For the first time last week I saw a woman driving a car. So after four months I saw my first female driver in Armenia but for the second time I saw a boy under the age of twelve driving a car by himself, so as you can guess from the first two sentences and the title Armenia is a male dominated society. My host father who is a nice guy sits on the couch and calls his wife from the other room to bring him his cigarettes which are just out of reach or a cup of coffee etc. which she does every time so I like to stir things up a bit by cleaning off the table or doing my own laundry and this week I’m even going to cook dinner for the family all this so that at least I can remember that woman aren’t meant to be the only ones in the kitchen.
This morning I woke up to a thin layer of sleet and ice on the ground. I was not expecting this so at first I was excited but then I realized its only September and that means this is going to be a long winter! Then I put on my gloves and the rest of my work cloths and headed off to school. Now I was wearing normal brown gloves. They didn’t stand out or look garish they were just gloves, but for some reason everybody, EVERYBODY thought they were hilarious so I don’t know if people don’t wear gloves here or if September is too early to be wearing them, but better warm then cold, right?
This past weekend I visited other Peace Corps friends at Lake Sevan. It was a lot of fun and we were in a beautiful place right on the lakes edge which was surrounded with mountains and about one hundred yards away was one of Armenia’s more famous tourist sites which if you Google Armenia or Lake Sevan right now and click images I’ll bet on the first page you can see a picture of these two church’s over looking the lake below. We visited the churches and I even bought a painting and got a free water color thrown in, and we saw lots of tourists for the first time since we’ve been here. So I thought since there were so many other people from around the world to stare at that we wouldn’t get the stink eye quite as much, wrong! One guy drove around our campsite probably thirty times just gawking at us which would usually be creepy and inspire a person to call the police but in Armenia it is the ever-present and inevitable so we didn’t give it much attention. On the way back to my site I stopped in Yerevan for lunch and had excellent Indian food which was such a nice change to the potato’s and soup I’ve been eating. And the week before last I visited my friend Dave in Vanadzor which was fun but I missed the bus getting there so I had to take a taxi. The taxi wasn’t very expensive but still you’re the customer which means something right? Wrong. We stopped and bought gas which took about thirty minutes then the driver stopped and bought lunch about ten minutes from our final destination. And when we would go down a hill he would actually turn the car off and we would coast down the hill which isn’t poor customer service I just didn’t know you could do that. Then on the way back from Vanadzor I did catch the bus but there weren’t any seats so I had to stand up in a bus that looks like those yellow DHL busses so I couldn’t actually stand completely up. I made new friends though and was even dumb enough to give my phone number out to a stranger who wants to move to America so I guess the best way to get him there is if any single ladies reading this want to marry a hard working Armenian guy then help him with his paper work to get to the states he would really appreciate it. Well that’s all I hope everybody’s good. All you single ladies let me know if your in the market for a husband.
Thursday, September 10, 2009
Yesterday was my moms birthday so if you see her wish her happy birthday. I marked her birthday by sharing a cake with my host family. They all wished her sha-nor-havor (happy birthday) and I found a store that sells huge birthday candles that look like sparklers shooting about a foot high when they’ve been lit. I want to bring some back to the states but I’m pretty sure that security would not look kindly on flammable cylinders packed in my suitcase.
The first week of school has come and gone and I’m still alive which is somewhat of a feat considering my experience from the last post. Yesterday I was told I was being too nice which I can understand because it isn’t customary in the schools to talk to the kids outside of class and shake their hands which is basically the only communication I have with the kids for now. I go to school at eleven every morning but I don’t actually get to do anything until about 1:00. So from eleven to one I sit in the teachers lounge. Then I help the gym teacher who is 24 years old. All boys in Armenia have to do two years of compulsory army service so the gym class consists of the gym teacher teaching the students how to march which actually looks pretty cool. I’ll show you when I get home- just remind me. Then when they go outside they just stand around a pair of even bars and a pull-up bar. I was lucky enough to be pressured into showing off my strength yesterday when the gym teacher insisted that I do some pull-ups. It was definitely awkward because having everybody watch you do pull-ups makes you feel really self conscious, but I’m glad I can at least do a few because it would have been really embarrassing if I couldn’t. After gym class I help teach a short lesson on health. As my language skills remain limited my counter part does a lot of the talking which is frustrating because I want to play a bigger part in actually teaching, but patience will pay off. After our lesson we go outside and play what they call volleyball. We stand in a circle and set the ball to one another, but if you miss then you have to crouch in the middle of the circle and every now and then someone spikes the ball into the people crouched down in the circle. I don’t know what the point of that is and I’ve gotten smacked in the face three times with the ball because of it which isn’t very fun!
