Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Delayed Pictures Tell a Farewell. Armenia

          Well, I forgot to post this entry  and accompanying photos about leaving Armenia.....................but now that I've found it, I'll post anyway, because it helps as a closure piece for the overwhelmingly consuming life Dave and I lived in that country for 2 years.

We wish Bekkah well in Dilijan as we now resume life in the U. S.

Bekkah (newest volunteer in Dilijan) with Kellianne (volunteer who left with Dave and me)
Astghik, favorite student and lovely friend---not to be forgotten
Zepur (center) , Artur, Zhora with Dave and Judy--neighbor and friends
Armenian tutor, Knarick (in pink) and family
Our friends and a sweet couple, Levon and Hayarpi, at their wedding
Armine Grigoryan and staff at Bridge of Hope, Dilijan---a favorite organization for Judy
Dave with his counterpart, Ashot, and other colleagues

          Preceding our final departure was a  Hajo Majo (good luck and good-bye) party with our fellow volunteers and others who would be staying in Armenia another year to complete their service.  Then, following many good-bye dinners, coffee breaks and impromptu visits  with Armenians, we were ready to leave. Our time was up and it was over.  The Peace Corps experience would soon be a lingering, memorable part of our history and past lives.    It was surreal to think about where we'd be after these 27 months...............what we'd be doing, who we'd be interacting with.

        As we said our farewells first to this friend then that one, we realized we'd probably never see these dear people again. We'd not be dead nor would they, but they'd be in one part of the world and Dave and me in another.   Oh, yes, we 'd like to return to visit and to take a long hike with Ando , our friend in Hovk, Armenia who owns a B & B and outdoor sporting company. And we'd like to return for the birthday parties of Artur and Zhora, my teacher friend's sons.   We'll miss seeing Arsen and Tatevik at the Dilijan International School as well as Louise and all the other optimistic people we met who are aiming for an August, 2014 opening of that school.   And we already miss Christina and her family, Knarik , Zepur, Rozan, Astghik, Arpine and many others. Time will diminish the initial feelings of separation but we will not forget these people or many others who made our lives in Armenia more pleasant.   My students, the people Dave worked with and other random people we met daily will come up in stories we tell when relating our experiences in this unusual country in which we lived and became involved. Part of Peace Corps Goal 3 will be to tell about how these relationships impacted our service in Armenia.

      Our  photos will tell of only a few good-byes but they were each special and with dear people in our lives.  These are just a few of the Armenian people we will miss and do not include our American Peace Corps peers and the staff at Peace Corps Armenia. Telling these people good-bye is another story and one of just as much poignancy.   It will take time to readjust to another life back  in the states with friends and family, but we'll do it and will be glad to re-connect with each one of these loved ones.   It is just the realization that one part of our life is over and we must look forward to the next.  We are not sure what it will be or where, but plan to continue a life in pursuit of helping others and seeing the world while further broadening our own  life experiences.    

Arsen and Tatevik, friends from Dilijan International School
Friend's daughter enjoying a RICHARD SCARRY book
Group of Judy's student with Armenian English teacher, Christina
Dave with 2 Syrian young women, employees at the GREEN BEAN CAFE in Yerevan, Armenia

I hope you appreciate these photos for what they are------strangers to you, our readers but dear friends to David and me. They are the some of the ones who kept us going for the past 2 years and there are many, many more.   Take a moment and enjoy..........................................Cheers! from Dave and Judy

Thursday, August 29, 2013


Peace Corps volunteers leaving Dilijan, just as Dave and I did in mid July

I'm not sure why I haven't posted anything since leaving Armenia.   Dave and I are now , again, returned Peace Corps volunteers or RPCV's.  So what does that mean?  I guess my delay in writing anything says that we don't know exactly what it means.  We are back in the US after saying lengthy and emotional good-byes to our friends and Armenian "families" as well as to colleagues at work and random people in our town and in Yerevan who we knew on an acquaintance level.  We will miss all of them, and do.  I feel the separation anxiety more strongly than Dave does but that is not unusual for us.  Even though we had difficulties and complaints about Armenia, now that we are gone, those do not seem as important or as urgent as when we were living the life of immersion in another country.  We said good bye to many people we grew to love and will not see them again.  That is a strange feeling.  Several of our closest friends e-mail frequently,but we all know that will diminish with time and especially as we get busier in our own lives here in the US.  

