The Weather and Other Topical Things

The first day of Fall was September 23rd I think. However, that doesn’t mean much in Armenia as the calendar could easily consist of just 2 seasons: Cold Inside and Not Cold Inside. Please see the graph below (presented to the A-19s during a session on Vardenis):

Pie Chart. Pumpkin Pie. Soon.

Cold Inside started last week. I am now typing this through fingerless gloves while wearing a hat and the hood of my sweatshirt. I look like a homeless rapper from the future with bad style.

Last year when Cold Inside started it was kind of neat. It meant that time was passing. It was the first thing that made it feel as if time was passing since I arrived. There was also a curiosity factor. How cold will it be? How much snow? How long will it last?

Now I know the answers to those questions already: Cold, a lot (but not a ton), and forever. Actually 8 months. But that is 67% of the year, so it might as well be forever when it’s early October. Knowing these answers makes the change of seasons come with a bit more dread this year. I am still pumped and quite capable of conquering another winter in Armenia, but I’m also glad it will be my last. This year should be a lot better since I will soon have a gas heater in my apartment. No more seeing my breath in here business.

With Cold Inside comes other things that are nice. Snow on the mountains happens. It happened a few days ago for the first time and elicited the same gasp from me that it did last year. Something about it is so striking and beautiful. The nearby mountains will probably go through a few melt cycles before the snow settles in for good. But the distant peaks are already drenched in white and will stay that way until May or June.

Snow in Vardenis: The Cute Puppy Stage

Besides the change in weather, things are plugging along like usual. I go to the Y everyday and get an amount of work done that is proportional to the mixture of my motivation, ability to self-start, outside distractions, and special sauce. My language learning has dipped off a bit as I am not going to lessons as often now that my teacher has 2 more PCVs. That’s okay with me as I know my own motivation has waned a bit and studying at home happens almost never now.

Still, I have had fun learning some barbar (dialect) from people at work. I let it slip a few weeks ago that I know some, which they found very entertaining. You see, each area of Armenia has its own dialect. The dialects vary in proximity to “clean” Armenian that is spoken in Yerevan. Without knowing what it’s like in the rest of the outer regions, I feel safe venturing a guess that Vardenis is on the extreme edge of that range. The dialects are something that make the regions unique and individual. Armenians can distinguish where someone is from fairly quickly based on how they speak (similar to us with US accents but remember Armenia is the size of Maryland and has more diversity in a dialect’s vocabulary and less in actual intonation/pronunciation). Actually, I pulled this off successfully for the first time recently in a marshrutka when I heard a guy use some Gyumri barbar. Anyway, the uniqueness of the dialect combined with almost no foreigners speaking their language makes it pretty funny for Armenians to hear me say something in their local dialect. Today the girls in my English club asked me to make up a dialogue in barbar. I obliged and they were nearly on the floor laughing. But the interesting thing for me was after I finished one said, “You say it so sweetly. To have a true Vardenis dialect you need to say it rudely.”* Yes, they use rude to describe languages. French is a “rude” language to them. I think it means rough.

*Unfortunately, this was said in Armenian and not English (English club fail). Fortunately, I understood her (language learning/cultural integration win). A small taste of the confusing-sense-of-self-worth sandwich that is Peace Corps.

In a couple days I will have a CouchSurfer at my place. I’ve only hosted one, but it was an interesting experience. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s worth a read. Basically it’s a service that lets people connect online and find free places to stay while traveling. It’s completely free and works on a referral system. I know the guy coming is not going to kill me because he’s gotten really good feedback from everyone he’s stayed with.

I am also starting to think a lot about my trip to America in November. While it will be a much appreciated reprieve, I think it will also be a whirlwind. I’m starting to make a list of things I need to get done to be prepared for that. The implications of going home for a while aren’t really hitting me yet, but of course it will and you’ll likely read about it here in another post.

Overall, I’m in a good spot in my service right now. I’ve got some cool stuff to look forward to as far as vacations go. And there’s the big New Year around the corner too. I am enjoying myself for the most part. The urge to get something substantial done is lighting a fire under my butt a bit, but the pace of life and lackadaisical attitude here are a squirt bottle to my flame. The fear and temptation of thinking about life after Peace Corps is enough to confuse me. The fact is, over 16 months in and I still can’t say I have a passion I wish to pursue. But maybe the other fact is that that’s okay. I know I’m in the middle of a passion and need to enjoy it as much as I can. That’s enough for now.

On that ending note, please go check out Mr. Money Moustache. He wrote a great article on Stoicism today. But his blog is all about personal finance and making smart choices in your life. I guarantee you’ll learn something useful. It’s my favorite site on the web.

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