Rewind almost two years and there I was in London with a move to Baku suddenly and unexpectedly on the cards. Imagine how I felt: partly excited at the impending adventure, partly terrified at the all new, unknown and partly sad at the thought of leaving everything I held dear behind. My picture of Baku was coloured by a previous flying visit of 48 hours back in 2005, a stay at the Hyatt, dinner at the Caravanserai and a tour of Martyrs Alley, so it seemed like a mildly exotic, slightly grey and depressing backwater in a place no one had ever heard of. Or so I thought, until I met with a very sophisticated friend, a mover and shaker on the London fashion scene. ‘Baku?’ he said, ‘how thrilling! You must get in touch with my fabulous friend Nazila who lives there and totally loves it!’ Half an hour later he introduced us via Facebook. My first email exchanges with Nazila were not about the local culture, the people or the prevailing politics, oh no, to my shame, I wanted to find out whether there was the possibility of having shellac on my nails, whether there were any decent hairdressers, what clothes were appropriate to wear and what the situation with alcohol was. Yes well, a girl’s gotta get her priorities right and Lonely Planet didn’t help me with that! Nazila’s responses were all very reassuring and as a result I felt much better about the move. Clearly, it wasn’t hostile territory and I was going to survive the experience. Even better, I had made my first friend!
When I then met her for coffee at Mado, I was struck by her fizzing dynamism, her sparkling eyes, as she told me, much like Martin Luther King: “I have a dream”. All these months on and her dream has become reality in the form of Bumblebee Kids’ Club and Bumblebee Montessori Pre-School, two completely separate entities, in Port Baku.
Bumblebee Kids Club is a haven for children aged 1 to 10 and their parent or guardian. And what a place it is! Spread over two floors, designed to enchant, engage and stimulate, with every last detail carefully chosen and beautifully colour coordinated down to the smallest coat hook, it is indeed a childrens’ paradise, full of adventure and fun. There’s a kitchen where littlies of between 2 and 5 learn the alphabet by making things like carrot cake for letter C, feta cheese bread for F, Jam tarts for J and so on. Older children, from age 6 onwards, can attend the Creative Cooks group who explore ingredients, learn about where food comes from, how it grows, measuring ingredients and learning new cooking skills such as caramelised onion scones, pear and chocolate crumble, and making foods on international festival days, for instance spring rolls for Chinese New Year. There’s an art lab with creative art opportunities for different age groups (Messy Masters, Art for Fun, Art Adventures) and Twinkletunes Music which follows a 12 week programme, introducing children to a variety of different instruments, nursery rhymes as well as colours, numbers, letters, animals, seasons and so on. Or how about Dance & Movement with classes ranging from Pop Dance, Gymnastics, Zumba to Ballet, all given by trained professionals? That should get the active little darlings sleeping well at night! Oh, and have you seen the Bumblebee dressing up room? I’d do anything to fit into those princess outfits! Or perhaps a police uniform? There’s an exciting soft play area and daily cartoons and children’s movies in English too!
Bumblebee Kids’ Club is a members only club where parents/guardians can drop in with their children anytime between 10 am and 7pm, seven days a week, all year round and find something fun to do, hang out and have a good time, either by using the outstanding facilities to play with their children or to just relax in the café, perhaps, knowing that the little munchkins are having fun in an environment that’s clean, creative, fun, light and bright. What’s more, all the staff are first aid trained which is very reassuring. As to cost, membership is AZN600 per year for tinies, Baby Bees, aged 1 to 2 years and AZN1200 for Queen Bees, boys and girls from 2 onwards. Both have unlimited use and access to the club. Membership for School Bees, school children who visit between 3pm and 7pm on Mondays to Fridays, is AZN600 per year. For visitors, a guest voucher is AZN200 for 10 entries within a period of three months.
Nazila, who moved to Baku from London five years ago and has two young sons herself, says “I just knew that I wanted to be part of creating something new here. I wanted to offer an environment that would excite and engage kids’ imaginations but be comfortable and practical too, so it would appeal to parents as well. A happy place for everyone!”
Not content with creating just one such ‘happy place’ for children, Nazila proceeded to also open a Montessori pre-school on the floor below the Kids’ Club. “I knew that English speaking Montessori pre-schools in Baku did not exist and that in general there was a great need and demand for good pre-schools, so it made sense.” she says. Bumblebee Montessori follows both the Montessori and Early Years Foundation Stage curriculum and all the teachers there have undergone an intense Montessori training by a qualified trainer from the Montessori Centre International based in the UK. They also have on-going weekly training session given by a Montessori specialist. The school offers morning, afternoon or all day sessions for pre-school children from 2.5 to 5 years and fees are based on which type of lesson plan they are enrolled for. The school is open from 9.00 am to 3.30 pm, like all schools, for 36 weeks a year.
Montessori emphasises learning through all five senses where children absorb knowledge at their own individual pace and enjoy the exciting process of discovery, leading to concentration, motivation, self-discipline, confidence and the love of learning. I myself can well attest to that, both my children were pupils at a little Montessori School in London’s leafy Barnes. I’ll never forget the look of delight on my then tiny son’s face, thrilled to bits that after just a day or so, he’d learnt how to put on his own coat, independently. Or my dimply kneed, chubby cheeked, pigtailed little girl so earnestly and beautifully singing Away in a Manger, solo, in the mini school play. They learnt new things daily just by being taught how to play creatively and at the same time, developing a sense of responsibility towards other people. Early seeds that have made them grow into happy, strong and successful adults, thanks largely to the Montessori way of teaching.
It’s impressive what Nazila Bahrami has achieved with Bumblebee in and for Baku, all the way from concept to completion, sourcing every detail from carpet to soft toy, from climbing frame to mixing bowl, locating appropriate educational and childhood experts, motivating staff, injecting warmth and enthusiasm, welcoming children with open arms, yet all the while also managing to be a devoted wife and mother. It takes a pretty special talent to be able to juggle quite so much, so well. Hats off, Ms. Bahrami, you’re clearly so much more than just a glamorous pair of well manicured hands!
For further details on Bumblebee Kids Club or Bumblebee Montessori, both located at Port Baku Residence on 151 NeftchilarAvenue, please see www.bumblebee.az, Facebook www.facebook.com/bumblebeebaku or Instagram www.instagram.com/bumblebeekidsclub or contact Bumblebee Reception by phone on (012) 599 2000.