Tuesday, June 12, 2007

ONE YEAR UNDER MY BELT


Holy Cow! It has been a YEAR since anyone in America has seen me? Please, dry your eyes, don’t whimper, as I have not been around to pester you all physically, just with my random updates J

I can hardly believe that a year has passed as it has been the most interesting year that I have ever experienced. Just recently, all the PCVs in Armenia welcomed the new group of volunteers. It was a uncanny feeling going back to Zvarnots Temple to welcome the newbies, as I, as well as others before me, had those same eerie, unusual, exciting, unpredictable feelings as you know that you are about to embark on a new journey, in a country far from what is known as home, communicating through hand signals as you don’t know the language, etc. All these thoughts can seem overwhelming, overbearing, and unconquerable. However, as any PCV would explain, no matter what country he/she is serving in, these characteristics are why he/she is serving his/her duty. Anyone thinking that joining and accepting the PC experience is an effortless journey is sadly mistaken. This experience pulls one out of the traditional comfort zone, and if the person is willing, the comfort zone expands gradually if one does not allow the differences to set him apart. And familiarizing oneself with those differences makes this journey one unforgettable time.

Recently, I was giving a toast a dinner in which celebrated the ending of our first summer youth environmental camp. Toasting is a traditional practice during meals that symbolizes an important event. At this event, all counselors and directors were gathered together, half American and half Armenian. Toasting normally has a specific order, but to summarize, the toasts are said in thankfulness, coming straight from the heart of the toastmaster. I did not think it was going to be my time to come, but then I was called on. I did not have time to gather my thoughts in English, so I just went with my heart and hoped my Armenian language would flow. That it did. I toasted to the friendship between two countries, the generous hearts of the Armenians who have accepted the PCVs with open arms and patiently listen to our language development. I toasted to the transformation of strangers to friends to a family relationship. It was not a different toast, but what was so remarkable is that I did not have to gather my thoughts in English, but I could convey and express from my heart in a language other than English. After this, I realized just how far all of us PCVs have come. We are able to express our thoughts, feelings, expressions, etc. when just a year ago we were struggling in saying simple things such as Hello, thank you, etc. It was an emotive moment for many reasons.

On a more day-to-day update, Armenia post-Egypt was very busy. I was greeted back into the village with the children screaming...”Syda ekav, Syda ekav”, meaning Syd has come. It was a humbling moment, as I was kind of anxious to come back, after stuffing my face with things such as CHEETOS, Milkshakes, and just laying on the beach. But this welcome was inevitable that I have arrived somewhere; my home. Home is such a great feeling, and I was there.

School ended May 25th countrywide. It is ended with the 10th form students (there is not a 11th or 12th form), performing a four hour celebratory program, sang songs, and went wild. Frankly, it was nothing like that of the US. No diplomas were handed out, no scholarships were talked about, no gifts were exchanged, and no robes or hats were worn. It was just one big party with smiles all around. Now the 10th form students are preparing for their state exams, which are taken after the “last bell”.
The boys’ and girls’ basketball teams made it the quarterfinals of the national tournament, only losing to city teams. Not too shabby for a village, eh? I was very excited for the girls’ team as they really formed into a team and have developed a better self conscious of themselves. Sport can do so much for the development of an individual, and I can honestly say that it is lending a helping hand to these young women.

I eagerly want to renovate the basketball gym at our school, as it vaguely resembles a gym, and I know that students would feel special to have such a place to play ball. As I stated before, they were so excited to receive a regular basketball from America, and they proudly display this ball to everyone and it comes with us on our tournament journeys.

Earlier I stated that one summer youth environment camp has completed, and there will be four more camps left. It is very interesting going to different parts of the country and working with others and the children. I love summer camp and it has been very rewarding and exciting for me to utilize my programming skills in something that I really enjoy doing. The kids were so grateful of this experience. We only hope that they have developed an environmental awareness, as the youth can really change this country. We got them thinking about the environment, and that’s a start.

Also, on June 10th, we had the first annual national spelling bee. I took my students as well as 8 other communities participated. It was a great success, though there are some things that we need to work out. Unfortunately, none of my students won, and they were disappointed. However, it was a huge success for them to compete against other cities as only one other village was represented. They felt like failures because they are used to being the best. But this opportunity was wonderful for them to see how others are learning as well.

Lastly, I assisted in a creative writing contest for students in Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan. My students were the only students from an Armenian village that participated, so I was thrilled for them as they performed wonderfully. (Side note, there is a BIG discrepancy between village and city education, with villages lacking the resources, teachers, etc).

As for now, I am helping with some sessions for the new volunteers who are in training, setting up a career development trainers at a university, and implementing the summer camps. This summer is a busy one and it is flying by. My mind is constantly spinning and thinking of new ideas for the next school year and other activities for the future. If can get half of them finished by my end of service (in one year) I will be surprised.

The vibe for me in Armenia is a bitter-sweet feeling, as the group of PCVs ahead of me is completing their services and the new group has arrived. My PCV group is maturing from rookie status to the leaders, the veterans. I have really connected with many of the PCVs that paved the Armenian path ahead of me, and it is sad to see them go. They were the first breath of “comfort zone”. Like I have stated many times, this experience is a shared experience. We all for one here and the “see ya laters” are some of the hardest words to conjugate. My site mate Meg, has finished her service and is headed off to big endeavors in America. This picture posted on this blog is us, indulging ourselves in something that has become precious and priceless to many PCVs’ hearts, Kraft Mac and Cheese.

Again, I hope this update finds you tidy at home, the office, or wherever you may ready this. As I finish this, “I am proud to be an American” is playing on my computer. How suiting, and have to agree….
Լավ պահեք,
Սիդ

Հատուկ Ծնունդդ Շնորհավոր ցանքներ քյուրս Սամին և Մամային
Special birthday wishes to my sister Sam and Mom. Also Happy Father's Day to Dad, and Chadd.
Also, to Bern, Ant, Alex: Happy Birthday.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Syd,
Great post. It's hard to believe it's been a year since you all left for Armenia. I'm thankful not to be going through the 'stressed parent' thing this year! You are all doing such wonderful things and we are proud to have you represent the United States in Armenia. Keep up the good work.

Mrs. Z

Anthony said...

Hey there Squid

Been a while since I checked out the blog and I have enjoyed catching up on all of your news!

Never had any doubt that you would make a big difference over there, just glad that your colleagues seem to appreciate the work that you are doing as well.

Big hugs

Ant