Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Khash Bowl 2006

This weekend the volunteers held Khash Bowl Fall 06. The event was an opportunity for us to get together, speak English, play football, eat and drink. Although I thought we were there to play ultimate frisbee, I was excited to find out it was our own version of American football Saturday. When I arrived the girls had decided I was homecoming queen.

At 2 p.m. the game started: the North vs. the South. Although I was completely enthusiastc to participate in this game I have never played football in my life. In fact, I haven't the slightest idea how to throw a football. I didn't bother to tell any of the boys this though, and I ran out onto the field, flags (strips of plastic tablecloth) tucked into my windpants, with pride for the South. As I ran though, it occured to me that just being a spectator of Buckeye football all those years was not enough to qualify me to play the actual game. Fortunately, Andrew was a good captain and the guys could hold their own on the field. They were only required to have 2 girls playing at a time and so my lack of knowlege and skill didn't hurt the team too much. Every time I ran into the huddle I told him I could catch and throw and although I obviously didn't know what I was doing he would tell me where to go and who to 'tackle'. I didn't do a spectatular job; in fact, I didn't even do an ok job. I let Syd get two touchdowns on defense and Dominque deflected one of my touchdown passes. I sat out the remainder of the half and the majority of the second half too.

Then, it was the last minutes of the game. The South was up 8 to 6 and I was dying to go back in and try my luck just one last time. I saw that they let Katie play quaterback and run the ball and I begged Andrew to let me try. The second to last play of the game I got my chance and would you belive me if I told you I got a first down? There are some athletic moments you never forget. That first down in Khash Bowl 06 will be one of them...the sun shining, the breeze blowing and all of the volunteers chanting my name on the sideline. What an honor.

Later that night the Peace Corps rented a room in a local restaurant and had a party to celebrate. One of the A13's made chili for everyone and we ate and danced. After dinner they collected votes for MVPs. We were instructed to vote for a female and male from the north and south teams. Hands down the North nominations made sense. Syd deserved her nomination as she scored a majority of their team's touchdowns and Dominique played a great game. When it came to the South, however, I listened in disbelief when they called my name as the most valuable player. "Although she may not know much about football, she sure did make the team a heck of a lot cuter," Katie announced!

What? Me?

Although it was undeserved, they called me to the front, put a shot in my hand, took pictures and told me congratulations.
The Peace Corps never ceases to surprise me. Who knew the homecoming queen can double as the winning team's MVP?

Friday, October 20, 2006

Watch out Betty

Our village table at the festival. (left to right) My counterpart is in red, my school director, her daughter, our YCAP President, the Project Harmony director and a villager. On the table the woman in white is made of cheese and the swan on the right is a melon. Aren't the watermelons pretty?

I confidently presented the Armenian's with apple cobbler and M&M cookies. They're located in the very front.

I shook the president's hand and told him I was thankful for the opportunity to serve in his country. I said that I work in the school with my counterpart and he looked at her (which made me a very popular volunteer). He asked how long I've been in Armenia and I told him 2 years...and then in my excitement I corrected myself and told him 4 months. He asked what kind of volunteer I am and I told him a healthcare. That was the extent of the conversation, but exciting nonetheless.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

This morning I was craving a loaf of fresh banana bread

When I was on my way home from my morning walk.

After teaching two eighth form classes my counterpart and I were preparing the lessons for tomorrow when I was called to the principal's office. I went up to find the Mayor and his secretary, the Project Harmony director and the YCAP leader all sitting around her conference room table. Fortunately I brought the English teacher with me when I went, because I wouldn't have understood their request at all had she not translated.

Apparently this Saturday is a holiday in Armenia. They are celebrating the completion of the fall harvest season with a large festival in a city about an hour north of my village. I think it has the similar atmosphere of Oktoberfest. As we sat around the table the Mayor described what would be requested of us. "We need a nice table cloth, plates and silverware, fresh vegetables and fruits, horovats, bread and lavash." All the women started planning who would bring what and which items would provide the most aesthetically pleasing presentation. He continued to describe the importance of the event saying that all of the villages would be there, the media and that even the president of Armenia would be in attendance. I sat there for a few minutes trying to imagine what he might request of me. Maybe he would want me to help decorate the table or maybe to help carry the dishes. Then he said exactly what he wanted. Our Sarah will prepare a traditional American dish for the table at the festival. She will make the dish and then she will present it as a representation of our village to the President....

It's no secret. I don't cook.

