Archive for October, 2009

Education&Freedom

Couple of months ago I got into a correspondence with a very young but already impressively different girl who won my heart with the first letter she sent.

I know, you’ll say it’s impossible to get to know a person via internet, but read till the end and you’ll understand.

She told me about her life – how she was born in a poor family and actually nailed a right to study in a good private school by winning the competition. Her education wouldn’t allow her think badly of her Government – “Our country is rapidly developing and we have to be proud”, they would say. And she would believe until she faced first signs of free speech violation inside her own school.

No, she’s very grateful for everything they did for her. She understands that they were too scared to lose good jobs and probably were trying to believe in these things themselves.

But she doesn’t. She can see what’s going on around her, but can’t speak up.

Because after graduating the school she decided to apply for Government program which provides scholarships for Azerbaijani students who want to study abroad.

And this is another challenge she had to go through.

On the interview in the Ministry of Education she had to answer questions like: “When was YAP (ruling party) founded?”, “By whom?”, “Who’s the head of it now?”.

“What ruling system is there in Japan?”, she was asked.

“Monarchy”, she answered.

“Why wouldn’t they change it?”, was the next question.

“…????…”.

Somehow, she passed.

The University she got accepted to required the payment to be transfered till August 31st. However, the deadline was getting closer but Ministy of Education wouldn’t react in any way. Eventually she called there to say that the University warned her that if the tuition is not paid till the deadline – she and other guys from this program will be expelled.

The response of the ministry representative was: “Tell this University not to put demands on the Government of Azerbaijan”.

The problem was solved two hours before the deadline and after several requests from the parents.

Right now she’s there, in one of the best European universities, discovering different world, starting a new life, passionately promoting her country she loves so much and… trying to find money to survive and pay for her books, accommodation, food. Why? Because it’s been more than a month since our government was supposed to send her (and other Azerbaijani students in her university) scholarship, but there’s still nothing on her bank account.

How does she survive? Fortunately, some Azerbaijani and Turkish families living there help kids coming from Azerbaijan.

“It’s ok now, I’m already used to living without a cell phone and sharing books with my roommate”, she optimistically said to me.

“What about the accommodation?”, I asked.

“Oh, they were already going to throw me out, but then I won this contest and received some scholarship from the university. It was enough to pay for the dormitory and two books. I’m sharing them with my roommate as well”, was her response. “I have good news too, I’m best in my mathematics class so far!”, she added.

We became friends in a blink of the eye and now she writes me almost every week describing her life there and the way her lessons go, she asks me about my projects and plans, she sends me congratulations on holidays. Her letters are usually long, pretty detailed and very positive regardless the problems she describes there.

And me? Even though sometimes I’m too lazy to read a joke of few lines and am absolutely terrible in solving my correspondence – whenever I see her letter among others I open it first and read it from the beginning till the end.

But what is more important – these letters always make me happy and proud.

I know, you still think it’s impossible to get to know a person via internet, but this is the power of belief that brings absolutely amazing people on my way.

The reason our correspondence started on the first place is because she felt the urge to tell me this story of her life and explain why she didn’t participate openly in AdnanEmin Campaign.

She wrote me to say, she hates herself for getting scared.

The first sentence of my next letter was: “I’m proud of you”. And I actually was.

The subject of our correspondence was “Education&Freedom”.

For me this girl is the hope. She’s a success story which I hope will be contagious for everyone she meets along her way.

Because if she’s a future of this country, then I definitely want to live long enough to witness it.

As for the dishonest authorities which are to blame for the problems of this girl and other Azerbaijani kids studying abroad by this program – they’ll have a special place in this future.

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100


Today is a 100 day since Emin and Adnan are in prison.

***

They say the freedom is priceless.

They also say that freedom has a price to pay.

No contradiction – a very simple truth.

What are we ready to do for the freedom?

Are we ready to give up a good job with a high salary? Break up with someone we really love? Leave the family nest?

Are we ready to go our own way and make our own mistakes?

***

Milli, two days ago you’ve turned 30.

You have always been the one to spread the freedom all around you with an insane energy; to empower the weak; to stay cool with the strong; to inspire the frightened. You have always been THE change.

I remember the day I first met you almost four years ago when I was different and you were already crazy 🙂

I also remember the day we met in London last year after a long no-see period. I’ve changed. And you… You just looked at me and said: “I’m proud of you”. I smiled, because that was all I needed to hear to feel happy.

You’ve always taught me to see not a person, but his potential.
That enemy is not scary – it’s just afraid.
That even the most difficult challenges are necessary.

I’ve never listened. And had to learn it my own way by making my own mistakes during these 100 days, while you and Adnan were paying your freedom price with decency worth being proud of.

Two days ago you’ve turned 30.

Your friends and supporters gathered together all around the world to celebrate the day of Global Emotional Warming (that’s how we named your birthday), to remember stories about you, to drink for both you and Adnan and even sing ‘Happy birthday’ in Azerbaijani. Your birthday became a flashmob of parties in London, Paris, Strasbourg, Istanbul, Ankara, Budapest, New York, Houston, Moscow, Basel and other cities of the World.

Milli, we need you back.

