“Sad, but one day our kids will have to visit museums to see what a lady is like”
— Andre 3000 from the hip hop duo Outkast from the album “The Love Below”
I would rephrase Andre 3000’s quote: “One day our kids will have to visit Baku Azerbiajan to see what a lady is like”
This city, this whole country, and especially my date in Old City Baku have redefined grace and femininity for me.
So the date happened there; and here’s how it went down. I’ll be selectively sprinkling in some details, but some bits are intentionally left out for certain reasons to be discussed below.
I needed to find a date first of all; which 4 months just seemed like another funny Young Jung joke/prank to demonstrate the humor and diversity of our FUNraiser platform. But as we started our journey I realized this would actually be a serious challenge to pull off: as the rally goes on, you speak the languages less, and less of the people speak your language. Furthermore, the idea is to do the date in Eurasia which technically starts after the “river in Instanbul” and more informally when you hit the Cacausus region at the Georgia border. The dating customs are different, and it would feel more inappropriate to approach someone out of the blue. And we rarely stay in a place for more than a day or two, so the obstacles are numerous.
We got to Baku, Azerbaijan where there are notorious week long delays for getting on the ferry to Turkmenistan ( another story), and the pressure was mounting so i figured this would be as good an opportunity I would get on the trip.
So I picked up some newish technology for a dating app called Tinder and went to work finding someone in Azerbaijan. If i write in english at least I’ll narrow it down to someone I can talk to.
First off, chatting with someone on a phone that you’ve never met is a new concept that takes a steep learning curve. How does one convince a stranger in a foreign land to meet for coffee or a drink?
I’ve been embracing this new movement of connecting and sharing with strangers so I forged ahead … I chatted with ‘someone' who had this “why not” spirit ( a great quality ) and we proceeded to make plans to meet for tea or coffee.
I thought we were meeting at this restaurant called Qosa ALA near the Double Gates of old town Baku. Quosa Qala actually is the word for “twin gates” so I walk around asking for this restaurant near the double gates, everyone just smiles and points at the double arches, nice one.
As i’m trying to figure this double gate thing out, I look up and see her from across the street and could instantly pick her out, stunning in fact. Many women in Baku dress well, and she is no exception: green skirt with a white top, high heels, golden accessories and a black clutch.
We walked to a restaurant nearby inside the walled city that she knew. She delicately navigated the cobble stone cracks with 3 inch heels with the grace of a ballerina.
We go into the restaurant and I’m nervous. Meeting someone from online feels awkward: first online date, first app date, and I’m underdressed for going out in Baku with my “best” Mongol Rally attire I can muster.
She politely handles the ordering in Azeri and we get Qutab, one of their national dishes, a savory meat inside crepe like dough that you top with this substance similar to yogurt and a mild spice and then rolled up and eaten like pancake with your fingers, and a Choban Salad.
Getting into the date is a challenge; I’m still nervous. We talk about what it’s like to meet someone for the first time in person. We both like quiet places and this one is perfect… until this violinist comes in a straps on a amp and turns it up to eleven to warm up for he nights performance. So we bail.
And we head out for some tea, so things are going ok. We go to one of her favorite terrace cafes with a view of the ‘Caspian Lake’ as she likes to call it, the fire towers, the worlds former tallest flag pole, and the Maiden Tower.
This part of the date was really fun. Having tea is popular in the world, but not so much in California. You basically sit and talk for 3 hours and periodically order tea: we had Jasime and Black(called Chai here) tea here.
It’s fun to get to know someone over tea and only interrupted by the occasional 25 mph wind gust that would knock things overs. (baku is known as the wind city and Azerbaijan means ‘land of fire’)
I’m very interested to learn more about Azerbaijan and she has a fascinating story of growing up in Soviet and post Soviet Azerbaijan in the mountain region. It’s a pretty smooth ride talking about scifi books, her favorite Audrey Hepburn movies, and cultures. Everything is going great until we start talking about philanthropy.
She grew up in a family of philanthropists. So I start to explain FUNraiser and how we do these Missions and I launch into the segway that I have a Mission to go on a date with someone from the middle of the trip.
“So am I a Mission?” and then in my head there is a record player with a the loudest scratching sound and the beautiful music stops; things have gone horribly wrong. I explain how a photo of the date would be proof of the date to give back to the donors who supported rainforest communities in Peru. This doesn’t help.
A victory selfie of the event would take away from our unexpected very enjoyable evening. We talk about how the FUNraiser platform could be better in this case. She calls it “CI” aka “Continuous Improvement”, a term from her business experience. The core of the platform is about bringing donors and fundraisers closer together. But it extends beyond that to the people FUNraisers engage with; anything that taints those connections would be counter productive to the product.
So we came up with an alternative that I hope you like. Here is a picture she took of her beautiful city. The Maiden tower is in the foreground and the photo is taken form our tea terrance.
A night I will remember forever with an elegant, sophisticated, mellifluous lady.