Friday, November 30, 2007

Haykakan family weddings

When my host mother's (below) oldest grandson decided to get married he didn't wait for the traditional wedding. He 'kidnapped' his bride a few weeks ago which led to a hasty process of organizing a celebration last Friday. After returning from Thanksgiving with some other PCVs, I went right to work at the one thing I could contribute...writing with cotton on a carpet hung on the wall. No one is quite sure where this tradition came from, but at every wedding I've been present for there has been some sort of wish to the happy couple written on a carpet and displayed behind the newlyweds. I took it upon myself to create an artistic design in cotton as my wedding present.
The message says: Happiness and newlyweds. It was requested-along with the flowers at the top.

The wedding celebration on Friday wasn't the complete 11 a.m. to 3 a.m. event that I had expected. The party didn't begin until 4 p.m. and I escaped by 10. I left feeling great about my integration into the family and community as during one of the hundreds of toasts that are traditionally offered during the party my host father thanked me for being here, mentioned my work and congratulated my marathon achievement. It was nice to be remembered.

Even though I was proud of my early escape the night before I woke up Saturday morning to a call from my school director requesting my presence at a wedding of her nephew. I hadn't ever met her nephew or the bride, but that didn't make any difference to my director who insisted that since I was her daughter and it was a family affair I should be in attendance. I grudgingly went out in the sleet and slush, comforted by the fact that I wouldn't need to choose anything to wear because it's so cold no one takes their coat off anymore.

My director's son was the best man and 'apple keeper' (below left). His job was to make sure that no one stole the apple off the top of the sword he carried around all day. I tested him with my gloves, proving that it could be stolen despite the hundreds of deathly-sharp toothpicks he stuck in the core.

The bride was from a different village, and traditionally after bringing the groom from his house the whole party moves to retrieve the bride from hers. We dressed the bride and then sat down to a meal (almost identical to the meal we would have two hours later at the groom's house) where the elders of both villages introduced one another. Much to my surprise, I was introduced to the bride and her family: "This is our village's American, she works with our director in the school." I was caught off-guard and honored by the introduction. I saw it as my opportunity to turn to the bride, thank her for the party (which I hadn't been invited to) and welcome her to our village. According to Armenian customs she will move into her husband's parents house and I was happy to say that the village she is coming to is fantastic.

November developments

After Athens and our all volunteer conference at the beginning of November, I returned to the village to find exciting developments underway. In a village of 2,000, for example, there are two separate pharmacies being constructed (see photos below) and the kindergarten is being remodeled. One can't help but wonder why all of this work is being done in the cold but then again, in a community driven by summer harvests November/December may be the only downtime to get these projects done.

(above) Pharmacy number one. When I questioned the mayor about the decision to build a second pharmacy 100 meters down the street from the first, he told me that this one would sell shoes too. Shoes and drugs--I guess it's all about supply and demand.

(Above) This is the pharmacy that was finished first. Renovations were easy (a new coat of white paint) except for my single request to not harm the only land-line phone that I can access to call America. I considered this little concrete cell my connection to home and would often call loved ones from the empty room. When I went to check on the construction process I was happy to find the mayor and his son (who will own the pharmacy) relocating the phone from behind the counter to the open wall on the right side of the room. They promised I could call whenever need be and when I teased, 'Sure, during office hours' they told me I could get a copy of the key. I'm starting to get very spoiled in this village.

Sunday, November 04, 2007

We do 26.2

Today Team PC Armenia finished the 25th annual Athens Classic Marathon.

Team Kyle/Sarah finished in under five hours. Please see his Web site at for an interesting synopsis.