Each morning as I arrived at school and left in the afternoon, I walked through the guard shack. It was how I began my work day and how it ended. The guard shack was occupied by some of the friendliest, caring individuals I have met. They were quick to make me practice my Russian or Azeri, which I very much appreciated. They cracked jokes and tried their best to make conversation in English. (Except Mehman, he often refused to speak English.) It was a real pleasure getting to know these men over the past two years. They made each day a little brighter. Each one had many stories to tell far beyond the simple greetings exchanged as we passed through their doors everyday.
Xayyam is the “Mountain Man,” as he likes to say. He acts tough and serious, but has a gentle heart. He works hard to do his job and takes it very seriously. He makes sure everyone is taken care of and has exactly what they need. He even bought medicine for me when I was sick. We sometimes take for granted the hard work he puts into helping the school function, but I hope he realizes how much he is appreciated.
Seymour is the level-headed one in the group. He is friendly and gentle with a kind smile. He is a great family man, trustworthy, and an excellent friend. He seems to be really good at reading all situations and making sure everyone is taken care of at all times. He makes me stumble through my Russian, but helps me out along the way. I appreciate his persistence.
Mehman is a singer, a poet, and a romantic. While he often refuses to have a conversation with anyone in English, we had quite complex discussions with one another on occasion (Him speaking Azeri, me speaking English). Mehman loves to make people happy. Whether it be dancing to his own tune or acting out Hamlet’s famous soliloquies, he will most certainly get a laugh or two out of you.
Samir is very helpful with all things. He is kind and hardworking. Samir is great to talk to because he seems to know a little something about everything. Samir has a contagious laugh that really brightens up my day. He and his wife had a sweet baby girl in last fall. He simply beams with pride whenever he has an opportunity to share pictures or talk about either of his kids.
Vaqif is quiet and sincere. He is a former teacher and serviceman. He kindly gave Zorra a home when I left Baku. If Vaqif is in the guard shack, he will greet you with a bright smile, always. Vaqif always works on Sunday nights, which means his friendly face greets you as you come in for work on Monday mornings. What a great way to start the week, really!
I am thankful for this group of hardworking men! I miss the friendly conversations and great laughs I had with these guys to start and end each workday. I wish they were here in Minsk with me!