We are enjoying re-connecting with our Chris and Dottie in Las Vegas where they are involved in the field of education.  We soon will travel on to visit other relatives including and foremost, our daughter and our grandson. We will return to Las Vegas in the fall for me to have a small surgical procedure which is still awaiting insurance approval thought the Peace Corps----nothing serious yet necessary.  

So, what is next for us?Travel is at the top of the list and began with a trip to Prague, Croatia and Istanbul before returning to the US.  Each destination had its own charm and reason to return, however, we are pulled in the direction of seeing different places before returning to those we really enjoyed.  Time will tell about our future travels. Where we will live is still a huge question for us and will take immense thought and consideration of many factors to really decide where to settle down, if we ever do.   We have belongings waiting in storage in NC and boxes of belongings at our son's home.  What to do with all of this "stuff"  leads us to think that much of it will be deleted from our lives but how and when, /?????
Dave and Judy in Croatia after completing 27 months of Peace Corps service in Armenia

Unlike many volunteers who return home to large airport welcomes with balloons and flowers and tears, we traveled first then arrived in Las Vegas to the warm welcome of our son and his wife. It was a quiet re-entry as RPCV's and it was fine.  Our friends and other family members know we are back but by the time we see them, the new of our experiences will have worn thin.I predict a normal, family visit as before we even left the country for Armenia or Niger before that.

Some days it seems surreal that we even served in the Peace Corps. Were we really living in Armenia for 27 months with people we did not know yet grew to love then left , not to see them ever again????   It seems as if we just went for a visit and then it seems as if we've lost touch here in America.  It is more complex for us because we did not return to an established place with loose ends to pick up and re-connect.  We are now gypsies without firm roots in any  one place. Of course , we are drawn to where our children live and want re-connection with our grandson who is in another state, and with other family and friends in Colorado, Tennessee, Texas, Florida, S.Carolina, and North Carolina, etc.  This is all part of the adjustment we were cautioned about by former Peace Corps volunteers and current PC staff.  We must give it time and the dust of re-entry will begin to settle .

In the initial days back in the US we purchased a car, obtained new phone numbers,attended concerts and enjoyed eating out again. We even pursued volunteer opportunities in Las Vegas in case we return here for any length of time.  Projects at our son's home have kept Dave more than busy as I write, organize thousands of photos from Armenia and our trips,and help our daughter-in-law with as much as possible. The endless trail of paperwork for medical clearance has occupied a good portion of time as well,but now it is just a waiting game and we will proceed with our travels.

We hope to see many of you , our faithful or even sometimes readers.  I thank you for keeping up with our journey in the Peace Corps and would love to share more of our thoughts and experiences in person. We were also warned not to give lengthy answers to questions from others about the Peace Corps because the short question, "what did you think about Peace Corps service?" usually is really seeking a short answer.In fact, we were encouraged to develop short "elevator" type answers so as not to receive the glazed-over stare of a person who is consummately bored and ready to move on to a more interesting subject.

So, for fear this post is causing that glazed-eye stare, I will end . I promise to post photos in the next entry so that you may get the sense of a few of the people to whom we bid farewell and will miss. There are countless others but the photos next time will present images of Armenians from various walks of life whose lives crossed our path.We hope those encounters were as meaningful to them as they were to David and me.       Judy
Judy and Dave saying good-bye to a favorite student in Dilijan, Armenia.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Beautiful in Armenia and in America

This is a late  post which should have been read 6 weeks ago,  however, as I am now traveling after completing Peace Corps service, I realized I had not posted this story.  It is important to me because it points out the desires and struggles endured by persons in other countries who want to come to our United States.  See what you think and I'd love to hear your comments.  Living out of the US definitely changes one's perspective on many topics and this is probably one of the more controversial ones-----immigration.   I apologize for the length, maybe just skim this entry!!!

