So I’ve been in Spitak for a few days now and even though for the most part I have nothing to do at all, I have a lot to talk about. Firstly School does not start until September, so for the rest of this month it is up to me to entertain myself. I am not allowed to leave my site, and I have no site mates. Also unlike most who have no site-mates I do not have an extended site that I am allowed to go to, because Spitak has a bank. So it’s BORING! But to be honest it is nice to be bored after three crazy months, including my last few weeks in America. So basically every morning I wake up, talk to my family on facebook, read the news, read a little bit of the bible and then go eat breakfast with the family, if you can call what I eat breakfast (more on that later). Then I either go for a walk or go into the living room and read. Right now I am reading Black Garden, a book about the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan. I study random words that I hear my family say throughout the day to ingrain them in my memory. I talk on the phone a lot. I eat lunch, read some more, go running or hiking in the evening, come home and hang out with my family as my host mom prepares dinner. Eat again and then sit outside on our porch with my new kitten and talk to the family as best I can. Then I come back talk some more on facebook and write a bit. Pretty boring but also pretty nice.
There may be a few things you are wondering about my new town. So below I will give a description.
1. The Food- Even though I don’t want to, I have to say the food situation in Spitak kind of sucks. I am not saying that I never get good food, because on occasion my host mom makes very delicious soups, shat hamove (very delicious) but I’d say mostly the food is not very appetizing. For the most part I eat potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and bread. For breakfast I drink tea, and usually eat a piece of bread with Popok Maraba (more about this later). Needless to say, it isn’t very filling. For lunch so far we have tomatoes, cheese, and mashed potatoes every day. And dinner ranges from eggs and tomatoes to boiled potatoes and eggplant. The way I see it, this is a good wake up call for me. This is how people all over the world eat, every day. I have not had meat since I got here, I don’t think my family can afford it. I am hungry all the time, vegetables are not really filling. But this is what I signed up for. I signed up to live in a community and live as they do. It is so different from my Alapars village where we were all fed so well. Every morning I had oatmeal, creeps, leftovers from the night before, cakes and sandwiches to choose from. It is a real learning experience for me, but I do miss dolma and khorovots a lot!!
2. My family- Everyone is great! They are really caring and so nice. One mild exception my Tatik is a bit crazy. The first day was really hard for me cause the old bat kept calling me fat. She kept telling me I gained weight since she saw me last. At first I really let it hurt my feelings, but I had to really think about it culturally. Armenians never say you gained weight as a bad thing, they consider it a good thing, it means you eat well and are healthy. They have no idea how sensitive Americans are to weight, and how much of a terrible struggle it is for young girls to deal with their weight. I couldn’t take it too seriously because a day or two later she said that she didn’t want me to run anymore because I was getting too skinny and my family back home would think they were not feeding me! HA.
Other than that my family has been so awesome. I was feeling really homesick for Alapars and my host dad asked me why. I told him that I missed all the children I use to play with and my dog. A few hours later I was in my room and my host mom called to me. I walked out and there were three neighborhood children in the living room. She literally went into the neighborhood and dragged them to my house so that I would have kids to make me happy. It was so sweet! Later I was in my room talking to my mom and my sister on facebook and my host brother comes into my room and hands me a kitten. The cat is a bit dirty and smelly, so I am not really sure what he wants me to do with it. I pet it for awhile and then go to take it back outside, as I figure it’s a stray. My host dad runs up to me and tells me no no no. Katoo mena. Ko katoo. The cat stays, he’s your cat. They grabbed a stray off the street so that I would have a replacement for my shoon. It was really cute. They let the cat sleep in the bathroom that night. I had heard that Armenians hate animals in the house, and for the most part that is what I saw, but my family loves animals and this little baby kitten is now part of our home. She eats dinner with us and watches tv with them at night. I would never have the courage to tell my family I hate cats and think the little guy smells. I actually think my papik loves the cat the most. He always sneaks it food and chases it down if it tries to leave, he is so cute with it!!
3. The town- Spitak is no Alapars that is for sure. Spitak is big and there are a lot of people here. In Alapars I knew all my neighbors and most of the kids, people talked to me and were nice. Spitak is not the same. For the most part people ignore me. I wanted to explore my second day here so I went into the city center to find my bank. My family offered to go with me, but I wanted to do it alone. Big mistake. I tried to smile at people and be nice but they all just stared blankly back at me. When I couldn't find the bank, I stopped people walking by to ask them if they knew where it was. 7 out of the 8 people I asked looked at me and turned the other way without saying anything. It was horrible and after an thirty minutes I wanted to cry, but I didn't instead I went shopping. As I was shopping people followed me as if I was going to steal something, but no one ever offered to help me find anything. Even the young girls that stood behind me watching me struggle to make out the difference between shampoo and conditioner (everything is in Russian, not even Armenian) would not talk to me. It’s like they were fascinated with me but didn't want to get too close. Needless to say it was tough. I wanted to explore more and see what kind of clothes were in the stores and what the restaurants offered but I didn't have the energy for it. I think it will just take them some time to realize that I am here to stay and am now their neighbor, hopefully soon they will accept me.
Life is going to be a bit of a struggle here until I am accepted. It’s hard to be the only American here, and to only have my counterpart to hang out with, I will post a blog about her when I get a picture. I know I have some tough times ahead of me, but I can’t wait until the day I am invited to tea by a neighbor, or one of my neighborhood children follow me home. I know that I just need patience; it’s only been a few days. But it’s hard; I have so many ideas for this place. I want to work with the YMCA, and do women’s workshops, English sessions, Volleyball camps and maybe even tournaments in my second year with other YMCA’s. I want to start a volunteering group at my school that will reward my students for their volunteer hours with an American movie day, once a month. I want to have a club for my best English students that will teach them to use the computer via social networking sites that I will begin for my class, and hopefully correspond with a class in the United States with. I want to work with the cultural center and have creative writing story nights. I want to use some of my PR skills and work with some local NGOs. I want to do a camp here. I want, I want I want, but first I need to get integrated into my community. I know I need to give it time and I actually am very positive that it will happen, and I can’t wait for that, it’s just hard to be as shy as I am and to get rejected the first time you try….