Monday, June 28, 2010

Language AHHH!

Ok so if you know me, you know that I don’t do so well with foreign languages. At times I think they are fun and exciting, but I tend to suck at them. I can barely pronounce words in English let alone Armenian. I knew coming into Armenia that language would be one of my toughest challenges. I mean seriously google the Armenian alphabet, it’s a bunch of symbols that look similar and have sounds that I can’t even begin to describe how difficult they are. I mean there are four letters that make some sort of t sound, whether it be ts, t, t aspirated, and ts aspirated. Not to mention that most of the time the teacher will say a word one way, and you think you have it, and then you will ask her to repeat the word and it sounds like not only like a whole other world, but most of the time a whole new language!
My first struggle with the language was the alphabet, I couldn’t read a thing. It was so frustrating to be called upon to read in class and not even be able to sound out words. Now I have mostly overcome that but my new problem is the grammar. In Armenian you do not say in Los Angeles you say Los Angelesoom. Which in itself is not so hard, but the articles are also at the end of a word, and so are the cases to make a world plural so I always begin with a world and have no idea what the ending should be. I throw random A’s and I’s and Nra’s on every word hoping it will be right. I basically throw hail marys with my language and it’s starting to wear me down.
I mean I know I am only a month into this, but it feels like the more Armenian I learn the more Spanish I remember. I know so much more Spanish than I do Armenian! Granted I have learned a lot, but I just feel like such an idiot sometimes. I mean I can barely hold a conversation with a four year old. He asks me where are you going and I reply I go to school. Or even worse where were you and I answer, I am at school! Up until today we didn’t know the past tense.
So yes these are my language frustrations and they are all coming out tonight because tomorrow morning I have my first language interview. In my mock interview I there were three questions I couldn’t answer because I had no clue what the heck she was asking me. So instead of studying I am procrastinating and blogging! Ha!
Oh and in other news I just went out to buy cookies at the local hanoot. I bought ten cookies and began my walk home. As I was walking a little boy about 4 years old walks up to me and asks for a cookie. To be honest I didn’t even know the word for cookie so I could not figure out what he wanted. And then it hit me, this kid seriously walked up to me and asked me for a cookie. So I gave him one and quickly said good bye and moved on. About 20 seconds later a little girl came up to me and once again asked me for a cookie, so I gave her a cookie looked down the road and saw that this happens to be the time all the kids are out playing. I had nowhere to hide my cookies, as I did not bring a bag, so I returned home with 4 cookies =( I know I could have said no, and that is what Armenians would have done, but how do you say no to cute little kids?

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Part two of my Friends in the Peace Corps, my villagemates in Alapars

On the left is Michael. Mike is my Neighbor and is originally from New York where he went to Columbia. Mike walks me everywhere I need to go, and I think he secretly tells everyone in the village that we are married! Haha. Mike is my best friend in Alapars, my village. When I need a hug I can just run up to him and give him a squeeze. He is the most sarcastic person ever, and always has me laughing my butt off. I can tottaly be my snotty self around him and he just laughs and calls me the peace corps princess. He denies it, but he also loves my little shoonik! He is a part of the Alapars musical clan. He plays guitar and has a pretty good singing voice.

In the middle is Katrina. Katrina is also one of the first people that I met in the Peace Corps, although we didn’t really talk much until now. Katrina’s host family and my host family are related, so we see a lot of each other. We go to family parties together and try to figure out the language together. Katrina is the best listener here and we talk a lot about our families and being home sick together. She even agreed to try her best to partake in girl talk with me when I am really missing it =) Katrina is From Washington, and really has that Pacific Northwest vibe about her. She is really chill, and really positive, with hardly ever a negative thing to say. The one downside is that she is also very good with the language and my family always compares me to her… Alyssa Jan, you shouldn’t be afraid to talk, you should be like Katrina and talk more.