        Beautiful (meaning of my friend’s name in English) has been trying to go to the U. S. for 4 years.   In 2009, she met an Armenian businessman who was visiting our town and became friends with him. Without knowing any of the details, I do know that after 2 years of keeping in touch from California to Armenia, the couple married in 2011.  I have seen the official Armenian marriage certificate which Beautiful keeps along with many photos of the wedding and of the couple seeing the sights in Armenia.  During that time, Beautiful was avidly pursuing  a VISA to legally join her husband in California where he lives and owns a business.   “He is a very wealthy businessman in America”, Beautiful has told David and me numerous times.    “4 years, 4 years. I”ve been trying to go to America for 4 years.” This is the lament which Beautiful verbalized the first day we met her in our neighborhood.   From that time on, we’ve heard each step of the saga----the trips to the U. S. Embasssy where Beautiful’s  request for a VISA was repeatedly denied, phone calls to her husband in CA trying to get help with the process,  letters from the VISA Department in Washington, more trips to the Embassy with the same result------“No, you are a good woman but no VISA for you,”  is what Beautiful was told at one time in 2012.  
     Then one day, Beautiful appeared at our door, breathless, excited and waving a letter in her hand. The letter was from the VISA Department in Washington, D. C. and she wanted me to read it and call the phone number to get more information about her application.    David and I both read the letter and noted that the date was February , 2012 ----a year ago.  When we asked Beautiful about this she replied that her “agent” in CA had received an e-mail saying that more information was needed to process the VISA request and this paper had the phone number for us to call. Beautiful does not speak fluent English and was seeking our help in hopes we’d be able to find out exactly what she needed to provide to move this lengthy process forward.     Fortunately , it was 4:30 pm in Armenia which meant it was 8:30 a.m. in Washington D. C.  Skeptically, I called the designated number and received a quick automated response. “If you speak Spanish, press #1” .  (Strange, I thought, that Spanish would be the first language identified for listening to information and then realized that probably more Spanish speaking persons than any other try to immigrate to the U. S.)  “If you speak English, press #2”.  I followed the prompt , listened to the brief message and pressed O for a customer service representative.   Amazingly, a well-spoken young man answered the line and after hearing what I was trying to do, gave me a detailed list of what Beautiful’s application lacked.   I thanked him profusely, in fact, had I been able to, I would have given him a hug for his help, for not being a robot and for being a “government worker” who acted as if he really wanted to help someone  ½ the way around the world from him. Beautiful, Dave, and I were thrilled that I actually was able to speak with a live person.
Beautiful proceeded to have her “agent” in CA submit the necessary information which she had not done originally.   Now, the ball was in her court, so to speak.   

       After several weeks, Beautiful came running to our door, again excited and out of breath.  “I must have my medical exam, and another  interview at the U. S. Embassy is June 14th,, she reported.  Beautiful was more than ecstatic since this was a true sign of progress in her search for the path leading to the U. S.  and life with her husband of 2 years. We congratulated her, “Shnorhavor”, as true Armenians do, and waited to hear the outcome.  

       Thoughts continued to weigh upon my mind, though.  How can this process have taken so long and be so complicated if this woman is really married and her husband is a person living in the U. S., successfully working, owning property, and paying U. S. income taxes. (I saw his W-2 ). Are David and I naïve enough not to consider the fact that maybe Beautiful and this man married just so she could go to the U. S.?? We may be naïve, but Beautiful is not the typical woman to leave her motherland, her family, a house given to her by her grandfather, her friends, her life-----to follow a random person to the U. S.  I’ll never believe that.  For whatever reason Beautiful wants to go to the U. S., she has paid her dues in time and effort trying to bring that reality about.  She is intelligent, has some kind of training in veterinary medicine so could possibly become gainfully employed, and has a person trying to help her reach her goal of immigration.  Her family in Armenia is supportive from what she says and they realize once Beautiful gets to the U. S., she probably will not be returning to Dilijan, Armenia very often.
       The week of this writing, Beautiful, was granted her VISA as an immigrant to the U. S. She is packed to go and has an airline ticket from Yerevan, Armenia to Los Angeles, CA. We spent several hours on-line trying to pay the $165 fee necessary to get her Green Card .The fee must be paid on-line, she has the money on her debit card but we could not navigate the complicated web-site to even reach the payment screen.  Calls to the US Ambassador to Armenia’s office where we were then directed to the Consulate’s office for help were not successful. There seemed to be a problem with the website which no one could correct.  Beautiful is now seeking help from an Armenian business person and translator to see what she can do.  Delaying payment of this fee until she reaches the U. S. is possible, however, it is not recommended.   Her husband in the U. S. could go to a public computer and try to make the payment although he would be dealing with the same website we found ineffective.  

