This is my first interview in English, and I hope it will not be the last one. Maybe it should be a timely tradition to dilute this non-profit project with something new and non-ordinary.
Today’s hero is my English teacher, an intellectual, honest, respected and astonishing man. Nobody can remain indifferent after being acquainted with him.
At first our interview should have taken place in June, and then at the beginning of August and finally it surprisingly happened on 29th of July. At the end of this day I found out that exactly this day a year ago I took my first interview for the project. And the next day Abdul told me that he found out – and it’s really unbelievable – that he came to Moscow two years ago exactly on 29th of July. I don’t believe in accidents ©))) Abdul Bayramov was born March 19, 1985 in Baku where he grew up and graduated from Baku State University. For four years Abdul worked in CELT (center for studying English) in Baku. For the last two years he has been living in Moscow, working in Big Ben as an English teacher. He likes chocolate, croissants, Liam Neeson, Tom Hanks and Moscow. Abdul can teach us how to live without hope but with strong life targets.My first question, as usual, is about the hero’s name. So, Abdul, what is the meaning of your name?
- My name is an Arabic name and in Arabic it means “slave”… Yeah, “slave of God”, let’s say. Abdul is a slave of God. It was given by my dad.Why? Why did your parents give you that name?
- I don’t know. It’s like a tradition. You know, my grandpa has the same name. That’s it. I mean my dad decided to give me the same name.By the way, do you have patronymic name - otchestvo?
- No. Oh yes, I think in our country this is not said. I mean otchestvo is not used like in Russia, but my dad’s name is Chingiz. But I don’t think that it’s okay if you say “Chingizovich” (laugh).. If someone wants to address you or ask you something in respectful manner you will be called “teacher” or something like that, or Mr/Mrs, “teacher Maria”, for example. It sounds very unusual but in our country it’s common.And what about your surname?
- If you want to translate it into Russian it will mean “prazdnik” – “holiday” (laugh). Bayram in our language is holiday. And “ov”, you know, it’s a remnant of the Soviet Union. Like all of us have the suffix OV at the end of our surnames. I think it was common in the Soviet Union countries and now, I mean here, for example, there are some surnames which end with OV… Our government wanted to change it but they didn’t decide to do it.Why did you choose Moscow for changing your life style, work and habits?
- I think it’s a very usual question and some people think I am strange… why I really chose Moscow to change my life. I guess, I had many choices as I said before but I chose Moscow because I think difficulties can change you, not the place itself, you know? It does not matter if you change your place but it’s the difficulties or problems you face which help you grow. And I would like to change not horizontally but vertically which means that if I changed just my place it would be like “okay, I changed some things”, but it’s a horizontal change, I wouldn’t face any difficulties to see if I could go up further or not. If I had gone to Spain, for example, which was a real option, I would have changed my life horizontally because there I would have found the same lifestyle. I mean different lifestyle but with few problems, let’s say. But Moscow is one of the toughest cities in the world and if you live here, if you survive here and achieve your goals it means that you are really competent person. I think so. It is not really easy to live here but it’s very enjoyable because it’s challenging when you overcome doubts, when you overcome problems, you always find yourself and you always think “ok, I did it”. For two years I have been successful. Let’s see… so far so good. (laugh). How long have you been studying Russian?
- When I came here, I was elementary or pre-intermediate. And then later I started studying here but not regularly. I think with breaks altogether I can say for a year. But recently I started learning Russian more intensively, because I live in Russia. And I think it’s a nice, useful language.Useful for what?
- I think it is very useful… there are a lot of books in Russian. There are some books in Russian which you can’t find in any other languages, really! For example, recently I watched one program where I saw one professor, I think he was from UK and he was talking about one book which was about human genes and he said that this book is in Russian and written by a Russian scientist in the 18th century. He said “We found out a lot of things and we discovered too many things about human genes just translating this book into English”. I thought “Wow… fantastic” and he mentioned that this book exists only in Russian language. It was a very thick and very old book. And he said “We translated it and we are going to use everything which we found from that book in our science”. But nowadays, I think, we don’t have such useful books…
- Maybe, yes, literature, I think, is not as strong as it used to be but I think that still the Russian language is really beautiful. It sounds very beautiful, I like it, really. Maybe it’s because I’ve always heard Russian at home. My parents or my brother and sister used to speak Russian more than their native language before. My brother and sister didn’t know Azerbaijani language before as they studied in a Russian kindergarten, and school because of the Soviet Union, you know. And they didn’t know our native language so my Mom and Dad used to speak in Russian with them. It means that I used to hear Russian at home but I didn’t study Russian in kindergarten or Russian school – I just heard Russian at home and didn’t use Russian. So without studying I had pre-intermediate level.Why didn’t you use Russian like your family?
