Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Alas Spring!

Love the snow~ :) This is me trying to cross countriy ski!
As I write, I am reclined in my bed, unmovable, wearing three layers of shirts, topped off with no socks and a pair of shorts. It is a beaming 55 degrees in my home and maybe a blazing 33 degrees outside as it late at night. You may ask, “Why in the world are you in shorts, Syd?” followed by “Why are you unmovable”? Let me explain….

With the fresh sunlight and the snow starting to melt, there is a psychological sense that a warm front have moved in. Plus, the Armenian celebrate spring the first of March (always fun to celebrate a month or two in advance)thus, the freedom of shorts, instead of long johns creates some time of freedom for my legs. After this exposure to “leg freedom” I ventured out (in three layers) for the first time since the marathon (Nov 4th) and ran for 40 minutes a couple of days ago and then repeated the action as it “felt so good”. So my legs are sore as heck, and I am enjoying the warm front that has rolled in. Its stay may be short, so I am soaking up the sun before the next snow storm rolls through.

With the snow melting, the village has become to what I refer to as a Hershey Kisses Swimming Pool, without the sweet taste. The roads are massive puddles of water and mud, making them impassable. But for me, if there is challenge I will try. That I have been doing until yesterday, when I literally fell into one of these Hershey Chocolate Swimming Pools. It was dark and my flashlight could not embrace the greatness of this lake of mud. I just decided to swim across. When I got home, little water remained, but I managed to clean my self spick and span with just one bucket of water. Which leads to me….

…to talk about the professional development skills I have learned in the PC that, unfortunately, has no room on a traditional CV or resume:
Walking on Ice…yes it doing and a hard feat to do. I have achieved it!
Bathing…Not only do I bath by bucket twice a week (on a lucky week) but I have found how to conserve water. I bath in my rinsing water from my laundry. I have gotten more compliments of how beautiful I look after I did this, so I continue to save my rinse water.
Giradia….it is my best friend and it follows me everywhere, always providing company!
Petting….I have developed a strong tolerance for allowing unknown children to pet and touch me because I am different. It is so amusing! J
Toasts…You have a holiday or celebrating in the next couple of months! Call on any PCV who can flatter you with the most amazing words in Armenian or English!

Perspective. Perspectives.

So what have I been up to since I have last written? Well, I with some fellow American comrades, took a adventure up to northern Armenia for a weekend full of cross country skiing. The area up there was plummeted with snow, which make the “falls” much more soothing. The six of us were trained and coached by former USSR cross country skiing champions, as well as two-time Olympic champions. I definitely have come out as a better skier, that is for sure! The couple was fabulous and so were their children. They were patient, gave us their home for the weekend, and it was one of the most endearing culture exchanges I have ever experienced, and it is special to me as it was done through a beloved colleague of me: sport.

Before the skiing journey, my counterpart and I participated in a program management and design conference as trainers. My counterpart did such an amazing job throughout the conference! I was so proud of her! Her confidences soared as she tackled this national conference, using our grant working experiences, and her people skills! In the evening, there was some free time. My friends, Heather, Warren and I gathered an Armenian troop and taught them how to play Skip-Bo. It was a blast for all, but I think my winning Skip-Bo has been hindered, as a bunch of rookies beat me out! J

For the juicy part, Armenia had its president elections on February 19th. The prime minister, Serj Sargsyan came out as the victor, though some would argue it was an unfair outcome. There were peaceful protests, gathering hundreds of thousands of people in the capital of Yerevan. Then suddenly, the peace ended on March 1st, with a dispute breaking the tranquility, and a pure riot broke out, leaving over hundred injured, eight dead, cars flipped and burnt, stores broken into and looted, and a complete mess of Yerevan streets. There was been a state of emergency declared until March 22nd, with military and soldiers patrolling the streets, and tanks lining the center of town. I am told by friends both Armenian and American who live in Yerevan, that the situation in Yerevan has been and is quite stressful, depressing, and sad. All I really know is that the Peace Corps had given no permission to be in or by Yerevan for the past month and the alert recently ended. As of now, the President has sworn in (April 9th) and things seem to be going well.

