Welcome to my home

Welcome to my home

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Public Shame=Productivity

Well, I seem to have finally kicked this nasty habit of taking transatlantic flights, and can once again call myself a resident of Armenia. My trip back to the states had its pluses and minuses. On the one hand I got to see my family and several good friends, eat some good food, and recharge my battery. But, obviously the necessity for the trip was not a happy one, and forcing myself to readjust to an American way of life was exponentially harder than I could have ever anticipated. But, I’m back in action in Armenia, which is good news for you, the reader, because it means that there are new and exciting things to catch up on…or be indifferent about. You choose.

My return trip to Armenia via five different airports was fairly uneventful until I reached my final destination of Yerevan. It always seems that the worst parts of a trip happen when you are the most tired. So, true to suit, instead of just being able to go crash (at that point I had been in travel mode for 36 hours), I had to deal with the public shame of having my bag stand me up. As I stood at the baggage claim I had to watch all the other travelers as they were joyfully reunited with their luggage, while I slowly came to the realization that my bag had decided to ditch me in lieu of an extended European vacation. I’m pretty sure it took its own sweet time in a certain Parisian airport. So, feeling like an ug-o waiting for a blind date to not show, I gave up all hope and decided to leave the airport, but the customs agent had other thoughts on the matter. Apparently, he didn’t want to let me into the country because he believed that I look nothing like my passport photo…which was taken in February. I suppose I’ve lost a bit of weight, but I still don’t think it gave him the right to call his buddies over from all the other booths to look at my photo and then look at me and laugh, only to repeat the process multiple times. However, I think he was pretty embarrassed when I told him (in Armenian) that he was shaming himself by acting like an immature little boy. He promptly apologized and said that he didn’t think I could speak Armenian…I maintain that he just didn’t think.

I managed to get out of the airport and into the city around 10 pm, and then went to the only hostel in Yerevan and crashed. The next morning we had meetings all day at the office, so that was neat… The plus side to this was that all the volunteers were in Yerevan for the weekend, so I got to see my friends upon my return to the country, which made the transition back a little easier. But, eventually, we all said our goodbyes and I hopped on the train and went my own way…which seems to be what I do best.

When I got back to my village on Sunday (don’t worry, the airline got my bag back before I left the city…but I had to pay a 5000 dram fine since they lost it…oh business sense, what are you?). Anyways, when I got off the train in my village, there was a sizeable group of Armenians waiting for me at the station, which was odd, because usually it’s just my grandpa and my little brother. Apparently the people in my town had set up a commemorative slaughter for the memory of my grandmother. So, it felt pretty good to know that my village was there to support me. In fact, it was the first time that I really felt like the village had reached out to me to include me in the parameters of the village. Their normal standing operating procedure is to point out all the ways that I am different from them (aka every thing about me), and how those differences make me wrong (says scott, ‘thanks’).

The next day, I went back to work at the school, where I have been every day since. I only work at the schools in the mornings (about 20 hrs a week), but in the afternoons I teach myself Armenian, economics, and read. Soon I will begin my “secondary project”, which amounts to nothing less spectacular than an English club. But, right now I spend quite a bit of afternoon time helping my family get ready for winter. Because I am a man (I’m talking Y chromosome baby), I’m prohibited from helping with things like preserving or pickling, but I do get to hit things with an axe! My family recently had 6 cubic meters of wood delivered to their garden in log form. In case you were wondering, 6 cubic meters is the metric measurement for what we in the states call a “shit ton”. So, since my host dad works in another town, and my grandpa is not exactly able to lift an axe with much might, I’ve decided to help out with this. It gives me a bit of socially acceptable exercise, and after a day of school, it’s fairly cathartic to split things apart with brute force and a sharp object. But, today my progress in the quickly diminishing pile was halted when my American brawn became too much for the axe. I felt kind of like a jerk when the axe head broke off in a log. I mean, here I was destroying the family’s only tool that would help keep them warm in the approaching villainous winter. But my uncle came over and said it was no big deal, that they had another axe in the shed. I said something like oh that’s great. You know? Really meaning that’s great. I felt like less of a jerk. But then I thought to myself, if you’ve had two axes this whole time, why haven’t we both been doing this…whatever.

