Azerbaijan International

Volume 15.1
Page 29

Readers' Forum
Hello Azerbaijan!

I'm an 8th grader at Marlborough - a private girls school in Los Angeles. In our Global Studies class, we discuss what is happening around the world, and each year students do a project called Country Project. We each choose a country and spend the rest of the year researching and doing mini projects.

Well, I chose Azerbaijan. I had never visited that country. In fact, I had never even heard of it before. I guess I was looking for a challenge. Our teacher gave us the assignment to find out some sort of knowledge that could only be gained from talking to someone who had lived there and seen it with their own eyes. In other words - information not found from reading books or on the Internet. It meant we would have to interview someone and then write an essay about what we learned. We had one month in which to do it.

Above: Stephanie Smith, 14, a student at the all-girls Marlborough School in Los Angeles. In Stephanie's eighth grade class on Global Studies, she was given the assignment to find and interview someone from another country. Stephanie chose Azerbaijan and interviewed Lala.

I had interviewed people in the past but never someone from another country. This really made me nervous because my entire grade would be based on it. Immediately, I started trying to figure out how I would find someone living in Los Angeles who was from Azerbaijan.

Now Azerbaijan is a very small country about the size of Maine. It is located in the Caucasus, but these days, it is sometimes classified as a country in "Eurasia". Little did I realize how hard it might be to find someone from there. I made several calls to the Azerbaijan Consulate in Los Angeles, only to reach a message machine. Each time I left a message but no one ever got back to me. Eventually, I thought about calling the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). Maybe someone there could help.

Success! I was so excited. It seemed I had finally found someone. The morning that I was supposed to do the interview, I e-mailed the professor and asked how long she had lived in Azerbaijan. Whoa! It turned out that she was not from Azerbaijan, nor had she ever lived there. Bad news! I wanted to die!

How could I find someone in the short amount of time I had left? What could I do? That's when the contact from UCLA gave me the name of a magazine, which was all about Azerbaijan. Maybe they could help. Azerbaijan International picked up on the first call. I was thrilled. They suggested that I forward my interview questions to them, and they would find someone who could help me. And that's how I met Lala Baloghlanova, a 24-year-old mother of two pre-school children, ages three and four. She has recently moved to Los Angeles with her husband, who is on assignment from Azerbaijan as a diplomat.

The first time I called her, I was really nervous. I didn't know anything about Azerbaijani customs and culture. I was afraid I might say something that might be offensive or sound really ignorant. But Lala was incredibly open and accepting and very eager to share her experiences with me and I learned about Azerbaijan as well as some of her impressions of the United States. What a relief!

We talked for about 45 minutes on the phone. When I asked what she missed most, she told me all about her grandmother or "nana" as she calls her, who is an English teacher at Baku Medical University. She misses having her being nearby for guidance, love, and dealing with the rough spots in life - not to mention her grandmother's good cooking.

Being away from Lala's large extended family is very hard for her. She described Azerbaijani hospitality like this: "If ever you get lost in the mountains, you can knock on the very first door you come to, and Azerbaijanis will invite you in as a member of their own family." Lala thought that American traditions were fine, but she preferred what she considered to be the closer ties and traditions in Azerbaijani families.

When asked about the major hardships of coming to live here in Los Angeles, she told me about diplomatic life and about her children and the difficulties of finding a good pre-school for them.

Above: Lala Baloghlanova with daughters Fira, 4, and Farrah, 3, currently living in Los Angeles where Lala's husband is a diplomat.

As a diplomat's wife, their family must move around every time there is a new assignment. "That gets complicated," she said. "It's hard to get settled down, learn the customs of each new nation, make new friends, and find people with whom you can entrust your children."

When I first started this assignment, I was under the impression that Azerbaijan would be quite different from the United States, and that people probably moved here in search of something they could not find in their own country. But that wasn't true in Lala's case. I also learned that women have rights and can do most things that men can. And of the Azerbaijanis that I have come to know, they seem to be very warm and hospitable people.

In conclusion, I'd say that Azerbaijan is not so different from the United States at all. If anything, there are many ways in which they are similar. This interview opened my eyes to many different aspects of Azerbaijan. I got the chance to see Azerbaijan through the eyes of an Azeri woman who truly loves her country and her family.

Stephanie Smith, 14
8th grader at Marlborough School in Los Angeles

PS. I'm so proud. I got an "A" on my project with Lala! We will continue to study our special country up until the very last day of school when we present our final project.

Currently, we are working on another project where we take on the role of representing our country at the United Nations and try to solve a problem for "our country". I'm trying to solve problems related to pollution in the Caspian Sea. Hopefully, all will go well.


Back Index AI 15.1
AI Home
| Magazine Choice | Topics | AI Store | Contact us

Other Web sites created by Azerbaijan International
| |