On Sunday, I had the privilege of spending time with an Azeri woman over lunch and walking around Baku.  For the record, I am female. I met Ulviyya on a bus a few days ago when I saw her reading English vocabulary from a dictionary that was falling apart to pieces and started talking to her.  We parted shortly after but before doing so, Ulviyya jumped on the opportunity to practice her spoken English.  She took down my mobile number and invited me to lunch on Sunday.    

Throughout the few hours we spent together, I was incredible impressed at how diligent Ulviyya was at asking for definitions of words she didn’t understand, taking notes, and referring to what’s left of her Azerbaijani-English dictionary to express words she struggled with.  I felt more and more embarrassed at how little effort I am putting into learning Azeri in comparison to her!    

After lunch, Ulviyya took me to a place in the city where there were vendors selling English instruction books.  We selected a few but the availability of affordable books was very scarce.  She had already read almost all books at the level below her current ability. Ulviyya tells me that she would like to improve her English so that she can be confident of applying for and getting a job as a geologist at BP, where the salary is much higher but fluency in English is mandatory. 

I am humbled upon realizing how hard Azerbaijanis at every level of society strive to better their lives.  Some opt to borrow from microfinance organizations to expand their businesses while others increase their human capital by learning English. 

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