       As persistent as Beautiful has been in this whole process, I feel certain she will accomplish what is needed. I certainly hope so because this is a life’s dream for Beautiful and in my opinion, she should get a chance to live it, knowing there will be positives and negatives to her decision to depart from Armenia where she was born and has lived for 44 years.    We will keep our fingers crossed.  I want you to know what challenges and hurdles are faced when someone is intent on coming to your country and mine.  There should be rules and qualifications for immigration, in my opinion, but not total frustrations and barriers to opportunities to better one’s situation. (again , my opinion) I will keep you up-dated on this story as it continues to unfold.

       Update a few days after her departure from Dilijan:   According to Beautiful’s Mother, her daughter reached the US without major difficulties and is happy at the present .   I did not hear from Beautiful personally but hope all is well for her in this new phase of her life.
Dave and I  are leaving a cafe  in Dilijan after saying good-bye to one of my  favorite students. Although we'll miss the people we love in Dilijan, it was much easier for us to leave and return to the US than for Beautiful to do it.   

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Armenian Coffee Klatch


I wrote this piece a couple of weeks ago…………………….
Living room in our Armenian apartment

It is quiet in the apartment now.  Several Armenian lady friends, neighbors who I’ve gotten to know in the past 2 years, came for coffee today.  They have now returned to their homes. I’ve had coffee in their kitchens and living rooms numerous times but never had them in my place all together.  It was fun, a bit awkward at times, but well worth the effort.  My Armenian/English dictionary was the other participant as we all used it to help with communication.  Even after 2 years, I need that dictionary in most group conversations------not really understanding what everyone is saying in the rapid normal pace of speech used by native Hayeren speakers.  Today was no exception.

Ruzan, my next door neighbor.  We communicated through our love of flowers, through smiles and hugs because neither of us knew the other one's language very well.
        Others were invited but had conflicts.   One significant conflict was experienced by my friend who has been trying to immigrate to the U. S. for over 4 years. She wants to go to the US because she is married to an Armenian American and wants to spend her life with him. Today, she had her VISA interview at the American Embassy with hopes of getting approval for immigration to the U. S.  Another neighbor had conflicts with the internet and communicating with her daughter in Russia so came later to have a cup of coffee with me after the others had left. She is my next-door neighbor and even with language barriers we’ve become friends, often discussing the flowers in each other’s garden or talking about the activities of her granddaughter who is avidly studying English

This was no huge event. I made several types of cookies and banana- nut bread which all of my Armenian friends have enjoyed in the past. We had coffee and fruit, and candy brought by one of them.  We chatted or rather, THEY chatted and I listened adding occasional comments.   It was not like a coffee klatch at home in America, but it was like being in Armenia, which is where I still live.  Here I am quieter and listen more whereas in the U.S. I am a talker, totally engaged in conversation.  That inability and lack of fluency in the Armenian language has been my greatest challenge and I felt it today. In spite of that, we were women of similar ages who were interested in each other on a surface level. We were neighbors and had become friends. This was our last such get-together before I leave and it was good.  The women were pleased because several of them had not been inside David and my apartment and I’m sure they were curious as to how we lived.   I was pleased because I was reciprocating for 2 years of hospitality offered me by them.  I was also pleased to again share some of what it is like to be an American, and I certainly learned more about the lives of these Armenian neighbors. 
Flowers in our neighborhood helped draw us together  and provide topics of conversation over coffee as we discuss gardening in America and in Armenia.

 It is a small world and when a relaxed, pleasant summer morning is spent sharing coffee with people from a different homeland, the realization of that fact becomes even more apparent.  Sargent Shriver, founder of the U. S. Peace Corps once said, “Peace requires the simple but powerful recognition that what we have in common as human beings is more important and crucial than what divides us.” To me, that is the essence of Peace Corps service and I felt it as I sipped my cup of coffee with these friends.

