Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Thoughts from Dave and Judy

“Thanksgiving in Hollywood” is a contemporary song found on the internet by my Armenian students. I do not want my students to think this song’s lyrics are a true reflection of what our American celebration of Thanksgiving is all about, even though the music is appealing and lends itself well to a program aimed at college aged students.  Just the mention of “Hollywood” encourages the students to think of the stereotyped, media’s portrayal of America---the land of rich people and vast opportunities.

We are planning a program about Thanksgiving in America and will include harvest time in Armenia since the times coincide and inspire similar feelings of being thankful for what one has. I am trying to help my students to understand the history of our Thanksgiving Day and how it is celebrated now. The program will be presented primarily in English, but readings must be translated so that the majority of the audience will understand the message.  Of course, the universal communicator, music, will be of utmost importance. Unfortunately, songs which I love and recall -----“Over the River and Through the Woods”, “Come Ye Thankful People Come” and “Harvest Home” are not nearly as exciting as “Thanksgiving in Hollywood”.

Dave and Judy with Peace Corps Niger Training Director, Tondi,  2 years ago
 Armenia is a Peace Corps assignment wrought with challenges as well as blessings. What are David and I grateful for as we continue our 2nd year of service in Armenia? The first is the blessing of good health, unlike Thanksgiving 2010 which we spent in Niger, Africa during our first Peace Corps assignment. On that first Thanksgiving, David was being released from the hospital on Thanksgiving Day.                                                                  

Music and Art:  Armenia cherishes music and art and encourages its young people to study both.  David and I have come to anticipate attending occasional concerts of the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra in Yerevan and the Dilijan Music School in our town.  Dilijan Art School is a fine example of available training for young talented students as they join the ranks of other famous Armenian artists. Music soothes the soul and art brings a different perspective to life in Armenia where strife and stress abound.
Armenia Philharmonic Orchestra  performing in Yerevan, Armenia
Director of Dilijan Art School with students submitting art work to the  K-12 ONE WORLD Classroom International Art Exchange

Mountains:  Visible from our apartment are lofty mountains which surround our town. Their majestic peaks will soon be snow-covered, but we are thankful for their mighty presence as we watch the seasons change throughout the year.
View of mountains from our apartment

Flowers:  Prolific profusions of flowers from early spring until the snows of winter make Dilijan, Armenia a haven for flower lovers.  I am thankful for that blessing of beauty which brightens our days yet is taken for granted by many Armenians.

A beautiful example of  wildflowers found in Armenia
Armenian family we met and shared a meal with several times: very hospitable people
                  Hospitality of the Armenian people:   Warm welcomes, a kiss on the cheek,  an invitation to have coffee , small gifts brought to every encounter even by those with little money…… we cannot be grateful  enough for those expressions of acceptance by people with whom we become acquainted.                                           

Armenian language tutor with Judy
              Tutors:  Without our tutor we’d be lost.  Our tutor not only teaches a foreign language to older learners such as David and me, but is also a link to the community in which we live, to the people we want to meet, to her family, to events we enjoy and to life in Dilijan.  For Knarick’s presence we are grateful.

One little boy in our neighborhood-------being shy, but so cute
             Children:  loving, laughing, curious, shy, ever present…..they are Armenia’s future and must be encouraged in the pursuit of more than basic education and life without hope. We are thankful to meet so many and to see them grow.

Narvik, special little child in our neighborhood who loves to study English with us.

Gas Heater in our apartment: we are fortunate to be able to stay warm on the cold days of winter  in Armenia

Heat: we have gas heat, expensive and warming.  We are grateful to able to afford it in our old age!! Many volunteers rely on wood stoves and must balance staying warm with the scarcity of wood as the winter progresses. Most Armenians we know also struggle with staying warm in a cold country.                                                    

      Peace Corps:  without this organization we’d not be in Armenia. We are thankful for the opportunity to be in the Peace Corps and hope our time in Armenia means something to others.

     Happy Thanksgiving to all.  May your day be blessed with loved ones wherever you may be on the 4th Thursday of November, 2012.    Judy and Dave

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