Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Day the World was Supposed to End

Today is December 26 , 2012, but this blog was written on Friday, December 21, the day the world was supposed to end.  Here’s the story as written on that day………….
    It is Friday, December 21, 2012 at 10 am and Dave and I are in the Moscow, Russia, airport awaiting our next flight headed towards vacation in Costa Rica. The world is supposed to be ending right now! But it is not ending, at least not here.  Travelers continue to rush to their gates, grab quick meals at expensive airport cafes, and tend to crying children who’d rather be at home than hanging out in an airport. 
Little girl with her dog, waiting for the world to end.....or ...maybe her next flight out of the Moscow airport

 Contrary to predictions that planets would align and trigger a
 series of earthquakes and floods which would wipe out the world’s population,
 we are still here. And we met a delightful Armenian diasporan young woman who drank a cup of coffee with us as we waited our fate.

Lori, young Armenian woman we met in the Moscow airport as we waited for the world to end or for our next flight.    The world did not end.  Our flight left on time and so did  Lori's.

According to the Moscow News, Reuters reports that 10% of the world’s people believed the apocalypse would occur and the world would end with the Mayan calendar in 2012.  Back in Armenia, many of my students expressed concern about these “the end is nigh” predictions. A few students said they would skip classes on this foreboding day so they could be with their family in their last moments.
       As Dave and I ignore what we believe to be just another doomsday prediction, we embark on our long awaited vacation to Costa Rica to be followed by visits to family in the U. S. As many others both today and previously, we do not support such predictions of the world’s demise and find it merely interesting material to read about as we wait in the airport. The Moscow News article states that the world is unlikely to end yet paranoia persists.  Of course, entrepeneurs and hucksters alike see $$$$$$ ( or drams or rubles) in their future. An apocalypse kit is apparently available and contains a rope, vodka and other supplies one might need in their last hours.
          It is now 3:15 pm and we are about to land in London to await our long flight to  our destination in San Jose, Costa Rica. We escaped the apocalypse and feel ready to enjoy a few weeks of family time before returning to Peace Corps service in Armenia. Not being one to say “I told you so”, I still know it was the right thing to do…….to ignore the warnings, proceed with business as usual and leave the apocalypse worries to others.      

Dave, Chris, and Dottie take a stroll on the beach  in Costa Rica

 Where were you on December 21, 2012, the day the world was to end??? 

Monday, December 24, 2012

48 in Armenia......46 in Niger......50 in...........

46 in Niger, 48 in Armenia, but where will 50 be?? Those numbers refer to Dave and my wedding anniversaries. We celebrated #46 by sharing a huge cake with fellow volunteers and staff in Niger, Africa in December, 2010, where we were still in pre-service training with the U. S. Peace Corps. It was an occasion to remember. 
Dave,Judy,Hayarpi and Levon celebrating  the Smith's 48th wedding anniversary in Armenia

Then both # 47 and # 48 have been celebrated in Armenia as we continue our Peace Corps service. For #48 we found ourselves celebrating  with Armenian friends in Yerevan, the country's capital. The city's official Christmas tree lighting provided a colorful, festive backdrop to our evening with Hayarpi and Levon, a young couple who have quickly become part of our lives in this country.  Were the fireworks and music in Republic Square performed especially for our 48th anniversary? Of course not, but the thought was appealing as we watched the explosion of lights and music coming from the stage and watched the count-down which preceded the sudden illumination of the huge tree.  Instantly changing from dark green to brilliant red signified the official start to the season leading up to Nor Tari in Armenia, and we were right there to see it.
Christmas tree in Republic Square 

Fireworks in Yerevan

Later, as we recalled previous anniversary celebrations, we began contemplating  how and where we might celebrate our proverbial "golden anniversary".  To be perfectly honest, I find it a bit disconcerting to think Dave and I are even OLD enough to be wed almost 50 years. Why, I remember when my parents had been married for 50 years and all of the flurry associated with their Golden Anniversary party. Where has the time gone? Will we want to have such an event or will we decide to take a trip around the world, or return to visit Armenia, or celebrate that 50 year span of time in some philanthropic way?  Do we really feel 50 years older that on that cold, snowy day we married in 1964?

