Friday, August 20, 2010

No title could fit this post

So there is a blog that I have needed to write for the past week but have been putting it off because I don’t know what the right thing to say is. But I do know that I have to tell the truth and I have to tell my story. I believe that it’s an important part of my journey and I believe it’s even more important for any future PCV’s out there to know that along with the good comes some bad.
So a short disclaimer that you must know before you read on. First of all I am absolutely fine, in every way possible. Secondly, what happened to me could happen anywhere in the world, and is more likely to happen in the US than where I am. There are freaks and jerks everywhere in the world and this post in no way reflects the Armenian people or my city.
So last Sunday morning, I woke up early and decided that I needed to get out of the house. I do not start teaching until September so I have had a lot of down time. I try to fill up my days as best as I can. I go running, I go to tutoring, I have tea and lunch with the family, and I read, read, read. But for a long time I have been wanting to go and take some pictures of these ruins that are on top of a hill at the end of the road I go running on. There are also tons of things to take pictures of a long the way. Plus I don’t tutor on Sundays, so I figured I could have a little adventure.
So I walked down the road and took pictures of anything interesting I saw. I took a picture of a house with a lot of sunflower in the yard. A little boy stood there and watched me, and then began to scream to his mother that an American something was taking pictures of the house. I took off fast, didn’t want to get in trouble. After about a 30-45 minute walk, I arrived at the perfect spot!
Green hills everywhere with little yellow and purple flowers and thistles. A small house encompassed by mountains on both sides, and behind it a little ways up a hill, ruins of some buildings that were damaged in the earthquake. I walked about 30 minutes off the main road to the first set of ruins where I stopped and took pictures that overlooked all of Spitak. It was beautiful, and I was proud of myself for getting out of the house and doing something. There was one more old building just above the first one, so I decided to go up there for another set of pictures to show everyone at home. While I was up there I debated going up on a full scale climb. I began to walk upwards, and I almost stepped into a huge spider web. Luckily I saw them before I stepped into it! I decided that these spiders were freaken huge and people back home needed to see them. As I knelt down to take the pictures, I had a horrible feeling that I should go home. I thought to myself, self you are being silly, they are just spiders, you are not afraid of spiders. And yet I felt very afraid for some reason. After trying repeatedly to get the picture and having it come out horrible, I gave up and felt a need to get home. I began to walk downward and I saw a man coming toward me. He began to yell at me but I didn’t understand what he was saying. My first thought was maybe I was somewhere I was not supposed to be and I needed to leave. So I told him I am leaving. He was still coming at me so I stopped and waited. Next I thought maybe he was the owner of the house I took a picture of and maybe he wanted to know why I took the picture.
He approached me. His face was dirty, and the sun damage to his skin made him appear older from far away than his actual 25 or 26 years. He began to speak to me. Chem Haska, I don’t understand, I said. He tried again. I repeated and asked if there was a problem. He said no. He asked me where I lived and I pointed to it below. He asked where I was from and I told him California. He asked how old I was so I told him 26. He asked If I was married and I told him no. Then he began to say something to me about work, or so I thought I heard. I told him I was a teacher but he only shook his head no. He said something about pictures. I told him I didn’t understand. I told him I don’t speak Armenian well. He kept talking and I told him I’m sorry I just don’t understand and I need to go home. He told me no. He said ari- and I said no I can’t. I began to feel very uncomfortable. He walked over to me and began walking with me and asked me if I wanted to come to his village. I said no I couldn't. He said he would take me. I told him my family was waiting for me. He began to talk to me very quickly, I didn't understand anything. I told him that and I told him I was leaving. He stood in front of me so I tried to walk around him. Then he grabbed my arms, near my shoulders. I thought maybe he was trying to get some point across to me, trying to tell me something that I didn't understand but he grabbed me hard and was hurting me so I pushed him and told him to go away. I took off running a bit, not really sure what was happening, so confused as to what this guy wanted. He came in front of me again and grabbed my breasts. He wouldn't let me go. I began to cry and I told him I am afraid in Armenian and that I wanted to go, but he wouldn't let me go. I screamed at him no and tried to get away, but he threw me to the floor. I remember nothing, just fear, just hurt, just panic. I began to scream at him in English at the top of my lungs. I screamed in a different way than I have ever heard myself before, never had I heard so much fear in my own voice. God please help me, please. So I began throwing my hands and hitting him. When I was free I took off running again as fast as I could. I didn’t look back this time until I was all the way down the hill and about a mile back down the road. I ran faster than I ever ran before, I could hear his footsteps trail me for a bit and then die away, yet I still ran. I couldn't stop, even when I knew I was safe. I just kept thinking who do I call, what do I do, what just happened? The person I wanted to call, I couldn’t, or I didn’t feel I could. So I ran until I couldn’t breathe. Hysterically in tears and out of breath I called my friend Greg. What I said to him, or how on earth he understood me will always be a mystery to both of us. I don’t really remember a world of the conversation to be honest. I think I went into shock. I couldn’t remember where I was. And then Peace Corps called me, and snapped me back into my senses and talked me through things. Thank God that Greg was there for me, that he is a friend that I can turn to, because I don’t think I would have found the courage to call the Peace Corps and get help without him.

