Thursday, July 11, 2013

Separation Anxiety and Nostalgia: Parting Emotions in Armenia

I’ve always loved the places where David and I lived.  Personally, separation anxiety always accompanies moving and settling in another place. Memphis and Germantown, TN. ,  Kure Beach and Wilmington, NC, and now Dilijan, Armenia are all special places to remember—places we’ve called home for varying lengths of time. As we prepare to leave Armenia, it is different. We will probably never return or see the Armenian people again. In the beginning, knowing that we’d only live here for 2 years created an urgency unlike the feelings of living in other places where time was unlimited. The need to make contacts, establish friendships and become a part of the life here was important, and all the while we knew our time was ticking away.  Now, the relationships formed with people we care about in Armenia must be kept alive through e-mail, Skype, snail mail and phone calls, not through visits one to another.
                Our friend and neighbor who made life joyful when she was visiting in our home. We shared a love of flowers and she is a great cook also. She speaks Armenian, Georgian, Russian and a bit of English.    The Armenian/English dictionary was our constant companion during conversations.


For me, sentimentality takes over as we have the ”last” meal with a family or attend the “last” wedding, khoravats, concert, or Peace Corps event. Writing the last grant (Dave) and teaching the last English class (Judy)  indicates that our close of service date is near.  Life in Armenia has not been easy but the challenges have been balanced by good times. Language issues, harsh weather, work difficulties, home sickness, travel limitations---are but bumps in the road of our overall experiences here.                                                                       

Now as we prepare to return to the U S., some of these previous irritations begin to lose their punch. “The weather wasn’t so bad, as long as we dressed warmly”, we now say. Or, “Riding the marschutni to Yerevan isn’t too uncomfortable and it’s much more economical”, we now think. Our language deficiencies have been the most daunting hurdles and merely confirm the fact that one must be reasonably fluent in a country’s language to be a productive Peace Corps volunteer. As we prepare to leave, I find myself thinking that the random people greeting me on the street seem friendlier and may be actually smiling. The mountains , now lush and green following early summer rains, are more inspiring. The wildflowers of countless varieties fill our eyes even more with their beautiful color and movement and cause us to question the worthiness of mowed lawns and uprooting of “weeds” in our former gardens. In Armenia , the flowers flourish in an environment of neglect where everything is gray, where trash litters the streets, and where abandoned buildings are allowed to collapse upon themselves without concern. The flowers are the bright spot, the color, the uplifting vision which helps to keep this world sane.

Now projects must be wrapped up, reports completed, and special good-byes shared. There is also the process of saying good-bye to our Peace Corps peers as we all begin to scatter around the world in pursuit of our next adventures. This experience occurred when we hastily left Niger, and to this day, we still hear from many of our fellow volunteers from Peace Corps Niger. We anticipate future reunions with some of these volunteers but probably not with our Armenian friends and colleagues.

Over 2 years of Peace Corps service in Armenia has provided opportunities to interact with people of a totally different culture though they possess the same human qualities, desires, concern and aspirations of our own culture. David and I see Peace Corps service in Armenia as vastly different from what we began in Niger. We believe our service in Niger would have been infinitely more productive due to the overwhelming need and engulfing poverty present in that African country.  We leave Armenia with feelings of accomplishment though much different from what we expected and on a much smaller scale. We can only hope that the 2 years of our lives spent here will result in improved lives of a few individuals whose paths we’ve crossed in Armenia. We know that neither we nor the Peace Corps can or want to change the entire world or even an entire population.  We would not trade our experiences in Armenia and Niger for anything. We return to the U. S. with our eyes opened wider by what we’ve experienced. May our altered perspective and clearer vision of how things really are in the world result in continued efforts on behalf of our fellow man.    Judy

                                            View of downtown Dilijan from Dave's office window

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