I am now 2 weeks in country. It sure feels like a lot longer than that.
Things have been good, but I am definitely missing home too. The idea that my job, my apartment, and a lot of my belongings that make up the idea of “home” are all gone is a little troubling. I don’t even want to think about not seeing my family and friends for the 2 years. At times it’s a little much to think about. But at the same time, I am now living what was once a dream. The next 2 years may not be filled with the comforts and conveniences of home, but they will be filled with all sorts of experiences and challenges I would never have otherwise.
I think part of what I’m going through is the growing up factor. There is always a part of me that just wants to be a kid living with my mom and dad. Every time I get farther away from that it is a little weird. Case in point: the Ben Folds lyric I’m currently listening to, “everybody knows it hurts to grow up.”
Enough of that for now. Let me share what the daily life has been like here. I wake up at 7:45 and sneak into the bathroom to wash my face/use the facilities. Then I sneak back into my room (the family sleeps with the doors open) to get dressed. I actually dress up every day here. I have school at 9. My host mom makes breakfast sometime in between there. Breakfast is lavash (thin bread like a tortilla but chewier), panir (salty cheese), jam, butter, eggs (usually hard boiled, sometimes scrambled, and today sunny side up), and milk (which is served at magma temperatures with cocoa). Lately the breakfast has been ready at like 8:35, so it makes for a hurried walk to school.
The walk to school starts on a craggy road between village houses. The way is littered with animal poo, which I am used to after living in downtown STL between the horse and dog shit. But here the volume of poo is higher. After winding through a good quarter mile or so, the walk goes uphill the rest of the way. A bit after halfway to school I merge onto the main road of the village. This road is much nicer as it is smoothly paved. But it also has traffic, so I maintain my vigilance, again, as if I were in St. Louis with the crappy drivers. Then I get to school (dprots) and meet up with the other volunteers outside while catching my breath. We then march into the school through a sea of Armenian children who sometimes say Barev dzez (hello), sometimes say “hallo!” and sometimes just laugh.
I have language from 9 until 1:30 most days. There are a couple 15 minute breaks in there. The school day actually goes faster than I thought it would. Some days I am on top of my game and feel good about what we are learning. But there are also days where I struggle to keep up and the whole thing seems overwhelming. I try not to think about how much we don’t know. For 2 weeks I guess we have learned a lot and are doing pretty well.
After language I go home for lunch. Lunch is usually soup with potatoes and random vegetables in an oily broth, lavash, tomatoes, cucumbers, and panir. Some days we have technical training in the afternoon in a different village, Alapars. On those days I have to go back to our school to get picked up with the other business volunteers in a taxi. When I don’t have tech training, I usually study in the afternoon. One day in the afternoon we went into Charentsavan (the larger city that is central to the 7 villages where all the trainees are dispersed) for a free cello/violin concert.
In the evening I am again studying in the family room while the family watches TV or hanging out with them in some form. There is a huge communication gap so I am usually reading. Right now I can tell them I am going to school or that I like potatoes, but real conversation is a distant idea. Sometimes there is dinner at like 5, or sometimes it is at 9. Dinner is usually lavash, tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, maybe some form of meat, and panir. There is a theme going here if you haven’t noticed.
Most nights I go to bed between 10-11. I am exhausted after each day. I think not understanding the language and being in someone else’s house are hidden stressors that just wear me out.
This past week was pretty good. I was over my stomach ailment, which several other volunteers were dealing with this week. A couple of interesting things happened. First, I tried to mail a letter at the village post office. I went into the wrong building and ended up meeting the mayor of my town. It was surreal because I was sitting in this office, listening to this burly Armenian man tell me that they are great friends with America (through a random translator girl that happened to be there too). I just wanted to mail a letter. I handed him the letter and he would not let me pay for postage. At this point I thought he WAS the post office, but I later learned I just went into the wrong building. So then I felt bad about that later. But it ended up being a good thing to meet him because we needed to meet with him anyway for our community project. The next day we all went in with our language teachers and had a good meeting. And now I know where the post office is too…
Also, last night I had my first “out there” food experience to date. So far everything has been pretty familiar. Potatoes, cheese, bread, vegetables, stuff that most people can handle. Even the scalding whole milk and homemade yogurt weren’t bad. But last night my mom brought out a plate that had a chicken leg (not a wing, a leg) with the talon intact, a skinny long dark thing (the neck I think), and a couple other unidentified hunks of meat. She told me they were delicious. I ate my meal nervously while eyeing the plate with the feet and innards. At the end of the meal no one had touched the plate. Then my mom insisted I try some of it. So I got half of what was maybe the gizzard. It was very smooth meat and very dry. Not very good. Then she insisted I try the neck thingy. I picked at it and ate some of the meat off the bone. Again, kinda dry and not that good. But I ate it and everything was okay. I was extremely relieved to not have to try the leg. It was definitely the least appetizing thing on the plate. I’m sure that won’t be my last exotic food experience here.


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