A transcontinental Eagle

Published 11:43 pm Saturday, February 22, 2014

An exchange student from Azerbaijan — a member of the former Soviet nation’s sole Boy Scout troop — is completing his Eagle Scout project at Suffolk’s Murphy’s Mill Cabin this weekend.

Aydin Shahtakhtinskiy, a senior at Nansemond River High School, is staying with Suffolk’s Fegley family during his U.S. experience. Cindy Fegley is the local area coordinator with Foreign Links Around the Globe.

Aydin Shahtakhtinskiy

Aydin Shahtakhtinskiy

“I would say pretty much everything is different,” Shahtakhtinskiy said, comparing America to his home.

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The teen is from his nation’s capital, Baku, where his father works at the U.S. Embassy. He said he got involved in Azerbaijan’s only Boy Scout troop, which was established by American families working in the country’s oil industry, through his father’s connections.

For his Eagle Scout project, Shahtakhtinskiy was leading volunteers in a mission to build firewood storage and install posts to hold the entrance gates open at the cabin, which is used by local Boy Scout Troop 1929, whose committee chair is Fegley.

By relocating wood that had been strewn about on the ground, Shahtakhtinskiy said, the new firewood storage area will make the cabin safer for members of West End Baptist Church. The gate posts, he added, will remove the need to continue propping the gates open with rocks.

The church provided money for the project, he said, but Shahtakhtinskiy compared material prices at Home Depot and Lowes to get the best deal.

“We asked Lowes, and they agreed to donate some of the materials and give a discount,” he said. “The price went from $200 to $90.”

This weekend, Shahtakhtinskiy also completed his 21st badge, camping, after completing the other 20 badges, as well as attaining the rank of Life Scout, back in Azerbaijan.

He’s in America on a highly-competitive Future Leaders Exchange Program scholarship from the U.S. Department of State.

An honor roll student at Nansemond River, where he plays junior varsity football, Shahtakhtinskiy said he was surprised in America by — among other things — the variety of flavors of Lay’s potato chips at Walmart.

He also said he’s noticed how American men share breadwinning and domestic chores with their wives, whereas gender roles are sharply defined back home.

“The biggest difference — we don’t have any lunch in our schools,” he said. “And (here) you can pick your own subjects; in our country, they give you the subjects, and you must take them.”