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.

1 comment:

Alli said...

I'm sorry to hear about your grandmother, Scott.

However, it's good to hear that your village made an effort to reach out and support you. It may not seem like it at the moment, but all those times they point out how you're different are probably just culture shock moments for them. Once they get over how you're rocking their worldview, they'll do even more to show you that they like having you around and that you're an important part of the community.

Looking forward to hearing more about what you're doing at work. Also, how is self-teaching Armenian going? What do you do for that?