7/3/10 10:43 PM
Today was our prep day for the 4th of July celebration we’re putting on for the village. We didn’t have school today so it really felt like a Sunday.
A group of us went to Hrazdan this morning to gather supplies. The Peace Corps gave us money to spend for the celebration. It was nice shopping for once on someone else’s money! We tried to cater our menu to the American classics you would expect, but some things just aren’t sold here. For instance, yellow mustard is impossible to find. So are hot dog buns or hamburger buns. For meat we got some hot dogs and ground beef, but most of the meet is chicken which will be barbecued Armenian style (khorovats). We got chips, candy, watermelon, cheese, bread, pickles, ketchup, mayo, soda, and more. After that trip (which we successfully talked the local cabbie down from 3000 to 2000 dram for the ride back…small victory) I assisted a couple other volunteers in making the Griesedieck cafeteria size potato salad. Another volunteer was then going to make a massive cake with her host family, so hopefully that went well. I am quite excited about tomorrow. Hopefully the community tries some of the food. The rumor from years past is that the villagers don’t like to try new food. Even if they don’t, more burgers for the rest of us. At this point, I think I could eat 3 burgers plus everything else.

Nestle For Men - Found during our Hrazdan shopping excursion. We gave some to the girls and so far, no testicles.

It was a big week besides the 4th planning. We had a mini language exam on Tuesday, which went fairly well. I messed up a lot but they said I did well. I am in a good place with the language but I have a LONG way to go. I will need all of the 2 years to become somewhat good at this language.
Wednesday was our central day, which was big for 2 reasons. First, we presented our community projects. Our group didn’t identify a speaker ahead of time, so we were faced with one of those moments where you look around and realize no one wants to do it. So I did it and it went really well! More importantly, we learned our site placements for the next 2 years. My site will be…..
Name recognition: 0
Potatoes: Infinite
It is a town of 15,000. I will be working at the YMCA. Seriously. It sounds like a great fit actually. They need help with financing, IT, business writing, software skills, PR, fundraising, and more. I am excited and nervous to get started in a month. I also got some info on my host family. Like my current family, the kids are older. There will be a tatik (grandma) in my house this time too. The other difference is that my next mom works outside the home. That will be an interesting dynamic to observe, to see if she still has to do all the housework or if the husband pitches in a little bit.
My village is near Lake Sevan, which is an area known for cold winters and lots of potatoes. Potatoes will be my primary food source, especially during winter. Right now I eat potatoes almost every day, so I can only imagine eating them for every meal. Along with potatoes comes vodka too of course.
I did get a more isolated post. My city is near the Azeri border, and there really aren’t a lot of surrounding villages with volunteers nearby. There is a volunteer in my village at the moment but he’ll be leaving in August. Luckily I got to speak with him on Wednesday, and he was extremely helpful. So I will be slightly cut off from the rest of the volunteers, relatively speaking. Some other volunteers are in my situation, but lots of them are stationed in a city with another volunteer or close to several other volunteer villages. However, I think I am well equipped to deal with this challenge and thrive in my environment.
I will end with a quick anecdote. Last week at the community project there was one lady who was gung-ho. She was going to town with the shovel, then stopped for a photo-op with me (her idea). After the photo she planted a wet one on my cheek. Today I was walking down the street with 3 other volunteers and we ran into her again. She insisted we come into her backyard to see her rose garden. That spiraled into more photo-ops, sitting on a bed with football Astroturf comforter under a tree in her yard eating random berries from her trees (one type of which had a meat-like flavor), and her telling the group that I am a good boy while pinching my cheek. We left soon thereafter. It was one of those experiences you get here that is so totally random and ridiculous, yet since it is our daily life it almost seems normal.
Happy 4th of July everyone!


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