really gross and really upset and really glad that i can kiss and make-up in armenian

You will not see any pictures in this post, and once you read on, you will know that pictures are NOT something you want right now.  But first:

I had one of those moments today. I’m walking home on a road I’d never walked before.  Raindrops are finding their way through my jeans.  The broken part of my umbrella is slapping me in the face with irregular rhythm.  And as I reached a long, wet stretch of road, I thought, “I really love my life.”  Because despite the weather (which hasn’t outrained it’s Spring Rain charm), I had the most amazing afternoon at a coworker’s house making ganachov hats (herb bread) and hanging out with her incredibly warm and kind family.  The whole family, Armenian males included (BELIEVE IT!), was gathered around the table slicing handfuls of aromatic herbs.  I joined in the ganach-chopping just so that hours later I would still be carrying that smell on my hands.

Really, I feel it shows great personal progress (with communal credit humbly given), that I can say “I really love my life,” after yesterday:

Yesterday starts as my days now do: with The Unnamed (puppy).  I take her out of the well-built hovel she lives in (remember, landfamily will not allow her inside but built her this nice little shack outside), and give her the morning bowl of soggy cat food (my Sanity’s leftovers).  She then proceeds to do her morning void, and I notice some irregularities.  I call my animal-loving PC Volunteer friend, aka substitute for a veterinarian, who says the dripping is probably a result of the deworming pills.  No worries.

We walk to work in the snow.  I try to tell The Weather that we should really be progressing forward with offerings of precipitation and scoop up The Unnamed as we hit the main road.

At the office, I give the The Unnamed another chance to void while I stomp around the cement to knock off the mud that lies deep in the crevices of my hiking boots.  This mud is a source of one very sore spot for both myself and the Armenian cleaner/cook/clooker.  For all these muddy months The Clooker has chewed heavily on my esteem, breaking into hysterics when I leave behind dirt clods on her shiny tile.  Fair enough, but during those same months I have spent a lot of time and effort perfecting my stomps and my doormat scrubs with some minor success.  I am now performing those morning duties while The Unnamed performs hers.  We go to the door.

After walking in The Clooker follows me, and upon seeing a dirt clod exclaims something along the lines of, “How can I live?! You are killing me!!”.  I have little patience for this in the 10th month of my service, and I exclaim back, “Really?!  What can I do?!” to which she says “Go! Go!  You’re killing me.”

I huff off to the morning coffee/meeting with the staff and afterward find my way to my desk to set things up.  If you do not want to read something horribly disgusting skip the following section.  Skip straight to the second line.

__________________________________________

On this morning I decide that The Unnamed cannot spend the entire day in my lap.  I lay out her towel under my desk and drop her to the floor.  She considers the towel but decides to traipse back towards the doormat.  I sense a potty-time and speed to her just in time to catch her in mid-aim.  Recalling her irregular, and I will now say yellow and slimy attempt at poop this morning, I swing her up and push open the door slinging The Unnamed’s butt mucus onto the glass.

Making a mental note to clean that before anyone sees it, I drop her into the grass and see the most horrifying sight of my life: round worms exiting the body.  It is the most foul mess of butt mucus and writhing white spindles.  It’s like play-dough coming out a squeeze machine but the play-dough is live spaghetti with burnt ends and the squeeze machine is a dog anus. I will never fully recover from this.  It’s the new eggs-out-a-frog-back.

I am then naesous for the rest of the day.

I tie-up The Unnamed outside realizing that the day after she takes deworming pills should not be the second day she spends under your office desk.  I type her up outside; she commences a days worth of screeching.

I then try to clean the glass door with toilet paper (no paper towels in this country) and fake Windex.  The Clooker catches me and says, “You are being shameful.  What are you doing?  You can’t do that.  This is TOILET PAPER!”

“I’m just trying to help.  I made this mess.”

“Shame on you.  You can’t clean.  Shame on you.”

Fine.  Butt mucus all yours.

_______________________________

(The easily, or even hardly ever grossed-out, can rejoin us here.)

Later, when my computer dies I realize I have forgotten my computer cord at home and make the long walk back to get it.  Upon returning I check the tethered Unnamed’s circumference to see if she’s voided any of her “problem” where she might be able to sniff/eat it (I know you would think she wouldn’t do that, but after what I saw, I realized how little I know about what the biological world can accomplish).  No “problem”, but I’ve awoken the screecher which gets me some sideways glances from coworkers.

I proceed again with the demudding ritual, having walked there and back over the muddy road to my house.  Into the second minute of scrubbing, The Clooker sees the fresh mud on the doormat and exclaims, “What are you doing? Oh, you’re killing me?  What will I do?!”  Boiling point reached.

“Seriously, what can I do?,” I screech back, “I’ve asked you a million times. I don’t have any other shoes with flat soles.  I don’t have any other place to walk.  I try and try.  I want to be clean for you, but what do I need to do for you if I can’t use [the doormat]” (I don’t actually know the Armenian word for doormat; I just pointed and said “this”).  She huffs and gesticulates and waves me off continuing the, “You’re killing me,” exclamations.  It is such a scene that the break-room full of people turns to look and even the accountant comes out to see what is happening.

Having gone through this almost every day for the last 4 months, I realize talking to her isn’t working, so I take off my boots (thank god I was wearing nice wool socks (thanks mom and dad)) and storm to the bathroom to wash the possible worm-eggs from the The Unnamed off my hands.

A co-worker comes out from the break room and says, “Brent, you need to put your shoes on.  This is shameful.”

