It is March 26th in Dilijan, Armenia. Large flakes of a late winter’s snow brush my cheeks and cling to my eyelashes as I walk slowly back up the hill to our apartment. I am wearing my fluorescent orange Yak- traks again, having placed them on my boots today after removing them last week, thinking the snow was gone for the year. As unstylish as these accoutrements might be, they do provide a measure of traction when there is new snow and I’ve become dependent upon them as attempts to prevent slips and falls when walking in this wintry land. Oh yes, the bright orange attracts immediate attention in this land of white and black. Some volunteers in other villages have fluorescent lime green ones so they, too, stand out. Actually, as more local people see me and David in the neighborhood, at school, and downtown, there seem to be fewer quizzical stares than earlier in the winter…..or maybe I don’t notice them as much now. It is just another way that I as an American and a foreigner tend to stand out as being different. It makes me think about what it would be like to be a minority all one’s life, always receiving stares, shuns or gestures of non-acceptance. At college today more of the staff and faculty were openly and verbally curious about my Yak- traks and one man even said what a good business it would be to sell them in Armenia. Wouldn’t that be an interesting entreperneural Peace Corps project??? This opened a discussion of safety in this snowy, icy country and the dangers associated with falls and related injuries. My Armenian associates at school do not realize that I am from a warm Southern state in the U. S. and this is more snow than I’ve EVER seen, even when we took skiing trips in our younger days. I’ve shown them on the map where NC, TN, NV and other states are but they mostly respond to CA where many of the Armenian diaspora now live.
|No Smoking! but people in Armenia smoke everywhere.............without regard for 2nd hand smoke's effect|
Today, I had ridden the marschutni, our local mode of transportation, from the center of town back to our neighborhood. Boarding the bus at one of the stops was an elderly man who was smoking a cigarette as he approached the bus. He entered the bus and continued to puff on his cigarette even though there is an ordinance against smoking on public transportation in Armenia. Quite immediately a woman rose from her seat and approached him as he sat down in front of her. She said loudly, “CHE” (No! in the Armenian language) and waved her finger at his cigarette. She began coughing violently, at times barely able to catch her breath. The man looked surprised but immediately tossed the cigarette onto the street from a cracked bus window and sat back in his seat. The woman continued to cough a raspy, dry, non-productive, coarse, irritating cough for the remainder of the trip. She appeared to be struggling with her respirations and would cease coughing briefly only to resume the spasmodic episodes again. Other riders showed little sympathy, staring and pointing at the woman in question. She had definitely been affected by the second-hand smoke of this unthinking man and others were treating her as if SHE was the problem, not the cigarette smoke which negatively impacted an innocent person.
|Rose hips for tea, muraba (jam) , small apple: all gifts from Armenian friends|