manat in the Philippines.

The wide aisles of Baku City Mall

The wide aisles of Baku City Mall

G, in his old jacket, posing.

G, in his old jacket, posing.

Ten minutes after arriving in the mall, G’s friends revealed the true reason for bringing him there. They wanted to buy him a new jacket! (The mastermind of this is, well, let’s call him A.)

Now Baku is a goooorgeous city. There’s the Bulvar that faces the Caspian. There’s Icherisheher which houses buildings that are hundreds of years old. It is an international heritage site. There is park after park after park which are lined with trees imported from Italy. So naturally, people want to look good. Azeris love dressing up!

G, on the other hand, is an environmentalist. He avoids using paper plates and he hopes his next adventure will lead him to Palawan, where he will be mentored by a farmer who propagates organic culture in a self-sustaining environment. In other words, G didn’t care about his three year old olive jacket with a tattered sleeve. He didn’t need a new one so he didn’t buy one even if he could afford it.

But A, a fashionable Azeri, cared. He insisted on buying G a jacket and he wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. So we trudged from store to store along the jacket/winter coat aisle as I kept an eye out for sweatpants.

These were my fave men's jackets.

These were my fave men’s jackets.

Now in case you’re not familiar with Pinoy culture, we have this trait called “hiya”. We like giving things and doing things for other people, but when others give or do things for us, we feel awkward and shy about it, so our first instinct is to say “no”. So as we trudged from store to store to store, A would wave jacket after jacket in front of G, and G would say, sometimes in English, sometimes in Azeri, “I really appreciate what you’re doing but I don’t need a jacket. Thank you.”

A did not listen, perhaps because he couldn’t understand G’s tattered sleeve, or perhaps because he had a generous heart, so off we went to another store. A insisted that G try some jackets. G slightly relented and explained to A, sometimes in Azeri, sometimes in English–“We Filipinos, we like doing things for other people. But it’s hard for us to receive.”

“You don’t like this jacket,” A would say sometimes in Azeri, sometimes in English, as he pulled the jacket off G and returned it to the store owner.

“What do you think of this jacket?” A asked me as G pretended to try another black one. After an hour of saying no, G probably figured that A wasn’t going to cave in. He also probably decided that intercultural understanding trumped “hiya”. So I mentioned the store with my favorite jackets and we walked back there.

G fiiiiinally finds a jacket!

G fiiiiinally finds a jacket!

A's triumphant smile!

A’s triumphant smile!

“One of these days,” G promised as we hopped on the bus going to the center of town. “I will cook you guys pancakes.”

Dinner at Nargiz in Fountain Square.  We were all happy.  G got a new jacket. Boy I does not like buying clothes in Bina. Girl A got blue boots and pants.  Boy A found shoes and sexy gloves.  And I bought my warm and comfy sweatpants.  I love Sundays :)

Dinner at Nargiz in Fountain Square. We were all happy. G got a new jacket. Boy I does not like buying clothes in Bina. Girl A got blue boots and pants. Boy A found shoes and sexy gloves. And I bought my warm and comfy sweatpants. I love Sundays šŸ™‚

29_museum sign

I thoroughly love museums that house modern art. I’ve had the privilege to visit some in Manila, New York City, New Haven, Philadelphia and Mumbai. After browsing through CityLife.az, my latest guide to exploring Baku, I decided to visit the city’s Museum of Modern Art. It’s my way of kicking myself out of the Icherisheher periphery, which has begun to feel like a soft comfortable cave that I rarely want to escape.

So with Google Map direction in hand plus my iphone 4S, light, multi-purposeful, I set off for Neftchilar Avenue. (On a side note, I love my Canon Ixus. It takes wonderful photos, almost like an SLR, but there’s something about Instagram. Instagram equals instant gratification. It’s got these really cool filters which make my photos look artistic and I get to share my photos with people of similar interests as well as those who live in Baku. There so many mind-blowing photos in Instagram that also inspire. It’s a great cyber-community and I have yet to explore it’s complete potential. So for now, I’ll stick to taking photos with my iphone.)

Let me start again. With Google Map directions in hand, I walked to Neftchilar Avenue and meandered around broken sidewalks as I looked for Pasha Travel. I never saw Pasha travel, but I did see Pasha Bank. I was supposed to turn left onto Yusif Safarov but I didn’t see any street sign on the road that I suspected was Yusif Safarov. I turned left anyway and around 100 meters away, I spotted copper sculptures outside the museum building.