“But what can I do?  I have no shoes that don’t have crevices in the soles.  I clean them every morning, but I just can’t clean them enough.”

“I know, but there are people from [our national office in] Yerevan here.  You could (he imitates cleaning off mud with a stick). This is shameful.  You should put on your shoes.”

I nod.  Take some deep breaths and cross the now revealed Yervanians’ line of vision to put on my boots.  Outside I slip them on and walk across the road finding a twig along the way.  I sit brooding and proceed to dig out every last possible fleck of mud.  The Clooker comes out banging the doormat against the steps.  I am brooding and digging out mud from my shoes; she is brooding and hand-scrubbing the doormat.

Despite the anger, the rational, peace-loving part of my mind, the one that knows The Clooker is from a very different culture defined by both geography and time, propels me to make a kind gesture.  Dropping the twig, I walk to her, give her a hug.  I say,  “I love you, but I don’t want you to talk to me like this.”

She says, “Keep your dog at your house.”

“What?”

“Keep your dog at your house!”

“Why are you talking about my dog?  The problem is with my shoes.”

“You went to see the dog and you brought back mud,” she says.

“I walked to my house!  THAT’s where the mud is from.”

“Well you need to walk on the dry parts of the road.”

“I’ve told you this a million times.  There IS no dry part of my road.”

“On one side there is dry, and one side there is wet.”

“I know MY ROAD.  It’s my road; I walk it every day.”  I am starting to seethe.

“I am going to walk home with you,” she says, “I am going to show you where the dry part is and where the wet part is.”

“Are you calling me stupid?!  Do you think I don’t know what is dry road and what is wet road?”

“I didn’t say you are stupid.”

“You said I can’t tell dry road from wet road.  You are saying I’m stupid.”  I’m done at this point.  I walk inside and try not to break everything I see.

I sit down and try to read something on my computer.  I am boiling.

A Yerevanian I have met before comes up to my desk.  He has been to our office many many times.  He is balding and wears sunglasses inside.  His head is large.  I know he is about to say something aggravating.  It’s his way.

“Ay Brent jan, is that you’re dog outside?”

Ayo,” I confirm.

“Don’t you want a big dog?  Why did you get such a little dog?”

I am trying desperately to gather the popping tethers of my temper.  “She’s fine.”

“But she’s so falkjwelkj.” ‘Falkjwelj’ is a russian word that I don’t know and forget immediately. I limit my reply to, “What?”

“She’s so,” and he whimpers and pouts his lip and droops his eyes and tries to mimic a little weakling.

In earlier times this man has chosen to make similar comments during times when he could rely on my foreigner’s ingratiating patience.  I suppose he assumes that such patience abounds.  It does not.

I look at him squarely, “Why do you want to come to my desk and say mean things about my dog?”

“It’s not mean.  She’s just so,” and he again makes the weakling face and accompanying whimpers.

“That is mean.  Why do you want to say mean things about my dog?”

“It’s not mean.”  He laughs.

“She’s just right for me.  She’s a good dog.”  He leaves, seeing he is getting nowhere.

Later at lunch, I eat with another coworker of mine.  We have boiled potatoes with salt, red pepper and onions.  I am still angry, but she actually helps me work my brooding face into a smiling one.  The Clooker, having seen how unhappy she made me, is now all smiles and helpfulness in the genuine way of a person who is trying to make-up but is not gifted in the art of Talking Through It, Especially With Someone Who Speaks a Different Language Despite Having Someone In The Seat Next To You Who Can Interpret.   The Clooker and I, outside of all things shoe, actually get along very well.  She was the one who gave me The Unnamed.  And here, as we have before, we make up; we actually bond over the ridiculous comments of the whimpering Yerevanian.

And right on cue, the sun comes up and the snow melts, and it’s ice cream weather again.

8 Comments

  1. Thank you for sharing this. I could say a lot more, but I prefer to sum it up with “I needed that”. I don’t feel as sorry for myself as I did before I read it. :)

    1. Living in a different culture, it’s all about the highs and lows. I’m there with ya!

  2. it’s so frustrating when you can’t communicate. i haven’t experienced anything here in Korea to that extent, but i definitely know how you feel.
    there are lots of cultural expectations you’re expected to know about and do.
    example, here principals are the kings of the school. anything they say must be done. principal wants a random dinner meeting after school?…done. principal wants you to take 5 shots at the dinner meeting?..done. luckily my principal is awesome and he invites me to his office to drink juice with him.
    in conclusion, there isnt anything you can do to avoid these types of situations. it just comes with being in a different country.

  3. Oh Brentajan. A rough day, it was. I’m glad the sun came out at the end. Soon I’ll be there with you to walk in the mud, make tacos, and train/play with the puppy. <3

  4. […] you call her (some almost human and cute/boring name)?”  The best suggestions actually came from The Clooker, who offered both Knobka and Martoshka (meaning little monkey).  However, they are Russian words, […]

  5. […] back in my little town, I got some major loving from my Armenian friends. The clooker, I should say, was the number one celebrator of my birthday.  She burst into the office, set down […]

  6. So I read through your so-called “really disgusting” part, and was not impressed with the level of disgust. You poor thing to never have seen that before. Your parents must have sheltered you as a child. Try watching a dog give birth, THAT, my friend is beautifully disgusting. The memory of watching the momma eat the afterbirth is making my stomach twist as I type…

  7. […] at the grocery store, the long speeches about how they will miss me and never forget me, and the Clooker sitting down at the desk across from me, then immediately getting up to kiss me, pressing her […]

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