I am Armenia, and so can you!

This post will contain more than one entry that I saved on a flash drive.
June 4th
It is has been a while since my last post, mostly due to the fact that I have had little to no internet access since arriving in Armenia. The few moments I had were spent checking a few emails. As I write this post, I am sitting in my room at my host family’s house, and I will hopefully be able to save this to my flash drive and bring it to an internet café soon.

There is far too much that has occurred since I arrived in Washington, D.C. for staging, so I will have to choose some of the most pertinent and interesting information to include here. Staging (orientation) was fine, lasting for the better part of Wednesday afternoon (May 26th). Many of the volunteers went out for drinks later in the evening as we did not have to leave our hotel until noon the next day, but because I was the only volunteer under 21, I went to Chipotle for (what I thought would be) my last burrito in America.

Checking in at the airport was chaotic, to say the least. Fifty-eight people in one group getting on an international flight with 2 large bags and 2 carry-on items – perhaps a bit overwhelming for the people who worked for Austrian Air. Also, something went horribly wrong with the tickets (some about our tickets from Vienna to Yerevan being void), and it took forever. I thought about half of our group wasn’t going to make the flight, even though we had arrived a good 3 ½ hours early. But we all made, and I was able to have another burrito at a Chipotle next to our gate!

Vienna was pretty cool, though we were only walking around the city for a few hours. It felt similar to Switzerland, very clean, beautiful, and expensive. I didn’t sleep at all on the flight (nor the next one), so I was pretty exhausted. Our flight to Yerevan left around 10:30 and we arrived just before 5am.

We have been going nonstop since then. The first place we went was a hotel in a small village outside of Charentsevan. Orientation with the Peace Corps staff in Armenia lasted three days and we were loaded with information. It was a great time to get to know the other volunteers and catch up on sleep (I had slept maybe 3 hours in the 48 hours since we left D.C.). We were also able to speak and hang out with current volunteers who were helping with orientation, which was extremely helpful.

On Tuesday (June 1st), we moved to our host families’ houses in the villages surrounding Charentsevan. We are in groups of about eight or nine, placed in about six different villages. Everyone has their own host family with varying levels of amenities, and everyone in each village goes to language training everyday but Sunday (from 9am to 1:30pm). A volunteer lives literally a stone’s throw from my house because our families are related, so we can study together and not feel so isolated in our first days.

It’s a good twelve hour difference from California, so I am thoroughly jetlagged still. Even after eight hours of sleep, I feel as though I’ve slept five. Other than that, things are off to a good start here. I have a great host mom who feeds me quite well and a fifteen year-old brother who knows just enough English words for us to communicate the most basic things. Considering it’s only Friday and I really only started learning the language on Wednesday, I feel as though I’ve learned quite a bit already. I have most of the alphabet down (which you should google, because it is crazy), and can articulate a few basic ideas with some simple verb conjugation. After the ten weeks of training, I should have a decent grasp.

Well there is so much more I could write about, but I will write some more posts when things settle in and I have more time to write about specifics (like being a vegetarian here; not has hard as you’d think).

June 10th

Week two has been extremely busy. TEFL volunteers in Armenia have the most of what are called “tech sessions” (training specific to your job placement), which are held in the afternoons after about 4 hours of language classes. These comprise many of our afternoons here. In addition, there was a “central day” yesterday where all of the volunteers from the villages surrounding Charentsevan came together for the day to go through some more sessions with the Peace Corps staff (security, health, culture, first impressions, issues, etc.). But perhaps most taxing of all were the two going-away parties I attended Monday and Tuesday night that were held for young men that were leaving for their compulsory military service. My host family is related to both of the families of these men, so we were all invited, as were some of the other volunteers. They last hours and hours, so I’ve been getting home late, but they’ve been lots of fun and definitely worth attending. One of the daughters at the first party insisted I bring my guitar and sing, so I obliged. It turns out that is an easy way to make massive amounts of new friends in one night.

My language skills have improved even over the last few days, with the most encouraging signs being my comprehension of full sentences spoken to me by my host mom and a brief joke I was able to muster.

I’ve been exercising fairly regularly, though the water is quite unreliable and I’ve had to go without showers a few times after running a couple miles in the heat (I usually just wash my hair and upper body with the low pressure cold water).

The food situation is pretty good. In a nearby store I noticed large sacs (sacks?) of rice and lentils, some of the best sources from which to acquire protein. This, coupled with the fresh veggies, should keep me pretty healthy this summer.

Today I had the pleasure of having two pre-pubescent boys throw a couple of rocks at me and another female volunteer. They were not small rocks, and the boys were clearly trying to hit us, so it was a little unsettling that this would occur unprovoked (I assume us being foreigners had something to do with it). If it happens again, I’ll probably let someone know.
Overall, I’m having a great time and will continue to write about it when I can.

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3 thoughts on “I am Armenia, and so can you!

  1. Hey! I am so happy you had some time to post this, and get some internet time! I can’t wait to hear more. Sounds like you are one busy guy but seems to all be really exciting! 🙂

  2. It is so good to finally hear from you and get details of your
    experience so far! Thank you for all the info. The word
    that has been running around in my mind for all of you
    new volunteers is…brave. Joel, you have taken on
    a life changing challenge. So many of
    us could never do what you are doing…so here’s to you
    and the times ahead ! Love from all your family. We are
    very proud of you.
    yes kezkarotum em
    from your mayr

  3. I’m sure your mom would like to jump on a plane and take out the parents of the kids who were throwing rocks at her Joel. So sad that kids are exposed to such violence that they feel this is something thy are actually suppose to do. Besides the rock throwing sounds like you are having many good experiences. Take care! Jane and family

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