The entrance fee is five manat and it is well worth it. Baku’s Museum of Modern Art is a beautifully designed space.

The museum is all white, shiny with interesting doorways, pillars and lighting.  There were also only around five visitors when I came in, so I pretty much had the whole museum to myself.

The museum is all white, shiny with interesting doorways, pillars and lighting. There were also only around five visitors when I came in, so I pretty much had the whole museum to myself.

I absolutely loooved these couches.  You could literally almost lie down on them as you soaked in the art.

I absolutely loooved these couches. You could literally almost lie down on them as you soaked in the art.

32_bench

The lighting from the ceiling added to the breath-taking space. That's also a wheeled installation hanging from the ceiling by the way.

The lighting from the ceiling added to the breath-taking space.

But, of course, I went to the museum, not just for its space but for its art. I felt blase and disconnected as I browsed the paintings, and I had to ask myself why.

Perhaps, I’m tired of modern art. I don’t care much anymore for deformed bodies, splintered souls. Images of monsters. These days I prefer the simplicity of open blue skies and the Caspian.

Perhaps, I was looking for something Azerbaijani. I’ve only lived here since August, and I am no expert on Azerbaijan culture. But I didn’t sense the warmth or beauty of the people within these paintings. Instead, I saw copycats. I don’t mean this in an offensive way. Perhaps a better of saying it is–maybe these artists were in the process of learning about modern art from the masters, so many of the paintings looked very similar to those of the masters’.

Picasso?  Sorry, I somehow can't make this photo turn upright.

Picasso? Sorry, I somehow can’t make this photo turn upright.

Action Jackson?

Action Jackson?

And my favorite.  The red-orange Matisse.

And my favorite. The red-orange Matisse.

The saving grace of the exhibit was Melik Agamalov’s work. Alas. I found a familiar face. Something unique. Beautiful. Something Azeri.

The painting is simply entitled "Lady".  It felt good to look into the eyes of a confident Azeri woman clothed in traditional garb.  There are gold splotches on the painting, which to me, signify a fading traditional culture.  Vintage.

The painting is simply entitled “Lady”. It felt good to look into the eyes of a confident Azeri woman clothed in traditional garb. There are gold splotches on the painting, which to me, signify a fading traditional culture. Vintage.

I ended my visit with a trip to the library and the coffee shop. The library housed Azeri, Russian and English books on famous modern artists. Unfortunately, there was no one manning the library when I dropped by.

25_library

All in all, it was a good experience. I would definitely recommend this museum to people who visit Baku. It’s an amazing space.

But still, I would like to see something Azeri.

It’s Holi today. Ear-splitting Hindi music beckoned from downstairs. Unwashed, I tied my hair back, slicked coconut oil on my skin on and wrapped my camera in kitchen plastic.

Trek trek trek. Six floors downstairs. Unarmed. No powder nor gun. Just a camera. Cling wrapped.

“Miss Sacha!” Children screamed. They water sprayed me. Pelted water balloons. Slathered powder on my face. All in the spirit of fun.

Holi, festival of colors, signifies triumph of good over evil. More color wars. Pelting pelting pelting. The evil that pervades. Rainbow colors used as weapons.

Tradition attaches colors to meaning. Red is purity. Matrimony. Pink meaning nothing I can find.

Holi (for me) ended with a sweet milk drink, peppered with cardamom and pistachios.

But from my sixth floor cave, hours after a hot shower, the music plays on. To the beat of the color war.

Pelt pelt pelt.

I’ve been posting a photo about India everyday for almost two months. Today, as I walked past this shop at the Oberoi Mall, I realized that I’ve never featured a sari. (Hand clonks forehead!) Perhaps it’s because I prefer more understated colors when it comes to clothing, a.k.a. black. And also perhaps because I’ve never worn a sari, since I’m too afraid that it will fall off. Whatever the case, today, as I passed Sheetal, I couldn’t help but find these sarees pretty. Now I want to keep my eyes open and look, really look, at Indian clothing.

Last September, I went to Hyderabad for a workshop. During one evening, we visited the Faluknuma palace. One of the room’s was used for studying. This is a guest that posed for me. She asked for my email address so I could send her this photo. I am still waiting for her email.