A Surprise Visitor

In 2019, I arranged my first solo trip to the country of Azerbaijan, settled in the Caucasus mountains surrounding Georgia, Armenia, Russia and Iran. I had no particular reason for choosing Azerbaijan as my destination, other than the fact that it is a country I knew nothing about. I wanted to experience a trip alone, without prejudice or expectation. It wasn't long before my time alone was happily interrupted by some of the kindest people I could have hoped to meet.

It started on a 5- hour bus ride, where I met Aggul, a woman accompanied by her daughter who were both seated beside me. We didn't speak the same language, and conversed only through a series of messages translated by Google.

At a rural bus stop, Aggul spontaneously invited me to stay at her family's farm for a few days. My nervous "Yes" to getting off the bus became one of my best choices. I was hosted by her very sweet (and large) family - aunts, uncles, cousins, and a grandmother whose name translated as "Mother Queen" on my Google translate app. They gave me a place to sleep, cooked wonderful meals, and even gave me the honor of photographing their portraits, as well as one single family portrait that I will cherish forever. It was the beginning of a beautiful trip that echoed a persistent, soft voice of reassurance - a voice that I can still hear now in the form of photographs.