On the left here is Joseph Jan. He is pretty much one of the nicest guys here. He is random and funny and super smart, especially when it comes to teaching. Joseph is a non singing member of my village but he does redeem himself by knowing everything there is to know about teaching English! He is the type of guy that gets along with everyone, and everyone loves him! He also makes the most s random comments ever and always has a really positive attitude. Joseph’s little host brother Henry loves me and totally hates Joseph, its really funny.
On the right is Joel. He is the Alapars superstar. Joel’s host family is also related to my host family, so we see a lot of each other. My host dad, and pretty much everyone else in our family, loves Joel. He always brings his guitar with him to family events and plays a bunch of pop songs. He sings in class, or while we are walking, or while we are eating or even while we are working on a group project. Joel is the baby of the Peace Corps at only 20 years old, and is from Huntington beach =) Joel is pretty rad and we may try to start doing a bible study together. Joel has the best laugh ever, it’s so loud and funny, that you can’t help but to laugh too even if you have no idea what is so funny. Joel also tries to keep us all in shape and makes us go running. Also I’d like to say hi to Joel’s moma! I hear she reads my blog sometimes! =)

My Peace Corps Friends

From time to time I will mention people in my blog and I thought that perhaps some of you would like to have a face or the names that I mention in my blog. So here are some pictures and a bit of a description of some of the most important people in my life here in Armenia. I will do this a little bit at a time because it takes so incredibly long to upload pictures here.
By the way, thank you to everyone who filled out a card for my mom to send to send to me. Care packages are amazing and I have the best mom in the world for sending me a perfect package

So first and foremost are the two girls that have been with me since day zero! We all came from the west so we had to take a flight up to DC a day before everyone else.

In the middle is Marissa. Marissa was my roommate for the first week and a half of the Peace Corps. Marissa is awesome, we met at the airport in DC, and ever since then she has been such an awesome friend! She is from New Mexico, graduated college a year ago I believe with a major in Spanish, haha and now she is in Armenia, not using her Spanish at all. She is a self described hippie, but a girly one at that. We navigated our way through Viennra together, along with Ashley and when I dislocated my jaw, she was the one that insisted I go to the hospital. She brought soft foods up to my room when I couldn’t eat and was all around amazing to me, even letting me use her pillow so I could prop my head up and make it not move. Marissa is always active and is one of the most social people I have met. I love Marissa and am so lucky that she waited for me in the DC airport, and that since then we have been such good friends. Hopefully when I get placement on Wednesday she won’t be too far from me.

On the right is Ashley Jan. Ashley is amazing! We also met on our first night in DC and ever since then we have been giggling our way through tech sessions i.e. training. She is from Kansas and just graduated with a communications degree. Ashley is girly girl like me. We even accessorize when we go hiking! We talk about boys and family and food, and sometimes we even gossip together. Ashley is seriously the sweet girl that everyone loves. She is friends with everyone and even when we are being followed around by some weirdo in the market she remains polite, whereas I just give him a dirty look and walk away. If it weren’t for Ashley I would never get hugs or girl talk. If Ashley and I are placed near each other, it’s going to be two years of a ridiculously good time! Oh the trouble we will get into! I am so glad that she is here.
Ashley + Marissa are my best friends here, we just all click and are similar yet completely different types of people.

In the middle is the first A-18er (that is Armenia group 18) that I talked to. This is Alex, and he is pretty much my best friend here! He helped me decide what to buy before I came, and along with Marisa and Ashley was one of the first people I met in DC. We had our last U.S. dinner together as well as our last U.S. shots! When I dislocated my jaw Alex took pretty good care of me! Alex is super funny and constantly has me laughing. When either of us have a bad day we call each other and complain. Alex is from Florida and is my fellow conservative here, and if there are any others, they haven’t spoke up yet. The Peace Corps is pretty liberal. I really hope Alex is near to my site too. Him, Marisa, or Ashley, I need one of them to be near me!!

PS. DAD, please note that in both pictures I do not have a beer! Everyone else does but not me =) I am being good!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Take a hike?

Being a member of the Peace Corps means that you must like to hike. The further you like to hike the better a Peace Corps volunteer you are, or so seems to be the case. I like to hike. I’d give hiking a solid 7 on a scale of 1-10. It’s good exercise and sometimes the view you get is incredible. Having been in the Peace Corps for about a month now, I have been on a good number of hikes, but nothing compares to the hike a few of us took last week.
On a random Weekday, I lose track of what the days are since we don’t really have a weekend to look forward to, I got a call from Mike wanting to know if I wanted to go on a 20-10 minute hike. Sure Mike I said “shat Lav” (that is good). Mike informed me that his host brother Vaspor would be showing us the way, even better I thought, I am sure he will know the best path to take.

