The Trip

Well, the fastest 2 weeks of my life are over.  I did so much, traveled so far, and ate everything.  I’m still having trouble processing the whole thing.  Maybe writing this will help me realize that it actually happened.

As I’ve done for past trips, I’ll give you the quick summary of what I did:

Nov 9:  Vardenis, Yerevan – Ran errands and went to airport

Nov 10:  Yerevan, Prague, Warsaw, Chicago, Decatur – How is that even possible?

Nov 11:  Decatur, St. Louis – Friends reunion

Nov 12:  St. Louis – Wedding

Nov 13:  St. Louis – St. Louis touristy stuff

Nov 14:  St. Louis, Decatur – School visit, AT&T visit, Family reunion

Nov 15:  Decatur – A day with the sister, ADM

Nov 16:  Decatur – Millikin

Nov 17:  Decatur – Grandparents, Illini game

Nov 18:  Decatur – Rest

Nov 19:  Decatur – 5K, Christmas parade

Nov 20:  Decatur – Fake Thanksgiving

Nov 21:  Decatur, Chicago – Peter, Pizza, Parents

Nov 22:  Chicago – Tour of the city

Nov 23:  Chicago – Get ready to leave

Nov 24:  Warsaw – This day barely existed due to time zone changes

Nov 25:  Warsaw, Prague – More airports

Nov 26:  Yerevan, Vardenis – Airports and marshrutkas

It was a lot of travel, especially at the end.  Trains, metros, buses, taxis, walking, planes, marshrutkas.  And in what seems like a slap in the face, at the end of the trip when you’re the most tired and in the worst mood, you have the least dignified form of transport (marshrutkas) with luggage.  That’s not fun.

So, the excuse to go home was Ross and Sarah’s wedding.  That happened at the very beginning and was a great way to see a large amount of people at once.  Their wedding was amazing of course.  I even prepared a little video for them that you can see here if you haven’t already.

But the real meat of the trip was just staying in Decatur to spend time with my parents and sister.  That part of the trip really flew by and 1 week felt like just a couple days.

Another focus of the trip was reconnecting with friends.  While most of my friends live in St. Louis, I had to get some time in with Peter as well.  That was a good excuse to spend some time in Chicago (which is always exciting for me).  Plus, I flew out of Chicago anyway, so it made sense to go there.

It seems to me that I planned the trip in the right way.  I spent time in 3 different places, got to see almost everyone, and never felt that I spent too much time in one place (okay, maybe that would be an impossible feeling to have on a 2 week trip after a 1.5 year absence).

“But how WAS it Kevin???”

Hmmm…it was wonderful.  After feeling like an alien, an outsider so many times in Armenia, it felt so nice to go back to a place where I belong.  Being a foreigner takes a toll on my soul, especially in a homogenous place like Armenia.  Even walking in the airports in Prague and Warsaw is a relief as at least I’m not drawing attention everywhere I go.

I was able to eat so much good food during the visit…a cascade of flavors that hadn’t met my taste buds in far too long.  There was seafood, Italian, Mexican, pumpkin pie, brownies, fountain Coke, pizza, cheeseburgers, cereal, cold milk, cookies, sandwiches, cupcakes, biscuits, Christmas breakfast, sloppy joes, a buffalo chicken sandwich, good beer, and so much more.  As I just wrote that, someone in my office walked by and asked why I am so sad right now.  She would be sad too if she couldn’t eat these wonderful things on a regular basis.

There was no culture shock to speak of.  That surprised me.  Maybe if you stay for longer than 2 weeks it sets in, but being back in America was like putting on an old pair of really comfortable shoes that you love.  It felt right.  There were a couple small things that surprised me, like the extremely casual English used by the waiters at the first restaurant I set foot in.  Or the ease with which I could do everything.  If I didn’t know something I could just ask and it was so easy since I knew all the words already.  But that wasn’t so surprising as it was just enjoyable.  There was a moment about 3 days in when I was at my hotel and realized how nice it was to blend in without getting stared at.

One thing that was very true, which I’ve heard from basically every returned PCV, is that the window for talking about your experience is either non-existent or about 2 or 3 minutes depending on the person.  I suppressed the urge to say, “In Armenia…” on multiple occasions because I know people just don’t really care or can’t relate.  There is so much I can spew about it at any given moment.  And the people you see back home have been doing their own things for 1.5 years, and of course they don’t spill their guts about that, so why should I expect different treatment?  And I probably wouldn’t want to hear them ramble on about some weird foreign country that I know nothing about.  Still there is a slight sadness there in knowing that the people you can really connect with on this issue, the other PCVs you serve with, will be sprinkled around the world after your service instead of at your side when you absolutely need to make a comparison to some trivial thing in Armenia.  However, despite all that I still laid down a whole lot of Uh HUH!s and other Armenianisms during my time home.  Those are things I’ll always do just for the fun of it, whether other people understand it or not.

Now I must be honest, there was one occasion where the opportunity to rant about Armenia presented itself:  I visited my Peace Corps World Wide Schools class in St. Louis.  It was a very cool experience.  I shared Armenian candy with them, pictures, and answered questions.  Seeing their optimism and fascination with a foreign culture was great for me.  I felt privileged to be able to visit my class, as I think most volunteers don’t get such a chance.

There was also an odd feeling that surfaced:  it felt almost as though I had never left.  Everyone was doing the same things and everything looked the same.  The passage of time was almost not evident at all.  The one thing that stood out was the aging of our dog Daisy, who definitely either forgot who I was or has just become a bit cold hearted in old age.  I could really feel a difference in her reaction to me.  But if we translate a 1.5 year human absence to dog years, you get a 10.5 year absence.  If I saw you after 10.5 years I would also probably be like, “What the hell, man?!”

I can say it didn’t feel like I spent enough time there.  America felt so good.  I didn’t want to leave.  Everything was so luxurious.  I had a new appreciation for the greatness of our country.  Our streets and cities are clean.  We have everything we could ever want and more.  We are open and friendly.  It is such a great place…I really can’t express myself here.

That’s basically my analysis of the trip home.  You might be thinking that I could have said more, and I definitely could have, but I’m going to just cut it off here.  I’ll write again soon on the transition back to Armenia.  Now, check out some pictures from the trip.  Also, special thanks to my parents for everything they did during the visit.

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Bratastic

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Just 4 studs, no big deal

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A small part of my trail of devastation...

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...which left me easy prey

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Obligatory Bean shot

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Puffy jacket attack!

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This pretty much sums up the whole trip

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2 Responses to “The Trip”

  1. Wayne Burt Says:

    You obviously enjoyed yourself. Your analysis of you not wanting to listen to other’s last 1/2 years of activities is a good to one to explain why many have limited interest in what you did. Your best audience will always be RPCV’s.

  2. icenugget Says:

    Wayne, have you found the same to be true for you? Vardenis misses you!

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