May they experience peace in their lives in Armenia after I resume life in the U. S. with that same blessing.        Judy

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Separation Anxiety and Nostalgia: Parting Emotions in Armenia

I’ve always loved the places where David and I lived.  Personally, separation anxiety always accompanies moving and settling in another place. Memphis and Germantown, TN. ,  Kure Beach and Wilmington, NC, and now Dilijan, Armenia are all special places to remember—places we’ve called home for varying lengths of time. As we prepare to leave Armenia, it is different. We will probably never return or see the Armenian people again. In the beginning, knowing that we’d only live here for 2 years created an urgency unlike the feelings of living in other places where time was unlimited. The need to make contacts, establish friendships and become a part of the life here was important, and all the while we knew our time was ticking away.  Now, the relationships formed with people we care about in Armenia must be kept alive through e-mail, Skype, snail mail and phone calls, not through visits one to another.
                Our friend and neighbor who made life joyful when she was visiting in our home. We shared a love of flowers and she is a great cook also. She speaks Armenian, Georgian, Russian and a bit of English.    The Armenian/English dictionary was our constant companion during conversations.


For me, sentimentality takes over as we have the ”last” meal with a family or attend the “last” wedding, khoravats, concert, or Peace Corps event. Writing the last grant (Dave) and teaching the last English class (Judy)  indicates that our close of service date is near.  Life in Armenia has not been easy but the challenges have been balanced by good times. Language issues, harsh weather, work difficulties, home sickness, travel limitations---are but bumps in the road of our overall experiences here.                                                                       

Now as we prepare to return to the U S., some of these previous irritations begin to lose their punch. “The weather wasn’t so bad, as long as we dressed warmly”, we now say. Or, “Riding the marschutni to Yerevan isn’t too uncomfortable and it’s much more economical”, we now think. Our language deficiencies have been the most daunting hurdles and merely confirm the fact that one must be reasonably fluent in a country’s language to be a productive Peace Corps volunteer. As we prepare to leave, I find myself thinking that the random people greeting me on the street seem friendlier and may be actually smiling. The mountains , now lush and green following early summer rains, are more inspiring. The wildflowers of countless varieties fill our eyes even more with their beautiful color and movement and cause us to question the worthiness of mowed lawns and uprooting of “weeds” in our former gardens. In Armenia , the flowers flourish in an environment of neglect where everything is gray, where trash litters the streets, and where abandoned buildings are allowed to collapse upon themselves without concern. The flowers are the bright spot, the color, the uplifting vision which helps to keep this world sane.

Now projects must be wrapped up, reports completed, and special good-byes shared. There is also the process of saying good-bye to our Peace Corps peers as we all begin to scatter around the world in pursuit of our next adventures. This experience occurred when we hastily left Niger, and to this day, we still hear from many of our fellow volunteers from Peace Corps Niger. We anticipate future reunions with some of these volunteers but probably not with our Armenian friends and colleagues.

Over 2 years of Peace Corps service in Armenia has provided opportunities to interact with people of a totally different culture though they possess the same human qualities, desires, concern and aspirations of our own culture. David and I see Peace Corps service in Armenia as vastly different from what we began in Niger. We believe our service in Niger would have been infinitely more productive due to the overwhelming need and engulfing poverty present in that African country.  We leave Armenia with feelings of accomplishment though much different from what we expected and on a much smaller scale. We can only hope that the 2 years of our lives spent here will result in improved lives of a few individuals whose paths we’ve crossed in Armenia. We know that neither we nor the Peace Corps can or want to change the entire world or even an entire population.  We would not trade our experiences in Armenia and Niger for anything. We return to the U. S. with our eyes opened wider by what we’ve experienced. May our altered perspective and clearer vision of how things really are in the world result in continued efforts on behalf of our fellow man.    Judy

                                            View of downtown Dilijan from Dave's office window

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Bittersweet: A Beginning to the End of Life in Armenia

