Thursday, January 5, 2012


Wedding anniversaries leading up to the 50th may seem insignificant, except to those celebrating them. I'll have to admit that I recall looking at the smiling , white-haired couples in our local newspaper who had reached this pinnacle of married life and thinking, "wow, they are OLD to be married that long". But now we are approaching our own 50th and, yes, I guess we are old in the eyes of many dewey eyed young couples.
Strangely enough, more and more couples are celebrating their 60th anniversaries together so that says something about our life expectancy and state of health, doesn't it?

Last year David and I celebrated our 46th wedding anniversary in Niger,Africa. This unlikely place served us well and we had quite a celebration with our fellow Peace Corps volunteers and staff. (See earlier blog entitled, "46 in Niger").  Now just recently we  celebrated our 47th wedding anniversary in a totally different part of the world where many weddings are arranged and divorce is frowned upon by the prevailing cultural practices. On our 46th we'd never have thought that our 47th would not also be in Niger, however, life has a way of presenting surprises along the way and our move to Armenia was certainly one of them.

Here in Armenia  couples do not usually date as we did in the U.S. and once a young man and young woman are seen in public together, they are generally considered to be engaged. This assumption , if true, is followed by a large party for the couple's family and close friends where their future together is discussed . The wedding is then planned for not too long after this event. Of course, there are exceptions to this chain of events and there is also "bridenapping" , an entirely different side of the marriage picture.

This year for our 47th wedding anniversary we ate alone at Gaucho's, an Argentine steak house which is one of our favorites in Yerevan.  We'd spent the day in meetings at the Peace Corps office and turned down an offer to eat with fellow volunteers so that we could "celebrate" on our own.   The following night we did join the group for pizza at a local restaurant and were asked questions about our marriage, secrets to success, and what it was like last year as we celebrated in Niger, Africa.   For the 47th, this quiet recognition of our many years of married life was perfect---no need for a huge party for EVERY anniversary. The best part was that we were together in a place where we felt committed to staying, despite its challenges and disappointments. For here in Armenia, one must seek the positive in life and our marriage is truly one of them.  Our service with the Peace Corps certainly offers new experiences and chances to learn about a different part of the world as we get older.  We hope our work improves the lives of a least a few people we encounter during this 2 years.

In anticipation of next year's 48th wedding anniversary, neither David nor I will even guess where we'll be. We'll just enjoy the present and deal with the future as it comes.  And, as we near the golden 50th, we'll appreciate the time here in Armenia and wherever in the world we might be, striving for continued good health and the blessings of supportive family and friends around the world.  46 in Niger; 47 in Armenia; 48 somewhere in the world.  Please check in now and then and see where we are.  Judy

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year's Eve: 2011 Where Were YOU?

Glitter Graphics |
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And never brought to mind
Should auld acquaintance be forgot
And auld lang syne?

For auld lang syne, my dear,
For auld lang syne,
We’ll take a cup o’kindness yet,
For auld lang syne.

New Year’s Eve: 2011: … starts with the boots. Armenian women wear stylish boots of all varieties. They may have 2”-6” heels or flatter soles. Usually black in color, boots may be calf hi, knee hi, ankle hi, boots with fringe, boots with fur, boots with glitzy embellishments.  I am not a boot person except for snow or hiking boots.  BUT, I have bought a pair of calf-hi boots with a simple silver buckle on each side and wedge soles. These are my token Armenian boots, and they do have soft fur lining which keeps my feet warm both outdoors and in my school. I wear these boots for “dress”, preferring my American bought outdoor boots when it snows and conditions are frigid. Up until this New Year’s Eve or Nor Tari, I’ve worn my boots with pants leg overlapping the top, not a very stylish picture in Armenia. But tonight for the first time, I tuck my pants legs into the boots and look like a true Armenian woman. Dave and I are in the capital city of Yerevan, having just returned from our vacation out of the country. We are in the city to celebrate New Year’s Eve hoping for a quiet dinner and a good bottle of wine, in contrast to other Peace Corps volunteers who are here anticipating a more lively party time.

Much to our surprise and with a measure of dismay, we find the city’s restaurants to be mostly CLOSED. We later realize the New Year’s Eve in Armenia is primarily for family celebrations at home, similar to our own Christmas Eve. Strangely though, major streets leading to the city’s Republic Square are blocked off by police and music is heard in the distance. As we walk around still seeking a restaurant which might be open, we see 5 Coca Cola trucks being driven by brilliant red and white clad Santa Clauses heading towards the Square. We follow them and see an enormous shimmering blue Christmas tree, fully lit with glistening white lights. People are milling around in anticipation of the count-down to , but we proceed into a hotel near the Square and settle in for a New Year’s Eve toast.

