Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving in Armenia

Today I woke up in Yerevan in Anahit’s house. Anahit is a woman, probably in her mid forties, who has opened her apartment to volunteers and travelers for a few thousand dram per night. Kind of like a hostel, her home is warm and there are plenty of beds. She even let me take a hot shower this morning. As I was getting ready to leave I spoke with another guest who happens to be a chef from Singapore. He is on a holiday because his restaurant is being remodeled. He couldn’t get over the cold weather, but to be honest it was so sunny today that I was able to take off my wool coat as I walked (thanks to the two layers of thermal underwear I’m wearing).

By 9 a.m. I had written my thank you note, put a small chocolate on my pillow, and was on my way. I walked to Republic Square where met a new friend I’ve made in Yerevan. She is about my age and is the PR director for a chemical company in the city. We sat and sipped green tea and she shared her experiences related to the stress of changing the public’s perception of a company that is harmful for the environment and the excitement of planning the company’s 70th anniversary celebrations.

I left and walked to the ATM to get my December living allowance. I hadn’t taken two steps out of the booth before a young girl walked up and asked for money. It’s pretty hard to say that I don’t have anything when she just watched me take money from the account. She exploded into a long story about how she was a homeless orphan, she didn’t have any money and she was hungry. I marched her into the nearest store and bought her two bananas and a bag of walnuts. Not necessarily the tastiest breakfast, but I'm a health volunteer right?

I decided that I would make a quick stop in a gift shop to pick up a present for my counterpart. In my village when someone loses a close relative it is customary to visit their home and bring a gift. Normally I would expect to get the present and go, but in my experience there is no such thing as a quick visit to anywhere in Armenia. She asked where I was from and what I do in the country.

*side note: Just yesterday we formed a PR committee for the Peace Corps. We realized that there is very little public awareness of the organization among host country nationals. Many people believe that American volunteers are missionaries in the country. This results from the fact that religious organizations were historically the first to send relief.

In an effort to represent my work clearly I told her that I teach health. She pulled out a bag of carrots and offered me a small snack. I praised her for her healthy choice and we had a 30 minute discussion about what should and should not be eaten, in what quantity and how often. It was an ironic discussion for Thanksgiving Day.

I picked up laundry and searched for Christmas notes (unsuccessfully, sorry if they arrive late). I came to the office to use the internet, type some committee notes and do some research about service learning. I’ll go back to the village tonight and consider sharing cookies from Aunt Carlene with my host family.

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! You’ve all blessed my life.

5 comments:

Mom said...

Sarah,
You've blessed our lives as well. Sounds like you are learning lessons and teaching by your example. We'll miss you at dinner...Jeff is already thinking about how he'll get your share of stuffing.
Happy Thanksgiving! Schnor Havor
Love, Mom

Sandy Troutman said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Dan Orzano said...

Hi Sarah....Dan Orzano here. Emily Sidle gave me your site link as we were chatting about you recently at work. I'm enjoying catching up with your running reports from Armenia.

What a great experience you're having and this is a great way to share those experiences with others.

I'll continue to log in occasionally to see what's new. Keep up the terrific work you're doing there...it's making such a huge difference in the lives of others.

Best always,

Dan

Lindsay McCune said...

Sarah,

I have been thinking of you for months and I think it is time I share my warmest regards with you.

I enjoy reading about your experiences and how you are enriching the lives of others.

I hope you had a wonderful holiday and you are doing well.

Best,
Lindsay

Kara said...

Sarah it sounds like you are really enjoying your time in Armenia. I hope it isn't too hard spending the holiday's away from your friends and family. Just know that everyone is keeping you in their thoughts! Well I just wanted to say hi and also do you have an address you can be reached at? I tried searching the blog here because I thought you had it down somewhere, but I'm too impatient to look too hard! Happy Holidays!