The whole meeting I tried with all my might to imagine what I could possibly be capable of preparing for this event. I know that whatever it is needs to look nice, it must stay fresh and be colorful. It has to last the hour-long bus trip to the city and it needs to be purely American. What did I eat when I lived by myself in America: spinach and turkey sandwhiches, cereal, PB&J, burritos and Graeter's ice cream. My thoughts were interrupted when the Mayor asked if I have a small American flag they can place on the table. Of course I don't. I have one American flag sticker on the inside of my journal but I wasn't about to offer that for the presentation. I smiled, hoping that my face wasn't projecting the fear and terror I felt inside. "They don't know that I'm useless in the kitchen (except to wash dishes)."

Gohar, the Project Harmony director, turned to me and said: "Sarah, last year Emily (the volunteer who was here before me) prepared the most delicious banana bread for us. Maybe you could make that?" I said I'd love to make banana bread, but it's ugly... it wouldn't look nice displayed on the table...and she agreed. I was thinking about M&M cookies, but it's a harvest festival and I'm a healthcare volunteer. What kind of message would that project?

So, I must get going. I've got work to do with my Peace Corps cookbook. I'm kicking myself for rejecting my mother's generous offers to teach me how to cook all those years...if only I could make a quick trip to Kroger!

Sunday, October 08, 2006


This weekend I ventured back to my training village to visit my family and see my new 'niece'. On Friday evening I went to the neighbors house to visit and they showed me their new car from Yerevan and their two new baby cows. It was when Leila asked me to name them that I realized my purpose in this country. I'm not actually a Community Health Education Generalist, I'm here to name people's cows! Sorry, no pictures of baby Ana and baby Adam-- although they had me write the names on the barn door so they wouldn't forget (see above).

I thought it would be a quiet weekend visiting the family and seeing the new baby, but Saturday afternoon my brother walked in the house with 10 pairs of plastic medical 'work' gloves. He said they were for the potato garden...

I didn't come to the village prepared for manual labor, so I put on my windpants and my host mom loaned me some old men's house slippers. We went to the potato farm and much to everyone's excitement one of the neighbors was letting us use the tractor for the evening. The same potatoes that I helped plant back in June were all ready to be harvested so as the tractor ran up and down the rows we collected them in buckets and transferred them into potato sacks. In all my life the only interaction I've had with potato sacks has been the field day races in elementary school.

The potatoes came in all sizes. A majority were about a fourth of the size of what you'd find in Kroger, but every once in awhile the tractor would unearth a massive potato half the size of a football. The largest ones always got special recognition. We worked for a few hours, took a break to eat some hardboiled eggs, bread, tomatoes and cucumbers and then finished the field by about 7:30 p.m. There's a very good chance that working in that field was one of my favorite activities in Armenia thus far.

Above are pictures of Nare, my 'niece' born September 2. She is very tiny and they roll her up in about six blankets like a mummy to keep her warm. The yellow outfit was a gift from America, (thanks mom) but I don't think she'll fit into it for a few more months. It's probably for the better though, because her legs are all wrapped together with the towels. They advertise a baby supplement on TV called HIPP and I found them feeding it to Nare this weekend. At first I got really scared to see them serving her tea from a baby bottle, but after reading the label I found that it is in fact intended for infants. Although I don't trust advertising here very much I was happy to see that at least there was a warning: "to avoid tooth decay train baby to use a cup as soon as possible."

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Give and take

I really cherish electronic correspondence with home. There's nothing that makes me happier than a hand written letter from the ones I love, and emails are almost equally as exciting. This week, however, I realized that no matter how much I enjoy writing to you, posting to this journal or 'chatting' through gmail, internet is definitely not one of my necessities.

I'll tell you what is: Water.

Last Monday or Tuesday, late one night, someone snuck in, dug a hole right into our dirt road and stole the 'machine' that pumps water into the whole village one time per week. As if storing water in underground pools and large trash cans wasn't bad enough, now we have no access to water. Of course I didn't realize this last week and I showered normally on Friday morning from what we had stored. On Saturday morning I left for Yerevan expecting a nice warm shower in the city that evening. The shower didn't work out in Yerevan, but I was sure I could last until Sunday evening when I got home....if only I would have known that there isn't water at 'home'. Through observation I learned where I could get water to wash my face and brush my teeth, but by yesterday afternoon I was definitely feeling like Pig Pen. The family said we would buy water from somewhere and that it would be delivered at 6 p.m., but at 9:45 when I stood on the balcony and considered washing my hair in the rain I decided enough was enough. I requested a bucket bath. I learned how to heat the water with a metal rod you plug into the wall and then learned the hard way how not to test if it's warm or not. One bucket of hot water and one half bucket of cold water later I felt much better and went to bed.

So isn't it ironic that for so many weeks I hoped for internet in my village and took the water for granted? Had I known the trade off I think I would have settled for what we had.