These questions are merely questions for us to consider and no answers are available yet. #50 for us will come sooner than we think and by then , our plans will have changed more than a few times, based on life-----or as the saying goes, "life is what happens when you're making other plans".

For now, the only sure thing is that we hope to celebrate the event together, wherever that may be. #48 was fine. #49 is approaching. #50 is a goal to be reached and celebrated.  We hope you will join us when the time comes.    Thanks for being our readers in this journey.     Judy  

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Peace Corps Armenia: Month 18: November, 2012

November was such a good month in lots of ways. Oh, there are the usual gripes about schedule changes, cold building, students absent when they should be at school, etc., but overall, looking back over the month, it was a good one.  Here are some highlights, beginning with the fact that my grant proposal for new English books for our college’s English students was funded.  No, it was not millions of dollars, not even thousands, not even $1000, but for a college without books to study English, it was BIG.    My counterpart/team teacher and I will purchase the books in January when David and I return to Armenia from our Christmas trip……just in time for our second semester.

New classroom for English classes

In addition, my college director recently designated a different classroom as the English classroom ---one on the warm side of the building ---a significant factor when the building is often colder inside than out!  We have new desks and chairs, a blackboard, nice book cases and new linoleum and paint to clean up the old space.  We are told we’ll be able to share the use of a projector/screen and maybe a computer from the adjacent computer room.  This is so much better than when I came. The students have helped us teachers to hang our English posters and other things so that the room looks more like a classroom in the U. S. than in Armenia. Students come to this classroom now for classes instead of the English teachers going to the student’s homeroom.  So much better--------now we do not   have to drag all of our stuff from room to room and if we want to suddenly talk about a subject, our teaching materials will be right there handy.

Armenian English teachers at our workshop

Also in November a group of 4 other Peace Corps volunteers and I held an English teacher’s workshop at the British Council office in Yerevan.  In attendance were teachers from in and around Yerevan. Our focus was on reading and creative writing in one session. The second was on making inexpensive games and visual aids to enhance learning .   This is an idea not used much in Armenian schools so learning to use Bingo, Jeopardy, the Memory game, and the Hokey Pokey were new to many teachers.  We hope to do a follow-up workshop or 2 in 2013 since the response was good to this first one.

Staff at Bridge of Hope in Dilijan, Armenia during Thanksgiving Day lesson by Kellianne Lauer and me
    My site mate, Kellianne, and I have been holding  an English Club/class at an organization which provides service to children with various disabilities. Therapies of all kinds are offered plus there are children in the neighborhood who just come to use the computer, play, do homework or other activities. There is very little in my town for children to do after school or on weekends.  Bridge of Hope is a safe, warm place which meets many children’s needs.   Kellianne and I work with any staff members who wish to improve their English and we’ve had up to 14 participants in our meetings twice a week.  They are mostly young women (and one man),  who know a small amount of English and want to learn more---very interesting and enthusiastic and a pleasure to work with.

Students staying close to the wood stove in their classroom  when gas not available
A negative in November occurred when the local gas company did their inspection and found my college’s gas heaters not properly vented.  (Interesting, since they were that way all last year!)  Our director closed school for several days while repairs were being done.  When we returned to find the work not complete, a few rooms were being heated with wood stoves.  Wood stoves are used a lot in Armenia despite the fact that it is illegal to cut down trees for firewood.  Go figure, somehow, people obtain ample wood but it is quite expensive, as is gas.  At the college, I’ve witnessed students burning the wood slats from old furniture but this is not an acceptable practice.  Eventually one small gas heater per classroom was repaired and school was open again.  The building is still frigid in the halls and everyone must wear a coat to stay reasonably comfortable. I hardly recall now how cold it was last year when we had snow from October 1 until into May. 
 I hope you will continue to follow life here in Armenia. Unbelievably, it will endfor us  in about 8 months! Who knows what lies ahead after our COS (closure of service)? Guess we’ll see……………………… Comments are welcomed!        Judy