Welcome to my home

Welcome to my home

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Mid-term Exam Tomorrow...

Much has happened over this past week, and I feel as though they can easily be summed up in three simple sections I have entitled: loneliness, marriage, and seemingly obscure holidays. Before I proceed, I feel as though I must provide the disclaimer that although I have begun by presenting some semblance of an organizational pattern, I still reserve the right to type in a tangential fashion. So, don’t think I have forgotten about a topic if I appear to stray off the given topic. Also, now I don’t have to pretend like transitions are important.

LONLINESS :-( [Everyone’s a sucker for an emoticon.]
As many of you know, and some of you don’t, the living arrangements I currently have are only temporary. The village in which I live is only to be my home throughout my training (language classes, cultural classes, and not developing strategies for not dying). Upon completion of my training (mid-August) I will be moving to my permanent assignment. From the moment each of my fellow volunteers accepted their invitations, the country director for Peace Corps has been working hard to finish up our final placements. Last week, the afternoon half of our large group training session was completely devoted to the announcement of our final placements. Allow me to build the suspense for those of you who are currently unimpressed, nonplussed, or otherwise apathetic. Because, like many of you, until I was told that this was a big event, I was unaware that I was supposed to be nervous/anxious/giddy like a schoolgirl.
Upon walking into the training center, we (the trainees that is) were greeted by a big map of Armenia taped off on the floor with masking tape. Each marz (Armenian for state or region) was sectioned off, and the whole thing was humorously denoted as “Not to Scale”…All morning the trainees and the staff were buzzing with excitement and energy. I was still trying to figure out what all the hubbub was. The afternoon was to run as such: everyone stands out in the lobby as each name is read off, marz by marz. As each marz was read, all of the trainees were to go stand in their new home on the LIFE SIZE MAP!!!!! Once there, they were to be greeted by volunteers who are currently serving there and were brought in for the day to tell all of their new best friends all about the grand old time they would all have together forever. Neat. That conversation was supposed to last for two hours. Let’s fast forward to the “Scott Moore” announcement.
Yeah, my name was called! And I’m the first one in my marz to be announced! Cool. Let me just hustle on over to my part of the map. Hey wait, where are the current volunteers to welcome my in their warm and cheery arms? Wait, why are you not calling anyone else’s name? Wait, which marz are you now saying? Wait, that’s not my marz. Um, excuse me, you forgot to name the other people in my marz. What’s that you say? I’m sorry, speak into my good ear. Oh, there aren’t any other volunteers going there? That’s ok…I suppose. I’ll just get to know the volunteers that are already there. What? Oh, there aren’t any of those there either? Wait, there’s never been any there? Cool…Ok then, I’ll just stand over here by myself for a while then
Yup, the rumors are true. Although I can’t tell you the name or location of my town, I can tell you that I’m the only one in my entire state…for two years. I go on a five-day site visit here pretty soon. So, stay tuned for updates on that. I’ll get more detailed information about my next host family and job as a teacher trainer.

MARRIAGE ;-) [Who doesn’t like a good wink?]
The burning question here (as I’m hoping you’re hoping) is: did Scott get so preemptively lonely that he went out and got hitched? No. But wouldn’t that have been dramatic? I’ll see what I can do by next post. But, my host mother’s nephew did get married. And let me tell you. If you want to have a good time, go to an Armenian wedding. I arrived late to the reception because we (the trainees, not the people) had been on a cultural journey to a place named Echimazeen. As you probably know, Armenia is renowned for being the first country to declare Christianity as its national religion. Ever since then, the country has served as the seat for the Armenian Orthodox Church. Makes sense, right? Anyways, Echimazeen is to the Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Church as the Vatican City is to the Catholic Church. And it was pretty impressive. I plan to go back in September when they are having a huge ceremony for the brewing of holy ointment that only happens once every seven years. (This has been an example of a tangent, but you loved it, don’t worry.)
Anyways, I believe we left off with me arriving to the wedding a bit late. When I walked in, everyone had already been there for some time, and most of the eating had taken place. However, they had saved a place at a table for me, with several plates full of food. More importantly, they had saved me two glasses, one for water, and a smaller one for shots. As with American ceremonies of such pomp, many toasts are given throughout the event. However, unlike American tradition, you don’t drink your drink unless a toast is being given…and if you’ll permit one more “however”. However, the sheer number of toasts seems damn near exponential in comparison, plus the only toasting drinks present are vodka and cognac. More or less, this fueled the best part of the wedding, which was traditional dancing. I know that earlier I boasted having learned how to dance, but I now know that I know nothing. It was incredible to say the least. I guess I have two more years to buff up my dancing skills.

