Wednesday, July 29, 2009
It’s been a while since I’ve been able to write, but let me assure you that I’ve been very busy. Our three months of training are winding down and in just little over two weeks I will be sworn in along with my fellow trainees. Last week and for the next two weeks we are doing practica which means that we are actually teaching different health topics to students of various age groups in as much Armenian as we can and for the words we don’t know we have an interpreter. It has gone pretty well so far but it is tiring. And on Sunday we are hosting a health fair where I and the other six volunteers that live in Solak are sharing some helpful medical advice and practical broachers for the community to use as a resource.
Summer too or at least summer heat has finally begun and along with it has come hotter weather and a lack of water. Last week we did not have hardly any water to use for such luxuries as bathing and cloths washing. I happen to live on the top of a hill which makes it even worse because like I’ve said before the water we do get comes from city pipes not an actual faucet in the kitchen or bathroom. So as more people use it below the hill the water pressure decreases and less makes it to the top. Then the priority isn’t for ones own needs but instead for watering the gardens which every Armenian has and they grow delicious fruits and vegetables such as apricots, cherries, tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic, potatoes, and apples which would rival any grocery store produce section. But once the garden has been suitably flooded then we can start gathering water for personal needs. Which I did and I’m now glad to say all my laundry has been cleaned although I did where my suit slacks and church shoes with no socks the other day much to the chagrin of my teacher. Its also worth recounting one event I witnessed. Because water is in such short supply people sort of go to extremes when it does come. And the pipes are all exposed above the ground so as I was walking to school I noticed this man cutting a pipe in half and diverting the water to his own yard. Of course that means it didn’t make it to the neighbors houses and the next day I happened to be present when the neighbors figured out why they didn’t have water and needless to say they were not happy! Along with the hot weather also comes long days of constant rain, for instance the other night we took the train from a nearby town to our village once the train arrived the rain began to pour and we were all soaked. But it continued to rain for the entire night and then the next night it did the same. Also, that second night I had a “sleep over” at my friend Danny’s house something we both found funny since the last time I had a sleep over I think I was in middle school.
The next two weeks will be busy with teaching, test taking and saying goodbye to not only my fellow trainees who will be dispersed throughout the country but also to our families who we have all grown rather close to over the past two months. For now this is all I can think of to say but stay tuned for more exciting tales.
(The picture is of my former host family)
Friday, July 10, 2009
Before you read this post read the one below because I meant to post it last week I just never got the chance.
Today we spent the day in Yerevan meeting with two NGO’s and discussing ways that we as CHE trainees (Community Health Education) can better impact our communities. The first NGO was the Armenian Eye Care Project which brings ophthalmologists and a moving eye surgery truck all around the country providing life changing and sight saving surgeries. Our meeting was rapped up with a promotional video for the project which was a real tear jerker as these people shared their life changing stories. Our other NGO visit took us to Project NOVA which helps disseminate knowledge on safe pregnancy practices and helpful ways to bring a healthy baby to full term. We also got to visit the Peace Corps office in Yerevan. Other things happening this past week, of course it was the Forth of July on Saturday and as an annual tradition Peace Corps Armenia Trainee’s host a village celebration. As I said in an earlier post I got to be in charge, and my village mates, all seven of us did what I think was a pretty phenomenal job. One of our goals was to keep it strictly American style so we had a buffet style meal of cheeseburgers, hot dogs, macaroni and cheese, deviled eggs (I made them), potato salad, and chocolate chip cookies. It was all tasty especially considering they don’t sell the usual ingredients for many of these things. We also played games in the American style like a water balloon toss which we as trainees did with our host mothers, I accidentally popped a water balloon on my host mother, and kick ball which the kids did not get at all! Then yesterday we climbed the mountain behind our village to visit the old 11th century church. We had three native guides ( they were our age or younger and instead of water they brought beer) they led us up the mountainside which at times was a shear cliff side that we miraculously managed to scale, then finally we made it to the top. We got to light some candles in the old church and say a prayer before having a short sermon led by one of the other trainees. Then we were invited to eat some barbeque with these men already at the top, the barbeque was delicious and afterwards we found the actual trail and had a very leisurely stroll back to the village. Our journey ended with us getting soaked by the rain, but we had a great time regardless. On Thursday I’m going to visit my permanent site in Artik I’ll be back on Sunday with a good idea of what to expect for the next two years. Stay tuned for more news!
As I write this I’m waiting for my bath water to heat up. As you’ll remember from last weeks post, I only get one bath a week and I have been waiting for the day when the next would come. I don’t think I’ve ever felt this disgusting, but I’m pretty sure the feeling is well founded. Anyways, this past weekend was really intense. First off, in Armenia every young man after graduating from high school must serve a mandatory two years in the army. This of course means that in two years after that service begins a big welcome home party is mandatory. Well, my host brother got home late Thursday evening from his two year stint in the service and every day since then there have been people over toasting, eating and otherwise disturbing everyday activities. Yesterday (Monday) in fact I was coming home and was prepared to take my much anticipated bath. Also yesterday was really hot so I had rolled up my pants (btw its really funny to watch peoples reactions to a young man walking in pants slightly rolled up, its mostly a reaction of sheer terror) and I had on my sunglasses with croaky (Armenians don’t wear sunglasses and certainly not croakies) and I rounded the corner to the kitchen expecting only my host mother so I had my mouth open ready to speak, but because it wasn’t just my host mother, instead it was a table full of people, I guess I was sort of startled so I threw up my hands and let out a kind of yell. Oops! It was an unintentional reaction but I think the sentiments were felt by my host mother (Armenian guests often just show up, invitations aren’t necessary). So Saturday was fun too, we went to the Vatican City of Armenia called Echmiadzeen (pronounce that right and your ready to join the Peace Corps). We were led on a tour by an Armenian Apostolic Orthodox Priest who is serving one year in Armenia before returning to his parish in Rhode Island. The church was beautiful and the museum fascinating but the weather was very hot. After that I returned to my village and at home my family was throwing the official welcome home Joran party. So my six Peace Corps friends and about fifty of the host families friends gathered for a feast, multiple toasts, and dancing that reached into the wee hours of the morning. I guess all the days activities led us to a want to go to church the next day, so we went to what I thought would be a one hour church service, it was interesting to be a part of but it lasted for much more than an hour, and not knowing the language real well only made it seem longer. I think the priest was glad we were there until he asked if we were Christians and Danny thinking he asked if we wanted to kiss the cross in his hand said no. That didn’t go over so well but we just remind ourselves that it’s a simple misunderstanding. And my final piece of news: I got my permanent sight assignment and for the next two years I will be living in the town of Artik in the marz (state) next to Turkey about 30 minutes from Gumri (Armenia’s second largest city). At first I was disappointed because I’ll be in a village with no other PCV’s and it’s far from my new friends, but I believe that it is the absolute best fit for me. I’ll be working in a school that teaches mentally, physically, and learning disabled kids. It also serves as a boarding school for kids with no place to call home. I don’t have much experience working with the disabled, but I think it will be the opportunity to make a real impact in the lives of a number of children, so I’m excited. I’ll get to visit my sight next week and observe what I’ll be doing for the next two years. Well that’s all for now.