I didn’t know if you had heard about this situation, as my friends and family in Nebraska heard the news from me, but in other heavily populated areas in America, with an Armenian congregation, it was front page news. It is a cheerless event for the country; however, I cannot comment an opinion, because in my village, things could not be more normal. Our classes were never interrupted. The country’s transportation was stopped for a couple of days to the capital city, but that really no had effect here. The only effect I saw was that more villagers must have been making more cakes or eating eggs, because it was the only time since I have been in Armenia that I could find some eggs! :) This could be just a random correlation, but it happened.

So with this situation, it has been interesting to see how involved Yerevan has been in my service. For me to reach any other part of the country, I have to go to Yerevan to catch the transport. We have a international writing contest going on and we cannot collect the entries from other sites who sent them to Yerevan. Meetings have been delayed, cancelled, rescheduled, etc. Plus some of my really good pals live in Yerevan and I have not been able to see them. Yerevan is like a little outlet for us PCVs. It has restaurants, showers, warmth, and meltable cheese. There is no doubt that I could live without Yerevan, but it is quite funny to reflect and really how much I have used Yerevan in the past.

Speaking of reflection, wow, I cannot believe that there is only four more months of service left. I have been thinking about it, but the villagers have really brought up the topic lately. March 8th is celebrated as Women’s Day and it is heavily celebrated. Many students wrote little holidays cards, with asking me to stay forever. Cute, eh? Then toasts were made, and eventually ended up with a plea for me to stay. It is funny, being trapped in the village without travel permission for the past two months or so, I have really hung out with the villagers on a more regular basis. The people mean the world to me and thinking of not living in Armenia is a distressing thought. These individuals stopped their lives to allow some random goodie tissue kid from the US to live with them; to become part of their daily routines; part of their families. They do so, with great patience, as we are constantly learning the language, having culture faux; I feel as if we come, have an influence on each other, and then leave. There is no doubt in me that these friendships will last, however it does pose the question of “do we really intrude as PCVs?” We come and go with our returns being years ago due to financial reasons. We assist and help in ways that we can, but in the end, and I was SO NAÏVE to this; the PCV gains so much out of the experience. I am taking more from this experience that what I have felt I have offered to the Armenian population. My sole goal to come here was to help. I realized how fortunate I was in the States, and I wanted to pay these actions forward. However, the Armenians have me beat because I don’t think I can ever repay them for the life lessons they have taught me. It is weird, to have a goal that needs to be achieved, only to find out that the receivers of your goal have in turn become the givers, and you, the giver, have become a receiver.

Phew, touchy moment there, but this is a common PC story, and as this experience has been shared between all of us…you all deserve the right to know.
So lastly, you may be asking yourself a final question, “Hummm, only four months left? What in the world is Syd going to do after Armenia? Will she go and save penguins in Antarctica?”

No, my dear Lindsey, I won’t be venturing down to the South Pole to help our dear flipper friends who are suffering from an alternate environment due to global warming. It is quite appealing, and it is a list of things I would like to do, but it is not my calling for the next five years or so….

But things are in action, and options have been confirmed. I am headed to the Philippines in August to serve as a lecture and teacher trainer of English in a college. I am swamping snow for humidity and typhoons! J Again it will be a 27 month commitment full of language training, cultural interactions, and adaptations of a new way of life; everything in which I am excited about. Through this experience in Armenia and the support I have received back home; the journey ahead in clear, challenging, and enchanting. I am certain that I have made the correct decision to keep paying forward the goodness I have received just being born in the United States, having wonderful parents, a great family, and unbelievable friends. I am just riding the wave of life and it is wicked fun!

Bless be the Groundhog. Candy and Hearts. Love to the US Presidents. Yah Spring! Happy Easter. May Day or Bust. Love the Moms!!!!

Peace, loves, hugs, and bless meltable cheese,
Happy Birthdays: Dad, Rebecca, Eileen, Eloise, Connie, Whitney, Cliff, Jamie, Lindy, Dave (late), Moni, Kristen, Mary, Aunt Barb, Upchuck Katie, PC Nancy
Happy Anniversary: Mom and Dad, Upchuck Katie, Laurel