SEEMINGLY OBSCURE HOLIDAYS :-D [I promise this will be the last emoticon ever.]
The day after the wedding was a national holiday, the name of which I still don’t know. However, I do know the rules of the holiday, and they are as follows. 1) Throw water on anyone you see. 2) Anyone is fair game if they are outside, regardless of age, sex, or socio-economic status. That’s it. According to a celibate priest (that’s an actual rank in the clergy hierarchy, not a judgment on my part), this holiday has its roots in the pagan times, and was melded together with a holiday celebrated by the church once the country adopted Christianity. But, because of time constraints, I didn’t get a great description of what the holiday now celebrates. And, 70 some years of Communism (school and government sanctioned atheism) in the country more or less purged most knowledge of religious culture from the majority of the communities in the nation. So, no one in my family could really explain it to me either.
But, I do know that there were armies of children roving the streets with and endless supply of water to douche passersby. So, my neighbor, a fellow trainee, armed up with water balloons and buckets and we took to the footbridge in an effort to defend our turf. I hung back about one hundred meters with my camera. The way I saw, if Josh didn’t make it, someone needed to tell his tale. So as he taunted the local ten year olds into a water battle on the bridge (at this point you should be thinking the Jets and the Sharks), I snapped photos. It was intense, and it ended with both of us running for, what at this point felt like, our lives. Fortunately we made it back to my house in time to avoid a thorough drenching. The important part is that we learned several valuable lessons on this day. Next year. Next year these children don’t stand a chance.


Danielbeast said...

As I've been to every marz save one, I am going to try and guess where you actually are being stuck. I know it can't be anywhere in the north because I personally know of PCVs in Lori and Tavush marzes, two of the three northern ones (granted some are leaving so I could be wrong by using it as a measure of "there will be no volunteers in the entire place). The other one, Shirak, has Gyumri in it, the second largest city, so I can't imagine there wouldn't be a PCV there.
The middle rung of marzes I know a PCV in Gegharkunik (Sevan) marz so that's out. Kotayk is next to that, I guess it is a possibility but being only an hour from Yerevan it is pretty centrally located and unlikely to be devoid of volunteers. Aragatsotn marz on the other hand, while also close to Yerevan, is the least populated marz and mostly just has Yezidi (a semi-Kurdish but not people) in it so that could be the one no one else is in.
I am thinking it is most likely you are being sent to one of the southern ones, Syunik is the most remote however it also has some pretty sizable towns so I don't think there'd be no PCVs in the whole place. On top of it is Vayotz Dzor marz though, which is smaller with less notable towns so it is my guess you are being sent there.

It just seems with so many PVCs in Armenia I am surprised that there's a marz untouched by them. You will boldly go where no PVC has gone.. currently.

mom said...

scott, i could come over and live with you and take care of you if you get lonely. dad might want to come as well. he is a good dog walker, so maybe he could become a shepherd. love, mom

Alli said...

Well, at the very least you're going to know Armenian REALLY well at the end of two years.

The wedding sounds fantastic, but so does a water fight. Are pictures posted anywhere?

My brain hurts from Russian. Are you tired from Armenian yet?

Ashley said...

Sorry to hear about the recent news...but I guess it will provide for quite the incredible immersed experience. Armenian weddings sound like a lot of fun....I will pass on the ideas to Bauer and maybe next summer we can incorporate.

Speaking of tradition, I wonder how the water holiday would go over in Chicago. Maybe I will try it sometime next week. I'm sure many of the workers at Deloitte would love it. Also speaking of tradition, I was lucky enough to experience the pride parade last sunday! I wonder how much fun Liston would have had....

I'm looking forward to more updates! Miss you! Oh, and the next time you are on gchat beware of a plethora of emoticons. I have never seen you use so many. Ridiculous. :)

Dad said...

I forgot to tell you about the time I went to Battle Group Tactics Course in Dam Neck VA. One of my classmates was Rick Houck, a fellow Navy Captain who just happened to be an astronaut that was done with his flying days (he was the command pilot for the first shuttle flight after Columbia blew up) and was now returning to the mainstream Navy. We got along wonderfully and regaled each other with sea stories from our respective branches of the Navy. Surprisingly, aviation (specifically space shuttle flight) and living for long periods of time in very close quarters is common to the submarine force. He was telling me about the time that he was promoted from Lieutenant to Lieutenant Commander. His fellow astronauts followed a tradition that reminded me of your Armenian story about their "states". It seems that when the have the ceremony to put on his new collar insignia, they remove his old ones (in this case Lieutenant's silver bars) and replace them with new gold oak leaves signifying he is a Lieutenant Commander. They then take his old insignia and put them in a small box and load them into the next spacecraft destined for launch OUTSIDE of earth orbit. So in his silver bars went and then they were blasted off never to return a few weeks later. Destination.... with the rover to Mars. So there you have , the origin of the Mars bars!!!!

Maggie said...

Weird that "loneliness, marriage, and seemingly obscure holidays" pretty much summed up my Fourth of July weekend! Can't wait to tell you stories...let's just say that this wedding could have used a few more toasts in the Armenian fashion.

I love your stories; keep em' coming!

Jennifer said...

Scotty I saw your marriage comment and I got a little nervous. I know you are across the world and all but I thought the whole life partner thing was for life. ;) It sounds like you are enjoying your experience! Mags sent me the link to your blog and I love reading it! Be safe! -Jenn Hammons