So Mike, Vaspor, Meag, Genya and I set out. Our goal was to reach the village teranik. As we approach the hill I ask Vaspor to point out Teranik to me. So he points to a little speckle of a town that looks to be a two days hike away. So I ask Vaspor once again how long will it take us. “Oh fifteen twenty minutes” he says, “I know a shortcut”. I look at him doubtfully and am immediately chided by Michael, something to the effect of come on princess if Vaspor says he knows a shortcut I believe him.
So we began our hike, following a semi-nice, and really nice by Armenian standards, path. We are having a great time talking, seeing the sights, and getting a good uphill workout, when all of a sudden vaspor walks into the brush, away from the path, into weeds that basically go up to my hip. “Are you sure we shouldn’t just follow the path Vaspor?” I ask, and to be honest I know I used my attitudinal princess voice. I mean weeds that go up to my hip and I am wearing shorts!! “No this is much shorter way” he answers. Great!
So we hike, and hike and hike, and about an hour goes by. I try not to complain, because it’s actually not so bad. Even though my legs itch from the brush that has now reached my stomach, my legs are muddy and itchy, and I ran out of water a long time ago, I am happy. The sights are beautiful, you may have seen the pictures I posted last week on facebook, it doesn’t even compare to what the eye saw. So everything is fine until my group decides that the village is close and we must run. I take off along with them into a jog, not able to see my foot or where it is landing and about three or four strides in, I twist my ankle. It freakn hurt. I wanted to quit. I wanted to sit down. I wanted to be carried! But what could I do? I had to walk on… Needless to say our 20 minute hike turned into an hour and thirty minutes and finally we reached our destination.
Even though I was a bit miserable, and I prolly would have never done that in the U.S., actually I know I wouldn’t, when Tommy tried to make me hike off path in the Sequoias I threw a tantrum, it ended up being a good experience and I even found Strawberry Ice cream, one of the major things I have been missing! On the way back I told Vaspor that my ankle hurt really badly so I couldn’t take the crazy path with all the big rocks, and the incline, so I asked if we could just take the path. “that a good idea” he said. So we went along the path that leads from Terenik to Alapars and 45 minutes later we were home. Major lesson learned, Armenians barely ever leave their village, let alone go hiking; therefore one should never take an Armenian short cut that is not within his own village! At least I feel like an official Peace Corps Volunteer now!

Saturday, June 19, 2010


Villagers of Alapars, like any community, all have different reactions to the Amerkazi staying in their village for three months. I feel that most are actually very excited about us being here. On any given day I will be walking with Mike and a man will come up and shake his hand, obviously welcoming him. As an aside, men do not shake women’s hands here, nor do they approach women, so when I am alone I do not experience this because it would be improper. Other people stare at us with curiosity as we walk by and when they get the courage ask us von zez, how are you. Others stare at us mistrustfully, doubting our motivations for being in their community. And sometimes, if you are very unlucky, they shout at you and as a few volunteers from my village have experienced they throw rocks at you.
I have to say I have had quite the positive experience here. I have made friends with many of the children here and they seem to be excited to talk to me. Every day as I walk home from class, tired, frustrated and carrying a heavy bag, a smile is always brought to my face as I hear Barev Alisa, Von zez followed by tiny little echos of barev. As I walk away from the school and into my neighborhood the kids playing outside are always very excited to see me. They come up to me or call out to me with little smiles on their face that tell me that for whatever reason they are proud that they know the American in their village. One day as I was walking home, Kristen, my neighbor walks straight up to me, grabs my hand and leads me into her house. As I turn the corner with her, her mom, dad, tatik and papik as well as some siblings and cousins were all sitting around hanging out. She was so excited to take me to meet her family. Her tiny little hand held mine so tight; there was no way for me to escape. I approach timidly, I don’t speak the language, I am afraid I am intruding, and honestly I just don’t know what to say to these people. Kristen brings me up to her family and immediately the whole family springs into action. Tea is made, introductions are made, and a whole lot of awkwardness ensures. The thing is, the family was genuinely excited to meet me. I don’t really know what was said but I know that as tatik took my hand in hers and cusped my cheek, she was genuinely glad to meet me. I don’t know if I have ever experienced that feeling in the U.S.
Today as I was walking home, super tired from having 4 hours of class on a Saturday, I speedily walked past Kristen’s house hoping to be left alone. I knew I was in trouble when I heard Barev Alisa x6. I look up and Kristen and about 5 of her cousins were all outside waiting for me. I say hi to them, and pat Kristen on the head and keep moving. I turn back to say hajo and feel a little tiny hand grab mine. All of a sudden I notice I am being escorted home by all the kids. They all want to walk me home. The littlest one who must be about 4, does not let go of my hand until we get to my gate. Even on a bad day I cannot help but laugh at the thought of the sight of me being escorted home by a bunch of tiny little kids. I have to say I am so lucky that this has been my experience. Even though I really just wanted to come home and sleep today, how can you not smile after that?

