NOTE: I’m posting this in 2022 based on a draft I had written sometime in 2020. I’m not adding any references to the latest events.
The year 2019 was the year of a traveling milestone. I was able to reach 50 visited countries in my life.
If you have been following my blog, you already know my immediate family is scattered across three countries. In 2019 I lived in Baku, Azerbaijan, one of my sisters lived in Chicago, and two sisters and my mom in Guadalajara, Mexico. My dad passed away in 2012 (if you read Spanish, you can read his obituary in the
Obituario a Jesús Rosas Núñez (papá) post). My mom visited my sister in Chicago, and I met them there. A couple of days later, I flew out to Guadalajara to see my other sisters. My mom went back to Guadalajara, and we met there before my departure. Social Relationships
My social life this year was limited to work and Church. I met with friends and colleagues most often for dining out or dinner at their homes. My social circle was primarily women since there weren’t many male colleagues at my workplace.
Friends from Church in Baku were composed of about five or six families. We got together at their homes each Sunday. I’m blurring them because I haven’t asked permission to post this picture publicly.
I also got to play Catan with a family from Church. This is a great game if you haven’t played it yet. Work
This year I continued working as a primary teacher in Azerbaijan. I truly enjoyed the school staff, and most of my students were kind and worked hard.
During Novruz in Azerbaijan, many homes, offices and different venues put traditional items around to commemorate this holiday. Novruz celebrates de coming of the Persian New Year and spring. Here I’m checking out the bağlama or saz and wearing a traditional kufi hat.
Something I enjoy in my work is having the chance to share with others what I know. I was invited to conduct a two-day workshop, and this is one of the posters that the school made and was handed out. I should mention that the registration fee wasn’t my idea. It wasn’t for me or for profit, but to buy some beanbag chairs for the students.
Here’s a picture of a restaurant in the country. It’s called Fontan Nabran Restoran, and it is precisely located in a place called Nabran in Azerbaijan. It is about 200 km (around a three-hour drive) from Baku. Tables were all roofed next to a stream coming from a spring located in the restaurant. I went there with my colleagues, again only women and me, but it was fun. We ate, talked, sang, played. Travel
This year I visited some countries for the first time, most of them in the Balkans. I also visited others I had previously been to. Without counting Azerbaijan, in 2019, I visited the following countries in the next order: United States (Chicago, Orlando, and Miami), Mexico (Guadalajara), Qatar, Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania, and Georgia.
This year I reached the 50-visited-countries milestone. Albania was my 50th visited country if only recognized countries are counted. But if you count other countries with more limited or disputed recognition and special territories, such as Palestine, Kosovo, and Hong Kong, then not sure which country was my 50th. Counting them all, I have been to 53 countries and territories. And I don’t count as visited countries Russia and Sri Lanka where I had layovers.
Top picture above: This is the Taza Pir Mosque. I was walking by a nearby avenue, and I found myself next to it. I went closer to explore. I later read from the Wikipedia (sorry, I didn’t look for more reliable sources) that the construction was financed mainly by a woman. Her name was Nabat Khanum Ashurbeyova. The mosque was also built on a site that was a tomb of a scholar and Islamic saint called Abu Seyid Abdulla. I hesitated to enter at first since I’m not a Muslim, and some mosques in some countries don’t let non-Muslims enter. After looking around for signs in English or anything about the rules or guidelines and finding no restrictions, I ventured to enter.
Bottom picture above: If you like architecture and design, you will enjoy the international airport in Baku, Azerbaijan. I was delighted to see these unique and well-designed cocoons. They are made of wood. Inside, you will find either a cafe, a shop, a library, or even a children’s play area, depending on the cocoon. I think of them as a kiosk. The space inside is well designed as well; one of the cafes has two-floor levels to sit and eat inside the cocoon.
Here’s a view of Doha, Qatar, from the window on my flight. Traveling from Azerbaijan to Mexico required a couple of layovers, and Doha was one of them.
This year I went to Chicago for the first time. During this trip, I visited one of my sisters living there. My mom was also visiting, so we went out around to several places as a family. We also went to the Skydeck viewpoint in the Wills Tower, from which I took this picture.
Here I am at the entrance of the Field Museum in Chicago.
