All blogs start with the best of intentions; regular posts full of hopefully interesting bits to entertain the folks back home, an audience that comments and encourages. Then entries become fewer and reader numbers fall. Thanks to Google Analytics one can see exactly how many, or how few, people are still reading the entries that the writer works so hard on. Life goes on, with or without the writer’s world views.
All this to say, this is my first post in six weeks. A lot has happened that deserves to be chronicled for posterity if nothing else. There’s no great theme, just life as it happened.
First there was the Never Ending School Break. School broke for the holiday season on Dec. 28th, and was set to resume the first week of January, just after the weeklong Nor Tari (New Year) celebrations. Due to swine flu or, “hosi greep” sweeping the nation, school was canceled for an additional three weeks. All of January was a wash. PCVs were left to their own devices, looking for ways to spend their time while a blizzard covered the country in snow for most of the month, and beyond.
It’s challenging enough to be in a foreign country when you have a purpose. To be there without one is a recipe for depression and desperate measures. Of course HQ imagined we were all busily integrating into our communities, learning Hayeren, working on projects and teaching English to all comers. In truth, most of us were just trying to survive. Many, many movies were watched, facebook was scoured for hours, visits were made to other sites, and probably more than a few rules were broken (although I’m just speculating on that one, don’t worry).
Backing up a bit, the year started with those of us in the southernmost part of the country, 5 or more hours from the capital, trying to make it north for a training session set for the second week of January (good timing HQ). The plan was to leave a few days early, visit our host families in the villages outside Yerevan, then go on to the city for a day or two before the training. The best laid plans… We learned that “janapar paka” means “the road is closed (and you’re f***ed).” Blowing snow on the passes created whiteout conditions, and any snow that did get plowed quickly blew right back onto the road. The waiting game began.
It took two days before we could get out of Goris, then 6 hours to make it over snow and ice covered roads to the village. We arrived in Taperakan in the dark to a hero’s welcome, since our families had also been waiting two days for our arrival. Nor Tari is the biggest celebration of the year in Armenia, and consists of a week of eating, drinking and visiting. While my host mother in Goris cooked for days, a blizzard on New Year’s Eve meant that no one came for days. Instead of the much hyped festivities, it was just the sad little three of us at midnight.
In Taperakan I finally witnessed the spirit of Nor Tari, with the aforementioned days of eating, drinking and visiting. Cathy, Paul and I were the toast of the town as we visited each of our families. The hospitality of Armenians never fails to amaze me. They are proof that you don’t need a lot to be happy. To them, family is what makes one rich. I wish my Hayeren had improved enough to converse with them better, but we still managed to get our meanings across. They missed me and I missed them.
As all the PCVs convened at a hotel in Yerevan for five day of PST2 – Pre-Service Training 2, it was the first time many of us had seen each other since we parted at swearing in. There was a lot of catching up to do, comparing host families, schools, projects and adjustment to life in Armenia. There was commiseration and celebration, venting and cheering. This is an amazingly resilient group of people, one that continues to impress and inspire me.
School finally resumed on Feb. 1, just in time for us to work three days, then leave for another training conference. Everyone else is now going to school six days a week for the rest of the year. The students missed so much school that to make it up the Ministry of Education has decided they must go to school Monday through Saturday, and spring break is canceled. It is not happy times at avac debrots. They don’t have the option of extending into summer, as we do in the states, as seniors are taking college entrance exams at that time.
In two weeks I’ll have more news, as on March 1 I will finally be able to live independently. The house hunt is on. Stay tuned.