Sunday, September 26, 2010

Possibly last post

I've been putting this off for a while now, because I wanted to do right by what may be my last post to this blog. But I've given up on the idea of "doing it right." As most of you probably know by now, my Peace Corps service has finally ended and I'm back in America; at first I thought I knew exactly what I wanted to post for this entry, some of which I will put down but most of which I'll dispense with. I want to explain a bit of what I'm feeling now that I've been back for 2 months.

But first, part of the thing that I thought this post was going to focus on. I logged my first few thoughts and observances when my flight landed in New York (I was connecting from New York to Ohio, where I visited a dear friend). Here are a few of those listed below:

  • Overwhelming joy upon stepping out of the plane onto home soil, followed by amusement at the pushiness of an American standing in line at Customs.
  • The mixed smells of cleaning products, baked goods, and air conditioning somehow mingling to create that familiar airport smell.
  • Actual help and information from the man and woman at the security/info desk; real friendliness and a sincere attempt to help me out.
  • Overly stressed woman getting help at the Southwest counter and being a raging bitch.
  • The cacophony of voices that I can't block out as white noise because they're in my own language (possibly just brought on by severe sleep deprivation).
  • The guy next to me considering taking back his order because he wasn't satisfied (voch inch chi!).
  • Forced courtesy from anyone behind a counter.
  • Someone asked me if someone was sitting in the seat next to me; I thought "azat e" and then had to translate it in my head into English. Oh situational Armenian...
But now I've been back for a couple months, have seen people I wanted to see (though not all and not for long enough), and am working again and I've begun to have a rush of feelings sweeping over me. This is particularly strange to me because I thought that I had adjusted incredibly quickly and that I was pretty well settled back into life here. While I think that's still mostly true, I think it's possible that the freshness of it all when I first got back made me forget most of my life in Armenia. I was so busy seeing people and doing things that I didn't have time to reflect on that part of my life that is now "finished."

I put "finished" in quotes because I actually find that a terribly inaccurate word for what I want to portray. That puts too much finality on an experience that has changed me in many ways, most of which I'm probably not conscious of. So much of my life in Armenia will always be with me; how I think of the world, of people, of my place in life has been shifted because of my time there. To say that that part of my life is "finished" is true in the sense that I'm no longer there, but it's not true in the sense that part of who I am now is formed by having lived in Armenia.

Now that I've settled back into a more stable life 2 months in (stable in the sense that I've got a job that is regular and I at least know what I'm doing most days from now until election day; not stable in the sense that after election day I'll be shifting to something else, I know not what) I'm starting to be able to get a sense of what's missing. I'm especially cognizant of this because it's starting to turn toward Fall. Here in the Southwest (where I'm working) that doesn't mean a whole lot, since it's still 30-31C outside most days, but just the dates remind me. Fall and Winter were among my favorite times in Armenia; this should be odd, considering how difficult winter can be in Armenia, but I'm a cold weather person and I love the smells of Fall and Winter and the feel of biting cold wind on my cheeks. Many of my most treasured memories--as well as many of my first memories--from Armenia came from times and events that occurred October-March: Halloween, all-vol, Christmas, New Years, hiking Aragats in February. I have such treasured memories from those times, that certain things will set me off longing for Armenia. For example, every single time I listen to The Decemberists' "Hazards of Love" and "The Crane Wife" albums, I'm reminded of driving from Yerevan to Vanadzor or Vanadzor to Gavar in the Fall and Winter and listening to one or the other of those albums on loop. They're so viscerally associated with those times, that just listening to them makes me remember how long it will be until I can do that again.

It's apparently going to take more time to adjust than I first expected, and not in the ways I expected. So many people talked to us about how shocking it was to go into a supermarket, or drive again, or just be in American culture. But those are not the things that I find difficult to deal with, at all; it's the knowledge of an experience that has ended that's hard to internalize.

It's always hard to adjust to leaving a treasured place, I'm finding. It happened when I moved back from Indiana to Idaho in 2006. It happened when I went to Armenia. And it's happening now that I've left Armenia. There are things that set me off in sadness that I can't control for; I suppose I could control for some of the music that sets me off, but I like it too much to do that. I also need to do these things, listen to this music, remember those times in order to give myself space to accept what I'm missing and enjoy again what's new.

As I said before, this may possibly be the last post to this blog. But I can't say for sure. I had almost given up on the idea of posting a last entry until these feelings started to hit me. I may yet again need this space to make sense of this new life.