Monday, June 14, 2010

Community day 6-14-2010

I often feel like my voice is unheard among my American Village mates in Alapars. I feel like what I say in not really considered. There are 6 American boys in my village and only 3 girls, so we are clearly outnumbered. I furthermore feel outnumbered because on top of being a girl, I am a girly girl. I am the only American in my village that wears makeup. I am the only one who doesn’t go and play Frisbee or soccer at lunch, because quite honestly I don’t want to sweat and then have to sit in class for 2 more hours stinking and unable to shower for a couple of days. The fact that the peace corps attracts so many different type of people, is one of the greatest things about it, however sometimes it’s a little rough being the only conservative girly girl.
As I have mentioned before one of the greatest reasons why I joined the Peace Corps is because I wanted to work with community development. I want to make a positive change in the communities where I live. This has always been something that has been important to me. It was why I volunteered in the States and it is why I am here in Armenia. So when our task to create a short term, but sustainable community project was put in our hands, I was excited. For the past few days I have been thinking a lot about what my village needs. It’s easy to look around Alapars and see that the litter needs to be cleaned up, or the road needs to be paved, or at least evened out. It’s easy to see that repairs need to be done, but what is not so easy is that we have no money to do a project. What’s also not so easy is that if we clean something up, it would only be a matter of weeks for it to get littered again. So for my group to do something sustainable is a difficult task.
All week in our group we have been brainstorming what we want to do for Alapars, and mostly what has been thrown out there has been a community game day, or soccer tournament or something of that nature. I think a community day is a fun project but I also feel that it is not what I joined the Peace Corps to do. Sure having kids run around is good for their health, but one they don’t know that or care about that, and two they won’t be able to do anything with their lives just because they learn how to play Frisbee. So knowing that my group really wanted to do something of that nature I wanted to try to add a health aspect into the equation. As some of you may know, a few years ago I found out I have a heart dieses, and while it is not life threatening or anything of that nature, it was still a really scary and testing time in my life. In the United States heart diesies is the leading killer of women, and yet many women are not aware of the risks.
This is why I am so excited to tell you all that my village will be putting on a community health and fitness day. My group went to the Alapars community center and spoke with the nurses of the village. They told us that heart dieses is the number one killer of people in Alapars, and it’s easy to see why when everyone smokes, all the food is cooked with heavy oil and butter, and no one does any aerobic exercise. We figure we will target the kids in our village who copy everything we do anyways, and invite them to the school to have a fun day of games, sports and work outs. At the same time I am going to put together a pamphlet about heart dieses and ways to improve heart health. We know that we cannot make adults change habits, but we hope that we can educate children and they will make better decisions for their own lives. If one kid learns that eating salty, greasy food can cause him to have a heart attack like his father did, and decides to eat better, it’s a good start. I am so excited that my group decided to take this direction. I learned that being heard sometimes means you just have to speak a little louder, and offer alternative solutions. I would have felt like a major failure if all we did for our community was hold a soccer tournament.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Sports Day

