Saturday, June 2, 2012

It's Just Armenia

For a moment today I forgot where I was. As I was riding the avtobus home from downtown Dilijan I glanced at a woman across the aisle and thought she was a colleague from work in Memphis, TN. When she turned her head I was abruptly slapped back into reality. She was not Michaelia but was, instead, a random bus rider with the same hair color and style but a woman I’d never seen before.
 What was I thinking??? I had just finished a session with my Armenian language tutor and then tutored a little boy in English myself.  Prior to that, I had spent one of those days at my college which seemed non-productive.  I was definitely in Armenia. Where else would a person see a huge pig and one of her babies gluttonously gobbling grass along the town’s sidewalk?  Does everyone see lonely cows slowly wandering in the street and horses led by frayed ropes passing by? Or what about the countless “watch dogs” that are attached to chains only long enough for them to pace in a small circle around their muddy ramshackled shelters, waiting to bark and snarl at the next passerby?                                      
 And even in this day of attention to environment there is litter everywhere, just as we saw in Niger, Africa.  Paper, plastic bags, cans, cigarette packages, cardboard boxes are all strewn along the streets and down the embankments leading to open drainage ditches. In fact, my English students had difficulty understanding the term “litter” and especially the words “litter bug”.    I am definitely in Armenia.   Here it is beginning to warm up and our mornings are now often clear and sunny. But true Armenians know to always carry an umbrella because brief rain showers are frequent and regular, especially in the month of May. I forgot my umbrella today.  Where is my head???
As I walk from the avtobus stop, up the steep hill to our street, a young boy is scurrying around a beautiful lilac bush, breaking off long branches covered with blooms.  Lilacs are beautiful this time of year. Their scent is noticed everywhere.  This particular large lilac bush is in someone’s yard, just close enough to the fence to be reached by the child.  I watch him as I get closer. He is careful to make the branches all the same length and discards to the ground any deteriorating leaves.  He looks around to see if anyone is watching and sees me approaching.   He looks away and begins to walk rapidly down the street.  I catch up with him and ask if the flowers are for his Mother, “Ha” he says (“yes”, in Armenian). He’s clutching the beautiful flowers tightly as if I’d snatch them away from him. He’s neatly dressed and his back pack has some kind of furry piece dangling off of it. A rabbit’s foot, maybe??? I do not have the language skills to say anything about his taking the flowers from someone else’s bush, but I wanted to.  Unfortunately, this is Armenia, and the practice is not unusual.  As the boy continued on towards his home I doubted if he even thought about what he’d done or if his Mother would wonder where he got the flowers.  At least he was thinking of his Mother.
  My mind is perturbed. It is another roller coaster ride in the day of a Peace Corps volunteer. However, a high had come earlier in today’s class where teenaged students responded positively after receiving dental care information and new toothbrushes, paste, and dental floss. Thoughtful friends and acquaintances and their dentists have sent me enough items to share with several hundred students and the idea is well received.  I owe a huge thanks to my retired nurse friends and others in Wilmington, NC, who are helping with this project. Together we are trying to make a difference in a few children’s lives. That is a high for sure.      
     I must think of each day with its inherent challenges and find a high to balance a low.  Today there’s another high---a cold Coca Cola waiting for me in our refrigerator. I do not allow myself to have sugary cokes very often. Today after teaching about dental health and demonstrating the effects of coke on a chicken bone, it seems a bit incongruous to have this treat.  This is Armenia though, and I’ll celebrate the ups as well as deal with the downs.  I’ll have the coke, brush my teeth, and hope the students remember to do the same!                                                                                                  Judy

1 comment:

  1. Good morning how are you?

    My name is Emilio, I am a Spanish boy and I live in a town near to Madrid. I am a very interested person in knowing things so different as the culture, the way of life of the inhabitants of our planet, the fauna, the flora, and the landscapes of all the countries of the world etc. in summary, I am a person that enjoys traveling, learning and respecting people's diversity from all over the world.

    I would love to travel and meet in person all the aspects above mentioned, but unfortunately as this is very expensive and my purchasing power is quite small, so I devised a way to travel with the imagination in every corner of our planet. A few years ago I started a collection of used stamps because trough them, you can see pictures about fauna, flora, monuments, landscapes etc. from all the countries. As every day is more and more difficult to get stamps, some years ago I started a new collection in order to get traditional letters addressed to me in which my goal was to get at least 1 letter from each country in the world. This modest goal is feasible to reach in the most part of countries, but unfortunately it’s impossible to achieve in other various territories for several reasons, either because they are countries at war, either because they are countries with extreme poverty or because for whatever reason the postal system is not functioning properly.

    For all this I would ask you one small favor:
    Would you be so kind as to send me a letter by traditional mail from Armenia? I understand perfectly that you think that your blog is not the appropriate place to ask this, and even, is very probably that you ignore my letter, but I would call your attention to the difficulty involved in getting a letter from that country, and also I don’t know anyone neither where to write in Armenia in order to increase my collection. a letter for me is like a little souvenir, like if I have had visited that territory with my imagination and at same time, the arrival of the letters from a country is a sign of peace and normality and an original way to promote a country in the world. My postal address is the following one:

    Emilio Fernandez Esteban
    Calle Valencia,39
    28903 Getafe (Madrid)

    If you wish, you can visit my blog where you can see the pictures of all the letters that I have received from whole World.

    Finally I would like to thank the attention given to this letter, and whether you can help me or not, I send my best wishes for peace, health and happiness for you, your family and all your dear beings.

    Yours Sincerely

    Emilio Fernandez