Sunday, September 16, 2012

Armenian Musings and Random Thoughts

Students on first day at Dilijan State College, September, 1, 2012

Children entering local school on September 1, 2012
SCHOOL: All over Armenia summer ends with the First Bell assemblies and celebrations on September 1.Young children dress up in their best new clothes.  Older students are glad to see their friends while enduring the opening speeches of welcome from their teachers. In some schools, a toast of cognac indicates the beginning for the staff and faculty. In the case of my college, which is housed in an old run-down Soviet –style un-insulated building, the dust of late summer construction clings to the floors and walls and drifts into the air. It is pleasing to me in spite of the job not being quite finished, to find that a newly painted room is assigned to my counterpart and me for our English classroom. We’ve wanted this separate room where we can teach our students, store our materials and display visual aids related to the English language. We hear that we’ll get new desks, a new blackboard, new linoleum flooring, and a new computer complete with a headset for use with audio materials. This is music to my ears. I will (or “shall”, as in British English,) keep you posted on our new English room.
New English classroom, Dilijan State College: no flooring or furniture yet on  first day of school, September 1, 2012

     DRIVING:     I miss having a car, or maybe it’s just the convenience of driving when and where I choose that I really miss. As a Peace Corps volunteer, we are not allowed to drive while in country and here in Dilijan, Armenia, we at least have reliable public transportation.  I still miss driving in a country where women do not usually drive except in larger towns and cities.  Recently, it took me 2 avtobus rides, 2 –hour and ½ marschutka rides and 2 short taxi rides to attend a Peer Support Network meeting and return home the same day. It is 102 KMs or about 63 miles in distance to Yerevan where the Peace Corps office is located. That’s not bad when some of our volunteers live as far away as 7-8 hours necessitating a 2 –night stay out of their site just to attend a meeting or tend a few items of business.  I still miss driving a car.


Uncovered garbage cans in our neighborhood, visited by cows, cats and dogs
ARMENIAN DUMP DOGS:  The garbage dump puppies we saw as babies early in the spring are now gangly teen –aged dogs who still rummage in the neighborhood uncovered dumpster for food.  They compete with the cats and the neighborhood cows for sustenance. The puppies look amazingly robust and they are friendly, unlike other stray dogs or ones tied up with a mere 3 feet of rope from which they bark and guard their owner’s property. I wish we could take these puppies to our apartment but we must turn my head and try NOT to make friends with them. We do take them scraps when we have them. I fear for these dogs when winter comes.

                               Cat in bottom of garbage can, looking for food; dogs eat on the outside.....

Kellianne (seated) 
KELLIANNE  and the VISITOR from AFRICA: A  black man, as he is called by locals, has been in our town this week. Persons of color are not often seen in Armenia and they are shunned and stared at .This man has a passport from Guinea and was supposedly sent to find work in Armenia by an international refugee organization. This plan has not worked out. The man is waiting without food, money or shelter until his scheduled appointment with an advocacy attorney in Yerevan in 3 weeks.  Kellianne, a young Peace Corps volunteer in Dilijan,  became involved when the man was put off of the local avtobus at her school because the bus driver knew someone there spoke English. The man spoke minimal English, but Kellianne spent several days trying to find resources for him. Amidst the stares and scoffing looks in a local cafĂ©, she bought and shared a meal with him. Other than used clothing and the cash she, David and I gave him there was little success with her efforts. I accidently met the man on the avtobus as I was going to my tutoring session.  We spoke briefly and other riders on the avtobus appeared to be shocked at our verbal exchange, two foreigners speaking English together----an older female and “the black man”. The avtobus driver even looked at me as if to see whether I was offended by the man when he immediately showed me a small piece of paper.  This small scrap of paper with our Peace Corps site mate’s cell phone number was his lifeline because Kellianne  had responded compassionately to a human being  viewed by everyone else as totally different and unworthy of respect. No one else has even tried to help this displaced stranger from another country. How he ended up in Armenia is a convoluted, complex, circuitous, around-the- world journey which none of us understands. Everyone we speak with in this small town knows about “the black man”, but no one else has stepped up to the plate to help the uninvited visitor who is strikingly different from them.  It is another chapter in a Twilight Zone –like story which describes many of our experiences in Armenia.  Now we do not know the whereabouts of this man, but we hope he has gone to Yerevan where there might be a possibility of social service assistance.  May his lifeline eventually include someone who has the authority to guide him with as gracious a spirit as Peace Corps volunteer, Kellianne.                   

No comments:

Post a Comment