Our A-19 Peace Corps group, friends and colleagues we may never see again
 One month from today, Dave and I will depart from Dilijan, go to Yerevan, and finish our lives in Armenia.  Now is the time when we are beginning to sort, pack, decide which belongings will stay here for new volunteers or Armenian friends and what is so worn, frayed and stretched that it must be discarded.    That means going through 2 years of what we brought with us and what we’ve accumulated from various places.  It is a task which is both daunting and at the same time refreshing.    It is a time to reconsider materialism and what one really needs. We did not need lots of “stuff” here. Our apartment was basically furnished so what we added to it were personal items and things to remind us of home such as photos, books and selected items we bought to take back home to remind us of our life in Armenia. We have bought very few clothing items and only very specific necessities  for the kitchen (for example, a  Teflon coated frying pan which has served us well and is the only one we have used for 2 years. ) And we bought good pillows, a task which took weeks to find just the right ones.  Pillows in Armenia are large, heavy and often filled with feathers of various types, not necessarily down as we know it.  Finding the right pillows to help us rest at night was a major accomplishment after arriving in Dilijan.  We have used the same set of sheets since going first to Africa then coming to Armenia.  We’ll keep remnants of those sheets to use in a quilt because they’ve seen us through almost 3 years of sleeping in foreign countries and are still usable.   Do we really need all of those sheet sets now awaiting us in storage in North Carolina.
      This time of sorting, re-evaluating and planning also highlights the changes which have occurred back home.   How will we adjust to those alterations in our former world?   Apparently, re-entry into a life in the US is more difficult that immersing oneself into life in a new, foreign country, at least that is what many former PC volunteers say.   
    As I look through various boxes and piles of “stuff” I am finding photo reminders and letters from family and friends.   I re-live the moment when I learned that my mother had quietly passed away, the week before David and I left for Niger, Africa.  At least we were able to attend her funeral and be a part of my family’s saying good-bye to her.    Then I ran across an envelope sent by my brother-in-law with items from my sister’s funeral in August, 2011, soon after we had moved to our site in Dilijan.  I did not attend that funeral so will never feel that I said a proper good-bye to my sister, Carolyn.   Then I found a copy of the medication list for our daughter and that brings back the year of treatment she endured to prevent a very specific type of breast cancer.  We were able to support her during that time thanks to an excellent telephone plan but it is not the same as being there to hold her hand or listen in person to what she was going through.  Our grandson became a teen-ager with the arrival of his 13th birthday in April of this year.  Will he still have time for his Tatik and Papik when we return?  And my father reached the ripe old age of 96 in December, 2012?  Although he continues to live alone and grow his annual tomato garden, how much longer will he be able to do that??  Dave’s sister had her 70th birthday, 2 nieces and 1 nephew were born into our family and our son became Director of the Agassi Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas. All of these seemingly routine events happened without us being there to celebrate or congratulate those involved. But did it make a difference?   Probably not to them, but in my mind I miss not having been there. Of course, the decision to join the Peace Corps also included the choice to miss such happenings and all Peace Corps volunteers have similar experiences.  There is no regret, just reflection on what we missed.

We attended this couple's wedding in Armenia and celebrated their new life together . They are our friends now and in the future.

           To balance these events we heard about in absentia, we’ve been closely involved in the lives of our new Armenian family, friends and colleagues. We recently attended the wedding of a dear young couple who befriended us early in our service and will continue to be long- distant friends for years to come. (Photo above).   One of our Peace Corps staff members will soon have a new baby daughter. We are supportive of those parents who must send their sons for mandatory military service, not knowing the outcome of such involvement. And we celebrate the successes of our Armenian friends who finish high school or university, become involved in gainful employment or even in meaningful volunteer activities.
         Life goes on whether in Armenia or America, and we have been a part of it. We have not put our lives on hold and we’ll continue to seek new experiences and adventures in the world while also keeping a foot in the door at home..  As my elderly Aunt Mary Nola, advises,“ You all stop, look, listen; remember each day’s work. Where am I? What do I do next? Enjoy each day you have. When you get old and in your sway-back-and- forth chair you can re-live each moment again and be happy.”  Aunt Mary Nola also says in a recent letter, “So good to hear the good news of travel. Keep it up till you drop, then like a “bird” find a nest, near friends and family. Everyone needs a nest to return to at the end of a fruitful life.” 
Dave with Aunt Mary Nola

          Thanks, Aunt Mary Nola, for those words of guidance and wisdom.      Judy                             

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I THINK I'M BECOMING ARMENIAN,,,,,,,,,,,,,,in Armenia!

