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Dispatch #3 April 1, 2008 PDF Print E-mail

The Village at the End of the Road

The young boy looked puzzled when we asked him if there was internet in his village. One could tell by the expression on his face that he didn’t know the word. Neither the word nor the World Wide Web had apparently reached this village – 240 miles northwest of Baku – and a handful of kilometers from the Russian border.

Xinaliq (Hen-AH-lihk) is literally at the end of the road – a narrow stretch of asphalt that clings to cliffs for nearly sixty kilometers and winds up on the side of a mountain. This is the village of Xinaliq, where dozens of homes sit stacked one above another – like stair steps. The roof of one house is the front yard of another. Homeowners stand on rooftops staring out over the incredible vista – snowcapped mountains and a large green valley where a stream snakes its way into a narrow gorge.

Elderly men and women slowly make their way up the narrow paths – with rocks serving as steps. Children are sitting on walls of cow dung – the dung is used as fuel for the stoves. There are no trees – we are above the timberline. Chickens scratch and peck at the gravel, cows and their calves wander through the alleyways, cats slink along the walls, a dog yelps in the distance, sheep and horses graze in the green fields below – within pastures divided by fences made of piled stones.

There are no more than 300 houses on this mountainside, yet there are three small mosques. All the structures are built from gray stones

The big news in Xinaliq was the arrival of an English teacher less than one month ago. She teaches at the new school building that sits in the valley. As we were leaving, we spotted a teenage boy walking along the road with an armful of books. We stopped and offered him a ride. Ahdam told us he had been studying English with the new teacher and did so every day. He said he enjoyed his classes and usually walked to class each day from a neighboring village – a two hour roundtrip walk. As he stepped from the car he thanked us in English and shouted “bye, bye.”