Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Where do you live?

“Where do you live,” is a simple question routinely asked by new acquaintances. To answer this seemingly innocent question is a bit complicated if you happen to live on the outskirts of Baku, in an area called Badamdar. About fifty years ago there was not much there except settlements of oil workers but as the boundaries of the city pushed outwards, the area attracted attention of wealthy Bakuvians who started to build spacious houses there, mostly for rental.

The most distinguished feature of Badamdar is lack of street names and numbers on the houses. I assume that all the houses are numbered, but those numbers are not displayed on the buildings. On rare occasion when a house has a number, an official address may look like that:

Baku, Badamdar,
1st high-way, 9th side-street,
Building 437

More often than not people use landmarks to give directions (i.e. turn left at the City Mart, turn right at the second oak tree) and identify houses by colour.

Our house is known as a “yellow house”, which is quite amusing because in Russian this phrase was used as a euphemism for a “nut house.” (Façade of the first mental hospital founded in 1779 in Saint- Petersburg was painted yellow, and by association “yellow house” became common name for all similar institutions.)

So, where do I live? In a yellow house on a street with no name.

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