Friday, December 31, 2010

If you give a boy a piece of chocolate...

When I was a little girl I read a book called If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. It was a cute story whose main point was that if you give a mouse of cookie he will keep asking for more stuff. There were also many other versions of this story; I even wrote my own version as a 5th grader called If You Give a Boy a Box of Crayons.
Anyways, last night I found myself thinking of that book a lot. For the past month I have felt a lot of tension in my host family. It seems these days money is very tight for them and all of a sudden a lot of rules have popped up. Such as I can only take a shower twice a week or I can’t drink milk, or use my heater at night. These rules drive me nuts because I feel like I pay them a good amount of money to use these things so I don’t understand why I can’t use them. Sometimes it just seems as though it would be a lot easier to move into an apartment of my own, which has been the plan all along, but now I have been wanting it to happen sooner rather than later.
Part of the recent tightness has been the weather change, it is now winter and cold, and obviously it costs more money to heat the house. However, the biggest reason I find for the change is that tonight is Nor Tari, aka New Years. Nor Tari is huge here in a way that it is hard for the American mind to grasp. In a way Nor Tari can be compared to American’s Christmas, except it’s twice as big and lasts for 4 times as many days. For the past week my house has been busy from early in the morning till late at night with Nor Tari preparations, which mostly include cooking and more cooking and a little bit of cleaning. We put up the tree the day after American Christmas, as the tree is for Nor Tari not Christmas. Armenians do have a Christmas on January 6th, however it’s named Saints day and Santa Clause comes on New Year’s Eve, so it’s not really the same concept as ours.
Anyways in move to break the tension with my family I bought them all Nor Tari presents. At first I didn’t want to do it at all. Part of my reason being, well I am in the Peace Corps and I am broke! I never even have money to call home. The other reason being that my family always seems to think I have a lot of money when in fact I have none. I was afraid to buy them presents because they already expect so much from me, and if you give a mouse a cookie, he will want a glass of milk. For my host mom I bought a table tea set that matches the rest of her cups and plates. Previously for tea we used really old Halloween cups that had no handles! For my host brothers I got them a huge Talbarone chocolate bar. That doesn’t seem like much, but the two bars costs as much as the tea set did. My host brother Vahag loves chocolate, and I wanted him to have some good chocolate for once.
So last night I was sitting around the heater with my host brothers and we were watching tv and talking about Nor Tari plans. Vahag informed me that he got me a little Nor Tari surprise, and that is exactly how he said it. I have been teaching him a little bit of English so I was happy that he used it! I then told him that I had a little surprise for him and the kid went crazy! He basically turned into a younger me, and started begging me to give it to him right then. I couldn’t help but to laugh, I absolutely adore my younger host brother so I had to give in to him. I brought out the candy and explained that it was my favorite chocolate in America and that I consider it one of the best. As my host brothers began to open their chocolate, I was feeling a little sad because I didn’t have enough money to buy myself a bar of my own and it really is my favorite.
My brother Vahag ripped his open as excited as could be. He is 15 but at that moment he was a six year old. My other host brother Vahe, who is on vacation from the army, opened his slowly and more maturely as if he could care less. I watched carefully wanting to see the expression on their faces when they had their first taste. However, I was interrupted when Vahag stuffed a huge chunk of the chocolate in my face. Eat it he ordered me. I told him I couldn’t it was his gift and he had to eat it. He shoved it in my mouth! Almost half of the chocolate, half of his Nor Tari gift he gave to me. I can’t think of too many people who would share like that, but that is one of the best things about having a host family, and specifically my host brother, he treats me like I am family. Not even just like family, but like special family who gets special treatment.
Often when he and his mom get into an argument about something he looks to me and tells me to decide.
“Alyssa you’re my sister and Armenian sisters always protect their little brothers and always choose their side.”
He really does see me as his big sister and always tells me how glad he is that I am here. As it turns out he loved the chocolate and said it was the best he ever had. He loved it enough that when Vahe put his down, Vahag stole it! We all agreed that it was the best chocolate you could find in Armenia.
It turns out that if I give that mouse a cookie he will give me half of it and offer me a glass of milk.


  1. A lovely story, chocolate lady!--"..he will give me half of it and offer me a glass of milk" and that is love.

    (do not eat meat and other food that get spoiled after new year eve when visiting homes for 5 consequent days, as the leftover food will make you sick specially pork meat, there is increase in food poisoning in Armenia at that period when they go eating from tables of neighbors from food that has been sitting on the table for days and most likely spoiled)

    Families spent from $300 to $500 for new year festivities in Armenia, a fund that they have been saving all the year specially for the that occasion.

    I truly feel sorry about the conditions imposed on you for utility use as the cost of heating by electricity for an average apartment is winter comes monthly to at least $100 in Armenia; for a larger house that can double. Also Russia has doubled the gas price for Armenia last year and they are going to almost double it again in the coming year.

    My new year's eve?..I am going to watch "The 3 Stooges" comedy series in YouTube alone as they still make me laugh & laugh. Same laughter and fun for you! Papik

  2. Happy New Year Alyssa!
    (here in USA there are still hours for the new Year to arrive, but it just arrived in Spitak)

    Do not finish all the milk or the food on the table, in the next five days guests will keep dropping to your host's house for eating and drinking (milk) from the table. It would be a shame upon your host if does not have enough food and drinks for the guests. Papik

  3. I forgot to mention your artistic photo of the boy with the puppy, very charming indeed. How that boy, your host brother, needs his daddy but unfortunately he is away; so he has to give his love to someone else and he found that puppy...and you of course.

    Also, I have being thinking about some marginal points you made in this lovely story, mainly about you thinking moving from the place you live in now.

    Your host mom's request that you turn off the heater during night is unreasonable since it is coldest at night. This is your first winter in the highlands of Armenia, away from your balmy sunny California (though it is flooding and snowing in Calif now out of ordinary) and it would be much better for you to stay where you are with your host family as they will take care of you if you caught cold, and see for your other needs in case. So stay put in winter there--if host mommy bothers you about utilities then give her $25 or $50 for each month of January and February, be sure to tell her this is special winter contribution and supplement and does not apply for other months.

    I remember as child sleeping in winter in my unheated room below a thick blanked stuffed with thick wool, under the blanket it made warm enough to sleep nicely. We had only one room heated where we ate and gathered for passing time.

    As adult I spent some time in a desert of California, sometimes at nights it made so-cold I would start shivering. What I did is I would seat or lay still and meditate, asking for heat to come from inside me (yes, everybody has a real furnace inside) and to warm me, and it would work, warmness would flow over all my body but it will not stay for long time--an hour or so then cold will come back. Papik

  4. twin! i love this story and the twist at the end. maybe if they had more money they wouldn't have so many request from you, but let me know if you need anything.

    happy new year :)


  5. Beautiful story! Well done, and I remember the crayon story, we just came across it before you left. By the way, just how many Papiks do you have now? I love you baby, Happy New Year, love your mom

  6. That is a nice brother. I wouldn't share my chocolate. You would probably just steal it from me anyways. Sharing food is sharing love!