The other day I visited an old church with some other Peace Corps volunteers. We took a taxi to get there and on the way back the taxi couldn’t make it up the hill. We actually had to get out of the car and push it up the hill! The grade of the hill was not very steep at all but still the car couldn’t make it up, but we got a 100 dram discount! (That’s less then fifty cents). And this week marks the end of our travel curfew so I’m going to visit some other Peace Corps Volunteers which should be fun.
And why is this post called Armenian Gothic? Because two of my students, brother and sister, dress and look to me like the characters in the painting American Gothic. I wanted to take their picture and post it in my blog, but they were too shy. Oh well, just picture it in your mind.
I want to also thank Avis and Michelle for my letters. They were great to read and if anybody else wants to send me a letter I would be excited to get it! My parents can give you my address or if you leave a comment or send me an email I’ll send you my mailing address. They don’t actually deliver mail here so I was walking down the street when this guy grabbed my arm and said Mik-hi-ail? It scarred me but he explained that he was the mail man and I had three letters waiting for me at the post office which was really exciting and made my day. And it was cool that in this town of nearly 20,000 the post man knew who I was. I certainly didn’t know who he was, but I do now, so next time someone grabs my shoulder and turns me around instead of being startled I’ll be excited because that means I’ve got a letter. Well that’s all I’ve got. Thanks for reading and check back soon for my next post!
Sunday, September 6, 2009
Today I had my first interaction as a teacher when another teacher asked me to watch her class for a few minutes while she ran a quick errand. I was excited but as soon as the door shut and the teacher was gone I realized that teaching is not easy at all and kids are scary little people. As soon as that door was closed all hell broke loose and plus some, it was Kindergarten Cop, Sister Act II, Problem Child and any other film you’ve ever seen where the kids are horrible. The kids immediately started running in circles around the room. One kid started getting whaled on in the corner while one girl chased a boy around the room while spitting on him. Two other boys set on the second floor window seal teetering too close to the edge for my comfort. And my attempts at saying nestie (sit) and trying to facilitate a game all went unobserved. Of course as any teacher or substitute can probably tell you when a kid gets a chance they get thirsty or need to go to the bathroom or they have to take care of business some where else and kids in Armenia try the same thing. As soon as the teacher was gone half the class wanted to go to the bathroom while the other half wanted to get a drink of water of course I didn’t want the teacher to come back and find her classroom empty so I wouldn’t let them go which didn’t stop all the kids. Some left anyways. I tried to be strict but yelling and keeping a straight face just aren’t something that I do very well. One kid who is a real Hollywood portrayal of a bully told me he spoke English and was nice enough to share his vocabulary with me. I think he could say his birthday, shut up and shit which only made the situation more absurd. And the differences in Armenian and American teaching styles are also worlds apart. I only got relief when the teacher from next door came in and yelled at the kids until they were scared into submission and yesterday on the playground one of the teachers went about smacking the misbehaving kids on the back of the head and twisting their ears which looked painful to me but the kids only carried on like they had been. The kids were climbing trees shaking the apples out of them, getting into little fights with one another while the PE teacher talked with his friend (who is unaffiliated with the school) while his friend washed his car using the school's water. And in the building attached to the gym is kept a number of cows so the school yard is littered with cow patties. The way my school in Armenia and any school in America would operate is so completely different. Imagine the PE coach not doing anything but talking to his friend while the kids run around or try to just imagine that friend with no school affiliation trying to get into the prison that has become the American campus, it would never happen! But one thing to note these kids actually do give their teachers apples and I’ve definitely got a stock pile of them scattered throughout the school.