Welcome to my home

Welcome to my home

Friday, February 13, 2009

Slowly Emerging from Winter

Well, my little host brohan lost his first tooth today. I thought this was an awesome opportunity to tell him about the Tooth Fairy. So there we were, sitting on the couch, and I was doing my best to provide him with a comprehensible character sketch of this nocturnal spirit, but, I didn’t have my dictionary, and somehow, back in July when I was in Armenian language classes, I must have missed the Tooth Fairy chapter. So, the best I could do was to say that “in America, when children lose their teeth, they put them under their pillows when they sleep. Then, as they are asleep a tiny little person with wings flies into your bedroom and steals your tooth from under the pillow and leaves a small amount of money.” His responses (and my subsequent responses) are as follows:
How small are people in America?—What? No, the small person with wings isn’t American.
What country is it from?—It’s not from any country, Edik.
Do all small Americans have wings?—No. (But you can’t imagine how badly I wanted to tell him yes, yes they do, and fangs, big viscous fangs.)
What does it do with the teeth?—I can’t tell you that. It’s a secret.
Did you know that she builds a really big tooth out of all the teeth she steals?—How do you know? She is very secretive little person with wings. No one really knows what she does with the teeth.
It builds big teeth out of them.—Sure thing. Do you want to put your tooth under your pillow tonight?
No. I don’t want small people with wings in my room.
At this point, mom comes in the room and I learn that they take the teeth and bake them into lavash (flatbread, kind of like a tortilla, and by kind of, I mean exactly) for good luck. I think it’s kind of like the bay leaf in the pot of soup, but instead of having to do the dishes, you get 40 virgins when you die or something like that. I don’t know. I prefer to have tiny little people with wings leaving money in my room while I sleep. At this point Edik gave me a toothless grin and said he didn’t want to help her build a big tooth and handed his tooth to his mother to go bake…so much for cultural exchange.

Things around here have been pretty slow, hence my blog silence. But, that’s also partly because my hands have been too cold to type very well. I tried typing with gloves once, but it just made me feel like I had real chubby fingers that were too stupid to move. Last week we (the volunteers) had a big conference that is geared towards project design and management. Each volunteer was allowed to bring one counterpart (an Armenian who lives at site and with whom you frequently work) to the conference. During the conference each pairing works on designing a sustainable project to implement in their community. My counterpart and I are going to try to get a pre-school up and running. I think it’s possible, but the toughest part of the entire thing will not be the actual work. The work is easy. The hard part is motivating the people to take action, and not give up at the first moment of difficulty. I have the moral support of the mayor’s office, which will likely be the only support I get from there. So, we’ll see I suppose.

The schools are what they are. I realize that that phrase is circular, and offers little to no insight, but, it’s important to remember, that circular phrases are, in fact, completely right…although also completely worthless. But, I’m at a loss for another way to describe the state of the schools. The best I can say is that I’m trying to stay positive.

I have recently been given an assignment from the country headquarters to make a full video about what volunteers who teach English actually do in Armenia as volunteers. They are hoping to use this in volunteer training, as well as PR tool. Often times when the Peace Corps calls up new schools and new towns to ask them if they are willing to host a volunteer, they school directors have no way to understand what exactly a volunteer is, or what said volunteer will do within their school. So, hopefully this video will help. I’m pretty stoked about putting it together. I get to travel around the country (although on my own buck) to gather field footage of volunteers at work in the classroom, which means I’ll get to see a variety of different work environments as well as some of the countryside. I also have the freedom of completely designing and editing the format of the video itself. It’s a project with almost complete self-direction, which is definitely my style.

A month ago, or so, I started private English tutoring lessons with my little brother. We study for about one hour every day of the week. He is fairly enthusiastic about learning English, with the exception of a few days here and there where he just wants to go play games and not study. But hey, he’s eight, so I’ll cut him some slack. If nothing else, he is learning a good work ethic, as I facilitate a class that meets every day, and that requires him to push himself to remember to study every day. (Please don’t think I’m cracking a big nasty bull whip here, by study, I mean practice counting on his own maybe once a day.) The concept of continual learning is something that is absent within the culture here. At best, a subject in school is only taught twice a week for a 45-minute session each time. And then, each session is disconnected from previous sessions, no building upon concepts, review of previous material, etc. The result is incredibly disjointed learning that is nearly impossible to wrap a head around. The other day he told me that he likes having to remember things from day to day, rather than waiting until the end of the week to remember things. So that’s a success. Even more enthusiastic about these English lessons is his father. Every day he calls home to ask if Edik did well in his English lesson for the day. It makes me happy to see familial involvement in the learning process. But then again, I do have quite a bit of respect for this family.

In other news, I’ve recently solidified plans to come home for the first two weeks of June. I’m getting pretty excited about the trip, even though it’s still several months away. Sadly, despite having maintained radio silence on my blog for so long, this is all I have to say for now. Live it, son.