As the days go by it gets harder and harder to blog because my life becomes so routine. My life is about language and teacher training right now. Every Monday through Saturday starts off with language class for about four hours a day. Language class isn’t as bad as I thought it would be, but I do feel behind the rest of my group. It is really difficult for me to read in Armenian. My progress is so frustratingly slow!! I feel like I am getting to the point where I understand what people say to me more and more, but when it comes to forming sentences and real thoughts, we just don’t have the ability yet. And if you think about it, we really shouldn’t, we have only been at site for two weeks! It’s just hard to be immerged in a community where everyone talks to you in Armenian and you have no idea how to say anything back to them other than shat lav and gigetem, which is very good and I don’t know. After language we have about an hour to go home and have lunch and then a teacher training session for the rest of the afternoon. It’s getting to be a little boring. Last session was 2 hours on how to be professional, a bit of an overkill. Other than that we have a community project to plan, and no ideas on where to start. We need to do something sustainable that involves the community but with no budget. Community development is my favorite aspect of the Peace Corps so I am hoping we can figure out something amazing to do for this community.
Yesterday was a really good day for me. We organized an all village sports day in my village Alapars. I wasn’t sure how many people would actually show up when I started making announcements but the turnout was awesome and it was soo good to see all the other volunteers from the other villages. We started off with a little kickball and my team, team mek lost. But it was ok because it was so much fun. The Armenians watching us must have wondered what the heck we were doing! I don’t think kickball translates in Armenian. Later we played ultimate Frisbee and Soccer, and by we I mean most of the people besides me and a few others. It is so hot here that it’s hard to run around for long periods of time, especially if you don’t want to be drenched in sweat with no option of taking a shower. So I sat on the sidelines and made friends with the village boys. There were about 6 of them and as the day progressed they scouted closer and closer to me. They were really excited to talk to me and to show off the English words they have learned. After about 20 mins of me talking to them I witnessed a bit of a war between them. They all wanted all of my attention at once and began talking so fast that I couldn’t understand a word they were saying. So I began to teach them English words. I taught them to say Alyssa, High Five, Cheese and Please =) I really had the best time just hanging out with them. They were so happy and well behaved and polite and funny at the same time. Its also really good to practice the language with the kids, it’s not so intimidating.
After the sports day a few of us took a taxi to Charentsavan to watch the world cup game and have some beers. It was a lot of fun just to hang out with people and not have to worry about the language or really anything at all. I don’t even really like soccer but It was awesome just to be surrounded by people that I haven’t really hung out with much since we separated and moved to different villages. We are all relatively near each other, however not knowing the transportation system makes it hard to visit each other. I can’t wait until the next central day when we will all see each other again. I love being in the big group of all of us.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Party Time 6-9-10

My host brother left for the Army today. After three days of huge parties, he if finally gone and I am so sad! It actually reminds me a lot of me leaving home. He made sure to come and get me at breakfast and give me a big hug. My family was so even keeled and un-emotional. I know it sounds crazy but the kid just has the best aura about him, you can’t help but love him and already tonight I can feel that he is not here and it makes me sad. Even my one of my villagemates Mike agrees with me. The first thing he said about my brother was that he can’t help but to have a man crush on him.
So more about these parties I’ve been to. Armenian parties are basically a huge food fest! I have helped to set the table for three of them so far and the table get’s so crowded with food that you literally have plates on top of other plates!! There are always the staple cucumber and tomato plates, the salad plate, the cake plates, the candy dishes, the cooked greens, the chicken or fish plates, the cheese plates and the salami plates. People sit at the table for hours eating, toasting and talking. It’s a lot of fun, however it can get kinda messy when you don’t speak the language. The men can get drunk and try to say things to you that you don’t understand. I am pretty sure something inappropriate happened at my host cousin’s party the other night when a guy who I had talked to previously asked to take a picture with me, or so I thought, until my host brother went to him grabbed him and stepped between us. Without knowing what was said I know my brother was defending my honor. Another reason why Garrik was the most awesome host brother in the world.
Anyways I have had three nights in a row of these parties and I am relieved to get a break from them. One can only sit and smile for hours at a time for so long. Luckily we have Joel in our village. Joel is our American rock star. You give him a guitar and he puts on a show! The Armenians love him! He is basically our entertainment center, playing anything from Brittany spears to the Beatles. At one of the parties he broke out some Rihanna and let me tell you, the Armenians went crazy singing ella ella ay ay ay ay ay. It was so funny! Armenia is such a far away world from the US; it’s funny to see that they listen to our same music. Lady Gaga and Kanye West are huge here. I was sitting on the couch for about an hour with some of my host family’s cousins yesterday and not one world of English was spoken and then all of a sudden some cold play comes on and these kids are singing every word! Ha-ha just another mixed up day in Armenia. I love it here!