- When I started studying it was late 80s and that time we had two sectors like Azerbaijani sector and Russian sector at schools, I mean parents used to have a choice which sector their kids went to. And I don’t know, they decided for me to go and study my native language.I see, but in your family…
- Oh, I didn’t use it, I don’t know, because my Mom used to talk with my brother in Russian but with me in Azeri (laugh).And you with your brother and sister?
- No, no, we didn’t use to talk (laugh). My Mom used to translate, that’s it. I think they used to know our native language but it was much more comfortable for them to speak in Russian like how I prefer English… But they used to know our language (laugh).What did your parents tell you when you informed them of your decision to leave home?
- I think they didn’t have any chance to tell me anything because it was a very sudden decision. It was the end of the week when I bought a ticket and they didn’t know it. I came home and said “Mom, in two days I’m leaving”. She told me “Where? How? What do you mean?” and I said “I decided… I just decided to do it”. Because, you know, when you don’t decide, you always think about making a decision. But you just have to do it if you want to move forward, that’s it.Maybe she gave you advice…
- No one gave me any advice. When I left my previous job, I had no idea that I was going to get a job in Moscow, I just decided “ok, I just want to go, that’s it”. And, of course, I didn’t have a chance to go back to my previous job because my boss… you know it’s not a game, you can’t tell him “I’ll go, see how it works and then I’ll come back” so he said “Bye”. I came to Moscow and I found a job in three days.Maybe something awful happened…
- There? I don’t think so, everything was good. I mean, I had no expenses, I had more income then I have here now but I just thought that I couldn’t continue. Everything was okay, but that’s not the only thing that keeps you somewhere. Sometimes you just think “ok, I just have to stop and start something new”… Maybe some films impressed you.
- Very good question. I don’t think that films impressed me… no. You know, I always wanted to live abroad. It was sudden decision as I mentioned before but very old plan but I couldn’t realize it because of just hesitating, thinking about it. That’s why I was fed up of hesitating and I said “ok, I will do it, no matter what the consequences”. So if it’s bad, it’s bad. I won’t die, you know. So if you think of the consequences a lot, you are not going to move, you can’t act. Fortunately, I got better consequences and a good result.Do you often visit your parents?
- I think, yes.Once a year?
- No (laugh). Last year it was four times! So this year it’s going to be twice because I already visited once in January and I’m going to visit them in three days.And next year it will be once.
- If it is once and if I stop going there, I’m going to bring my Mom to Moscow, that’s it (laugh). The problem will be solved.What about your Dad?
- I guess he can easily visit me in Moscow too. Also he has some friends here. He used to come to Moscow very often before. What was the name of your diploma?
- It was “The space, The time and The material”.What have you majored at University?
- Philosophy. At what point did you decide to pursue this career field?
- To tell the truth I chose this faculty- Philosophy- by chance. The education system was like first you have list of faculties and then you get the score, finally according how much you scored you start studying in a faculty that your score allows you. I didn’t know anything about philosophy. Really, it was very strange because when I started studying it, I didn’t know anything but my score was enough to study philosophy – it was the top university in our country but anyway I didn’t want this faculty. When I started studying, the first year was a little bit odd, but next year I loved it. I can’t say that I was a fantastic student but I think now I’m not regretting that I studied philosophy.When did you decide to become an English teacher?
- I had a very good English teacher who is living in America now. And I studied English with her for two years non-stop. Sometimes twice a day, It was really great. I guess, she motivated me and it was something like my second education, non-official, without a diploma. She taught me everything which is usually taught at university. I got English completely. She told me “Now you can work as a teacher!” I said “Wow, what do you mean? People study this degree and then become a teacher…” She said “I’m a teacher at university and I know who can teach and who can’t teach. Even some students who complete this degree are not able to teach. But you can teach”. Her motivation and encouragement made me try teaching and I saw everything was okay. I was likeable everywhere. Because you are a man!
- (laugh) Not only by girls. No, I think I can do it because I have communication skills. I think it plays more of a role than just knowledge about teaching. Of course, I got more knowledge afterwards, after I started teaching. I mean through the international course for teachers- TEFL, TESOL certificates and my American trainer told me the same “Oh, you are a fantastic teacher; you just need some new methods, that’s it”. By the way, tell me please about your previous work in CELT?