The largest dinosaur ever! Maximo, the titanosaur skeleton model at The Field Museum in Chicago. This is believed to be the largest dinosaur ever.
A jellyfish at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. I went there with my mom and one of my sisters.
Selfie at the Skydeck viewpoint in the Wills Tower, in Chicago. The floor is transparent and you can see all the way down.
The famous bean in Chicago. My sister took this picture when I was looking somewhere else, lol.
It’s interesting how stereotypes of Mexico are shown around the world. Here’s one example in Kiev, Ukraine. It is inside a shopping mall. A small number of sections represent each a different country, such as France showing the Eiffel Tower and something reminiscent of the Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral and another one for Greece showing motifs depicting great works of the Hellenistic period. But for Mexico they put this, lol
The People’s Friendship Arch in Kiev, Ukraine
This is the Temple of Kiev of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
A girl took me to a place where you can order hot chocolate while someone draws your face on the cup. So what do you think? Kiev, Ukraine.
This place is called Cats Café. It’s an interesting concept I hadn’t experienced before. Guests come to eat or get a drink while cats roam everywhere. Guest can play and pet the cats while sitting in the restaurant. The place has furniture and other structures for the cats to play, climb and sleep.
Here you can see two of those cats visiting while I’m having a soup.
This is a snapshot of many I took in Sibiu, Romania.
I’ve seen this idea of colorful umbrellas in other cities as well. I wonder who started this concept. Timișoara, Romania.
Victory Square Clock and the Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral in a foggy morning in Timișoara, Romania
The beautiful St. Mark’s Church is a Catholic Church. It dates from the 13th century and with major reconstructions in the 145h century. This late Gotic with Romanesque features Church is in Zagreb, Croatia.
Taking a break in Zagreb, Croatia.
Here is the Postojna Cave in the southwest of Slovenia. The cave is several kilometers long. We took a ride on a trackless train to go deep enough for a guided walk and enjoy these and many more stalactites and stalagmites. By the way, stalactites hang from the ceiling while stalagmites rise from the ground. The cave was well-lit, thanks to electric lights installed all along the walking path. There was also a nice and safe artificial path to walk. The cave was a bit chilly, though. But the cave was more than interesting. It was, honestly, a beautiful experience. Nature is always full of beauty, even in the darkest and deepest caves. This picture is just so unfair to reality. You need to be there to admire it truly. I also learned about a fascinating animal: the olm or proteus (Proteus anguinus). It is endemic to underground waters in the region. It is like a salamander with tiny limbs and whatever they have for eyes; they are covered and sealed with skin, so they are blind. The only thing they can sense is light. They are highly light-sensitive. That’s is why we were not allowed to take pictures with a flash of the ones they had in the exhibition. I tried to take pictures using long exposure without my tripod. It didn’t work out. Oh, well. You can see pictures of this creature in Google here.
The Predjama Castle in Slovenia.
The Predjama Castle in Slovenia.
No, it’s not the Roman Colosseum. This is Pula Arena in Pula, Croatia.
Strolling through the market in Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Here’s a view of the Mostar Bridge. It was one of my favorite views in Mostar.
There were a couple of young men jumping from the bridge to the river as well. Sorry, I didn’t take a picture of that, but here’s another view of the bridge.
The sad story of the Bosnian War in the 90s left marks of bullets in the walls of many buildings in Sarajevo. If you look online for “Sarajevo bullets walls,” you will see an uncountable number of pictures. I didn’t take many pictures of the walls while there, though.
Another view of Sarajevo.
A Jewish synagogue in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
I also visited Dubrovnik in Croatia. The old part of the city is primarily pedestrian, with small vehicles coming in and out with merchandise. But I liked the clean, glossy, and smooth stones in streets and sidewalks like those you can see in this picture.
In this picture, you can see one of the many beautiful beaches of Dubrovnik. The water is shallow, calm, and clean. You can see the fortress or old part of the city in the background.
And here is the Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ. If you could see it in person, you would be able to better admire the amazing work of art on the walls of this cathedral in Podgorica, Montenegro.
Cathedral of the Resurrection of Christ, Podgorica, Montenegro.
This is the National Library of Kosovo. It is in Pristina, the capital of Kosovo. I found this building so unique. It is all covered in a metal structure that resembles a fishing net. As if it was trapped inside. And it has all these domes on the top that make it stand out.
