Things have been picking up this week. I started my after school English groups on Tuesday, which run for about 2 hours, and held them the following two days as well. It was great to work with the kids in small groups (one-on-one up to groups of four), and their motivation was really encouraging. The problem is just finding enough time to meet with all of them!
On Wednesday, the TEFL program manager, Gayane, came to my village for the annual site visit. It was mainly just to check on how I’m going and sit in on a class. She was extremely positive and had encouraging words on how to improve my relationships in the village and squeeze in more effective methods in the classroom. I was aware that I have not been spending enough time out in the village, a problem which before I was simply blaming on my location at the edge of Lor and the fact that I have no reason to enter the village center. But after she came, I decided I should put myself out there more and I saw results immediately. I also made a little headway with my counterpart in getting her to stray from the horrid textbooks we have.
But the real reason I am writing this post is to talk about my night in a cave! Volunteers from the southern region of Armenia, Syunik Marz, met in Goris to camp out in the caves that are 10 or so miles outside of the city.
There are tons as this used to be a valley/gorge where people legitimately lived up until the 1970s. The cave was pretty spacious and stayed surprisingly warm through the night – I even had to open my sleeping bag because I was getting hot. Some of the other volunteers decided to make khorovats (BBQ) for dinner, though didn’t partake and stuck to my lavash and peanut butter. It inevitably was followed by plenty of alcoholic beverages, and I think we all had an awesome time.
Once in warms up again in the Spring, I plan on doing tons of camping here in the southern region. I’ll will probably spend some time in these caves, but there are also tons of great places around my village where I will be able to camp for the weekend with my bivy shelter that I should have by then. My ultimate goal is the hike the entire Syunik Marz next summer, which I think will take less than two weeks, especially if I end in Sisian.
The Peace Corps finally brought me a space heater for my room, which makes the evenings so much more pleasant (it’s not even winter yet!). I’m spending more time, however, in the living/eating room, not only because that’s where our iron fire-heater (what are those things called?) is, but also because I’m getting closer with my family. This is making me second guess whether I want to move out or not in December, but as of now I still plan on moving out.
Overall, I can confidently say that I am very happy here. I like my job, the kids are great, my host family is great, and it’s a beautiful little village. It looks as though I am going to be more of a “site-oriented” volunteer these next two years. There are many who get involved in the initiatives run by Peace Corps volunteers, which no doubt do good things, but I look forward to being more involved in my village. None of the initiatives appealed too much to me, even the more TEFL related activities. On top of that, I live over an hour from Sisian, the next real town, which is still over four hours from Yerevan in the middle of Armenia. Because my region is pretty darn awesome, both aesthetically and people-wise, I plan on staying here most of the time.