This past November I was able to go back to Arizona for a few weeks. I hadn’t been back in over a year and a half. During this period of time so much more had changed than just a few new breweries opening up. My childhood bedroom got turned into a music studio. My dogs grew grey hairs and are a bit slower. My parents started taking up mountain biking out of the blue. My brother had gotten engaged. Many of my friends got married and had kids. It felt surreal to be coming back to a place where the people looked the same but had very different aspects of their lives. It was like I was living in an alternate version of my life from before Peace Corps where the characters are the same but there are crucial differences. To me only a small amount of time had passed and I hadn’t changed that much, so why should everything back home be different?
But a fair amount of time has gone by and life never stands still. I sometimes felt like I was an object encased in time capsule, hiding from a changing world only to step out into completely new one decades later.
One thing I’ve learned over the past few years is the fact that absence makes the heart grow fonder. I initially experienced this when I first left my hometown of Chandler, Arizona to go to the University of Arizona. When I moved to New York and Florida I came to appreciate Arizona as a whole and I took pride in having grown up in the Grand Canyon State. During those stretches of time I was away from my friends and family for no more than six months at a time (a drop in the bucket compared to my time here). Despite the seemingly short amount of time, those few months always felt like I was gone for an eternity.
Whenever I’m out of Arizona, I can’t help but think about all the parts that make my state wonderful. Every sunrise and sunset is majestic in that there are so many colors that cover the sky thus painting the saguaro and palo verde below. Picacho Peak stands apart from the flat landscape that surrounds the I-10 on the drive between Chandler and Tucson. The tumbleweed Christmas tree (once famously portrayed in National Geographic) is the pride and joy of downtown Chandler during the holiday season. The smell of dust just after heavy rainfall is easily my favorite smell (and I wish someone would sell it in the form of a scented candle).
More than our beautiful landscape, I missed the people from my home state. I was lucky enough to see most of my family over Thanksgiving and participate in my Dad’s new found love of karaoke. I was able to play a few masses at St. Tim’s with my friends and hit up Old Chicago afterwards. I got to watch football with friends from college (some of whom brought their spouses and kids). I was able to play music with my pops and watch ultra-dry BBC shows with my mom. Being away from home has made me appreciative of where I grew up and of the people I’ve been fortunate enough to have in my life.
While I was there, I found that missed Hayastan. Naturally, there are some difficult things that come with living in a foreign country. However, I was disappointed to not see Armenia in its last beautiful autumn colors before winter came. I missed the small kindnesses people here give out, like when a tatik on a marshutni will give you some candy just because. I missed playing “ching-a-chung” (Armenian rock paper scissors) with my students just to pass the time. I missed the group of Peace Corps volunteers I’ve come to call a second family. I missed the ease in which people here invite you into their homes for tea and the way long pauses in conversation can still be comfortable. As much as I had missed Arizona, I was still very ready to return to Armenia by the end of November.
And now I feel torn. In a way myself and many other PCVs come to form second homes in their country of service. We find ourselves to be in a perpetual state of longing for the place we aren’t currently in. While that seems like an unfortunate trait it also entails that despite all the obstacles we’ve faced we are still able to overcome and build a community on the other side of the world.
It’s good to be going back to work, I’ve greatly missed it. I know the next semester will be an exciting one, full of cherished moments with the remarkable people of Hayastan. While I’ll always miss Arizona, I am sure that I am exactly where I need to be right now. 2018 will be a fantastic year where all of us here in Armenia will make strides, big and small. Շնորհավոր Նոր Տարի!!!