TL:DR? They’re working on it. They have all the components, but the people putting the engine together need more training and new tools.
It was after 7pm on a Monday night when I received the email inviting me to a press trip in Azerbaijan, barely three weeks away. The invitation was so odd, with its ongoing late night infomercial but-wait-there’s-more tone, that I had to read it twice to be sure it wasn’t extremely well targeted spam. The capper of this hard-sell invite was the equally hilarious and sad line, “Best of all, it is one of the few locations in that region free from any religious strife!” There wasn’t an exclamation point in the actual email, but it was implied.
Though my history with press trips has been spotty, I was intrigued by the destination. Azerbaijan was in an entirely new realm for me – kind of Central Asia, kind of the Middle East — though the people there insist they are in fact the gateway from Europe to Asia. Europe agrees, apparently, because Azerbaijan participates in the Eurovision Song Contest, even hosting the event in 2012 per tradition after their 2011 win, and will host the 2015 Euro Games
The most discouraging/frightening part was the schedule. I’d be flying across 10 time zones, more than 25 hours in transit each way, for barely three days on the ground ,then flying right home. My request to fly in early or stay late was denied without explanation. My ass ached just thinking about it. But like many travel writers, my curiosity about the unknown is far more powerful than my self-preservation instincts, so I agreed to go.