Sunday, October 30, 2011

ET but not THE Extra Terrestial

Some thoughts on a cloudy day in Armenia………………………

Mike , Peace Corps volunteer and musician extraordinaire
A volunteer in our group has decided to ET or early terminate as we Peace Corps people call it. There are many valid reasons for a volunteer to ET such as health issues, family concerns back home, cultural challenges in the volunteer’s country, work related problems, financial issues, weather related dislikes, personal disagreements with Peace Corps policy,  etc.     Not being a close personal friend nor willing to divulge this volunteer’s reasons for his ET even if known, we are just sad that he made the decision.  Sad, yes, but respectful of that decision as one which he told us, was one of the most difficult decisions he’d ever made.   After experiencing all of the challenges associated with application, evaluation and acceptance into a training class with the Peace Corps, packing 2 bags for his 2- year anticipated service, then traveling ½ the way around the world, Mike reached Yerevan, Armenia. He then studied a new language and new alphabet and began to immerse into a new culture.  Mike passed the required language proficiency test, and raised his right hand to swear in as an official Peace Corps volunteer in Armenia. After that came the settling in process in a new town and work place and finding a permanent home for himself for his 2 –year assignment in Armenia.  All the volunteers in our group followed basically this same path, BUT……….Mike will ET and leave Armenia this coming week.   
To make this departure even more dramatic is the fact that Mike is a talented musician and recently retired university professor of music, primarily piano and keyboard instruments of all kinds. In addition, he is a skilled arranger and composer of music, captivating performer, unbelievably patient director of choral and instrumental groups of all levels, and a generally great guy.  Mike utilized his comprehensive abilities in the field of music to arrange music and train performers for our group’s swear-in ceremony in mid –August.  Because of his abilities, a group of 25-30 volunteers, many of whom were non-singers to begin with, performed a medley of American songs followed by a traditional Armenian musical selection sung in Hayeren, the Armenian language.   He also coached and accompanied a young volunteer, Joseph Andriano,  in a breathtakingly  beautiful tenor  solo performance of the Armenian folksong recorded by  Komitas,  Chinar Es. This musical addition to the Swear-in ceremony held in the Komitas Chamber Music Hall, was a special tribute during the year of the Peace Corps 50th Anniversary.  All bets were on that Mike would share his talents with the next group of volunteers as they participated in preparation for their swear-in event in 2012.
Joseph Andriano, Stephanie with cello, and Mike on piano
 at Swear-in Ceremony for Peace Corps Armenia Volunteers , August 16, 2011
Now that Mike is leaving us, that will not happen, however, the memory of his work with our group in 2011 is recorded for Peace Corps history.   Congratulations or shnorhavorank!  to Mike, for all that he has accomplished while in Armenia. He should be immensely proud of how he has touched the Peace Corps volunteers and staff, the Armenian people, and especially the children, with his music.  When there was a piano present, Mike played it without reserve. When the piano needed tuning, he arranged to have it done. When music was desired, Mike was there. We know the decision to ET was mind-boggling and difficult, yet a person who chooses that route has our utmost respect for recognizing that the decision had to be made, for whatever reasons. 
 Yes, we are sad that Mike is leaving but glad that he can move ahead with his amazing life. While his music will truly be missed in Armenia, there’s bound to be music wherever Mike goes in the world. We’ll all be waiting and listening to hear it.          Good luck or Hajoghutyun!  We’ll miss you, Mike.
Judy and David 

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