Approaching the end of PST

Geghard Monastery

It has been almost a month since the last post, and quite a bit has happened. Language classes still occupy the mornings, and communication with my family has improved greatly. All’s well on that front. Lots of other stuff has been going on, and I’ll try to summarize some of the more interesting occurrences.

Earlier this month, I visited my permanent site. It is a tiny village named Lor in the southernmost marz (region), one hour southeast of Sisian. It’s relatively close to Karabakh, a sliver of Azerbaijan, and Iran, though the mountains are a significant barrier in every direction.

Of all the A-18 TEFLs, I am pretty sure my village is the smallest. There are about 300 people (my current village has about 2,500) and the school has 58 students, 17 teachers. I know a few volunteers in other sectors and from other years have smaller villages, but this is definitely on the lower end. But this is exactly what I wanted. When I applied to the Peace Corps, I was signing up for something like this, out in the boonies where I am the only American.

Lor – my school and the surrounding mountains – as seen from my new host family’s balcony.

To get to Lor, one can take either a taxi up the only road that goes along a river valley most of the way, or a marshutni (a small bus-like vehicle). The latter is much cheaper, but it only makes two trips a day – one in the morning, one in the evening. There are a few volunteers in Sisian, and one along the road to Lor, so I am not completely isolated. And my bank will be in Sisian, so I’ll be coming in at least every 2 weeks or so if I want to hang out with other volunteers.

The new host family is pretty great as well. My new Armenian mom works at the school, as does one of my brothers, and she is really sweet. Unfortunately, my new family is much harder to understand than my currently family, so adjusting to the dialect will take some time. Also, somewhat ironically, the amenities at my host family’s home are nicer than here in Alapars – constantly running water, a toilet seat, and even satellite TV (BBC World and Al Jazeera English!).

Tech sessions ended last week, but TEFLs (and other sectors) are spending these last two weeks of PST at Model School. Basically, we are taken to the school in Charentsavan where we have our “central days” and teach an English class for 45 minutes. We are observed and get comments from our observers and then switch for another 45 minutes. Teaching has gone fairly well so far. My partner, Katrina, has taught before and is great to work with. She also lives about 30 seconds from me, so lesson planning is simple. I am definitely learning a lot from the observers and simply from experience, so while these last two weeks are ridiculously busy, they will be valuable.

From last Saturday’s trip to Gegard Monastery

Most volunteers that I’ve talked to are ready to move to site, and I am feeling the same. It has been great getting to know the other volunteers and PST has been really helpful in a lot of ways, but it seems like we are just always on the go (especially TEFLs). I am ready for things to slow down and finally get settled in my permanent village.Next week will also be a model school week, with Armenian language classes in the morning and English teaching in the afternoon. The  following week we take our language tests, meet in Charentsavan for administrative stuff, and swear in on Thursday as official Peace Corps volunteers. As of now, three people that came to Armenia (out of 58) have gone home and will be swearing in. We’ll see if any more drop out before then.

Current read: Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States. Finished Graham Green’s Our Man in Havana and Michael Albert’s Parecon: Life after capitalism over my site visit. The latter is interesting in that it actually offers a desirable economic vision, which is essentially anarchistic (or libertarian socialist), instead of merely critiquing the injustices of capitalism and “socialism” of a market or centrally-planned flavor.


2 thoughts on “Approaching the end of PST

  1. Wonderful, interesting information, Joel. Thanks so much for sharing these experiences with those of us who will never have this vantage point. 🙂

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