Dave and I can’t help but compare this quiet New Year’s Eve in a foreign land with all the many celebratory end- of- the- year events of our past. Here in 2011 we sit in a smoky Americanized hotel bar amongst strangers from Iran. A man passes us wearing a black Jack Wills t-shirt. A muted CNN newscast plays on the television while guests at several   tables laugh and talk as old friends do. It is with a sense of poignancy that we realize we know no one and no one knows who we are on New Year’s Eve.

Together we reflect upon New Years’ Eves of the past.  Isn’t that what “auld lang syne” inspires? Those words are translated to mean “times gone by”. Last year we were in Niger, Africa, sharing a volunteer prepared dinner complete with champagne and toasts given by our Peace Corps country director. There was a sense of camaraderie, excitement and anticipation of the year ahead in Africa, as fireworks and sparklers were lit. None of us could know what was ahead nor do we ever know on New Year’s Eve what the following year will hold for us.

We remembered New Year’s Eve in Wilmington, NC, where with friends, we wore hats depicting our image of ourselves. The winner was Celia, who wore a hat covered with restaurant menus, since she and her husband rarely cooked at home, preferring to eat out for most meals.

Then there were the New Years’ Eves spent caring for our grandson in California so that his parents might enjoy a night out together.  During those years we ate many pizzas and saw movies with Jared such as “Peter Pan”, “Shrek”, and “Polar Express”.  They seem light years away now as Jared is eleven and enjoys New Year’s Eve with his father.

When our children were young, one New Year’s Eve found us returning home to our children and their new babysitter.  He was sitting in the same chair he occupied when we left for our quick dinner out with Dave’s visiting sister and her husband.  It seems that our dog, Barker, had lived up to his name and had barked at the poor sitter the entire evening, frightening him so much that the boy did not even remove his coat.  Fortunately, the children were fine, Barker was glad to see us, and the sitter was even happier that his New Year’s Eve job was over!
BARKER  always lived up to his name!

Best memories come from those December 31 evenings spent with old friends in Memphis and Germantown.  We once ate a beautiful baked Alaska which was mistakenly called “parsley” by a few revelers in the group. The evening also included a brief scary moment when our fireworks set a neighboring roof afire, only to be quickly extinguished. Another dinner in the home of a friend in Germantown featured our hostess posing as if in a Southern Living magazine photo, smiling as she served the now forgotten gourmet creation.  In that picture, we New Year’s Eve celebrants were wearing shiny, pointed party hats and smiles of warm anticipation of the delicious meal. Martha Stewart would be jealous!  Finally there were the New Years’ Eves with a varying group of friends, when we attended the Memphis Symphony Orchestra’s New Year’s Eve concert, followed by dinner in downtown Memphis.  One year we even stayed overnight at the famous Peabody Hotel where we shared that luxurious setting with hoards of teenage party-goers plagued by too much under-age drinking and subsequent rowdy behavior. At least they were not out driving, and we were sure that’s what their parents thought as well.
New Year’s Eve 2011 in Armenia was quiet for us. We’ve had other quiet New Years’ Eves, one which was spent in a Memphis movie theater where Dave and I viewed 3 consecutive movies and stuffed ourselves with popcorn and all the junk food we could consume. Where will we be next New Year’s Eve?   Where will any of us be? Only time will answer that question, but we hope and plan to be together, celebrating another year’s end and looking ahead to 2013 with the conclusion of our Peace Corps service in Armenia.  What lies ahead depends greatly upon us and how we perceive and continue to develop our role in this country with our new friends and co-workers.

We now pass the Republic Square with its 5 Santas, glistening blue Christmas tree, and sounds of live Armenian popular music. A festive mood prevails as people of all ages await . At the same time but in their homes, many Armenian families are eating, drinking and dancing the year away.  This party atmosphere and visiting each other will continue up to the Armenian Christmas on January 6 and sometimes until January 13, the so-called “Old New Year”.

Dave and I continue back to our small B&B and as I pull off my boots, the sights and sounds of fireworks penetrate our frosty windows. It is in Armenia. Happy New Year!   Shnorhavor Nor Tari! We bid farewell to 2011 and think of auld lang syne, “times gone by”. Life goes on. Where will you be on New Year’s Eve 2012?       Judy and Dave