Morning and the office…

In the morning I usually turn the alarm off at 8:00am and then fight with the morning for fifteen minutes before I actually get up. One of the reasons I don’t like to get up is that it’s cold like Texas December in Armenian August. The other is that I just don’t like mornings.
I pull on clothes, slip on slippers and leave my room. Host Mom brings out breakfast which is always tea, bread and honey, and sometimes includes some fried potatos, steamed buckwheat or eggs & green beans. I would say that most mornings are tea, bread & honey mornings taken in the living room where we eat every meal.
The floor of the living room is painted a barn red that is worn, not flaking, but smoothed away. Certainly the paint is slowly giving up its fight in under the chairs and in the most trafficked places where the dark wood is the most prominent. The floor is cold, necessitating the slippers. If I don’t wear them, there is an instant and rapid, “You’re going to catch cold. This is not acceptable. Where are your slippers!?” from my host mom. It’s kind of nice really.
The floor is the same through the house, and its hollow which is why the family can hear me walk from the breakfast table, to my room for my toothbrush, and to the bathroom. While the whirring of my electric spinbrush scrubs my teeth, I walk into the kitchen to turn on the house’s water pump which stores water from the few hours a day it’s actually running through the pipes. The bathroom and the water closet (the tiny place where the tiolet stays) are tiled a dandelion yellow which is actually a very soothing color to be surrounded by during your most vulnerable moments of the day.
After brushing my teeth, I return to my bedroom, gather the book I’m reading (currently Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury), my journal, my notebook and my work folder into my bag. Upon leaving I shut my doors which close like french doors over the half the space. Locking the door to my room actually requires me to pull the knob at a full body lean, using the my weight to counteract years of the half-door’s warping.
I leave with a ‘hajogh’. Our family here in Armenia lives only on the second story of a two story house. I think they are slowly cleaning out the bottom half which currently holds old funiture, books, and a christmas tree. The stairs are outside, and when I walk down them in the morning, I reach down to my knees where Koki and Kutik, our dogs, are usually whimpering for a little love.
Out the front gate, I present myself for the 15 minute walk to my office. The air is always cool, reminds me of waking up outside on camping trips, putting up with the discomfort of cold air knowing that warm will follow soon enough.
I sometimes pass a friendly butcher whose eyes are always red, whose always smiles at me, who is sometimes drunk, who shouts his salutation if he is across the street. I pass the school where my host dad works, a stationary store, a barber, and stray dogs who are chewing through the morning’s trash, put out by main street tenants. I turn left just before a 20 foot Soviet-style statue of a communist leader, walk through the town square and reach my office.
My coworkers gather every morning for coffee, thick and rich, poured into tiny cups, Turkish-style (although I would never use that description here). The day is discussed; the group feeling is individually assessed by all. I sit and try to listen for words I know.
A note on the ‘catching of words I know’: It’s like that game in arcades, the one with a jackpot that goes up with each play, with the light that spins like mad around and around, with the button you mash when you think the light is on ‘JACKPOT’. The tension, the spinning, the always being off just a little, the feeling that maybe this next one I’ll get. It creates some incredible anxiety, but every once in a while I’m on the money.
After coffee people split up. Lately my mornings consist of me waiting for one of the project facilitators who said he would take me to one of the villages he works in. In my waiting time I generally try to talk with our office cook who helps me pick up Armenian words in exchange for English ones. Then the facilitator beckons, and I hop in his World Vision issued Lada (an old russian four-wheel drive jeep) and head out to a village. I go to the school, meet directors, go to the village clinic if there is one, go to town hall and meet the mayor. Again it is a situation where my struggling Armenian allows only the most basic of conversations with these leaders, but I’m certainly learning the phrases I hear the facilitators say often: “This is our Peace Corps Volunteer. He works in our office. He doesn’t understand Armenian.” I usually pipe in with a “I’m happy to meet you; I’m still learning Armenian. Kamots-kamots.” I really enjoy this time, and though my Armenian is terrible, I’m getting to know the facilitators fairly well, what their proud of, what they like most about the communities they work in.
Back at the office, I check email, read program guidelines, and brainstorm projects. In general my office is my favorite spot in my new place. The people are friendly. We laugh together around coffee and lunch. I can rest on the breakroom couch with a book. I can look forward to a warmer winter because of the office’s heating system. It’s a warm, clean, kind place.
And that brings me up to afternoon. This is enough for now. If you’ve read this far, stay tuned for afternoon in the park, evening at home. Guaranteed to be riveting; I promise.

One Comment

  1. Kathie T.

    Interesting day…thank you for sharing your experiences. I hope you are able to take many jewels away from this adventrue. I remember my summer in Italy as one of my favorite experiences of my life, if not my most favorite. I hope to do more traveling abroad soon.


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