- (laugh) You remember! Very nice. CELT… I started working in CELT, I think, 6 years ago. And when I started I was an ordinary teacher and there wasn’t a vacancy! But when I applied for a job there was one teacher who was going to get married and who was going to leave that school and the director of that center told me “Oh, very nice that you came! One of our very experienced teachers is going to leave.” And she herself checked me and she said to my boss “He is ready, he can start”. And I took all her students so it meant that I had a full schedule and I started working there. When I started working there my general director told me “If you work with us for 3 years you are going to be a manager of one of the branches” and I said “Ok, let`s see, I don’t know yet”. After 9 months he decided that I should be a manager. And I became a manager of one of the branches of the same school. For two years I worked as a manager but during that time I taught as I didn’t want to lose my teaching skills. After two years I opened the next branch, I had two branches and then I decided to stop being a manager. And I told him “I don’t want to be a manager anymore”. So they gave me another position which was really good too, it was head-teacher of the company. So we had 11 branches and of course, my salary was very different from others and my duties were very different too. I used to give seminars to other teachers; control their teaching program. And all students from all branches used to come to our branch to be checked, be tested by me and to get their certificate at the end of the course. So when I decided to leave, my boss didn’t believe and he didn’t want to let me go and then I was obliged to tell him “Well, no way, I can’t stay here”. He said “All right, it’s your decision”.Maybe he thought you should go somewhere in Tibet, not in Moscow.
- No, he knew I was coming to Moscow. First month when I was in Moscow I decided to call him and he told me 'I wish you best of luck and I am happy for you'. I think these words were said because there was no option left That was two years ago. Was this your first job in Moscow?
- Yes, first job.And nowadays you are a teacher in Big Ben. Who are your students?
- I fortunately work in the corporate office of Big Ben which means I teach only company employees. They are managers, top-management, directors and ordinary employees. They are very interesting, intellectual people. It’s better to teach them but not in all cases, but usually it’s better because I don’t prefer to teach teenagers.Why?
- They need to have a direction. It’s very difficult to direct them and to teach. Can you name the companies you worked with?
- Of course! Currently I’m working in Volkswagen and Arcelor Mittal – it’s a metallurgical company. My previous companies were Porsche, Peugeot, Otto, Berlin-Xemi.I wonder how you can afford by yourself to rent an apartment, go to parties, buy clothes and food with a teacher’s salary. What is the secret?
- Very interesting question. The secret is I never think about money. That’s it. I never think about problems, I never think about my expenses. Even if I know, for example, that tomorrow I have to get something, I have to buy something very important and I know that I can’t afford it today – I don’t think about it. And tomorrow it’s done. I don’t know… For two years I’ve been living like that (laugh). If problems and financial difficulties make you worry then it means they are stronger than you and you are helpless to solve them. Maybe my salary is okay too, that’s why I can afford living this lifestyle. My favorite question is about charity, why do you think it's a waste of time and money more than changing someone’s life?
- Can you repeat?... Oh that question means that I think so, right?Yes, you’ve told me before!
- Really? (laugh) That’s why I was confused, you know. I understood the question from the first time but… (laugh). I really don’t remember saying this but what kind of charity do you mean? Just giving money away or help someone?Just to help someone for free.
- You know, if you don’t want to lose, you have to help. I mean it’s an important theory for people who have money. I have heard from them. If you don’t want to lose, if you don’t want things to happen naturally, you have to act yourself. You have to help and share your money… It seems to me you didn’t answer my question…
- I know (laugh). Like a politician, right? Talk about nothing (laugh) Ok, I think I have to answer... I do charity. The idea which I told you was to hide my charity. But now I have to say, because if I don’t say you are not going to get an acceptable answer.Do you like to be anonymous?
- I don’t know. I don’t want to show my charity and no one knows it except myself and a person who receives, that’s it. So it means that I can afford it too, not only buying clothes.(laugh)What kind of help?
- Usually I help with money. Because I think I can’t afford spending my time on someone else, or physically to help someone. That’s why I think one of the easiest ways to help is to give money away to people who really need it. It’s really strange but sometimes I would hesitate to give or to help my close friend if I know he doesn’t need it but I will help someone else who I met recently or a familiar person or just someone who is an acquaintance and not my friend. You shouldn’t confuse people with this because charity is very delicate thing. You have to think about it carefully because you can make people lazier with this and instead of being effective in their life you can be ineffective – you can help them in a negative way. They can get used to it. But if a person has this passion and desire to make a living and provide his family`s needs, then he must try himself first but not sit and wait for charity.What is your attitude to Social networks?