In closing, I am fine now; mostly it feels like it was just a bad dream. The only residual from the attack is fear. I am defiantly more hesitant to go to the store alone or to be alone at all for that matter. Little things have been scaring me or causing me to have flashbacks, from a friend grabbing my arm to lead me across the street, to the power going out in the middle of the night and me having a meltdown over it. I have bad dreams, where I see the guys face, and his crooked teeth and his dirty hands. But I think all of this is natural and will go away with time.
All that being said I will be fine. The hardest part is not that it happened, that is hard in its own way but at least it’s over; it was that I had no one to go home to and hug and to tell me it would be all right. It’s hard not to have people in my town that I can turn to when something like this happens. I think the hardest part of my service here is going to be living in Spitak alone without other Americans. I am very lucky that PC allowed me to go see Ashley yesterday, it did me a world of good to get out of here for a bit and just hang out and kick her butt at scrabble. Just to have a hug and be told that everything would be fine, meant the world to me. I’ll say it again, I am so lucky to have made the friends I have made here. Greg and Ash have been amazing support for me, so please no one at home be worried. Love you all!


  1. Baby, we were worried about you even before that happened and that will not stop here. But all of us want you to be brave and move through your life carefully but not overly cautious. Life is for living you can't live it by being scared. as alway I am sending you hugs in my mind.

    love you dad

  2. My heart goes out to you Alyssa. I'm impressed by your bravery

  3. Issy, first of all I am so proud of you for writing about it. I know how scarey it was for you and I know it took alot to write it down and bring it into the open like that. Good for you, don't give the crazy man anymore power over your life then he's already tried to take. I too want you to live your life and be brave, but being a woman makes you have to live it with more caution then I know that you would like. If the nightmares continue, talking to someone about it will help. Don't under estimate the trauma to your spirit and your very soul. Yes you will be fine, because your a strong woman, but it might take some time. But take that time, and if you need to talk to someone please call the pc and talk to someone. I wish I could come down there and scoop you up and give you a big hug! You are always in my thoughts and my prayers. I love you very much, your mom P.S. That voice inside you has always been really acurate for you. Try not to ignore it or quiet it.

  4. Just catching up on your blog Lyssa, I've been on vacation, I'm so sorry to hear about this bad incident. But, keep your head up & have faith that God will protect you always.
    Love you & miss you lots. xoxo

  5. wow you are pretty brave and what instincts! You're are in my prayers Alyssa

  6. I'm so proud of you for sharing Alyssa! Bri and I are praying for you and your adventures <3

    Lots of love from Long Beach,

    ps- people at church keep asking about you =) You are so loved!

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  9. You are an amazingly brave woman. I am so sorry for what you have gone through here...
    Know always that you can turn to me whenever you need a friend when your American friends are not around (and even if they are around).

    will pray for you my friend

    - Ani (