The following are now common in my daily life after 2 years living in the Armenian culture:
 Wearing slippers: both inside and outside is a habit. I’ve almost worn my purple slippers with the silver bows to school, without thinking.
My favorite comfy Armenian slippers, given to me by my friend and counterpart, Christina

Saving a teabag and using several times is  fine unless you prefer very dark tea!

Re-using tea bags is a common Armenian practice and I do it all the time now.
Discovering that a cup of Armenian coffee with sweets can revive me and give me energy to skip lunch on a school day (not a healthy habit but one practiced routinely by my Armenian teacher friends)

Always carrying candy in my purse. It comes in handy on a crowded marschutni (bus) when a child is fussy or in class when a student earns a small quick reward. (I have candy canes left from Christmas and Armenians are fascinated by them!)

Taking candy, fruit or other small gifts when visiting someone’s home (homemade American  cookies or brownies win rave reviews!)

Wearing more black, gray or brown clothes equals immersion into the clothes culture of my Armenian friends and colleagues. (I still like to add some bright colors to this dismal fashion picture.)
Note that most of theses teachers are in BLACK attire!
      Carrying extra items in a plastic shopping bag and clutching one’s purse on her lap is the picture of an Armenian woman on the avtobus or marschutni. (I do this without thinking now.)

      Offering coffee to anyone who enters your home for any reason and accepting the fact they they’ll probably say “yes”.

      Paying attention to the cleanliness of footwear even after walking on wet and muddy or dry and dusty streets. (I try but do not measure up on this one!)

     Being prepared to answer the question, “Do you like Armenia? “ or “Do you like Dilijan?”  I can say “lav na!” (It is good, in Armenian.) Do you greet a visitor to the US immediately with the question, “Do you like the U. S.?   This is a routine question posed at most initial encounters with a new person here.

     Accepting that Armenians will urge me to “eat, eat” at every meal, coffee time or any occasion with food involved. (I do the same to Armenians when I take food or baked goods to them.)

    Always sitting in the back seat of a taxi and reminding Dave to sit in the front. (not bad since the front seat passenger is usually expected  to pay the fare!)

    Ignoring the plight of poor hungry cats and dogs all over Armenia. (It breaks my heart to see them, but I know we can’t help all of these animals, so Dave and I take scraps occasionally to our neighborhood dump where they congregate.

Cats waiting for dinner at the  neighborhood  dump site

      Eating ice cream only in the warm months because that is when it is available in our town. (I cheat whenever possible if we are in the capital city, Yerevan, where ice cream is widely available year-round.)
Homemade brownie with a block of Armenian vanilla ice cream is to die for!

        Bathing every 4-5 days instead of daily. ( I actually can do this without worry in the winter, but summer is a different story.)

      Wearing the same outfit to school for several days in a row as my colleagues do. (It is certainly easier to wear the same clothes over a period of time and everyone does it here.)

      Successfully carrying raw eggs loose in a plastic bag after purchase in the neighborhood market. (Eggs also need not be refrigerated if used within a few days.)
Thin plastic bag does just fine to transport eggs........unless you drop it!!!!
     Staring straight ahead without eye contact while riding on the local marschutni. (I have yet to figure out WHERE to focus one’s gaze during these rides but I try not to look directly at any one person.
This is the local avtobus.  Don't make eye contact with other riders when sitting on the bus.  It is culturally unacceptable.

       Not automatically smiling and speaking to everyone on the street or on the avtobus. (I still make an effort to smile and speak to most women and children but NOT to the men because it is culturally unacceptable.)

       Carrying an umbrella at all times.  The weather in our town is very unpredictable and often a sunny morning can turn into a rainy, cold walk home after school.

Umbrellas  protect Armenian women from sun, rain, snow and any precipitation.  I take one almost every day.

       Sometimes I think Dave and my last name is SmithYAN (our host family during Peace Corps training called us Dave and Judy Smithyan because the –yan ending on a surname is typically Armenian.) We do not deserve that designation but appreciate the thought.

       These  reported scenarios help me to feel more immersed into the Armenian culture which we’ll be leaving in less than 2 months.    Wonder how long it will take to break these acquired habits and not be so Armenian back in the states????