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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
Index AI 15.1
| AI Store | Contact us
Other Web sites
created by Azerbaijan International
AZgallery.org | AZERI.org | HAJIBEYOV.com