Friday, January 11, 2013

Winter Beginnings

Winter in Armenia has officially begun! Here in Ptghni, we’ve been pretty lucky as far as snow goes. December treated us to many sunny days and very little snow. However, in the last week or so, Mother Earth has decided it was time for some of that pow. It really is quite beautiful, and it has not yet caused any issues for me as far as travel goes (knock on wood).

My yard

A lot has happened since my last blog update. I have been living on my own for more than three and a half months and have definitely started to settle in. I’ve even got some decorating done with the help of my dear friend, Kat.

The last half of October was fun; halloween was a great time. I had the opportunity to visit Berd, which is a breathtakingly beautiful town. And I got to dress up!



I also had my first Thanksgiving in Armenia. It was quite a treat, several volunteers met in Vanadzor for a wonderful feast. Our meal included: turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, carrots, salads, hummus and veggies, devilled eggs, macaroni and cheese, and broccoli bake. We also had apple cake, pumpkin pie, and walnut pie for dessert; and wines and mulled cider to imbibe. The following day, while much of America was beginning their Christmas shopping, myself and three other volunteers confined ourselves to a warm kitchen, ate leftovers, and watched movies all day. Glorious times indeed.

Thanksgiving Spread

In the first weekend of December, myself and another volunteer put on a two-day Strategic Planning workshop that we'd been working over the last couple of months. It was a successful workshop, and the organization I work with now has a clearer vision of who they are and where they're going.

Christmas was also amazing. On December 24th, I met with other volunteers in Spitak for Christmas Eve dinner. We again had all the holiday favorites, and I had the wonderful opportunity to spend the evening in pajamas, drinking wine, and playing games with people who have quickly become family to me in these few short months in Armenia. We also had a special guest: one volunteer’s mother came to visit Armenia for the holidays! She is a RPCV from the Philippines, so we were blessed with wonderful stories and comparisons about Peace Corps service. Oh, and I can’t forget to mention that I got cheese curds from Wisconsin as a special Christmas gift! After all of these festivities, I departed again for Yerevan on Christmas Day, where I spent time with other volunteers. Here, we enjoyed a potluck dinner with amazing people, and an endless supply of great conversation and food. Oh, and we did have one dessert casualty. 

Apsos. Those were going to be great apple cheesecake bars.

And believe it or not, all this was just the beginning! The Armenian holiday season begins on January 1st, with the celebration of the New Year. This time is spent with families, and there is typically a huge meal along with a lot of dancing. I did spend my New Year’s Eve with volunteers in Yerevan, but on New Year’s Day, I went to Nurus to visit those who helped to make my first few months in Armenia a welcome one. I was greeted with food, dancing, and the kindness that is ever-present in the village of Nurnus. Unfortunately, my training host family is in Russia for the winter so I did not have a chance to visit them, but am very much looking forward to their return in spring.

I was also invited to my counterpart’s home as well as my landlord’s home for dinner during the course of the Armenian New Year. It has been a wonderful experience to be so heartily welcomed into the homes of such generous people; the Armenian hospitality has a way of making you feel like family. This has certainly been a huge factor in the comfort of my transition into the Armenian culture and country.

I also adopted a cat, Stan in the middle of October. He is one of the offspring of my host family’s cat. Stan has proven to be wonderful company and quite entertaining. His favorite toys include: pieces of hot dog and pieces of bread. Oh, and Santa hats.

Staying warm

As with the holidays, comes the cold weather. Right now, I spend most of my time in my living room. My bed has been moved here, and I carry out as many activities as I can within these four walls. Peace Corps issues all volunteers a plug-in radiator as well as a small space heater. I keep my radiator plugged in nearly all the time I’m home, and use the space heater in spurts of about an hour or so due to the energy drain. The average temperature ranges between 50 and 57 degrees Fahrenheit in my warm room while the rest of the house hovers around 40 degrees. Though this may sound completely unbearable, it isn’t. I am fortunate enough to have a 0 degree sleeping bag, wool socks, and long johns that have definitely made the situation more comfortable. I also have a custom-made nose warmer, tons of scarves, and gloves to help keep me toasty.

Nose Warmer!

Cooking, bathing, laundry, and cleaning on the other hand, prove to take a bit more effort to begin than they did in the warmer months. However, after a few minutes of any of these tasks, I find myself warming up fairly quickly and making due just fine. That isn't to say however, that the thought of spring doesn't bring an immediate smile to my face.

All in all, my first Armenian winter has been pretty smooth thus far. After taking some time off of work for the holidays, I’m very much looking forward to getting back and getting new programs started in my villages as well as working on some internal development with my NGO.  I am also anticipating celebrating my first birthday in Armenia as well as seeing these last couple months of winter through. I will do my best to keep you updated!

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