6/6/10 4:51 PM – I did not get to finish my last entry but for now I must forge ahead to capture the new activity. A few large things have transpired, perhaps larger than any other change ever in my life, which are obviously worthy of jotting down before I lose them to the sands of time…(okay so I may never forget these moments, blog or not).

After the hike up to the abandoned church. Solak is in the background. One of the best views I've had so far in Armenia.

The Situation/Happenings
On Tuesday we packed up and headed out of the hotel. We met our host families at a ceremony and then headed out to our villages. My village is Solak. I met my host mom, who looked just as nervous as I did. It was lack of communication at first sight. I told her the few words I could remember in my flustered state. These words were impressive things, like “head” and “stomach.”
I thought just the mom was there, but then she showed me her son, who was standing back. He is 15. There was another man wandering around that turned out to be my dad, but I am still confused as to what his real name is. And where he goes all day. And tons of other stuff!
So it all became very real when I was crammed into the family’s 4 seat mini SUV thing with all my luggage, water system, and the family, cruising down the road while not understanding a word anyone was saying. I didn’t know where I was going, who these people were, or how to say anything to them. It was the most dependent I’ve felt in a long time.
Their house is very nice and has quite a few rooms. They have hot water and electricity, which are things not all people have in Armenia. They also have a toilet, which is probably just temporarily spoiling me but has been a life saver (further down you’ll learn more than you want to know). My room was bigger than I had thought it would be (much bigger than my room in my apartment). Oh yeah, there is another son who is 18, but he attends university so he is not home as much as the younger bro.
I have been trying to spend as much time out in the dining room with them as possible. Since I am introverted and love alone time, that has been a max effort activity. Today is the first time I’ve used my laptop here actually.
The next day we had language study at the school from 9-1:30. I got a ride to school from my uncle (I think that’s who he is). Then when I came out of school, my neighbor (13 year old boy) was there to greet me. He is an adorable kid. He walked me home. I had to get another walk to school and back before I understood the way there by myself. It was quite a low feeling to be relying on these people to walk me to school like I was a 5 year old. Of course, I needed every ounce of it, but it really puts you in your place. It was a liberating feeling to at least understand my way home, and to also make my first walk in the village alone amid curious townspeople. I will remember that as one of the first milestones in feeling more comfortable in this mysterious place.
There are 7 other volunteers in my village. There are 58 volunteers sprinkled in villages around a 40,000 city, Charentsavan. So every day except Sunday we have language training at the school with our PC teachers (who are great). Six times in the 10 week training we all go to Charentsavan for “central days” to do more training and orientation sessions. Additionally, around 2 times a week in the afternoon we go to a different village for our technical training, which for me is business-related. So we are kept busy (there is also a lot of language covered everyday that has to be absorbed plus exploring, family time, etc).
The first day the pothole was culture shock. This village is not Smalltown, IL. There are chickens, cows, and sometimes herds of sheep in the street hanging out. Then a soviet-era truck barrels by. The rules of the road seem to be a loose-collection of ideas. For instance, on my first day of school the uncle saw someone he wanted to talk to waiting on the main road. So he just put it in reverse and went to go chat. This, in context, was perfectly fine because there weren’t any other cars around. It’s not right or wrong but it is fascinating and overwhelming all at once. Other stuff too, like the environment, is totally different (mountainous, dry, dusty). I also didn’t like the bed much the first night. The middle bows way down and I just barely fit in the frame. But I have already gotten more used to it.
Second day pothole: diarrhea.
Yes, I am sharing that with you because I shared it with so many people here that it just doesn’t feel wrong to share it anymore. To get way too graphic (please skip if you don’t enjoy reading about diarrhea, but most people I know DO), I had episodes beginning on Sunday at the hotel. Saturday afternoon I ran. Sunday morning I ran. Sunday afternoon I did not feel so hot. I’m pretty sure I overdid it before adjusting to the altitude. I got the chills and had to take the first of many dumps. I took a nap, felt woozy that night, and kind of slept it off. The dumps continued but intensified on Wednesday after indulging in my host mom’s good cooking for several meals.
Wednesday was the real test. You know when your bowels begin to scream and you feel the hotness? I had to hold it back a million times on Wednesday. A few times I feared I had gone septic. To make matters worse, the family bathroom is adjoined to the kitchen, which doesn’t make it easy to have a nice loud dump solo when you need to. Thursday I called medical and they said to start taking the faux Pepto Bismol in our kits. At this point my stomach was in knots as well. I sounded like a Culligan water cooler. So I basically had 2 days of water with no food, with my first meal coming on Saturday afternoon. I think my family was confused that I wasn’t eating, but hopefully they understood and I didn’t offend them.
Those few days were a little rough because you’re thrown into this completely new environment, you haven’t gotten a chance to read everything, you don’t speak the language, a month ago you were working in corporate America and now you’re in Armenia, and oh yeah, you have diarrhea for 4 days. Luckily, I am feeling better and am hoping to have a nice solid one here sometime in June!
The best part is that I was able to get a couple meals down before the planned Sunday morning hike up to an abandoned church. If I couldn’t eat I wasn’t going to go, because I would have been too weak. We hiked up for about 2 hours, which was hard work considering the lack of calories and not being fully acclimated. The journey was so worth it and I’m glad I was able to bond with my new friends.
I feel like I’ve turned a corner even though I’ve only been here a few days. The first and second days I was doubting being here and thinking about everything I gave up. I was a bit homesick. I think it’s safe to say I am still homesick and will be throughout my time here, but now it feels much more manageable because I feel more comfortable here already. It’s amazing how quickly humans can adapt to make a strange place comfortable enough to be able to survive.
Stuff I’m missing right now:
My family, food (my pasta lifestyle, cold hormone milk, cereal, apple juice, cold water), comfortable furniture, my friends, Decatur and St. Louis, and watching the Cardinals!
Now I have to practice my juggling since I will be teaching fellow trainees how to juggle in a little presentation on Wednesday!


One Response to “”

  1. Kelsey Says:

    It’s times like these when you even miss Decatur!! Glad to have the blog up and working–now I can Internet stalk your life 🙂 love you!

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