During our training for Peace Corps in Azerbaijan, we got to visit PCVs who were already working out at sites around the country. It was our first taste of what it would be like to be PCVs (Peace Corps Volunteers) instead of just PCTs (Peace Corps Trainees). We got to go stay with some kick-ass PCVs in Barda. They were so welcoming, encouraging and hospitable to us lowly PCTs.
Although it was hot, humid, full of mosquitoes (some of which were possibly carrying malaria) and not the most glamorous site, I was smitten. I think I was mostly smitten with the idea of being on our own, doing actual work and freedom. We went back to Barda a few times while we were in Azerbaijan (it was one of our closest neighboring towns) mostly because it had good people.
Barda is a very interesting town because it’s very close to Nagorno-Karabakh. Nagorno-Karabakh is part of Azerbaijan that has been occupied by Armenia since 1991. When it was taken over, many Azeris were forced out of their homes and displaced throughout Azerbaijan. Many IDPs (Internally Displaced Persons) live in Barda in IDP camps. IDP camps are usually old schools, old train cars, breaking down buildings and sometimes still even temporary housing. The government provides this for its people. This is obviously a very unfortunate situation that seems to have no real end in sight.
While I was doing some research on Barda and IDPs, I came across this Azeri photographer’s website. Rena Effendi has created some beautifully striking photos of Azerbaijan and its people. If you want to take some time to see some amazing photos of Azerbaijani people and culture, check out her galleries.