21 February 2009
There’s a certain mannerism of all people around here, adults and children alike, that I find very respectable. Now, it’s not that people don’t do this elsewhere, but here, everyone does it, without fail.
Most days start out the same, as I walk across the creek, up the muddy hill, and down the road to the Qumlaq village school. People are usually making their own ways to school, and others are waiting at the little bus stop to be taken to town. Other folks are standing next to their cars in the area that the school and a couple other markets surround, waiting to see if someone’ll be willing to pay a little extra for a ride. And there’s one other thing I always expect, and that’s that several young kids will see me walking towards the school building, mosey up to me, and shake my hand. It doesn’t matter if they’re six or eighteen years old. They all reach their hands out and say hello. Now, all the attention can sometimes annoy even the most sensible person, but, still, what civility. I don’t recall shaking someone’s hand so willingly as a young child. I do remember my dad telling me to shake a man’s hand, but I was never too excited to do so.
On the same note, let me tell you about a couple young men in particular in one of my eighth form classes. It’s a common trend here in Azerbaijan, and in the States to a certain extent, too, that boys can some times be, well, not-so-strong students. I can’t say that makes me happy, and the, um, “unhappiness” comes out after I’ve called on the same handful of girls throughout the class period, and these boys haven’t said a word. I suppose it doesn’t matter where you are. These kinds of students are everywhere. Heck, at some points in time, I could’ve been one of those boys. Nonetheless, when I see them sitting together, their interest in the topic questionable, I call on one of them. Sometimes they surprise me with a good answer. Sometimes they just stand there, and snickering ensues around the room, causing me to become more irritated, at times to the point where I begin to rant about why the girls are always answering the questions and the boys ain’t doing nothing.
Well, eventually class ends, and I begin packing up my things. As I begin to make my way out of the classroom, these two boys always approach m and shake my hand. I might’ve embarrassed the crap out of them, but they still look me in the eye and lend me a sincere goodbye, and I gotta respect that.
What a display of character it is when you know you sometimes disappoint, and yet you still have the gall to shake a man’s hand. While growing up, I always knew that a great way to make amends was to do just that, as if to say, “Despite anything else, I offer myself to you as I am, and I hope you respect me as I respect you.” A real man returns the favor, no matter what.
I’m not so naïve as to think that every student in this Azerbaijani community is going to be overjoyed to learn English. For many students, I’m sure, it’s low on their list of priorities. Teachers everywhere know what I’m talking about. However, no reasonable person can simply shrug off a young man’s sincerity at the end of the day, and if he did, who would truly deserve the reprimand?