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  • Once in Baku I got an invitation to a reception at the U.S. Ambassador's residence for some Azerbaijani kids that had participated in some embassy sponsored internship program. I avoided all contact with embassy people as much as possible, but with free food and the possibility of an open bar, I decided to go. Besides, I wanted to meet an ambassador, and see where an ambassador lives in Azerbaijan.

    And much to my glee, there was an open bar! There was no way I was going to feel comfortable around embassy types without a few drinks in me. So I started on the Jack and Cokes. I mingled a bit, talked to some Azerbaijanis and some Americans. There was one embassy guy who had just moved to Azerbaijan, an IT guy who was previously at an army base in Iraq. He actually was really cool, knew his Boer War history. His wife was there, and I asked what she did. "I'm a secretary" she said. Uh, yeah. Whenever I hear that line I immediately think "CIA!” Ever heard of Valerie Plame? Secretary, sure. He did IT, while she was a “secretary”.

    I made friends with the cute blonde bartender. She, along with many others, was surprised I knew Russian. And then when I threw in some Azeri words, they loved me. Served stiff drinks, I finished off the bottle of Jack, so they had to open the Jim Beam.

    The Ambassador appeared and read a speech to the audience, in Azeri, which surely she didn’t understand but was a nice touch, it was obvious she was making an effort. I talked to another guy I knew, and we discussed how this ambassador, only a couple months into the job, was the "cultural ambassador". This is in contrast to the last one, who was in town to make sure America wasn't left out of the big oil contracts and to set up cooperation between the respective defense establishments. Now that Azerbaijan was solidly in America's pocket, it was time for the good, caring cop who emphasized "cultural exchange".

    After her presentation (and about 6-7 drinks in an hour’s time) I met the Ambassador, and she seemed like a real nice lady. She said she was taking Azeri a couple hours a week, and that she was glad summer was over. She asked me what I did, and I told her, and she said one of her sons was graduating college soon, and was going to be in Baku in December, and if I could talk to him about grants, fellowships, and what not. We took a picture. I gave her my contact info, but never heard from her.

    About then I realized that I should eat something, so I wandered over to the buffet table, covered in various finger foods. Quite good! What you would expect from a private chef to a US ambassador. The Ambassador came up to me and said "You speak Russian, right?" She then dragged me over to the chef, and had me say that the food was great in Russian. For an extra flourish, I said it in Azeri. The kitchen was probably the cleanest one in the country.

    By the time I walked out of the kitchen the place had completely emptied out. It seemed like it had happened in minutes, but I might have been drunk enough to have lost track of time. The only people left were the embassy public affairs staff, and they were shuffling out the door. I said my goodbyes to the Ambassador and caught a ride from a staff member into the center, forcing my way into the car, smashing the others. They were all nice and polite to me in the car, but I was so damned drunk by then. “You all don’t actually support Bush, do ya?” I blurted out at one point. The State Department lady driving was more than happy to dump me off at the first metro stop.

    By then it was 8:30. So I went to one of my bars, had a few more drinks, then went to another, and had a few more, then hooked up with some expat kids roaming the streets and ended up at a dance club. I was never invited to another embassy function again.
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