This is Skanderbeg Square. Or less than half. There’s a lot more on the left side. This is the main plaza in Tirana, Albania. If you have children who love running, this is the place. It is a vast place for them to run non-stop without any obstacles, except other pedestrians, I guess, lol.
I found this wall very interesting in Tirana, Albania.
This is the Rike Park. A beautiful place to walk, relax, or just hang out with family or friends. It is wide, green, and clean. This picture shows you the wide area, but being there is so much better. This is in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia.
I don’t like it when I see a beautiful and vast park with nice buildings, I take a picture of it, and it doesn’t show what it really is. You have to be there to truly admire and feel immersed in the surroundings that captivated my attention and left a joyous moment of discovery. This is one of the cases I experienced while passing through the Winter Park in Baku, Azerbaijan.
This is a restaurant in Baku, it’s called Vapiano. I liked the decoration.
And here’s Mari Vanna, another nice restaurant in Baku I visited a few times. It’s a Russian restaurant with so many things to look around. I also had a sort of farewell party with several friends there. I liked the food, but people are allowed to smoke in the lobby, which goes into the dining area. That was a reason I didn’t go often.
I also went to a posada navideña at the residence of the Mexican Embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan. Usually, during these Christmas parties in Mexico, we have piñatas, eat, and play a sort of enacting song. I missed the dancing part and some of the traditional Mexican food we usually have, but either way, it was great to attend this event. Here you can see right after the piñata was broken and children are jumping for the candy. Food
The food I ate in 2019 wasn’t as exotic or exorbitant as in previous years, but either way, I had great eating experiences and tried some new dishes. I kept taking more pictures of food than everything else. Here are some photos I took. Not necessarily the best photographs or best meals in 2019.
One of my favorite dishes of all time is sweet and sour pork. I used to eat it often when I lived in China. But finding a good version of it in other countries is not easy. Fortunately for me, this restaurant in Baku, Azerbaijan, managed by a Chinese woman, did the job. The truth is, I went there anytime I craved sweet and sour pork while living in Baku.
The authentic Chicago-style pizza! This is at Pizzeria Due. Ike Sewell created the deep dish pizza in 1943, and today, it is a style on its own. Unlike all other variants of pizzas, the traditional Chicago-style pizza combines different meats, spices, vegetables, and cheeses, but in larger quantities. It’s a really thick pizza, and so yummy! I went there with my mom and one of my sisters.
And speaking of traditional food dishes… the Baja California fish tacos are another gastronomic delight that I got to eat again this year. This time, I did not eat them in Baja California, I ate them in Guadalajara, and they are not exactly like the original ones, but they were very similar, and they were a delight.
Among all my favorite dishes in the world, I have a few from the Korean cuisine, and bibimbap is one of them. I really enjoy it. It’s rice with vegetables and egg. It may not sound that out of the ordinary, but the spices, the combination of certain vegetables, and the concept of getting the raw egg cooked while mixing it in your hot bowl make a difference. The number of side dishes you have with bibimbap also adds a lot of different flavors. I have eaten it several times, but the one in this picture was in a Korean restaurant in Guadalajara, Mexico. The owner and cook was a Korean woman. She got all the Korean ingredients and reminded me of my experience in Korea and the wonderful Korean friends I made while living in Qingdao, China. And that, my friends, is something. When the food you are eating evokes memories and feelings beyond the palate, you truly have a remarkable dish of food that deserves all the time you have to enjoy it properly.
Oh, but if we keep talking about tacos, I should also mention tacos al pastor, another favorite. I ate these in Guadalajara, Mexico. I wish the whole world could try them. Well… if you are not vegetarian and don’t have issues eating pork, lol. Tacos al pastor is one of the best things that have happened to me. I love the meat flavored with dried chilies, spices, and achiote paste. Then with pineapple on top and other optional toppings. I like adding sauce and a touch of thin guacamole. What you see around the plate of the tacos al pastor are all optional toppings.
I love root beer! If you don’t know it, it is a non-alcoholic drink that originated in the US. I didn’t know it was possible to find it in Baku, Azerbaijan. I found it in Winter Park restaurant. However, you have to know people who live in this residential area to get in. Fortunately, I had some friends who lived there, and I could get in. Disclaimer, the food in the restaurant may not be the best one, but you can get root beer!
