Saturday, August 23, 2008

Reminders make things harder

It was suggested at one point during training that we have things to remind us of home, in order to keep us sane.  I thought it was a sensible suggestion, so I have a bunch of movies on my computer and, when I can, I manage to download the podcasts I used to listen to daily, stuff like Fresh Air, A Prairie Home Companion, This American Life, Savage Lovecast, and a couple others.

Unfortunately, I find that they just remind me of the things I'm missing out on at home.  They make me miss having access to them whenever I want; having reasonable access, in fact, to practically anything I want or need.  They even remind me, for instance, that I haven't been hiking or camping since I got here and that even when I do get a chance to go, it's not going to be nearly as good as I can get in Idaho.

But then, it doesn't help to just not have those things at all, because I do miss them when they're not there.  That may be a bit different now, though, because the last time that I didn't have things and was really missing them was about three weeks in, when all of that was still very fresh in my mind.  

I find it strange that it's not the obviously material things that I miss most:  a comfortable bed, good food, restaurants, shopping.  It's actually the experientials I miss most.  Listening to NPR or hiking through the mountains of Idaho have little to do with tangible, material possessions.  They're actually more of regular experiences that I valued that cost me little to nothing beyond a tank of gas or time.

And maybe that's why it's still so hard; I'm not really having enjoyable experiences yet.  Right now I'm just bored out of my mind because my NGO is on vacation for another week, and I have nothing to do except for sit around and study and read.  I've been enjoying reading in the park, which is my substitute for reading at a coffee shop, but that's about the only thing I've really enjoyed and been content with in the last week.  I need to actually start doing something, or I'm going to go out of my mind with boredom.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Here's the benefit to being in a large city (well, large for Armenia at somewhere around 120,000): I get to update my blog far more often.

As I promised, I've finally edited and uploaded pictures. The pictures are necessarily small because the internet connections in this country, outside of Yerevan, are terrible; they're akin to perhaps a 28.8 kbs connection most of the time. It's better when there aren't a lot of people in the internet cafe, but unfortunately there are always people here. C'est la vie.

All of today's pictures are going to be of my PST village, with an emphasis on my host family's house. A friend wanted me to post pictures of the garden, so those will be the first.

This has been my bathroom for the last two and a half months. I know, you're seething with jealousy.

Here's a picture of my house from the outside.

This was my room. Small (though bigger than my current room in my permanent site), but I loved it; it was rather comfortable.

This was my absolute favorite place in all of my village. My host mom had set up a little glass table and stools where she liked to read and write. It became my study, reading, and writing area, and my sanctuary when I just needed someplace to sit. It was always the perfect temperature, and it was nice and quiet; and, as a bonus, it was right beneath the cherry trees so once they were ripe I could just reach out and have a tasty treat.

This is a picture of the area at sunset. It looked like this at least three days out of the week. There was little better than going for a run through the wheat fields as the sun was setting and enjoying the view.

That's all for now. Expect more pictures soon.

Friday, August 15, 2008


I am now, officially, a Peace Corps volunteer.

Let me repeat that.

I am now, officially, a Peace Corps volunteer.

That's a damned good feeling, for a number of reasons, the first of which being that it means that PST is finally over. I have so, so much more freedom now than I did as a trainee; freedom to set my own schedule; freedom to learn the language as I want to learn it; freedom to create my own work.

It's also a damned good feeling because taking the oath to serve my country by spreading American goodwill and development assistance gives me a great sense of pride; pride in my country, for creating a program that seeks to lift others out of poverty in a sustainable way; pride in myself for slogging through some very hard and stressful work so far. It sounds cliche to talk about pride in country, certainly, but I don't think there's a better expression for how I feel about it.

Lastly, it feels so good to know that I will now have access to a shower again, instead of a bucket bath. Something minor, perhaps, but good nonetheless.

So, now I'm at my permanent site and I've settled in with a new host family. The only downside to completing PST is a sense that I'm right back where I started at. I have to get to know my new host family, continue learning the language, start an entirely new job, make new acquaintances in a new place...I've somehow come full circle and it's only been a little over two months.

But oh well. I'm free to do my thing and make good things happen. Here's to the next two years!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Life is more pleasant

I managed to survive the last three days, so life is much better now.

Our community project went fairly well. We decided to train counselors on how to run a "green camp." After soliciting about 60 or so folks for their opinions on the village--its strengths and its weaknesses--we noticed several things that we wanted to partly try to address. One was that the villagers were very proud of their natural environment; and rightly so, as the village really is quite nice aside from the persistent trash problem. The other was that there was a distinct lack of jobs in the village. Now, this particular complaint is quite common in Armenia, since unemployment is very high here (as in many other developing countries). While we couldn't address the complaint in the fullness that it really needs, we did decide--after the wonderful suggestion by our Language and Cultural Facilitator--that the idea of training young adults to be camp counselors for an environmental camp would help address this problem at least in a small way, since we suggested that they charge a small fee for this camp.

Anyway, it went off well, though after the initial training and interest section we only had a couple people interested. Better a couple than none. We came back several hours later and had a mock camp session, and then went and cleaned a section of stream. That was quite disgusting, but that section looked so much better after we finished.

The Armenian practicum was okay. Happily, we're not really expected to be full on teaching as soon as we get to site, so this practicum was just to demonstrate our coping strategies and to prove how hard it would be if we don't eventually have the language. Didn't really need that to be demonstrated, but it went off okay anyway. It's done, and that's the important part.

Alas, another person decided to Early Terminate. That brings us down to 45, from an original 50. I hope that we won't have many other people ET, since I really like almost everyone, but I guess we'll see.

Here's to one more week of PST before moving to my new site!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

I'm tired of being constantly angry

So, PST (pre-service training) really, really sucks these days. I am not exaggerating when I say that, right now, I really hate PST. We are so overloaded with stuff to do right now, and it's driving me crazy. We have language lessons every day but Sunday, we have been planning our community project and doing a stupid amount of translation for it (we really overextended ourselves in what we decided to do; I am now regretting that we picked an ambitious project), and creating lesson plans and translating them into Armenian. Plus, we have had a couple central days and tech days each week, giving us even less time to get done what we need to. In addition to all of this, I've had unhappy news coming from home (though I won't detail it on this blog), adding to my general stress. This is absolutely one of the most stressful times I've ever been in.

Because of all of this, I just constantly feel angry. I wake up every day and dread the day to come, knowing how much we have to do. As the day progresses I just get angrier and angrier, wanting to lash out at people for the simplest annoyances. Then, when I'm at home and take a short break I get frustrated by the fact that half the time I still can't understand what people are saying when they're talking to me. Every single day for about a week now I've just wanted to punch someone, or yell at them, or just scream at the top of my lungs. I go to bed at night and toss and turn for an hour and a half because I can't stop thinking about all the shit I still have to do, and I don't really want to sleep because I know I have to get up the next day and start all over again. I feel like I'm going crazy.

Things should get better after the next three days, since we're finishing our community project tomorrow, and our lesson plans will be finished as of Tuesday. I just need to hold out and hopefully I'll begin having a bit of free time again, and feeling better.