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  


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