Gulnaz is one of my Azeri friends. She was one of my Azeri counterpart teacher – we co-taught English to students at School 13. Gulnaz was so motivated to speak English and learn new teaching strategies that it was often overwhelming for me. She was very involved with her students and worked very hard to give them opportunities to work with Americans. It was because of Gulnaz that School 13 gets Peace Corps volunteers; she is unyielding in the application process for volunteer placements. She was also really involved in the local branch of the Azerbaijani English Teachers Association.
It was really nice to have Gulnaz when I first got to Mingechevir. She showed me around town and introduced me to people in markets and internet clubs. She helped me navigate my way through registering with the KGB (or the new Azeri version of the KGB anyway) and getting permission from the school direktor to use rooms for my clubs.
Gulnaz (in orange) and some of our students
Sema is one of my favorite students in Azerbaijan. She came to my English club on the first day and I was instantly impressed with her English skills. She quickly became my right-hand girl for my lower students’ clubs. She was very bright, nice and really funny!
Sema helping with one of my clubs
Sema helped out with the music club we held at my school. We learned folk songs and I taught the girls the Shim-Sham, a tap dance. Right before I left, I started having a small movie club at my house where we would watch movies and I would bake cookies. We only got to meet for the club a couple times, but it was really fun to have her and Tural over.
Sema and Tural
I know that Sema can do great things with her life. She is so strong and smart. I fiercely hope that she will get some amazing opportunities in her life and that she can achieve all of her dreams. I wish it was easier to stay in touch with Sema, because I really want to watch her as she grows into the wonderful young woman I know she can be.
Farid in our yard
It somehow seems very sweet that Farid was the first person the random number generator chose for me.
Farid was my host brother during my time in Mingəçavir, Azerbaijan as a Peace Corps Volunteer. He was such a funny kid. He was a 5th grader at the school where I taught, but I didn’t get a chance to teach his class. We did walk to school together a few times – he always seemed very proud and protective of me as we walked through the bazaar.
Jesse and I would often sit in our room, listening to him sing in the courtyard and crack up to ourselves. He was always singing – American pop songs he had heard, Azeri folk songs, Azeri and Turkish pop. We tried to teach him English phrases (“How was school?” “Uhhh… it. vas. good.” ) and he often helped us with our Azeri. He was eager to pour us tea, but would call his mother in from outside to pour tea for him when he was sitting right next to the tea-pot.
He was a wonderful little boy to have as our brother. I truly hope to see him again someday… InşAllah.
Farid and me at a toy (wedding)