Most Peace Corps volunteers in this country would agree that Azerbaijani children aged ten and under are some of the greatest human beings on the planet. Why? Well, think about what makes a kid, a kid. You know, those qualities we cherish. Innocence. Happiness. Loving to have fun. Smiling constantly. Never being shy. These are exhibited in youngins around this country across the board, making me look forward to my sixth grade class with Mrs. Adile.
It isn’t until Azerbaijani kids make it to about eighth grade that you gotta be careful. For some reason, the innocence stops, and boys and girls slip into their “rightful places,” with females being too quiet, and males being…well, sometimes, at least…jerks. Something clicks, and I can’t really put my finger on what it is. Perhaps it’s a “greater” perception of the world around them, of the qualities expected of them, while the typical behavior for those of lesser age is merely labeled as childlike.
I can’t give an exact explanation; all I can really say is that it’s interesting. It also makes the “balıcılar,” or “little ones,” awesome to relate and spend time with. One student in a conversation club brings her ten-year-old sister, Aysel. Not only is she the size of my pinky finger, but she’s also one of the most talkative people I know in the village. And not just talkative in the sense of blabbering off whatever she feels like. She has tact, a sophisticated, conversational way about her that other females of greater age don’t always show. The two of us could walk down the road and talk the whole way. She, and other classmates of hers, speak clearly and audibly, while many older students do not. Mrs. Adile and I often have to tell students to speak loudly ‘cause we can’t hear them. They’re shy and afraid to make a mistake, which makes a short dialogue with Aysel a welcomed change.
And, with this being said, it doesn’t surprise me when I’m running down the street and two tiny children make a request. I saw a little boy and girl walking together a couple weeks ago, so I stopped and said hi. Then the boy looked at me, reached his hand out, and said, “We wanna hold your hand.” What do you say to that? Of course I grasped the young man’s hand, and we walked and talked a short distance to the kids’ house.
There’s something about being a kid, where you don’t really care about where the other person comes from, or what gender he/she may be, or how he talks. You just, well, are what you are, without other people telling you how you ought to be. Seeing those two meter-high children holding hands reminded me that you’d never see that with teenagers in this village, or even married couples. It’s a beautiful sight, a symbol of the universal qualities of children everywhere, who just want someone to walk home with.
And, again, I see an example of qualities that not only affect me and Azerbaijanis in Gumlag Village, but everyone.