This is my first blog in a few weeks because there has been so much going on. First of all I moved into a new apartment. Things didn’t end very well with my host family after they found out I was going to move. They basically stopped talking to me and barley fed me in the last few weeks. It was a really stressful time for me, but now I am in my new apartment with Sophie dog and I am so excited about how it is turning out.
The other major thing that happened that has caused me to pause my blog is that I had a week long seminar in a local ski resort so I didn’t have time to blog. Also the end of the seminar has caused me to question my service here in Armenia. I won’t go too much into detail because thinking about the incident and what could have happened really upsets me.
So on our last night in Tsakghadzor Ashley and I decided to go into town while the boys played basketball. The seminar was very long and boring, starting each day at 9:30 and ending around 6 or 7. So we really needed to get out and get some fresh air. We walked from the Sports Complex hotel to the nearest store in town, which was probably about a 20 minute walk. We talked with the hanoot owners who were very friendly and nice to us, and even gave us a mini Armenian lesson. After making our purchases we walked around the main street in the town and took a few pictures. After some time we began to walk back up to our hotel. We walked for about ten minutes when we noticed a black car following us. We made the first left into the nearest hotel parking lot, trying to make them think that it was our hotel so they would leave us alone. The door of the hotel was around the back side so we walked around the building to toward the door. The car followed us. At the dead end one man got out of the car on foot and pursued us. We immediately went into the hotel to wait it out. To be honest I was nervous but it is not unusual for us to be followed here. Usually it is just guys trying to hit on us, nothing sinister. We waited for five minutes and figured they would be gone. When we walked out the door the man was still there so we sped up to get to the main street and he followed. As we went toward that side the car was waiting for us blocking the exit, parked horizontally with the car door open. We were trapped. We slid by the side of the door that was not open. We picked up our pace to get to the main street. The other guy following on foot got in the car and the car started again and followed. We stopped in a lighted area not wanting to walk further away from the town. The car circled us about 4 times. Finally they asked if we would come with them. I said no. The guy got a little big angry and asked me why not. I just said no over and over again and continued to walk away. At this point I was pretty scared, I partly felt safe because I was with Ash, but there were two of them, and it became clear they had no intentions of leaving us alone.
The car then pulled up out of sight at the next turn ahead of us towards our hotel. We debated what our next move should be, thinking maybe they drove off but half frozen with fright we just stood therel knowing they were waiting for us ahead out of town where there are no lights or traffic. I told her to wait to make sure they were gone. Then we heard a car door shut. I knew they had not in fact left but were up at the next cross street waiting for us. Essentially they had trapped us again. We had no where to go. If we went forward we would walk straight to them. If we turned around we would be going into the dark, possibly making things worse. So we waited a bit and then tried to walk the other way. As soon as we took a few steps The car engine started again and began to follow. At this point I called the Peace Corps, I knew these guys were going to try to take us. As I was on the phone the car was circling around us again, this time much closer. Thank God that as they got closer to us I spotted a taxi coming and I jumped out in front of it. Ash and I practically jumped in it, scared out of our minds. I have to admit I was at the point of hysterically yelling at her, sorry ash. As we drove toward our hotel I couldn’t help but to look back, scared that they were following, but they did not, I think they knew they lost their chance.
I have to say this is the second time someone has tried to hurt me here. There is no doubt in my mind that these men were planning to take one of us, and were making plans on the best way to do it. The fact that they were in a car, made it much scarier because they could get one of us and we would never been seen again. At first I thought everything was fine, it was just a close call, but now as the days pass I am really questioning my safety here. If this man had got us, what could we do? We are both short, little people, and I am not saying we don’t have fight, but there were two of them. I mean we are targeted here because we are foreign women. We were both dressed appropriately in huge snow jackets and hats and gloves. We were in no way acting out of Armenian character or drawing attention to ourselves. The thing is we don’t look like Armenians and no matter what we do, we won’t fit in and that scares me. I don’t want to have to carry a switchblade in my purse to feel safe, but what can I do?