Thursday, March 14, 2013

Walk the Walk in Armenia

  I leave my college for the walk home. Today I am alone as other teachers must stay behind to complete work on records which I do not have responsibility for.  I look at the view from the sidewalk as I ascend the steep hill leading to the town's main road and later to David and my apartment.  
Snow on mountains in the distance, lingering , waiting for one more  snowfall .

  The uncharacteristically gentle March wind is at my back as I continue the walk home from a day of classes. It blows my hair forward; as wisps of hair tickle my eyes, the view ahead is momentarily
 hindered. The sun adds warmth to the spring chilliness and my mind wanders, as it often does, on these 25 minute journeys home through the neighborhoods with which I am now quite familiar. I hear the wind’s sound as it rushes through the pine trees around me. 
Large pine typical of those lining our streets and which were covered with snow last week

Their swaying movement appears to be synchronized like an orchestra whose violinists all lean in one direction as they perform music in concert with each other. These musical evergreen trees are now forest green and free of the snow just recently adorning their branches.  It is spring in Dilijan, or at least today it feels like it. ( I’m told we still might have another snow though.) Children along the way greet me with their smiles and mechanical “hellos”. They make the trip more than worthwhile after spending the first hours of the day with unmotivated and sometimes surly teenagers at my college.
As I walk it comes to mind that in 4 months Dave and my Peace Corps service will be over. Thinking about that short time, out of a total 27 months, makes the neighborhood and all that has become familiar more impressionable.  Although there are negatives, I don’t want to forget some of what is “just Armenia”, as we non-Armenians say when an event or a happening is beyond our understanding or comprehension aside from being culturally appropriate.   As I walk, a short legged little reddish-brown dog follows me. We see it every day when walking to work. I see older men standing in groups on the sidewalk, smoking and chatting, nothing to do and nowhere to go.  Across the street are younger men, also smoking and chatting as if following the pattern of their elders on the opposite side. This is one thing which is bothersome to an outsider---the lack of involvement of our town’s ordinary men who seem truly to have nothing to do.  Yes, unemployment is extremely high and selected men do work in local stores, drive avtobuses and taxis,  and do construction work at various sites, etc., but there are still countless men who prominently “hang out” day in and day out. We see them every day.
       As I continue my walk, other regular sights and activities come into focus.  I see the numerous small neighborhood stores vying for business, people waiting at the avtobus stops to go to the center of town, children arm-in-arm, leaving the local school to go home, and a dog and a homeless man seeking their lunch from the same overflowing garbage can
Small store seen every day on the way to my school and David's work

. I see the local elderly woman who walks every day, mumbling to herself, carrying cardboard boxes she collects along the way. She is followed at a respectable distance behind, by her daughter, who we surmise must accompany this woman to assure her mother’s safe return home.  Allegedly both of these women were local teachers until the elder one became mentally challenged and now requires supervision by the younger. I feel empathy for the daughter and sadness for the mother. And I see the myriad of clothes lines high off the ground and loaded with clothes drying in the sweet breeze of a spring day—so much better than a week ago when the same lines were laden with frozen garments stiffly swaying in the frigid late winter wind. I wondered at the time if they ever actually got dry????
Avtobus stop where people wait for a ride to the center of Dilijan
           Photos to follow will show a few other typical neighborhood sights which we see daily and take for granted.  Soon those sights will only be memories stirred by photographs made in Armenia and thoughts aroused by sounds, smells, and experiences re-lived with others.    Pictures tell a story.  I hope you enjoy them.

Sign atop an abandoned dairy business near our street

This sign is near our apartment.  We've seen the hotel but not CASANOVA.
Litter is everywhere in Dilijan. It is an eyesore which does not seem to bother local people  but is an obvious detraction for tourists and those of us concerned about the environment.
These children asked that their photo be taken as I walked home today. Of course, I was glad to snap their picture and will get prints made for them.   Children love to see themselves in pictures.
Children I meet along the way make this walk more pleasurable and more memorable as I contemplate leaving Armenia in the near future.  We all walk the walk  together, as we live in Dilijan. 


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