I’m about to start my fourth week here in Armenia. Things are still going quite well overall. I’ve managed to avoid any type of illness (many have suffered from at least mild diarrhea and/or upset stomachs), made some progress on the language, become better acquainted with my family, and am generally enjoying myself. I think one of the big reasons I joined the Peace Corps, and why I like to travel in general, was to get out of my comfort zone in the US. What I am doing here is definitely not within my comfort zone, but in a good way. Almost every day I do something I have never done before, whether it’s eating fresh strawberries picked from the garden/farm just outside my house, running through fields to see the view of Mount Ararat, or taking a shot of Armenian cognac with my tatik (host grandmother). And every so often I remind myself that I am in Armenia, which continues to boggle my mind because of its distance from the US and the countries that I am surrounded by (one being Iran).
The only negative thing I can think of, which is really quite minor, is the annoying presence of a few boys between the ages of 12 and 16 ish – certainly not a problem specific to Armenia. They are often sitting on the side of the roads that I take to school, and they try to talk to me. Usually, they end up saying things I can’t understand, and I tell them I don’t understand or speak Armenian (in Armenian, mind you), and at some point they laugh at, not with, me. One also might have asked me for money, but I’m not sure. I could always ignore them, but the last time I tried that, rocks were thrown, so I’ve decided to opt for the alternative and let them make fun of me. Taking another route would make the walk to school a bit longer, but maybe that will be worth it. The majority of people are very nice and understanding when I tell them I don’t speak Armenian very well, with these kids being the exception. It’s tempting to throw rocks back, but that would violate more than one of the rules of the Peace Corps…
There are eight other Peace Corps trainees in my village, and luckily we all get along very well. I think we have the most musical village, with about six of us who play guitar, two who brought them, one of which also plays the harmonica, and two of us who sing. As I think I’ve already mentioned, playing the guitar has been the quickest way to make friends with the locals in my village.
The weather has been rather strange, ranging anywhere from hot and dry to heavy rain with near constant lighting. I’ve been told the heat makes people unable to believe it gets so cold in the winter – which is probably true, but the climate of my permanent site will depend largely upon the region in which I am placed.
Language classes are six days/week and tech sessions are about three days/week. That leaves me plenty of time to go running, play music, and do some reading of my own. I just finished probably the most extensive biography of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, a really interesting book. The author did a massive amount of research and used narrative style, making the book very readable. It was also nice to read something that wasn’t trying to paint a mythic image of Che, either as the flawless revolutionary hero or as a communist murderer; the author describes all aspects of his character, good and bad. Everything was also placed in context, with the author describing the political, social, and economic conditions of the time that are necessary for understanding Che’s life.