Tuesday, 26 October 2010
A guy I know in Baku is immigrating to Canada. ( everybody seems to be immigrating to Canada these days, have you noticed?) It is strange that my first reaction was not an excitement for him, but almost a shock. Why are you doing this? I wanted to ask.
Strange that it should surprise me. After all, I spent most of my conscious life wanting to leave Azerbaijan. Why would I question the motives of someone else?
But then I thought about this.
Another Azeri friend of mine who lives in London now has a very influential family back in Azerbaijan. For him, every trip back to Baku probably feels like visiting some magical kingdom, where he is treated like a royalty; and life is a constant celebration.
Of course, in comparison to such extravagant, hedonistic living, life here, in the UK is, well, pretty dull. So, it does not surprise me when he says just how much he would like to move back home. It would probably make sense for me too, if I could have such standard of living. But for me, things would be very different.
I never belonged to a rich family with connections and power. My parents would not only be unable to protect and support me, they would need protecting themselves. I would never do fantastically well, only well enough, because of maybe some western connections I might still have. Perhaps, some expat friend would attempt to influence the local system and get me a reasonable job. But maybe not even that. In the system where every position has a fixed price tag on it, and where local mafia hold the power even in expat organizations these days, there is no place for people like me.
It is not just the corruption and connections that would be my problem. It is the azeriness. You have to be Azeri enough to appeal to the locals you are dealing with, to become influential, prosperous and ochen vajniy.
And you see, this friend of mine who is now venturing into the life of an immigrant, has all the right criteria of azeriness in him. He is a cultural city boy, with good family roots. He is Azeri enough but not a chushka. He can speak the language. He has some professional and business skills- in a specifically Azeri sense of the word -which he used to build his own business. Which, in turn, became successful due to some connections and influences he must have used in a carefully balanced Azeri way. The way I would never even know. Besides all of the above, my main problem would, of course, be that I am a woman.
So, as I listened to him telling me about Canada, I wanted to shake him. Why would he leave everything he has so easily, to go somewhere where he would have to be one of the normal, real people? He would have to get a proper job, his English would have to be much better, his knowledge of how things work back in Azerbaijan would not be of any use, and he would never have as many friends and family members around him as he does now.
It is cold there, I wanted to tell him. It is going to be cold in all possible senses of the word. Don’t go. Stay where you belong, in the country that made you what you are. Where you are somebody. Because, in the western world, you will be no one. In your late thirties, you would have to start all over again.
But I did not pass my negative thoughts on to him, of course. I just said 'Exciting, of course. But also a little bit scary.'‘No’, he replied. ‘Not really that scary. I am taking a lot of money with me.’
Money of course, helps. But I still am not convinced he is making the right choice.
You see, some people are meant to immigrate, but some aren’t. I was born to immigrate. He is too Azeri to do it properly. As a friend of mine said, giving me a good example of a Korean family who dumped everything back home and ran to Canada….she said ‘you have to have nothing to lose.’
But then I thought I was being too negative. This friend of mine, despite being more Azeri than me, is probably concerned about the future of his kids. He probably realizes that his life in Baku is not really what the real world is about. He probably understands that he should move his kids, while they are small, into a country where they will have a reliable medical system, less corruption and a decent education. So perhaps, for him personally, life will be pretty tough in Canada. He does not realize it now, but he will. Give him a few years, when the honeymoon stage is over. But, at least, his children will have a chance for a better future.