Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Millennium Challenge

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. On Christmas Eve I was sitting around the dinner table enjoying Christmas Eve dinner when I realized for the first time in my life I was not celebrating in my usual style. There was no Cheryl Rogers to sing to “O Holy Night” and no gifts around the Christmas tree, but it was still a nice holiday and I enjoyed myself. But in Armenia they don’t celebrate Christmas on the 25th they save all the celebrations for New Years Day. And the town has been bustling big time as people prepare their Noor Taree tables. The tradition is that you go around to friends and families homes and are offered typical Armenian foods such as Dolma, Hkash, and different fruits and stuff. They hype it up a lot around here so I’m pretty exciting, but it is crazy to believe that already it is 2010. We’re you can be in a year or what can happen in a year is a crazy thing. Last year I was in Florida and now I’m in Armenia. I’ve traveled thousands of miles and seen a lot of stuff in between all in just a year. But what’s even harder to fathom is that its 2010. I can still remember what I was doing ten years ago for New Years. I was at the Hargrove’s old house, I was in the seventh grade and I had never been out of the country. Now I’m a year out of college, I’ve been to seventeen countries and I’ll have my champagne wishes and caviar dreams in the form of a three-dollar bottle of champagne and no caviar but I wouldn’t be eating caviar if I was in the US anyways.
The New Year is also a great time to reflect on where we’ve been and where we’re going. I know a lot about where I’ve been. But where I’m going I don’t really know. Other then the actual place where I am now I can’t really say where I’m going, but that I think is what makes the New Year such an exciting thing. And this year for me perhaps more then any other before it is one that in 365 days I’ll be able to look back and think that was a successful year. At least that’s what I hope I’m doing a year from now. Only time will tell, but from me to you Happy New Year and all the best in the new decade!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Back to the Future.

I wasn’t alive in the 1950’s but I was an avid watcher of “Leave it to Beaver” before I left and other 1950 era television shows so I think I know a thing or two about what that era was like and if I was asked what Armenia is like in 2009 I would say its like America was in the 1950’s. For example in Armenia, if you’re fortunate enough to have a car then you only have one. The man is the bread winner and while many of the women do work they do so in the typical jobs held by women: teachers, nurses, operators and secretaries, and when the work day is over the misses prepare dinner for the family and clean the house. When you make a phone call you connect through the operator (my host mom is the town operator) to who your calling. And if you have a television then you probably have only one with just about seven to ten TV stations and on that certain night of the week everybody’s home to watch that particular show that everybody just loves. Now the shows are in color for the most part but life its self is still hovering in black and white. A lot of times people still focus their lives in a way that begs no question for what comes next: your born, if you’re a girl then as a little girl you start helping mom and grandma around the house while if you’re a boy you start helping dad and grandpa outside, after you graduate from school at the age of sixteen if you’re a girl you get married if you’re a boy you serve your two years in the army then get married. Then you have kids, your kids do the same as you did as a kid and you follow in your parents footsteps living in the house you grew up in (if you’re the oldest son) and take the expected as it comes. However, it would be unfair to lump this all into the experience of every person in this country. Not everybody lives out there life in such black and white frames. It would be hard to imagine hardly any woman in the United States submitting to a June Cleaver lifestyle in 2009. And similarly in this country times are changing and change here is coming from the inside out. Armenia is surrounded on two sides by formerly communist neighbors while to the East and South are more conservative Muslim societies (Iran because the government commands it and Turkey because the east is the more agrarian conservative portion of the country). All this means that there is no near by force bringing change but in the capital Yerevan there is the occasional radical hair do, new style or gay club to keep people looking towards the modern. The Diaspora also brings new ideas and change as it centers around the Los Angeles area (some popular questions I get are “are you from LA” “no” I say “I’m from Texas” “is that near LA” they say with a sigh of disappointment) and other major metropolitan areas of the world such as Paris and Beirut. So life isn’t quite as open as it is in the US but it is moving in that direction but it’ll be a while before Armenia moves to color.

It’s cold here. No surprise since its December. As I’m writing this there is snow falling outside my window and its getting pretty deep. I attempted walking today and nearly ate it a couple of times. School has been canceled for two weeks do to the growing “flu epidemic” as the vice principle put it. It’s getting close to Christmas but here it is celebrated more like a season then a day to look forward to. In fact the celebration doesn’t center on the day of Christmas (January 6 by the Armenian Apostolic calendar) but instead on the New Year when you go to all your friends houses for free food. I’m leaving in less then one month for India and Dubai on what is a much anticipated vacation. Hope all is well with you and Merry Christmas. Love, Me.

Saturday, December 5, 2009


It’s been a while since the last time I wrote and during that time quite a bit has happened. We had our annual all-vol conference in Yerevan and a workshop where we learned better methods for teaching our curriculums with the teacher assigned to teach that subject. We also got to celebrate Thanksgiving with actual turkeys (yes they have turkeys in Armenia, I was surprised too), and while I know its late happy Thanksgiving everybody and a merry Christmas. I haven’t seen many Christmas decorations but I did find an advent calendar “Bob der Baumeister” at a fancy liquor store. I think the store owner thought it was a fancy box of chocolates because I bought it in October and who knows how long it had been sitting on that shelf before I bought it.
During this holiday season and especially Thanksgiving I look upon what I am thankful for. So what am I thankful for? I’m thankful for new experiences for which this past year has been full of. Not quite a year ago I stood in the basketball stadium at my university ready to receive my diploma. Then a short time after that I was headed to Florida where I learned how to sail, got a good tan and had a lot of fun. Then I headed for Armenia. Looking out my window now I can see the incredible distance I’ve traveled in that year. Not just mile wise but societal, linguistically, familiar, historical, and so many other ways that separate me from East Texas, the Florida Keys, and the Caucuses. There are no palm trees here and while Tyler may be cold I doubt there is any snow sticking to the ground. I’m also thankful for my family not just my actual family but the community that bonds perfect strangers six months ago to be pretty surprisingly close now. And if it weren’t for that then this would all be a pretty difficult task. So I hope that in this holiday season everybody can look to the things that they are most thankful for.