Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Vay Shoonik Jans!!

Looking through my photos I have an overwhelming amount of photos of Armenian stray dogs... I told myself coming into Armenia that I would not get attached to dogs in this country. I knew they were treated horribly, I knew there wasn't much I could do about so why should I get my heart broken? I can remember the first time it happened. I was sitting outside in the tiny village of Alapars with my language class. A small black dog with big sad brown eyes who we named shoonik was sitting nearby, not quite ready to be our best friend but curious enough to follow us and let us give the occasional pat on the head. All of a sudden I hear a group of boys approach the dog. I look up as one boy (the dogs owner) begins screaming at the dog and gives him three swift kicks. I immediately begin to cry and yell at the boy in English, as I didn't speak any Armenian at the time. My language teachers explained that it was just that way here. My heart was broken, soon I became best friends with the dog and haven't turned my back on a single best friend since... And there have been many. I feed them when I can, but mostly I pet them and love them and teach them that not all humans are jerks... so here are a few pictures of my best friends in Armenia and a short story about each of them, because  believe it or not I remember every single one of them! My fiance likes to tease me because I even give names to the dogs in Spitak, when we are driving around he likes to point out random dogs and ask me their names. Sometimes I think the best job I did here was to teach people animal awareness. To teach them that dogs are our friends and that they don't have to be so afraid of them. It's amazing what a difference Sophie has made in Spitak, and how many people know her, love her, give her treats and pet her.

This was spence, he was a dirty, happy little dog my PST mates and I met on a hike. He was such a happy dog, the first I had ever seen in Armenia, but also very dirty!
This dog has no name, I only saw her once on that same hike I went on with my friends from pst, but she is just so sweet looking!
This was little ruben, I met him at our local Alapars hanoot. We all fell in love with him and taught him how shake!!
This was my grumpy little sasha. He had an Armenian name too but I couldn't say it. He was a heard dog that I saw every morning on my way to school. He would chase his family's cow out to the field in the morning and then come back and sleep on the path waiting for the cow to come back home. He is the only dog that ever bit me in Armenia, but it wasn't his fault. Another volunteer who he didn't have a relationship with came up to him while he was loving on me and he got scared. It took me a looooong time to win this little guy's heart
This is Shoonik, my first Armenian puppy love. This dog followed me everywhere and would wait on my host family's front porch for me in the mornings to walk me to school. I loved this little guy and so did all the other Alapars volunteers! 
This is Jack, who I have blogged about before. My Papik brought him home for me one day because he thought I was lonely. I spent the better part of a day de-fleaing him
This is little manook (baby). She was another pup that my papik brought me. We had her for 2 months and she never grew. Then one day she died and I went to school crying my eyes out! 
This dog I refused to give a name because I knew if I did I would keep her. As you can see she is already inside my house in this picture, which has been a rule for me never to do here in Spitak. Someone left this lil gal on my front door one night. Luckily I found her a home! The first of 3 dogs to be left on my doorstep while I have been here
This is Tigo or Lion or beast!! He is the biggest dog I have seen here in Armenia but also the happiest, dumbest, sweetest guy ever. Me and Sophie met him on a walk and he decided to make friends with us and follow us around. When I would go into the city center some people would run away screaming, but others already knew and loved him!! Then one day I took this picture and tigo ran away. Later he came back and I took another picture and that is when I figured out the click of the camera scared him and I never saw him again =(
These are the puppies that first broke my heart. I saved one from a well where he was trapped only to find all of them frozen to death the next week 

This is my Sophie jan!! My students had heard how upset I was when manook died so they got me Sophie as a present! Look how tiny she was!! 

This is Rasta. He was a really cool Yerevan dog that hung around our favorite resturant. Me and Ash always saw him and gave him food. He had curly dreads and liked to hump legs! 
My little monster all grown up! 

This is Soph on a mini bus!! I have never really had a problem with her on a bus until just a few weeks ago. On this ride to Yerevan we couldn't get the window seat so she sat by this guy! He loved it until she threw up on his leg!! Even then he was pretty good about it

This is Boris, me and Sophie's favorite dog! He was around last summer and would wait for us every morning so he could come running with us. And he would wait for us every evening when we would come sit out side and read. He never left my side if I was out and about. Eventually my neighbors even started to like him and sometimes would throw bread to him, calling him Boris. I remember once hearing a little girl explaining to her mom "don't be afraid mom, that's Boris, he is Sophie's friend. He doesn't bite" I'd like to believe Boris is in Doggie Heaven now as one day he was the victim of a Spitak dog killing. He along with a number of other dogs was round up and shot... The cool thing is a few months later another dog that looked just like him but female began to come around, Lady. She was just like Boris and was so protective of me. I like to think she was his daughter. Sadly she is now gone too... 

Monday, August 6, 2012

And so it ends

I did it! I finished my 2 years and 3 months service in the Peace Corps!!! It was a pretty unremarkable event. Basically I went to the Peace Corps office in Yerevan and signed a bunch of different papers and that was it. It was actually very disappointing but anyways it’s all over now. It’s such a strange feeling to be in Armenia and not be a Peace Corps volunteer now. I think most of my time here I have been a pretty independent person, in fact when I went into the office on my final day so many people remarked that they hadn’t seen me since I swore in and there were even a few staff members I had never met!! I felt it was really important to stay in Spitak and not get sucked into the city life. The funny thing is I did that in order to better integrate so that I could serve my community better, and yet I feel that only recently have I really even started to make a dent into integration, and so it seems now I am actually a spitakcian and not just a strange volunteer who is living in the community but really apart from the community.
The sad thing is that soon I will have to say goodbye to that and return home. I can’t even begin to express how sad that makes me or I will spend the night crying my eyes out. So instead I choose to laugh at the adventure that I have had. I want to go back in time and share some of the best moments that I have had here, and where better to start than with my first day in Armenia! Lately I keep thinking back to my first day in country and how I came here with a dislocated jaw!!  You can read about it here: HERE
My first impression of Armenia was a cold, dirty soviet hospital with a Russian speaking doctor who smoked as he examined my face and yelled at me if when I winced in pain… I remember a  russian sounding Peace Corps doctor talking to the other Russian doctor and being very confused as to what country I was in. Sinks were water stained and rusted and the water in the hospital was leaking. The whole place smelled like urine and I remember thinking what on earth have I gotten myself into.Then I remember finally being able to get in a taxi to go meet up with my fellow PCV's at the hotel we were all staying at. The doctor shut the taxi door on me and I was alone with this taxi driver who didn't speak a word of English. Twice on the drive up to the hotel we had to stop for the cows to cross the road. I was so amazed by the greenery and the simplistic idea of it all. I remember being so glad to be back among English speakers, but also so embarrassed that I wanted to hide my swollen, wrapped up face in my room.  Here is what I think is a previously un-shared photo because let’s face it, it’s really ugly! But now I see it as a badge of honor and accomplishment. I made it!! Even after this: