Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Bittersweet: A Beginning to the End of Life in Armenia

Our A-19 Peace Corps group, friends and colleagues we may never see again
 One month from today, Dave and I will depart from Dilijan, go to Yerevan, and finish our lives in Armenia.  Now is the time when we are beginning to sort, pack, decide which belongings will stay here for new volunteers or Armenian friends and what is so worn, frayed and stretched that it must be discarded.    That means going through 2 years of what we brought with us and what we’ve accumulated from various places.  It is a task which is both daunting and at the same time refreshing.    It is a time to reconsider materialism and what one really needs. We did not need lots of “stuff” here. Our apartment was basically furnished so what we added to it were personal items and things to remind us of home such as photos, books and selected items we bought to take back home to remind us of our life in Armenia. We have bought very few clothing items and only very specific necessities  for the kitchen (for example, a  Teflon coated frying pan which has served us well and is the only one we have used for 2 years. ) And we bought good pillows, a task which took weeks to find just the right ones.  Pillows in Armenia are large, heavy and often filled with feathers of various types, not necessarily down as we know it.  Finding the right pillows to help us rest at night was a major accomplishment after arriving in Dilijan.  We have used the same set of sheets since going first to Africa then coming to Armenia.  We’ll keep remnants of those sheets to use in a quilt because they’ve seen us through almost 3 years of sleeping in foreign countries and are still usable.   Do we really need all of those sheet sets now awaiting us in storage in North Carolina.
      This time of sorting, re-evaluating and planning also highlights the changes which have occurred back home.   How will we adjust to those alterations in our former world?   Apparently, re-entry into a life in the US is more difficult that immersing oneself into life in a new, foreign country, at least that is what many former PC volunteers say.   
    As I look through various boxes and piles of “stuff” I am finding photo reminders and letters from family and friends.   I re-live the moment when I learned that my mother had quietly passed away, the week before David and I left for Niger, Africa.  At least we were able to attend her funeral and be a part of my family’s saying good-bye to her.    Then I ran across an envelope sent by my brother-in-law with items from my sister’s funeral in August, 2011, soon after we had moved to our site in Dilijan.  I did not attend that funeral so will never feel that I said a proper good-bye to my sister, Carolyn.   Then I found a copy of the medication list for our daughter and that brings back the year of treatment she endured to prevent a very specific type of breast cancer.  We were able to support her during that time thanks to an excellent telephone plan but it is not the same as being there to hold her hand or listen in person to what she was going through.  Our grandson became a teen-ager with the arrival of his 13th birthday in April of this year.  Will he still have time for his Tatik and Papik when we return?  And my father reached the ripe old age of 96 in December, 2012?  Although he continues to live alone and grow his annual tomato garden, how much longer will he be able to do that??  Dave’s sister had her 70th birthday, 2 nieces and 1 nephew were born into our family and our son became Director of the Agassi Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas. All of these seemingly routine events happened without us being there to celebrate or congratulate those involved. But did it make a difference?   Probably not to them, but in my mind I miss not having been there. Of course, the decision to join the Peace Corps also included the choice to miss such happenings and all Peace Corps volunteers have similar experiences.  There is no regret, just reflection on what we missed.

We attended this couple's wedding in Armenia and celebrated their new life together . They are our friends now and in the future.

           To balance these events we heard about in absentia, we’ve been closely involved in the lives of our new Armenian family, friends and colleagues. We recently attended the wedding of a dear young couple who befriended us early in our service and will continue to be long- distant friends for years to come. (Photo above).   One of our Peace Corps staff members will soon have a new baby daughter. We are supportive of those parents who must send their sons for mandatory military service, not knowing the outcome of such involvement. And we celebrate the successes of our Armenian friends who finish high school or university, become involved in gainful employment or even in meaningful volunteer activities.
         Life goes on whether in Armenia or America, and we have been a part of it. We have not put our lives on hold and we’ll continue to seek new experiences and adventures in the world while also keeping a foot in the door at home..  As my elderly Aunt Mary Nola, advises,“ You all stop, look, listen; remember each day’s work. Where am I? What do I do next? Enjoy each day you have. When you get old and in your sway-back-and- forth chair you can re-live each moment again and be happy.”  Aunt Mary Nola also says in a recent letter, “So good to hear the good news of travel. Keep it up till you drop, then like a “bird” find a nest, near friends and family. Everyone needs a nest to return to at the end of a fruitful life.” 
Dave with Aunt Mary Nola

          Thanks, Aunt Mary Nola, for those words of guidance and wisdom.      Judy                             

1 comment:

  1. you are treasures to everyone you meet. how lucky the students in armenia were to know you and dave and to have you teach and inspire them. thank you for contributing to world peace. i think it is truly the only good way, carrying books and not guns.