Good evening, everyone! I’m sorry it took so long for me to write. Needless to say, the last few months have been an incredibly busy time of all of us trainees (now volunteers). I’m not sure where to even start.
Since March, myself and a group of roughly 40 other Americans have been training in Artashat (a city near the capital, Yerevan) and smaller, nearby villages. We lived in these villages with host families for about three months. Nearly every day we attended hours of Armenian and teaching classes. After having our heads hastily crammed with vocabulary, grammar and teaching tips, we then went home to our host families where we got to put into practice our newfound language abilities. At the end of this Pre-Service Training, our Armenian was tested in an interview and if we passed we were deemed fit to serve as official Peace Corps Volunteers.
I wish I had the time to keep up with my writing while I was in Mrgavan. There are so many people and anecdotes I want to recount but even now, I’m not sure I can do them justice. When we arrived in Armenia, our group of A-24’s (the 24th group of Peace Corps volunteers to serve here) were moved to a secluded resort removed from Armenian society. For those brief four days, it felt like we weren’t even in a foreign country because we really only saw other Americans with the occasional Armenian here and there. On Easter Sunday, we were moved to our PST (Pre-Service Training) sites. I was incredibly fortunate to not only be moved to Mrgavan but to have, without a doubt, the best host family I could wish for.
When I stepped off the Marshutni (bus) and took in this dusty village, I was anxious and apprehensive. I was moments from my first meeting with the culture and language I had been preparing for months to interact with. Today, I still have only very rudimentary Armenian down and this is after months of intensive language classes and integration. On that cloudy day in March, I had no confidence in what little Armenian I knew. I was tense while waiting for someone from my host family to arrive in front of the mayor’s office and take me to their home. Soon a group of small children dressed in traditional Armenian clothing, accompanied by my host mother, greeted us eight Americans. We were given bread and salt, a symbolic gesture welcoming guests into one’s home (or in this case village).After we gathered our numerous bags, we walked to our new homes. Here was the true beginning of our adventure in Armenia.
My host family, especially my host mom, was one of the best. They had two volunteers before me and were knowledgeable on the differences between American and Armenian cultures. They knew that I knew next to no Armenian and were so incredibly patient when I attempted to speak this new language. Some of my favorite memories revolve around my host mom (Varduhi) and sister (Mary) helping me write small presentations in Armenian. These “speeches” could be about anything and rather than focus topics every other student spoke about, my family and I wrote stories about a dog named Maroseek.
This dog lived in Yerevan in lavish apartment and was a columnist for Yerevan Fashion Weekly. She was wealthy, ambitious and young, ready to take on the world. However, she had an unhealthy obsession with Kim Kardashian and desperately wanted to be one of her closest friends. So Maroseek bought an expensive dress and crashed Kim’s party. Sadly, Kim is not a fan of dogs even if they are wearing expensive clothing. So Kim had security remove the dog from the building into the snowy winter night. Maroseek, sad and alone, went to the nearest bar where she consumed a fair amount of alcohol and made a fool of herself. Her friends and coworkers soon found out about this turn of events and swiftly distanced themselves from her. At this point Maroseek had lost her precious social status, her impressive job, her apartment (since she could no longer afford it) and her boyfriend (who was only mentioned in passing). In a depressed state, she went back to the same bar she went to after the Kim Kardashian incident and began drinking once more. In a haze she spotted an attractive Rottweiler with whom she immediately fell in love with. After a romantic night of dancing and socializing between the two dogs, the Rottweiler left the bar with Maroseek never having learned his name.
Unfortunately, this is where Mary, Vardhui and I last left our story. I hope we can one day continue the story I describe to my friends as a combination of Beverly Hills Chihuahua and The Devil Wears Prada. I write about this ridiculous story with the hope that I convey the humor I was lucky enough to share with my Mrgavan family.
As time went on, my Armenian slowly (emphasis on slowly) improved. I could eventually communicate the most basic things such as whether or not I liked a specific food or asking where the bathroom was. Due to this I was later able to truly meet the people who were so kind to me. Sharing meals with them, watching cheesy Armenian soap operas and traveling with them to Khor Virap and Echmiadzin (yes they took me to both places!) really allowed me to develop a bond with them.
I already miss so many little things from living in Mrgavan. I wish I still had my numerous games of ninja with David and Gohar, my guitar lessons with Noro and my Armenian dance lessons at the mayor’s office. While I’m sure I’ll develop great friendships here in Vaghatin, I think it will never be quite the same as what I had there. It’s comforting to know I’ll always have a family in Mrgavan.