Welcome to my home

Welcome to my home

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Cultural Differences, Every Step of the Way


Well, the rumors are true. I’ve been to dance class, and can now proudly inform you that I can perform two—that’s right, two—Armenian dances. Who’s jealous? If you aren’t, you should be. Dancing over here is pretty important to large social events. However, you cannot simply dance as we do in America, a.k.a. get out there and shake it. Here, physical contact is not emphasized during dancing. In fact, people don’t even face each other. Normally they dance side by side, with pinkies locked, often in a circular pattern or line formation. Regardless, dancing is still pretty fun, especially if you’re that awkward foreigner in the middle of well seasoned dancers…not that I know what that would feel like. I must admit, though, that after dancing for thirty minutes or so in class, I was pretty tired. One of the fundamental concepts (or so it seemed to me) of Armenian dance is that the feet should be off the ground as frequently as possible, and when they are on the ground, they should be light. Needless to say, dancing can be physically taxing at times. But, it felt good to exercise a bit I suppose, which is something that is not heavily emphasized in Armenia. But, it really reminded me of how little I’ve been doing in the ways of activity (beyond walking everywhere). So…(yeah it’s a weak transition, but you’ll just have to deal with shotty segues at this point)
I woke up an hour earlier than usual and strapped on my running shoes. Well, I suppose I woke up two hours earlier than usual thanks to the rooster that lives beneath my bed, but that’s neither here nor there. I’ve been dying to go for a run, but as afore mentioned, exercise is not a concept present in Armenia. Sure, they have gyms in larger towns/cities, but I don’t live in said location(s). So, running in public, as I was informed by my trainers (academic, not athletic), is an activity that is sure to draw stares, or at the very least, gossip among the huddles of corner-talking men and women. But, I was dying. I haven’t had as much energy lately, and I attributed this to the lack of exercise I have been getting (or not getting) in Armenia. So I decided to be bold. The way I saw it, I have been living in my village for about two weeks now, and everyone here either knows me, or knows about me. Let’s be honest, I don’t exactly blend in…yet. I formulated a plan that, in my mind, was sure to smooth things over. I would leave my headphones at home in order to hear people if they spoke to me, and I would make a conscious effort to say hello/good morning to ever person I passed on the street (which is customary anyways—think small town mid-west). I figured that if I did this, even if my actions looked a bit weird, I could soften them through brief moments of interpersonal communication. And let’s face it, who doesn’t like to get interpersonal every now and then? Right?
Well, for the cynics in the crowd who are waiting to hear me drop the “boy did that plan fail miserably” bomb, I’m sorry to inform you that your sinister outlook will only be partially sated. On the whole, my plan was successful. Although most people I passed gawked at me with an expression that seemed to beg, “where are you running to, and why are you running”, their tumult of confused emotions was calmed when I greeted them in passing. However, for about 20% of the people I passed, my Armenian greeting only seemed to be fertilizer to their growing seeds of bewilderment. Now, not only was some crazy American running to an undisclosed destination for an unknown purpose, but he was greeting them in their language. Weird, I know. But, I felt great after my run, so that’s good. I’m hoping that in time this will become more normal for all parties involved. But as for now, I suppose I have to be content having gorgeous morning runs along the river that tumbles through pastures and over stones in our picturesque mountains. Darn. Speaking of exercise…
The other night, I had a great opportunity to exercise my current knowledge of Armenian party etiquette (yeah, the transitions just keep getting better). My neighbor’s son just got back from his two-year, mandatory service in the military. So, of course that means you have to slaughter an entire cow in your basement. No joke, no exaggeration. The day before the party my neighbor brought me over to his home and took me down in the basement to show me party preparations, and amid the cases and cases of vodka bottles (which I thought to be a bit excessive) and cartons of vegetables, were tidy little piles of cow, ripe and ready for cooking. I don’t eat beef, but I couldn’t help but think that this was cool. Anyways, the party was out in the family’s garden, and there must have been 75 people there. I quickly realized that the number of bottles of vodka that were purchased for the party had not been purchased in excess. Needless to say, I did not even pretend to be able to keep up with anyone sitting at the elongated feasting table. But, despite the consumption of booze, I couldn’t shake a slight feeling of being at a middle school dance. Although men and women were both present at the party, there was a distinct table for men, and a distinct table for women. Not once during the night did either table interact with the one another, nor did the women’s table consume alcohol. Sorry women, you can’t do that in public. But, I think everyone had a good time.
The next morning I got up at 7 and went to a neighboring village for a fellow volunteer’s birthday. It was good to meet up for the birthday, as many of the volunteers I have become good friends with were there. But now, it’s back to school, six days a week…
I’m really digging life right now. There have been thunderstorms about every other night here, which makes for good sleeping. Now, if I can only find a recipe for rooster stew…

Much love


Nathan said...

1 gallon - ox blood
3 cups frozen peas
dash sugar
live rooster

bring blood to boil
stir in peas, sugar and rooster
simmer for 45-50 seconds.

One love.


PS I do remember Genital Ben. It is, without a doubt, the greatest sweater punk rock band on the planet.

Dad said...


Yea the segues are a little lame, but the story is great. Keep them coming. Beautiful weekend, ate dinner at the Bradley's Saturday night and worked in the yard a lot trying to mend the bare spots along the driveway as a result of the winter.

Air show this weekend and the Blue Angels' flight path carried west from Mt Joy airport right over the house. Great listening to the turbine whines of the F/A-18s, one of the solo pilots' routine took him straight at the neighborhood and he went vertical right over the house. If he had dropped a rock out of the cockpit, it would have it the driveway.

Celtics beat Lakers in 6 games for the NBA championship; Cubs swept the ChiSox this weekend in 3 games and Tiger Woods is out for the remainder of the season with a knee ligament and hairline fractures in one shin (he played 91 holes of the US Open that way and won.).

Weather god here after all that rain.

Love the way you described the reaction of your host mother when you brought out your spice rack and she showed you 100s of sq ft of garden with all the fresh herbs in the world [way to go Johnny Appleseed].

Good luck in school this week and enjoy our pipe and goodies when they get there.


mom said...

scott, great story about your run. the scenery must be breathtaking. keep writing; you are my personal travelogue, indiana. love, mom

mom said...

scott, it just occurred to me that the women don't drink, so they are able to carry the men home and then go shopping! xo, mom