- I think it’s a good way to keep in touch with your friends and with acquaintances who live far away from you. That’s it, not more than that.Do you use them?
- I use them only for this purpose and when I use it, it takes just 3 minutes to check my inbox and if I need to write a message. Only if it’s urgent or important, of course, not like “Hi, how are you doing” and stuff like that. Because I think it can be waste of time.Aren't you interested in someone’s news?
- Never, because I think the news itself must be interesting for me but not because it was posted by my close friend. If someone posts there what he ate for breakfast – it’s not very interesting for me, even if that person is my close friend. But if someone posts what kind of discovery, what kind of research there has been in the world or some reference or some very interesting information, then of course it’s very interesting for me. And when I scroll down my Facebook page, I can rarely find something interesting because people use it for showing their clothes or what they had for dinner… Do you have time for your girlfriend? As I was told, it's the most interesting question for the project audience.
- I think I don’t have as much time as my girlfriend expects. She expects more and I have as much as I can share. Sometimes I think, yes, I can’t find enough time for everything, for a relationship, let`s say. But I’m very careful in this case too - not to waste my time even with my girlfriend. I mean it’s very interesting to spend time with your girlfriend but still it shouldn’t be waste of time. If she wants to spend a day lying in a bed I think it’s… stupid (laugh). The same time I can share but I can offer something else, to do something more interesting.Who is she?
- She is a girl who works in the same company where I work. I got acquainted with her in the company and then after a little period we decided to go into relationship and I think we’ve been together for three months. I don’t know the future, really. I can’t predict anything but so far so good. Maybe it’s going to be good, I don’t know.Describe your ideal... girl.
- She should be intellectual, have a sense of humor – it’s very important for me, beautiful because, you know, I think a man’s eye should relax all the time when he sees his girlfriend. Very important - she must be loyal to the relationship, to her boyfriend and that’s it, I think. I don’t want more (laugh). And not arrogant! Because I don’t like arrogant people. People who think that they are the best. You know, usually girls ask when they go into the relationship, they ask a boy “What would you like to change in me?” Usually they think that they should be changed. In general, because they think that they obey mostly, right? And usually men have family doctrine – I want this way, I want you not to do that… Even if it’s not very acceptable for girls it’s usual. And for this case, if I want to describe my ideal girl, I want a girl who I want to change only her surname. That’s it, nothing else.Does your girl fit these traits?
- Partly, yes (laugh). Because sometimes I find some gaps… (laugh). No, I’m not saying that I’m ideal – she can find some gaps in me too, because she has her own fantasy too what kind of boyfriend she wants to see. I think it’s usual.What motivates you?
- My targets. I have targets which I want to achieve and these targets always motivate me to solve all the problems I face in life.Everyday…
- Every day, every hour, because when I have little daily problems I always think about my targets. Everyone has his own way, they move in this way, before stopping you have to think what you are going for. If you think about it you’ll never stop.What are your targets for the next five years?
- (laugh) Very nice question. I want to have English school in Moscow, kindergarten – for kids because I love kids and not in 5 years but in general one of my targets is to have my own University and to be a lecturer myself in that University. These three things I want to do.To become a professor…
- (laugh) I don’t think that status is very important; I want to be a lecturer. I want to share what I have… Of course, it doesn’t mean that I have the right ideas, but whatever, I like sharing. But the most important thing for me is to have a kindergarten and I don’t really want too much benefit or profit from that business, I just want to give to children education, happiness, care, love, you know. And kindergarten is an ideal place or way for doing it. Maybe not in Moscow, but in Russia. As I said before, people who need help, you should help them and a country which needs help - we should help to that country. I think England doesn’t need kindergartens. Neither does America – but Russia does.Why?
- Because in these two years I got acquainted with social life and according to the information which I have had I think this country needs professional schools, Universities and professional kindergartens which can give care, love and education not only for money, for business but for their sake, for the kids’ sake. And most importantly Russian people are open for any good change. It doesn’t matter it’s just a way you do it. You fit your idea. I think it can work everywhere. I don’t hope for it, I don’t wish for it, I’m sure that I’ll do it.
photographer Katya Kraska
interviewer Maria Prokhorova
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