Yes, we’re even ready to listen to your endless speeches and countless ideas all day long, spend most of the day in a wi-fi café where you schedule all your meetings, argue and dispute over any topic you want any time of the day. Just come back.

We miss you every day.

Happy birthday.

***

There’s always a price to pay for freedom – a crossroads of comfort and imaginary happiness with artificial green grass along it.

The road of freedom is frightening, frustrating, usually lonely, but exciting and sincere. Once we step on it – there’s no way back.

And yes, we will imagine our life if we took ‘that’ job every time we check our wallets. And then remember people who paid much more for their freedom.

We will dream of mom’s dolma while eating a sandwich somewhere away from home. Then we’ll call her, go to sleep sadder than usual and wake up brand new next morning.

We will meet our ex-lovers on the streets and regret the decisions we made a while ago, but only for a moment. Then, leave confidently smiling.

Because once we taste the freedom – there’s nothing like it in the whole world. No, it doesn’t make us fly and forget the reality – it shows us the exact path we shud take to live the life worth being proud of.

And this is the price one never regrets paying.

With a Little Help From My Friends

Ever since I was a school kid discipline was my main problem. Waking up early, coming to the class in time, doing homework between drawing I loved so much and cartoons I could never miss – all these things were unbearable and torturous sides of my happy childhood. My bad grades have never been about not knowing or not understanding the lesson, they were always about the lack of discipline.

So, now that you, dear followers, know me better, you will probably understand one of the main reasons I wouldn’t update my blog for more than a month.

Yeah, now we have no secrets between each other.

***

There are two main questions we ask ourlselves when no one is watching: “Am I a good person?” and “Do people like me?”. Yes, however confident and independent we are, we still feel a need to find answers to these questions over and over again.

And this is what makes us human.

***

During the last month my life was pretty much about my friends.

I went to Georgia again, where I met some new, saw some old, lost some pretty important and rediscovered some friends I knew for a while now.

I came back to Baku to send off one friend who was leaving to do Master’s degree at the age of 20 and to support two who’ve been in prison for more than 90 days now.

Right now my life is pretty much about my friends, hence, borders, prisons, pride and disapoinments, unconditional love and the same old unity you read so much in this blog about.

Many years ago a big guy named Soviet Union came to this region to conquer and make us be friends no matter what after dozens of massacres and clashes happened in the beggining of the 20th century between Armenians and Azerbaijanis. For a while we became friends again but didn’t quite understand why and what to do with the memories of killed ancestors.

70 years later we decided to find the answers through war and new killings. 20 more years, several years of war and thousands of more victims have passed and we’re still in the search, so drowned in guilt of the past mistakes, that being friends again seems like something unbelievably nasty and betraying.

Today, when my inner borders have disappeared, and I can actually enjoy my friendship, I face many others – physical and moral ones, and have to be strong here.

So yeah, since my life is about my friends – the border is one of my problems.

People always get shocked when they see 900 friends on my Facebook, saying this is not normal and I probably don’t know most of them. Well, actually I do know most of them, moreover – many of these most are my actual friends.

“No”, people say, “One can’t have so many friends, it’s impossible. You can’t know them all well, you’ll get disappointed”. Well, what can I say? Whenever I actually FEEL like calling someone a friend I do it and I’m not sorry for that. Whenever I get disappointed – I move on. Should a friend that has let me down change my life views? No. In fact, the only time I ever got disappointed was a bit more than a week ago. And the only thing I can say here – it happens.

Disappointment – a new feeling discovered during this month of absence.

October 14th, 2008 will always be one of the most special days for me – the day I rediscovered people I’ve known for a while, the day I’ve found my TRIBE.

I was fighting my fall depression when my boss called me to say that he and his wife are on their way downtown to celebrate the birthday of our friend Emin Milli. And even though Milli himself was in NY at that time, people still decided to gather and have fun. I wasn’t very excited about it but decided to go as the depression was kicking pretty hardly.

The moment I arrived something clicked. I realized I was talking to people who actually dig me and are at the same page with me. That night I came back home around 4am after several hours of talking and was absolutely happy.

Ever since – my life has changed.

In several days, on October 14h Emin Milli is going to turn 30 and will probably still be in the prison. Did it change our plans? No, he would never let this happen.

Emin’s birthday is going to be celebrated not only in Azerbaijan but all around the world. It’s been only one day since we’ve created an event and we already have groups in UK, US, Turkey, France and even Thailand. 🙂 Yes, whether Emin and Adnan will join us on 14th or not, whether the trial that turned into an endless comedy with bad actors and fake proofs is going to end or not, there will be a celebration for their freedom and Emin’s jubilee.

During the last month my life was about my friends. As well as unity and loyalty we have always needed so much.

***

Am I a good person?
Do people like me?

Now, that we became that close, dear followers, let me teach you another word in Azerbaijani language – “dostluq” (dostloogh), which means friendship.

I’ve had a wonderful month which was all about “dostluq”, realizing how much it means to me and how special my friends are.

I’ve also realized one main thing: the only people who can answer my two main questions simply with their EXISTENCE are my friends. Whenever I feel proud of them – I feel happy about myself too. Whenever I feel that there’s someone standing behind me just to be there – it’s the best confidence one can ever dream of.

And when it comes to discipline.. well.. once you have it all you become disciplined just out of grattitude 🙂

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