Mi Tari Arten (One Year Already)

The past few days have been rather busy, but in the quiet moments my one year Armenia anniversary has surfaced in my gray matter. It’s surreal that it’s even here now. I’ll get that out of the way in the opening paragraph.

What does it mean? How can I comprehend living in a developing country for 1 year? How can I process that my Peace Corps journey is almost halfway over? Where was I last year? Where will I be next year? Has this been the Xest year of my life (insert your own adjective – crazy, weird, fast, fulfilling, confusing, rich, slow, painful, great)? Has it really been a year since I’ve seen any of my friends or family in person? And who am I now?

In the Peace Corps bubble, it’s like I’m jumping from Freshman year to Junior year. I’m an upperclassman now. It’s time to help the noobies out, to be a role model, and to give back to the program. 1 year is often a time of crisis for volunteers, a low point in service. While my last post might argue otherwise, I am generally happy and don’t feel like I’m in a trough at all. It’s also the point when many volunteers realize, “Okay, I only have 1 year left to do all the things I want to get done.” I am experiencing that one.

There’s still the restaurant menus in town to translate with my English club. I need to finish the Google map. There’s more topics I need to teach the staff about. The Y’s website is not done. Our web presence isn’t where it should be. The 5 year strategy is still just an idea. And of course, the camp building doesn’t have solar panels yet.

That’s the work side of it. And no matter how much or how little I do here, I think there will be a feeling at the end that I could have done more. But there are other reasons I’m here too, besides doing something to help them out. I want to develop myself!

My Armenian can always be better. I haven’t read nearly enough books. I never taught myself Excel macros, and I don’t really see that happening now. I should make more time for art. Physical fitness only recently crept back into my life (albeit with a vengeance). There are new foods yet to try. New recipes to cook. A plethora of places in Armenia that I still haven’t explored. What about all these computer games I wanted to play? I still can’t juggle 4 balls. Really, where did 1 year just go?

So there’s a lot I want to do in this next year. I think it will go even faster than this one. But let me take a moment and remember a few things about this year. I’m sure I’ll never experience one quite like it again.

The Low Points
My worst time was probably my 2nd week in the country. I was incredibly homesick. I was going through all the separation pains – from family, from friends, from food, from comfort. The prospect of 2 years was not sounding good. I was also quite sick physically. I was in a new group of people that I didn’t really like. Luckily things got better from there.

Thinnest picture of me (July). The weird thing was this was with the family that kept me stuffed. I've since bounced back.

I had another bad spell in August when I moved to Vardenis. It was lonely and desolate. I didn’t know what to do with myself. It was such a nebulous assignment. My new friends weren’t here. And Vardenis was a sad place for me then.

In late September I had another low. Going to a counterpart conference with a guy who wasn’t my counterpart, being extremely frustrated with communication problems, and fighting Giardia all put me in the doldrums again.

Expressing some love for the host fam (September).

Finally, part of December and January was a low point. I felt destined to live in my host family for the foreseeable future. It was so cold in my room I just wanted to sleep. My patience with living in the Armenian family had run out.

Greasiest and hairiest picture of service (January). Good thing you can't smell pictures.

The common thread in all these situations is that you are thrown a lifeline when you need it. I was able to escape all these lows and come out stronger for it. I can stand here today and be proud of the fact that I survived for 1 year. Most of us can say that, but not all. There were times when 1 year of service seemed so far away.

The High Points
It’s harder to remember the high points because I think I generally was on a high most of my time here. I really enjoy being here and cherish the time. That’s a sign that I’m happy. I had the same feeling throughout college. But here are a few I can think of.

Finishing PST was a great feeling. Our practicum was a bit grueling. And of course PST was in general. To make it through the language lessons, the culture sessions, the diarrhea, the general state of confusion and doubt, the boring admin sessions, the bitchiness of homesick PCTs, and all the other tribulations was a great feeling.

The camps we had at the YMCA were high points. The one in August was a bit stressful because I didn’t really know what to do, but I look back on it very fondly. Same for the one in October, although that was more of a workshop. It is really a bonding experience with the people you are there with. I will never forget these camps.

Nor Tari was a high amidst a low. This was during early January when I wanted to scream at my host family. But Nor Tari was a great fun distraction and something that was dripping with cultural richness.

The Spring was a high point for me too because I am at home here now, had great times with Aga in Georgia and Poland, and feel like I’m doing good work. It also feels like I am really at home amongst the PCVs. I have made some good friendships that will probably last a lifetime.

Dressed to kill in the new apartment (February).

It’s funny that there are these high points and low points in our life, but our lives are really just all the average days in between. On any average day, I might go through several completely different attitudes about my service. Today started off great, then there was a 2 hour span where I felt like I could go back to the US, and here I am capping it off back on the great side. Just another day.

In one year I have accomplished a lot and a little all at once. I think it’s clear to me now that my biggest accomplishment was probably just surviving and making a home in a strange land. That will probably become clearer as time passes too.

So, here’s to one year in the back pocket. It will be pretty handy to have it there, to be able to pull it out at a moment’s notice, and use it to have an incredible 2nd year. It was a great year that I’ll never forget. I just thank Kevin of 1 year ago for being just crazy enough to actually get on that plane.


2 Responses to “Mi Tari Arten (One Year Already)”

  1. Peter Says:

    There are a million things I’d like to say to you right now – but #1 is good job, I’m proud to call you a friend.

  2. icenugget Says:

    Thanks Peter. Thanks for all your support along the way.

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