Thursday, September 2, 2010
Yesterday was September first, which in Armenia means back to school. Which also meant Alyssa’s first day of work. Vacation is now over and the work has begun. Going into the first day of school, I hadn’t really met with my counterpart and had no idea what to expect. I was actually really nervous. It didn’t help my nerves when as I was getting dressed my host mother came into my room to make sure my outfit was acceptable. She straightened a few ruffles and told me to spin and okayed the outfit. I had some tea, and walked outside to see a group of neighbors standing at the driveway. They all stare at me from up the street as I begin to walk to school. As I approach them they begin to cheer, I don’t know whether to die of laughter or embarrassment. They each hug me and congratulate me on the new school year. Alright thanks. =/
As I walked to the school I saw small clusters of children dressed in black pants or skirts and white shirts. The closer I got the more black and white I saw. Apparently this is the standard Armenian school uniform. As I walked into the front gate to the school, I felt a hush on the play ground. Parents stopped fixing their little kids outfits and the children stopped talking and everyone stared at me. I obviously stood out with my light hair, skin and eyes as well as my style of dress. I walked hurriedly to the teacher’s lounge, trying my best to look like a grown-up who knows what she’s doing.
When I get into the teachers’ lounge I am alarmed to find out that I don’t feel much safer. I step in and the room gets quiet. Everyone stares at me, not really knowing what to say to me, and not really knowing how much Armenian I understand. They tell me to sit and push some candy in front of me. To my dismay my counter-part is not there yet. Great, no one to talk to. I feel a little silly being there. People say hello to me and ask how I am, but other than that, they just don’t know what to do with me.
Finally my counterpart comes! Its nine thirty, and I thought school began at nine. She says hello and then goes and sits near her friends. I have no clue what the heck is going on. So I sit, a confused foreigner, not knowing what I should be doing. Finally my counterpart grabs me and tells me I can go outside. I follow her to a group of students. We line them up in a square and then we wait and wait and wait. Finally a line of 1st graders come out from the school holding the hands of 11th graders, our oldest students. The little ones recite some poems and sing a few songs. Then the older kids also recite some poems. The director of the schools says a few words and then calls me up to the front. She puts her arm around me and introduces me as the American teacher who will make their school better. She says an awful lot about me that I don’t understand, and I just smile hoping she is not making promises for me that I can’t keep. Then I take an oath that I don’t understand with the rest of the teachers, flowers are handed out, and an 11th grade boy picks up a 1st grade bell and tells her to shake it. She gets major stage fright so he begins to shake her and the bell rings. He runs around shaking her and everyone laughs and congratulates each other on the new school year.
We go back into the teachers’ lounge and I am told that I can leave, there is nothing else for me to do. All that big hoopla for nothing?!?! Later in the evening I come back to school for a celebration of the new school year. We have khorovots, vodka, salad, cake and cookies. Everyone in the room feels that they need to be motherly to me. Eat eat, is all that I hear the whole time. If I say I am full, one of my designated mothers puts food on my plate for me. We dine and laugh together for a few hours. This is obviously a close group I have come into, but the good news is they all seem happy to have me. I just hope I can meet their expectations.
After my day I walk home and run into my Tatik. I am so proud she tells me. All the kids told me that you looked very pretty today, so I told them you are my agchica (girl). They are all so excited to have you, and I am very proud.
And then: What is that on your face, did you cut yourself. It looks bad….. No tatik I just have a… and then in English, a pimple, thanks for noticing, said in my best eeyore voice.