My Family

I have now been living with my host family for about a week. Even though that seems like such a short time to many of you, life here is different and to me it seems as though it were an eternity.
My family is Anahit, my mother, Garrik, my brother, and Gayene my little sister. I love all of them, and cannot stop thinking how amazing they are to welcome me into their family for the summer. They feed, me, help me with my Armenian, tell me what is acceptable to do in the village, and most of all laugh at me!
My Armenian mama, Anahit, is amazing! The woman never sleeps! Without the convenience of running water, every day chores take her twice as long. Before I even wake up in the morning She has been up for hours, gathering water, warming it for my shower, and cooking a huge meal for my breakfast, even though I eat the same yogurt and fresh made jam every single day! I don’t think I will ever be able to find comparable jam in the U.S so I might as well eat enough of it to make me sick now! While I am gone at school my mama spends the day gardening in the 90 degree sun! She makes a lunch for her kids with the fresh vegetables from the garden, does the dishes in a huge bowl and works on a house renovation project that if we are lucky will give us some running water for the bathtub. I get home and she makes a second lunch just for me! Then she gardens while I study and comes back up at 6:30 to make dinner. I have never seen someone work harder than she does.
My Sister Gayene is such a beautiful and striking girl. She has beautiful mysterious greenish brown eyes. She is shy and soft spoken but one cannot help but to turn their attention to her. She is nineteen years old and speaks 5 languages. She is fluent in English as well as Russian, French and Chinese! We have a way of giggling together or looking up at the same moment and rolling our eyes together, which reminds me of you and I Brianna. She is my greatest comfort here, as well as my strictest teacher. Constantly quizzing me, and teaching me new words. I am so lucky to have her as a sister, and know that I will be friends with her the rest of my life.
My brother Garrik is the oldest. He just graduated from University in Yerevan. I think he is some kind of engineer; however I have also heard him called an economist. He is the sweetest boy I have ever met. He is so good to his family. My whole family has a quiet and shy disposition, and he is no exception. He blushes easily, and doesn’t say a lot. He speaks a little bit of English, and always does his very best to explain things to me. He laughs easily and has the kindest smile I have ever seen. When he smiles you cannot help but smile. Garrik is amazing, which is why I am so sad that he is leaving to serve in the army.
In Armenia it is obligatory that every male serve in the Army to protect the Ajjberjan and Turkish boarders for at least two years. Garrik will leave in two days from now. He will take a bus down to the boarder and report for duty and will not see his family for the next two years. He has no vacation, no break, just two years serving his country. I have such mixed feelings about this. In a way I think it is amazing that in Armenia all must serve their country and they do so without protest. However in a way I can’t help but be sad and upset. Garrik and Gayenes dad works in Russia, the only place he could find a job. He has been gone for over a year, which means Garrik is the only provider for his family at the moment. He is the only one who can do the heavy work that needs to be done. Also his family is so small, and even though they are unemotional about his leaving, they even chastising me for saying it is very sad to see him go, I can’t help but feel they need him!
Tonight we had a special horovats in his honor. He BBQ’d special meat and potatoes and was so proud of himself. We all took pictures with him cooking his feast. It is an amazing thing that this is his last night with us and the family took out the camera to take family pictures and wanted me in all of them. They really are amazing. At dinner, host mama took out special raspberry vodka that she made herself and poured us each a shot. They then gave me the honor of making the first toast. After host mama made her toast which roughly translated to “Alyssa we are glad to have you as a part of our family. When Garrik leaves we will not be as sad because we are excited to have a new addition to our family” And so it is, that this is my Armenian family and I am very blessed to have them.

