Hello once again! As I write this update, the rain is gently pounding on the roof of the school. One can suggest the change of seasons, as there was no precipitation this past summer. Now, it has rained almost every other day, along its side is the brisk wind comes from the Armenia Sea, which freshly clears my sinuses. The trees are slowly changing into their beautiful coats, while the children are bundling up their jackets as they trek off to school. Autumn is my favorite season, and living in the valley/gorge, one can only approximate the beauty of the season that is among me. I hope to share pictures with you, just so you may sense the splendor and exquisiteness that I am witnessing.
Mentioned in my last update, school has started. I am currently teaching 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, and 10th forms. I observed the classroom for the first week and half, and now I am team-teaching with two English Teachers. I have actually experienced teaching alone, which proved to be a better experience than what I had anticipated. Classroom discipline is a bit different that what is practiced in the American classroom. Not only that, but the educational philosophy is not as mainstream as what can be seen in America. For example, no matter the level or form, if the student is not performing up to his/her duties, he/she is not left to repeat the class. All students pass on to the next form. It can be frustrating as there is a fine divide between the students who study and those who do not. In addition, there are many there are two sessions of school. The older forms attend the morning session, and younger children attend in the afternoon. They students have 6 periods a day; each lasting 45 minutes long. I thought the older grades would be the most difficult, but it has been the middle school age that has proved to be the most challenging. I just hope I wasn’t this immature at this age, but I speculate that we all go through this stage, even if we do not even want to repeat the memories.
I also have two English clubs. My first club had 65 students, which was quite unbearable, but I have figured out a system in which I can average 30 students. I run three times a week with the village children and have a basketball club for the girls of my school. Now, there is interest of me teaching Phys. Ed. Opportunities are endless, though I am finding my time is not the same. On the side, I have been tutoring some locals, as well as receiving my own tutoring for the Armenian language...So I am still the same crazy Syd...Maybe this experience will teach me to say “No”. :O)
I have been rather healthy, except an ongoing journey with Giradia. For those of you who do not know what this is, I encourage you to search it on the Web. It is not a fun illness, but living in a village, I am not flabbergasted that I got this. Anyways, soon, I believe everything is back to what can be determined as “regular”. However, soon cannot come “soon” enough as this has been a crusade for quite some time now.
For the most part, my host family has given me some space, so I have some autonomy that has survived. Those of you that know me the best, realize that I like to be in many places at once, coming to rest only at the late hours of the night, just before the alarm sounds the next day. I had to relax a more here and spend more time in the home, which is a big adjustment, though not a bad transition. Since I live in the biggest village in Armenia, I have a site mate, who is amazing. She and I have really connected, as well as other Volunteers that live within an hour distance. I am really blessed to have such wonderful contacts and friends so close. Actually, I deem myself to be the luckiest Volunteer in Armenia, because have had such great relationships with other volunteers, teachers, staff, school director, neighborhood, and my family. I do not understand why the “stars” are always in line for me, although I know most of it is out of my control…fate must be determining this.
Of course, there have been many challenges, but nothing that I do not see that I can overcome. The biggest challenge to this point, is meeting up with my close friends, and then having to say, “See ya later gator”. There is just something so powerful about this experience that allows you to develop friendships that are very profound, multifaceted, and mysterious. I just hope that many of you have experienced this type of connection, and if not I am eager for this day to come for you.
In September, I had the wonderful opportunity to travel to Yerevan, the capital city, two times. Going to Yerevan, was quite interesting, as with my dropped-jaw and expressions, one would have thought I had never seen a city before, let alone cars, buildings, and streetlights. Yerevan is like another country within Armenia. It is very prosperous with over a million people living in its limits. There are many shops, stores, museums, etc. You can find almost anything, (except I am still searching for marshmallows and rice krispies so I can make the ultimate American dessert). While there, I got to practice of bit of my singing voice while performing “Total Eclipse of the Heart” at a karaoke bar. Nevertheless, the most mesmerizing excursion in Yerevan was traveling to a nearby town, called Echmiadzin. Here, I was able to witness the official Church of Armenia. This church was built in 303 A.D., how fascinating and intriguing! In 301 A.D., Armenia declared itself a Christian country. One can just visualize the amount of blessed history that this church presented. It was glorious. From there we also went to two other churches that date back to the early centuries with the oldest stone hedges still preserved in their finest. The most remarkable thing about these churches, was their ability to stand tall despite the numerous of earthquakes that have rumbled this country. These earthquakes have obliterated many structures and buildings close by, but miraculously and phenomenally, the churches have been left untouched. The architecture structures of the time are quite advanced leaving the stability of the structure to survive. Today, many architects are in awe of such progress in the early centuries.
The second trip involved celebrating the 15th Anniversary of Armenia’s independence. Song, dance, performances, and fireworks were held throughout the country, with the biggest of all shows in Yerevan. I also went to Yerevan for some meetings, and snuck of trip in to the monasteries of Garni and Geghard. Garni is outside of Yerevan is a pagan temple that was used as a summer home for royal families. Though it has been reconstructed, it still simulates of the Hellenistic time frame. Geghard Monastery was quick breathtaking as a part of it was carved from a side of the mountain. It was carved from the mountain from the top and the architects worked downward, which makes this sight much more fascinating. Legend tells that the lance in which Christ was wounded was brought to this monastery, which was established by St. Gregory the Illuminator in the IV Century. St. Gregory is a very important figure in Armenia as he helped establish this country as the first Christian country.
Finally, I had some resources to obtain for my classroom(s), but most importantly, I had the opportunity to hang about with my two dearest friends. You can envision just how refreshing it is to see them. Days can be long here, but the weeks fly by. This may sound silly, but living in the shoes as an Armenia PCV, it makes perfect sense.
Though I speak of the positives of this excursion, do not let me fool you of its difficulties. As to date, 10 members of my class have left Armenia and gone back to America. All of left for a variety reasons, some found that the journey is not for them, some left for medical reasons, others because their significant others were back in the states. In addition, some have left to care for others who are ill back in the States. As you can see, being half-away around the world and accepting a new and different culture has its adjustment. I have just been fortunate that my adjustment has been somewhat harassment-free.
I have discovered one big thing about myself. It is actually I guess is a complex that has been hiding deep inside of me, but underneath this hard core (well once it was hard core, but my muscle mass has shrunk two-old) is a very sensitive individual. It is very easy for tears to fall, though at most times, they are falling in happiness. Seeing my friends is so powerful, receiving letters, e-mails, and care packages have a new meaning; for it is not the material goods in it, but the heart, soul, and the enduring words by the individuals who composed the words. I am very grateful for those who have taken time think of me. You have no idea how deep and heart filled this thanks is. It truly means a lot, as I know what life has to offer in the US and other parts of the world, as at times, there is no room to think on your own let alone have time to think of a random friend half-way around the world . Also, please know that I think of you all often. I miss my family like mad, my friends as well. Okay, enough sap.
Life is different, Life is good. You get one, so live it up to its fullest.
Thinking of you all daily, and sending virtual transatlantic/transmediteranian hugs to each and everyone of you,
Շատ կարոտում եմ ձեզ: Ծանկանում եմ շատ լավ օր:
Missing you much. Wishing you a great day.
Syd the Sloth
Wedding Wishes to Suzanne..so sorry I missed it. Sam and Chadd, sorry I missed your anniversary!
Birthday Wishes: Stacy, Jill, Suzanne, Dr. Weber, Jack, Carter