I think this Sunday I’m going to help my uncle dig a 70 meter irrigation ditch and lay the pipe in and then fill it back in. We started the planning for it before I took off for the states for the funeral, and we want to get it done before it starts getting cold. Plus, they just tore out all of the tomato and pepper plants that were refusing to grow in their garden, and now they have four new apple trees in their place, and they need the water. Again, with winter just around the corner, it is important for them to be able to firmly establish themselves in the earth before frost sets in. So, I suppose it can’t help to lay the pipe quickly.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The News Meets the Booze Meets the Snooze

Well I suppose it’s only fair that I admit right off the bat that I am having trouble finding something worthy of writing about. If I try to write about anything topical, odds are 100% (which aren’t really odds at all but rather a certainty…) that whatever it is that I have said has already been said at least three days ago, thereby making my comments stale and obsolete. So, I have tried to turn to my classic standby for blogging, which is to write about some new experience in my life. But alas, I have nothing. Well, that’s a lie. I’m sure that I have plenty to say on the subject of new cultural experiences, but at the moment (and please note that by “moment” I mean the past week, as I’ve been trying desperately to conjure up an idea worthy of extended pontification via blog post) I have very little. So I’m going to do my very best to talk on things both “topical” and cultural in this post, because let’s be honest, campaign season is always ripe for commentary, and Armenia is always sure to provide some interesting stories. So, if you don’t like one, just skim through until you find the other, I’m sure there’ll be something you like here. I mean let’s be honest, it’s me writing about me and/or my opinions, and I’m kick ass.

Topical is only an r away from paradise

John McCain selected Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, so that is what it is. She seems to be a good selection for the GOP, as she is someone who supports all the things a grand ol’ member of the grand ol’ party should, a.k.a. pro-life, the 2nd amendment, “stickin’ to those good ol’ fashioned values”, maintaining the nuclear family at all costs, and making Marker’s Mark the drink of choice at the Republican National Convention for the second convention in a row. She is from small town Alaska, and that seems to jive well with McCain’s stance on drilling domestically, and her pro-life position seems to jive well with the dying supreme court justices. Also, I think it’s necessary to have at least one person on the ticket that is in support of living, as Johnny is only breaths away from epitomizing the opposite. I guess it seems a bit nerve racking casting a vote for the oldest person to run for a first term in the history of the U. S. of A….oh did I mention he has skin cancer…I guess I can’t help but wonder who a vote for McCain is for? Why doesn’t Palin just go ahead and run? Speaking of pro-life, isn’t it neat that she gets to demonstrate her stance on the subject with her own daughter? Way to go Levi, you really married into the right family…oh, what’s that? You’re not married…wow, now I feel silly. What’s that? You’re the first baby daddy to be on a campaign trail? Well, I suppose that’s the only thing this campaign season is missing…on both sides.

Obama performed as usual, stirring up excitement in a crowd drunk on idealism. Is that a bad thing? Not necessarily, ideals are what drive a nation to move forward, to persevere. But, the thing about an ideal is often times it is the moon you shoot for only to land among the stars. Cliché? Sure. But the point is that the ideal is something that you aim for, only to not achieve it and end up somewhere else unanticipated. Now, saying that you will land among the stars is a positive way to spin the scenario, but I implore you to remember that a star is nothing but a ball of searing hot, burning gas, and for the life of me, I can’t remember NASA ever intentionally making a mission to land on a star. I hear the sun is hot this time of year. I guess what I’m getting at, is that this whole campaign would be easier to get behind if it had some sort of concrete element behind it. Also, there is another major player in the realm of international politics who is known for being an idealist: Vladimir Putin, and let’s be honest, if he could dress every citizen of mother Russia in the stylish gray and red uniforms that were only too popular 17 years ago, I’m sure he would. I hear his favorite song is track one off The Beatles White Album.

