Monday, March 19, 2012


There are not many colors seen on the avtobus as I ride home today. I look around…..brown, black, gray, a couple of red coats, a deep purple one, and a pretty, soft salmon-colored jacket worn by a young Armenian woman. There is also one full-length fur coat of unknown variety, worn by a matronly woman who also wears a fluffy, fur hat which appears to be alive and hoping to get off the bus without her. Then there is my warm, navy blue, puffy, down coat with an attached hood. It stands out in the crowd for being different, just as I am different from these Armenian people. We share the service of a reliable yet sadly deteriorating vehicle in pursuit of our separate destinations, yet there is otherwise no sharing of our lives as we ride together. 
The drab colors match the view outside as winter hangs on and spring is yet to come.  More snow will come, the locals tell us newbies to the area.   We hope soon to see the end of what has been a long , harsh, unforgettable winter in Armenia. The people on the bus stare ahead as if in deep thought. We pass one of the many cemeteries in Dilijan. Maybe some are remembering loved ones now resting there.  Others may be considering what to prepare for josh (dinner) when their food supply is low. How many ways can one prepare potatoes, or turnips, or cabbage?  At least these vegetables are available though at higher prices than during their respective seasons. David and I remind ourselves of this fact and that when in Niger as Peace Corps volunteers, it was rare to have vegetables for a meal. 
 The bus is crowded, jam packed, actually. As it sways and turns with each curve in the bumpy street, a woman standing and holding onto the bar above never looks towards me or anyone else.  Her body moves with the motion and sounds of the bus.  Her purple eye shadow matches her purple coat, one of the few splashes of color in view. She is there with the rest of us bus riders but she is somewhere else.  Most people on the bus just sit and stare ahead at some unknown focal point. Their affect is flat; there are no smiles. There is very little chatter although we are told due to Dilijan’s small size, everyone knows everyone else.  Even the young people in the back sit or stand quietly, staring ahead, appearing very homogeneous in their black jackets and fitted jeans. The feel is similar to that when riding with strangers on an elevator and no one knows exactly where to look during the ride up or down.

  Nonetheless, it is a disheveled, fatigued looking collection of people on the bus today.  In spite of my navy blue coat which does not fit in with other local styles and colors, I fit in today because I am disheveled and fatigued just as the other riders are. We’ve all been involved in our individual worlds and the challenges they present and are now just trying to get home where peace awaits us, or at least that is our hope.           

Our apartment, lower level of house

Following the pushing and shoving of riders when I entered the bus in the center of town, I am glad to just have a seat for the few kilometers to my apartment.  As David and my tutor said, “people in Armenia do not like to wait”, meaning that pushing and shoving and cutting in line is excusable. To outsiders trying to adjust to local cultural practices, I do not think so. Yet, we deal with it every day even to the point of seeing a young child almost left at a bus stop as other adults pushed their way onto a crowded bus without regard for  his efforts to board the same bus.

We are glad to have the convenience of a bus stop near our apartment.  Having been accustomed to driving wherever we wished , the Peace Corps policy of no driving by volunteers has been difficult  in some ways.  On snowy, icy days, though, I am glad NOT to try to drive----just to walk and enjoy the beauty of a new snowfall. The color of white glistens and brightens the otherwise drab collections of black, gray and brown around us whether on the bus, on the street, or in our work places. Someone said that Dilijan is most beautiful after a snowfall because all of the old crumbling buildings are covered in white.   The colors on the bus match those of the life in Armenia. There is much darkness but a splash of color now and then makes it bearable. 
We look for those rays of sunshine and usually find them in the faces of the children we meet.   Without those encounters, life would definitely be drab.  
So I ride the bus and observe and look for more color.  Soon it will be spring. Surely then, the landscape and world around us will brighten. So be it………… Judy
The avtobus continues down the street after I get off.  More people are waiting to shove their way onto this vehicle which will take them to their destinations.    Not being able to drive a car in Armenia has certainly been an eye-opener and a real way to experiencee how our friends and neigbors must live all of their lives.