Place of Birth: My Land

When I was 11 my best friend and her cousin took me to their grandpa's house. We spent a nice evening talking about books and tales of his life, and listening to poems in Farsi that he was reading. I absolutely loved him. At some point I mentioned that both of my grandpas passed away (one of them even before I was born). He turned to me and said: "Then, I will be your "baba" (grandpa), you can call me that". And I do, ever since.

While reading my previous posts you've probably been wondering why am I so negative and critical about Azerbaijan. It's for the same reason our parents would punish us for bad behavior - they knew we could do better.

But I must admit - there are reasons that keep me attached to this land of injustice, stubborness and stereotypes. These are the natural acts of love, led by "want" not "must" - the other side of life in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan is a place where people might seem overly emotional, yelling at each other, or getting too personal with strangers. It's because we never keep our feeling to ourselves, and also why we rarely need shrinks.

Orphans here don't usually get abandoned, but are raised by the realtives of their late parents. Aging parents are usually looked after by their kids.

It is a place where you never feel lonely, because there's always someone to call and meet up. And wherever you go, you will most definitely meet someone you know. Some might call it a lack of privacy, but for me these random meetings made the best memories of spontaneous hang outs.

It is a summer tradition here to gather all the possible relatives and friends under one roof on "bagh" (summer house), feed them with kabab, watermelon with white cheese, samovar tea and endless types of "murebbe" (jam) every weekend. And, of couse, guests are always welcome to stay over.

Your radio DJ friends will cheer you up by sending you "hello"s while on-air, reading your MSN messages as if they came from listeners and make you laugh so hard, you actually fall from the chair and forget about a sleepless night and an overwhelming day you had.

People here secretly miss their Armenian friends and neighbors, and use Internet to stay in touch with them. We celebrate all kinds of holidays, whether they're Muslim, Christian, Jewish, or Hallmark, because this land has always been multiethnic and synergic. And yes, we just need an excuse not to work and instead come together with friends to eat until we can't breathe and drink until we can't drive.

One of my late grandpas was a public prosecutor. When he died many people came to my grandmother's house to pay their respect. One of them was an aging woman who couldn't stop crying. Later she told my grandma how she knew my grandfather. It turned out, he imprisoned her son for thievery several years ago. Ever since, he would send his driver to her house every Sunday to bring her groceries. Because he knew that her son was her only provider. He never told anyone.

So, yes, even though we can be stubborn, passive and childish, we still have so much to offer. And we definitely can do better.

That's why I will never stop hoping for the change.