Welcome to my home

Welcome to my home

Friday, July 18, 2008

Still here, no worries

I suppose it has been quite some time since my last post. For this, I apologize. However, because of work related activity, I have not been near a computer with Internet access in a few weeks. But, I’m here now, and your fears of my death can be abandoned. If my memory serves me correctly, my last correspondence was pre-July 4th. So, I would like to wish all those Freedom Lovers out there a happy 4th. I trust that everyone celebrated with an appropriate amount of patriotism. In case you were worried about my American spirit while living overseas, please know that I too celebrated the 4th. The Peace Corps was kind enough to donate $200 to my village for the sole purpose of hosting a 4th of July celebration. While I am supposed to be learning and living another culture, part of my mission is to share my culture while I’m here. Naturally the 4th is a great time to do this. So, the few other trainees living in the village put our heads and energies together to host a killer party. We made American foods (deviled eggs, chips and salsa [no those don’t exist here], chocolate chip cookies, potato salad, etc.) and invited our families and fellow community members (who made even more Armenian foods). We had water balloon tosses and face painting. Despite our best efforts, there were still no fireworks, and for this reason, the 4th of July seemed to come and go for me. It was a bit weird. This is not my first 4th of July living overseas, but for some reason it is the first 4th of July where I felt incredibly disconnected.

This past week has been incredibly new, busy, and exciting for me. If you have been reading my blog for even a little while, you know that even though I have been informed of my permanent site location, quite a bit of mystery has surrounded it, as no one has been there, thus affording me no opportunity to learn about its ins-and-outs, so to speak. (Was that sentence grammatically correct?) However, I can now say that a bit of the dense fog that lay heavy on the identity of my future site has been lifted. I have spent the past week living in my new town on what is appropriately called a “Site Visit”. During this visit, my responsibilities included getting to know a.) my family, b.) my town, and c.) my work.
A.) My new family seems to be incredible. For the first four months of my life in my permanent site, I will be living in an apartment that houses grandpa, grandma, dad, mom, and boy (circa 2001). Two stories up, dad’s brother lives with his wife, and two boys (circa 2005 and 2007). I can say that I feel quite at home. Mom and dad met me in Yerevan and escorted me to the town. Within the first 3.47 seconds of arrival, their son was on my heels with a huge grin, which never left his face for the entirety of my stay. When we got to the apartment, the rest of the family was waiting to welcome me. I quickly learned that my new uncle is a history teacher at one of the schools in which I will be working. That’s great. After a brief introduction to each family member jockeying for position, I was sent into the family room and told to sit down on the couch. This is where I met grandpa. Grandpa is a man of few words, and an abundance of smiles. He was watching soccer, which he told me he was a big fan of. I watched soccer and read. I think grandpa and I are going to get along just fine.
B.) While my current town is mountainous, green, cool (that’s a temperature, not a judgment), and has occasional rain, my new town is flat, green, hot, and dusty dry. But, my family does have a garden within the city. There, they have about 6 apricot trees, a hedge of raspberries, tomatoes, beans, and other things that I’m sure I missed. They also have two cows, a bull, a bunch of chickens, and a little black pig. The pig is not quite as rambunctious as the piglets at my current home, but I still wouldn’t turn my back to it for too long. The town itself doesn’t have too much. There are anywhere between 6,000 people and 10,000 people depending on whom you ask. Despite this population, there is nothing in the way of recreation: no restaurants, bars, youth centers, leisure activities, Internet cafes, etc. So, it looks like I’m going to have to make friends quickly, even though no one in town speaks English. In a way, this is good. Such circumstances will help me build stronger Armenian language skills, as well as focus more attentively on my work.
C.) There are two schools in town, each of which housing grades 1-12. Each building has about 40 teachers. So, for all of you math wizzes out there, I will be working with about 80 teachers in an attempt to help construct new teaching methods and strategies. Currently, the country is going through a nation-wide teacher re-training. So, my schools are scheduled to attend the federally facilitated teacher training sessions in late August. So, I will be going to those almost immediately upon entry into my community. While this might seem to abandon any sort of gentle transition into my workplace, it will serve as a wonderful starting point for the teachers and me. I’m hoping that having this at the very beginning of my work with a new faculty will help create a mutual starting point for both parties concerned. However, there are an infinite number of differences between the current Armenian school system and where it seems to want to go. Now, throw cultural and language barriers into the mix and I’ve got a nice little challenge ahead of me. I know I am going to be busy, and I am excited about it.

My morale seems to be holding up just fine. I have made several wonderful friends in my fellow Peace Corps Trainees, and this helps. The truly tough part will come when we all go our separate ways, bound for our permanent sites. It seems odd that I am looking forward to and dreading the end of training On the one hand, I will be done with redundant and non-applicable meetings, but on the other, I will be leaving everything that I have come to know. My language learning is coming along quite nicely. I passed my midterm in a grand flourish of anticlimactic action. Now, I am continuing to plug away in a second half that seems remarkably similar to the first half. I miss baseball.

There are three generations of goats in my family’s goat pen, and when the oldest generation gets tired and lies down to sleep, the youngest ones climb on top of their backs to eat some of the lower hanging branches of trees and weeds normally out of reach.


Alli said...

Scott, it's exciting to hear about your host family. I love big families like that! It seems like you're going to have a lot of great support once you move.

No entertainment in town... what do people do?? Hang out together, I assume. Will you have internet access at all for the next two years?

Scott, you've seriously inspired me to apply for the Peace Corps. Only I want to go to Georgia. Tell me, was Armenia your first choice? What's the likelihood that I'll actually get my first choice of locations?

Always good to hear from you-- keep us updated as best you can. Good luck with the second half of training and with your move!


Jill Norman Sharp said...

Hey Scottie- I saw your blog on Facebook and just read through your experience thus far in Armenia. What an amazing journey. Oh and I'm very glad to hear you're fitting in some time to run too.

Hope all is well!

Thinking of you,

Dad said...


Again with the goats. It seems they are the source of the saying "will you get off my back?"

Sounds like quite a contrast when you change elevations. It may hotter now n the summer, maybe it will be warmer in the winter.

All-Star break is over and the regular season has resumed. The cubs immediately lost two straight to your Astros (2-1 and 4-1), but the town of Chicago continues to move in a red-white-and-blue haze with a sense of destiny that only a century without a World Series win can bring. It seems that they subscribe to the Charles DeGaulle school of unabashed optimism that is unfounded for any apparent reason. The Twins are the hottest team in baseball now and are only a few games behind the White sox who lost last night. Oh yeah, the Yankees are above 500 now and only three or so games back of the Red Sox and (here is a tough one), the first place Tampa Bay Rays (they dropped the Devil from their name this season.) All of this has no context when it comes to European, Asian or even Armenian affairs, but it is off interest.

If Barack Obama drops by, [he's in Afganistan, Iraq, Germany and England this week) be sure and say hi.

Mickey is still plodding along, sleeping in every patch of sunlight he can find (what a life) and will be glad when Teddy returns to your sister's abode.

Saw Momma Mia and really enjoyed it. Later this week will be the new Batman flick The Dark Knight" which is winning the box office this weekend.

Take care kiddo. Really thinking of you and the great job you are doing.



Dad said...

hey, scott, you are amazing. such a positive attitude toward your new culture. i think your family sounds very warm and cozy. it is much better than living alone when you first arrive. think about you all the time! love, mom