Basically what it boils down to is that this campaign season has done nothing but reaffirm my decision to be a bleeding independent. Less pedantically (and let’s be honest, that was not pedantic in the least, but I feel like every political commentary, shotty as it may be, needs to use the word pedantically, and that was as good a place as any), I think that a bipartisan system has no opportunity to be anything but silly when both parties are inherently silly. Whoa. Calm down. Take a breath you GOP’s and Donkeys, I am not saying that the candidates are silly. In fact, I believe just the opposite. I think that the U.S. of A. is very lucky this election season, in that both tickets have an incredible amount of integrity running. Has McCain voted with Bush 90% of the time? Yes, but the difference is he can spell his own name. Evidence, he doesn’t have to go by his initial. Has Obama had a brief and unrevealing political career? Yes, but given the situation in Washington right now, I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. Is that sad, maybe, but it might be true also. That said, I know who I’m voting for, and depending on who you are, I will give you a hard time about who you are voting for just to get your goat. So if I’ve been pro Obama with you, it’s probably because I know you’re voting for Palin. And if I’ve been pro McCain, it’s probably because I know you like to plan holidays to the sun. I like to go into the booth knowing that no one knows who I’m voting for. I’ve found this is the easiest way to avoid unwanted shankings upon exiting the booth.

Moving on to the cultural…

I had an interesting conversation with my grandfather the other evening. We were discussing the value of learning a language, and we came to the general consensus that the more languages you know, the richer you are. He maintains (and I think it’s right mostly…) that if you know a language, you know a people, and that is a very valuable thing. After he said that, I didn’t really know what to say. After all, that’s not exactly something that begs a response. So, I did what I do best here, which is to sit and say nothing. And as he watched me “think”, he expanded on the different languages he knows. He said that if he wants to speak Chinese, all he has to do is drink two bottles of vodka. He then sad that if he wants to speak Georgian, all he has to do is put an entire hot potato (note the spelling Quail) in his mouth. Then he went on to say that Armenian was the most beautiful language in the world. And I must admit, there is a certain beauty to it. But I’m not sure how it stacks up against Sanskrit. I’ve heard that sounds gorgeous…also, later in the conversation my grandpa threatened to cut the head off of anyone who threw rocks at me while I run. It’s nice to know someone’s got my back.

This past week was the fist week of school. September 1st marks the first day of school for the entire country of Armenia, and let me tell you, it was something. I remember waking up on my first day of work buzzing with an internal excitement that rivaled that of the 6 year old children going to school for their first day. I was finally going to see how these schools worked. I walked to school with my books packed up and my shoes tied tight (Billy Madison don’t sue me), not really knowing what to expect. And when I got to school and walked in the teachers’ lounge, I must say, I was glad I didn’t come with a closed mind. There on the table sat several bottles of cognac and champagne, accompanied with boxes of chocolate. Needless to say, I think if we had been teaching in the states we all would have lost our jobs within 5 minutes. But we aren’t, and we didn’t. I must admit, I was a bit uncomfortable with the presence of booze in school, especially when it was the principal (remember, the principal is my pal, ah timeless spelling adages) who was “encouraging” me to take shots. But, after the first week (that’s right, so far there have been fresh bottles every day) I like to think of these things as teaching accessories. When in Rome I suppose…please don’t think that teachers get drunk at work. They merely take a few tasteful shots before/during the day…I don’t get it. Work is going well, however. Right now it’s slow, but I’m hoping things will pick up as I begin to plan my teacher training workshops for the entire teaching community. But, I don’t want to get into this too much, as I don’t really know too much about it yet. I promise I’ll fully explore every aspect of my work in a later post. As for now, I still need to experience.

This is the snooze
I debated heavily on whether or not to release this, as it makes the possibility to change it difficult. But, I’m pretty content with it for now. Also, I’d like to say shame on you for scrolling to the end if you have skipped the entire article just to read the big snooze. However, if you are here only after a patient reading of the above nonsense, congratulations, I suppose I owe you some sort of hair ribbon or maybe a stale hard candy prize next time I see you. Anyways…I’d like to announce the title of my book: Waking. What a let down, I know. Where are the bells and whistles? I don’t know. But, I put a lot of thought into it (no shit Sherlock) and I’d like to think that it highlights a nice little duality that the story works hard to expose, and probably does a poor job of it. So, as Hans Solo always said about the wookie sitting on a chair, “Chew on it.” Somebody punch me hard for that.