I learned so much today just by leaving the comfort of my bedroom and helping… uhem ok well more like watching my family do their nightly chores. Usually after diner I clean the table and help wash the dishes but when that is over, my family scatters about each to do some kind of chore. I always feel so useless so while they work I go into my room and read or facebook.
Well tonight I went on a late run and when I came back I decided to sit outside and watch the sunset. I am often amazed at how beautiful it is here, I feel like I am walking straight into a painting. I just couldn’t bring myself to waste the night away inside my room.
As I was sitting outside all red faced and out of breath, my host mom began to bring huge glass jars outside. Then a large bowl of black berries. “Hamar compote” for juice she tells me. Only juice, not maraba I ask. She laughs at me “misht maraba maraba maraba” Always maraba. I am obsessed with maraba and eat it like five times a day with bread!! During the summer my family, as well as most other Armenian families make preserves for the winter, when there will not be any fresh vegetables or fruits. So they make jam, maraba, juice, pickled vegetables, tomato pastes and who knows what else, that will be eaten in the winter.
She washes the black berries and pours them into the large jars. Then she comes out with a huge bag of sugar. She adds a cup and a half of sugar to each jar! That is a lot of sugar I say. She laughs, yes but it is very delicious… hum that is what she said about cow lungs!! I don’t know if I trust her definition of delicious. She explains to me that after she fills it with water she will boil it on the fire for 20 minutes and then store it away. I help her fill the jars with water and put lids on them. We then carry them over to a huge fire and a big witches brew pot. My tatik arrives with an arm full of twigs. She shows me where they are and I go and get more. Somehow with her bare hands she lifts the lid of the bowling pot up and we place the huge jars inside.
On to the next batch, this time plums!!! In America I was never a fan of plumbs. Actually I wasn’t a fan of most fruit. So I was a little bit skeptical when my tatik reached into the large bowl of plumbs and pulled one out for me. Eat it she said, pretty much her favorite command to give me. So I do, hesitantly. It is the most delicious fruit I have ever eaten. Do you like it? Yes, very much. She finds me another, as I throw my seed to the chickens. I eat it happily. We begin the same process for the plumb juice. She tells me which jars to put which plumbs in, some sweet, some sour, and of course I take some for myself and she laughs.
We sit near the fire for awhile, as it is freezing in Spitak lately! Then the cow man comes with everyone’s cows. As he leads them in a line down the main street, each cow separates from the group as it sees its home. My mom looks up and sees this parade and yells for Moralli, our cow. Moralli comes running but stops where her baby is chained. Papik then goes out and gathers baby cow Victoria and leads her to the barn and Moralli follows behind. I had no idea that this happened every night! I always see cow man when I am walking in the morning, but I didn’t know he took care of our cow too!
In the bar baby Victoria and Mama Moralli go and my host mom goes to milk the cow. I follow her and my papik in. She ties the cow’s tail to its leg, I guess so it doesn’t hit her. The cow moves into its position but puts its head near its baby. The baby gets scared, my host mom says, so Moralli puts her head on her to tell her it’s ok. It is seriously one of the cutest things I have ever seen! As my mom milks the cow my papik points to a nest up in the rafters. As he is trying to explain something to me I see something flying at me super fast. I take off running outside screaming bat, bat!! Why I am afraid, I have no idea. Before I left for Armenia, I was obsessed with bats! I think they are adorable, like little ugly puppies with wings. But I guess I am all talk because when I saw it coming toward me I ran like a little girl screaming. As soon as I was out of “danger” I stopped in my tracks and began to giggle. My papik sticks his head out of the barn and asks me what I am afraid of. The bats I say. Bats? He asks. What bats? That was a bird. Come look. I go in to the barn, red faced; feeling pretty silly and my papik once again shows me the nest. Oh yeah I think, bats don’t live in nests!!! As we are looking a baby bird flies from the side window into the nest and then out the front door. This is followed by more birds doing the same. There are five of them, my papik tells me. There mom made a nest here and in the spring they were born and she taught them to fly. Maybe next month they will leave because it is too cold here, but then next spring the mom will be back. He told me that when we leave and turn off the light they will all go to sleep. As we left the barn my tatik came to me and pointed into the sky. See the birds she told me, watch they will go to their home. Sure enough as I watched they circled the barn until papik shut the light off and closed the door and they flew home.
Even though I didn’t really help much, I really felt like my family enjoyed having me around while they did their chores. We laughed a lot, ok well they laughed at me a lot, especially when I was running away from a bat that didn’t exists! In the past few weeks, I have learned so much about farm life, which is amazing considering how little of the language I speak. I have learned how to make cheese, what chickens eat, and how and where they lay eggs, how butter is made, how to make juice, how to know when potatoes are ready to be picked, how to live with a thousand flies bugging you all the time, how to make pickles, and how to make hamburger meat. Hopefully soon I will also learn how to make maraba, bread, homemade cake, popoke maraba, how to milk a cow, how to plant vegetables, and know when they will be ready, and how to properly kill the chickens, de-feather it and eat it! Haha just kidding, but whether I want to learn it or not, they will probably teach me. I am learning so much here, and every day I have new reasons to be amazed and thankful to God for giving me this time to be here. I can think of nothing more amazing then one day living on my own farm in America and having the quiet peaceful, busy life they live here. To grow your own food, and raise your own animals, and work together as a family is such a breath of fresh air from the life I had before. Not sure if I can ever live in that old life again…