This food is in Kyiv, Ukraine. It is at Puzata Hata restaurant. It is now a tradition for me to go to that restaurant a few times while I’m there. It’s like a cafeteria-style with affordable prices. I like the variety of food they have and that you can go, choose the food you want, and eat it right away. Here’s some borscht (another of my favorite dishes in the world originally from Ukraine), salmon, buckwheat, and a Greek salad.
At Mari Vanna restaurant. Can you tell the name of the dishes I’m getting here?
Stawberry pizza in Chișinău, Moldova!
A fantastic and succulent tuna steak burger at The Shipyard Pub in Pula, Croatia. Add tuna steak burgers to my list of dishes I would like to eat more often, oh, so good!
Benedictine eggs with avocados in Split, Croatia.
An exhausting day after walking a lot in Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia. I went in this restaurant and ordered these delicious dishes that lifted up my energy.
An Azerbaijani dish on the left. I don’t remember the name of this dish. It’s meat with potatoes, tomatoes, dill and sauce on top of some sort of yoghurt. I ate this at one of the Mado restaurant franchises. Later on I found it in many other places around the city. Mado restaurant also sells some more contemporary deserts like the one shown on the right. A type of ice cream sandwich, but the top and bottom are made of puff pastry and a touch of chocolate syrup.
One of my favorite dishes in Baku, Azerbaijan, was cheese pide. It’s just bread from the oven with melted cheese on top of it. But I really liked eating it with a Greek salad. It was like eating a fresh vegetable pizza. I would get a bit of the pide and then a mouthful of salad. Obviously, the salad and pide varied a bit from restaurant to restaurant. I liked the pide which was a bit crunchy on the outside and soft inside. So good that I want to eat it right now, lol.
I made this hummus and bread in Baku, Azerbaijan. But I really miss the versions of hummus I had in the Middle East. My version was good enough to make me happy that day.
Salmon in Baku, Azerbaijan
There was a period I started to visit Indian restaurants during this year in Baku, Azerbaijan. Here’s one of those days I went with a friend. I got this delicious chicken. It was marinated with several ingredients, but I just remember that it had yogurt and rose petals among all of them. Not sure if the color red came from the rose petals, chili peppers, or some other ingredients. Either way, it was so good!
Here’s a delicious chicken breast in peach sauce in Paul restaurant, Baku, Azerbaijan. But on the top right you can see one of my favorite ones in this restaurant. It’s breaded eggplant and zucchini and tzatziki sauce, but to be honest, I like it without the sauce better. There is a combination of powdered ingredients and with some drops of lemon that makes it so good. I enjoyed the crunchy texture on the outside mixed with the soft inside. Oh, and there’s also a salad I ordered often called Pumpkin Tulum. It’s just vegetables with black rice, pomegranate, and tulum cheese.
I also enjoyed these homemade treats from a family of friends from the US.
A homemade Christmas dinner. Once again with a family of friends. I miss them and I miss their food too. Photography
In 2019, I took about 11,200 pictures. But, as usual, only a small percentage turned out to be good enough to be shared one day.
Leisure and Entertainment
Just as in the previous year, my fun life in 2019 didn’t include many people. Except for my trips, I was busy most of the time. I did more reading, watching movies, dining alone, and the like in my free time. I went out with friends and other people, but not as much as in the past. Most of my social life has been strongly tied to my work lately. Most of my colleagues have been friendly and kind people. I have enjoyed their company.
This year continued to be difficult in this area. I belong to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but now I’m in a country where the church doesn’t have any official presence. I meet with four families in their homes to worship together for about two hours every Sunday.
Last Day of 2019
My last day in 2019: I woke up late, tried to set up a database on my phone, went to a new small park just across the street. I sat and read a book. I then ordered food. In the evening, I looked for events for the night. I decided to join a couple of people for the fireworks. First, I met with a guy from Norway; I hoped more people would join us. We had dinner, and right after that, we walked around looking for a good place for dessert. We then joined the huge crowds in the boulevard to see the fireworks. Immediately after the fireworks, we met with other people he wanted to meet. We walked around, and then they ended up getting into a pub. At that moment, I left. I arrived home shortly after 2 AM.
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