Friday, April 15, 2011

a good neighbor

As much as I try, I just haven’t been inspired to write about my trip to Istanbul. You would think that since I had the time of my life that I would have so many stories to share, but I the thing is every time I try I end up erasing it all because I feel it is inadequate. The truth is I could never do justice to the trip with my words. The experience was one of the best of my life and only Ashley and Darren can fully understand everything that we experienced. So I’ll just move on.
Life for the past few weeks in Spitak has been exceptionally quiet. Imagine how your life would be without any sounds… not even electrical hums from a tv or computer. I have had no internet this month and have used my computer very little. Back home the sound of stillness would drive me nuts! If ever I was home alone I would turn on the tv, even while I read, just to hear sound. Here there is nothing but the sound of Sophie’s epic battle with her favorite stuffed bear.
So imagine how startled I was the other day when I heard a knock on my door while I was taking a bath. I tried to ignore the knock, but after a few minutes of it not going away I got dressed and took a look through the peep hole. Outside a neighbor who I have never talked to was waiting for me. I opened the door, honestly wishing she would go away. Armenian neighbors like to find something to complain about, and trust me there is always something they can find. I once got a complaint because I hung my laundry at the same time as the neighbor below me. She complained that my cloths dripped onto hers… well what was I suppose to do? Apparently if I had done my laundry the correct way there would be no water dripping… anyways the point is I am not an Armenian and am not use to people knocking on my door at all hours and coming into my house whenever they would like, so I was not very happy to see her.
When I opened the door she asked me if I understand all Armenian, I told her no I don’t understand very much. She went on as if I said I was 100 percent fluent. She told me that she had a friend that lived in a building in Spitak that would like to meet me. The friend wants me to come over to her house because she has a daughter that studies in Michigan and American families are always so kind to her daughter so she would like to repay that kindness. I told her that would be fine. She just stood there as if waiting for something. Now? I asked her. Yes now she said. As it was 8 pm and I was already in my pjs I explained to her that I was busy and had things to do. So she grabbed me by the hand and took me into her house. Armenian women can be very very pushy.
Once at her house she called the women on the phone. Speaking Armenian on the phone is the most difficult because you cannot rely on hand gestures, but I gave it my best anyways. The lady asked me over for dinner the following day. I agreed and went back to my house as my neighbor called after me telling me that I am alone too often and should come to her house when I was home alone. It is not good to be alone, she told me. I told her I really like to be alone but that I would come over sometime. Armenians have no concept of how nice it is to be alone. In fact the number one complaint I hear about Americans is that they go home after work and lock their doors. Neighbors don’t come over for coffee and they don’t eat dinner with anyone. How can you eat alone they ask me.
So today as I was walking home from school I was thinking about my dinner date with dread. I mean being a Peace Corps volunteer is the most awkward experience ever, so I am use to it in a way, but imagine how weird it would be if someone you didn’t know called you to have dinner at their house for no reason. It’s a strange experience. As I was lost in my thoughts I heard someone call out my name. I looked but did not see anyone I recognized. I kept walking. Again I heard my name and this time I saw a woman who I had never met. In a way it’s not unusual for people I have never to know my name, but it is unusual for them to call out to me. Often people I’ve never met will call out Sophie’s name, because everyone in Spitak knows my dog, but most only know me as the American.
The lady ran over to me and explained that she was the lady I had talked to on the phone the other day. She had just come from the store where she had bought stuff to make pizza and chicken for dinner tonight. She showed me her house and told me to come back at five. So much for calling and canceling. This meant that I would have to go.
So at five I showed up at the building that she had pointed out to me. As I approached I looked up and saw a bunch of women standing on a balcony staring at me. I walked up the stairs to her floor and just about every neighbor was standing at the top waiting to meet me. I guess they all wanted to see the American. One asked me where my Sophie was… it’s a very strange feeling to know that everyone knows everything about you. I guess people in my Long Beach neighborhood knew Lucca’s name, but that was mostly kids and I did walk Lucca on the same path for three times a day for three years. But this is different. My hostess brought me into her house and welcomed me in English. She apologized for not having a better grasp on the English language. She took my coat and brought me into a living room where she told me about her two daughters who both speak perfect English and who always chide her for not speaking it. Her youngest daughter lives in America where she is a student and will most likely never return to Armenia to live. The oldest daughter lives in Yerevan at the moment but in September will move to Texas to work. The she set a huge table of food as if all her neighbors were coming to eat, but it was only the two of us. I haven’t ate like that since New Years! All in all the food was great and it was actually nice to have a little bit of company. I really have become a hermit up here in Spitak, and I actually like it, but it is nice to have dinner at peoples house from time to time!

1 comment:

  1. I think it's very sweet. I'm glad that you left the comfort of your apartment to eat with a new friend. Being all the time isn't good for you, and I'm glad they are taking you in and feeding you and keeping you company. Good for you, and I am so thankful to them. I love and miss you always, your mom