Sunday, April 06, 2008

Miamsyak Masin

My dear friend Naira came to me with an idea for women's month: A women's only exercise class. I was at her house late one evening at the beginning of the month when she told me that she was feeling the winter weight and suggested organizing a class for women only. I was so excited about her initiative that I could barely contain myself. Her idea is any community health educator's dream come true. To think, she suggested the class for community members our age! As we prepared for the class and began to imagine what exercises to start with I kept remembering my college cardio kickboxing class. I wished I had paid more attention. Despite coaching youth lacrosse before joining the Peace Corps I felt unprepared to teach exercises to unfit women. What if someone threw out her back?

Naira and I drafted a contract for our participants. It read:

Miamsjak Miasin (A month Together)
"Move a lot, live long"

I came here because I want to live a healthy life and I want to feel good. I will try my best to learn new exercises and adopt them into my everyday life. I will try everything. Over time, I will live a healthy lifestyle. Today it is very important for us to maintain our health. This is not only important for me, but for everyone. When we are together, we are strong. As much as I am able, I will help the other women here.

The first day, all four participants signed. I was disappointed with the turn out, especially considering we had made attractive announcements and hung them around the village. I later realized that our problem was that women in their 20s and 30s don't go out walking in the village. Many, in fact, rarely leave their homes. I decided that it wasn't fair to tell my host mom, age 63, that she wasn't allowed to participate, especially since we had so few women the first day anyway and she came too. It has been three weeks since we began and we've had 15 women participate. My host mom surprises us all with her amazing leg-lifting ability and everyone is feeling better, stronger and lighter. I received a "Pilates for Dummies" disk and we're using it to learn exercises and improve our breathing. I couldn't be more proud of our group's consistency and enthusiasm. We even started adding in "running Fridays"

Who wouldn't feel good when, at the end of a difficult exercise class, everyone gathers in a circle, hands together, to cheer: "Miamsjak Miasin!"

Friday, April 04, 2008

Village Bee

Today nearly sixty students participated in our village Spelling Bee. After nearly two months of practicing the students came to try their luck at spelling words from their textbooks. It was a fun experience for the students in our 7th-11th grades. The five winners below will be traveling to the National Bee in May.

The event was a nice opportunity for me to invite my Armenian language teacher and other PCVs to the village. We had four judges and numerous 'audience controllers' (as the students like to help one another out).