My New Home 6/2/2010

So when I joined the Peace Corps I have to admit that I think I skimmed over the part about the hardships one endures. I think it never really occurred to me that I might not have a toilet for the next 2.3 years. That I really might not have a shower for the next 2.3 years. That I really might not have a stove to cook on, or internet to connect to, or a friend around to talk to.
Reality has now set in. Yesterday we met our host families. The Armenian tradition is that you break bread with new friends. So each volunteer had to break off a piece of bread dipped into salt, and eat it before meeting our host families. It was really nerve-wreaking walking outside to a huge group of Armenians and not knowing who your family would be. I walked up timidly with my group wondering what my fate would be, waiting in a line of 9 other people to have my family revealed to me. I didn’t have to wait long, my host mom, Anahit, called out to me from the group and grabbed my hand. She didn’t even wait her turn!
So after the introductions and hugs, we basically just stared at each other. I mean what else is there to do? She doesn’t speak English; I don’t speak Armenian yet, so you just stare and smile. The Peace Corps had a local village school put on a performance for us, and the whole time I just kept wondering what my fate would be, toilet or no toilet.
Finally I was taken to my new home in Alapars village. It is a beautiful village where cows and sheep and chickens roam free. Each time we passed a house I would quickly offer up a prayer that it was either my house or not my house, depending on what I perceived it to be. When we finally got to my new home I almost immediately knew my fate. The house is small and made of stone and brick. It is cold with no carpeting to give it warmth. When entering you walk upstairs and there is a tiny tiny kitchen to the right, I peered in timidly and saw a sink with no faucet. Reality was upon me, and yet I tried to ignore that indication. I pretended that, the small fact in front of my eyes meant nothing. I was shown to my room, which is huge, and unpacked. Then for about an hour I sat with my host sister and brother. I am amazingly lucky to have a beautiful and wicked smart host sister who speaks English. She was able to hold a conversation with me, yet it still was a very awkward situation.
When I asked to brush my teeth, I knew I was in for a difficult 3 months by the way my host mom and host sister looked at each other. They lead me down the stairs to a little stone room with uneven ground that is neither outside, nor inside, where a tub sat. The mom grabbed a cup and filled it with my water from my filter and showed me that they had no water and I would have to get it myself. She told me in the morning she would get me a bucket with hot water and I would have to bucket bathe. I wanted to cry. For the first time this whole trip I almost broke down in tears, not because I mind so much about the shower, but because I knew the toilet situation would be worse. And it is. I have an outhouse =) So foreign to me! The place smells something wretched. It was a slap in the face to reality. I really don’t know how I will figure out how to use that thing and live with it. I don’t care about the shower, but the outdoor toilet still makes me want to cry. I really did think I would just be one of the lucky ones that ended up with a toilet…

Armenia 05/30/2010

Armenia is amazing, at least so far. The country is beautiful! It is mountainous and woodsy, not like the dessert I thought it would be. The capital city Yerevan where we flew into is kind of crazy. As you drive away from the airport there are casinos everywhere! But I am told that no one gambles. It is modern and yet post soviet at the same time.
Training has been amazing so far. I cannot say enough about how amazing the 58 people who comprise group A-18 are. I have honestly never met nicer and more eager people in my life, and I know I will and already have made lifelong friends. When my jaw was dislocated I really got to see just how much people care and are willing to help. I had guys willing to carry an extra 50 pound bag so that I didn’t have to worry about it and everyone asked if I was ok, and if they could do anything for me. I even had people asking the kitchen to make me mushy food and bringing it to my room so that I could have something to eat, which is no small feat since we don’t really speak a single word of Armenian yet.
About the food, I wasn’t really worried about it at all, and I was right not to. So far I have only been able to eat one day, but the food has been amazing. So fresh and healthy and yummy! And yes the potatoes are so fantastic!!
The driving is as bad as I heard it would be. Drivers in Armenia are crazy, the roads are bumpy and there are random cows in the road at any given time. Makes for a scary cab ride when your jaw isn’t set.
One thing I was worried about is the language and so far that has been pretty good too. I can even read some words! Sight words, but its cool none the less. We just had our first language class and I didn’t even feel too far behind.
All in all I am so looking forward to my next 2.3 years here. If I was going to leave early it would have been the two days that my jaw was dislocated, if I can survive that, I know I can survive the rest of my time here.
Family I love you, and I miss you. But I am so glad that I am and am not as homesick as I imagined I would be, then again it’s only been a week.