Sunday, March 21, 2010

Not the best customer service.

The other day I went to Yerevan, the capital, for a quick day trip. From my village there are hourly buses and from Yerevan there are hourly busses back to Artik. The last one from Yerevan to Artik leaves at 6:30 unless the bus driver decides he doesn’t want to go back which is what happened to me the other day. I was able to share a taxi back but the bus is much cheaper and I don’t know if it was because I was the foreigner or just too nice but I got to pay the most as the others only had enough to pay for the bus fare. Oh well, it wasn’t that much. On the way back to Artik the cab started jerking to the left or the right indiscriminately which is bad because we have some steep roads to climb and a sudden jerk the wrong way and we might be compost at the bottom of a gorge. So first we stopped to look under the car which didn’t work so the next time we stopped and kicked the tires, which also didn’t work, finally we put air in the tires, which also didn’t work but by this time it was dark and well too much trouble to worry about. So as we’re making this journey we’re listening to some different music which takes up the awkward silence unless the taxi drivers phone rings (which it did a lot) then the music gets turned off and he talks for as long as he wish’s and I think to myself “hey, I was listening to that”! This experience wasn’t the first in a long series of not so great customer service as far as the transportation service here in Armenia goes. For example, the driver of the bus always has to smoke at least three cigarettes and of course he’s in the front so we all breathe in his smoke. Passengers aren’t allowed to smoke on the moving buses but there’s a loophole. I said moving buses so when we are parked waiting for passengers anything goes. I also took a taxi once to a nearby town and right before we got to the town the driver stops without explaining and gets out and goes into a restaurant for about ten minutes. I’m still sitting in the back wondering what’s going on. After he emerges with a to-go bag I figure we must still have a ways to travel, but no ten minutes later we arrive. Same with bus drivers, on plenty of occasions the whole bus stops and we all wait while the driver runs some errand. But the mentality is different here I suppose. We’ll all get there eventually. I have had one good customer service experience involving transportation. Once I went by train to a village and didn’t get off in time. Frantically I tried to pry open the train doors but we had already started moving. This passenger called the conductor from a box in the back and he stopped the train. I got off and walked back so that was convenient. All the experiences are amusing and not completely irksome after all we’ll all get there sometime.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Every kids worst nightmare!

For many students in the United States this week is spring break, and it should be spring break at my school but because of a forced three week vacation back in December where the government tried to stop the spread of the Swine Flu the break was canceled. And not only was the break canceled but they also added one hour to the school day! It reminds me of April Fools a long time ago. The day fell on a Saturday and I had gone into my parent’s bedroom. They asked me why I wasn’t ready for school yet. I said it was Saturday I didn’t have school. They insisted that I do and I remember getting so upset that I cried. I was a little kid and the thought of more school was a truly freighting idea. Today I am working the other end of the school spectrum and when I got back after vacation to see that we had added an hour to everyday and that my spring break plans were made in earnest I was not to happy. I didn’t cry this time, but I was bummed and seeing on everybody’s Facebook that their adventures have begun just adds fuel to the fire. But perhaps this is a good lesson in the real world where there is no spring break much less a summer break.
On the other hand I am now teaching four lessons every week. Which doesn’t sound like a ton but it is all done in Armenian and involves games, which are not so easy to explain here. I’m also completing my first grant proposal for the school so hopefully soon we will have some new playground equipment. We’ve also entered that weird seasonal warp where one day its sunny and warm while the next it is snowing and feels like the depths of winter. Our two-day snow storm is melting now, but clouds are on the horizon so who knows how long the sun will last.