Today, I’m living in Alaska, but my mind (and heart) is in Armenia. At one of our training sessions, for AmeriCorps Alaska, a member of our cohort spoke about her Armenian grandmother and how the family fled the Armenian Genocide.
She also spoke of her grandmother losing her Armenian traditions, food-ways, and language. Now, I can not stop thinking about Armenia.
I’ll admit it. Learning the Armenian language was hard. Armenian is written in its own alphabet, one created in 405 AD by Mesrop Mashtots. Peace Corps Armenia began our language training prior to our arrival.
After our arrival, we spent a short time together, at a brief orientation. Then, we were separated into small groups and taken to our individual PST (Pre-Service Training) host families. Twelve weeks later, we were sworn-in and moved to our permanent sites.
On one of my first trips, from my permanent site to Yerevan (the capital), I went to lunch at an Italian restaurant not far from the Peace Corps office. The waitress asked if she could take a photo with me. I said yes. A few minutes later, a drink that I had not ordered arrived at my table, compliments of the bar.
And so it began. I didn’t mind taking the photos. No one asking was ever pushy or rude. The only rule I had was over taking pictures with small children, when they clearly did not want to take a picture with me.
Other times, young children would come over and ask. Not all of the picture request were done by strangers. Sometimes I would be at work and students ask me.
Often, I would get these requests, in the teacher’s lounge. Students would see me sitting in there, between classes, and come in and ask for a photo.
Other times, I would be working at my secondary project and someone would want a photo. Over the summer, I worked at a local soup kitchen, in the town where I lived. I volunteered with two women from the UK. They suggested organizing an English language club, for the children living near the Soup Kitchen.
Along with living with my Momma jan (my PST host family) and living with my little brother and two sisters, (at my permanent site), the summer English club was the highlight of my service in Armenia. Well, if you’re not counting all my friends in Yerevan.
Being the closest volunteer to Yerevan had it’s privileges and that privilege was hotels and fine dining. I made quick friends with the folks at the Best Western, IBIS, Holiday Inn Express and others. I also made friends at many of the restaurant in Yerevan.
Now, I’m so happy that I took so many photos with family, friends, and locals. If not for the worldwide pandemic, I’d have many more. I was planning to visit both my host families, over my summer break, from Peace Corps Ethiopia. I was evacuated from the Peace Corps last March.
Hearing about my cohort’s grandmother today really made me miss Armenia. My PST mom follows me on Facebook. Today is her birthday. Happy Birthday Momma jan! My three siblings, from my permanent site, follow me on Instagram. A handful of my former students also follow me there.
On your final day as a Peace Corps volunteer, after you’ve turned in all your paperwork, you head to the front door of the office and ring the bell. Upon hearing it, the staff comes out to greet you and to say goodbye. And then, just like that, it’s over.
Now, I’m in Alaska. Today’s training was with the First Alaskans Institute. We have two weeks, via Zoom, to take in as much information as we can. On Friday, we will visit our worksites. So far, so good. I’ve made new friends, did a little shopping, found a grocery store and a coffee shop.
It’s almost like home, without all the picture taking. —GGT