Saturday, July 17, 2010

and just like that, it's over.

There is so much of this experience that cannot be translated into the language of someone who hasn't been through it - but it has certainly been the best thing I have done so far. It's an interesting process, living outside your country for a few years and noticing the kinds of changes that brings about in you. The kind of duality you can feel for two very different places, both familiar to you like the home you were brought up in, has amazed me and taught me good things about how much a person can adapt to. I wanted to take a photo of something for you, something that would be more cornerstone-ish to the way I feel right now. But my computer has been sold, and is going through a Russian makeover tomorrow and I will not have anymore time or access to post to this blog. So I decided this image would do. The Armenian writing on the mustache says "Congratulations every day", but translated further into an understandable English phrase would say "Every day is a day to celebrate."And from what I have learned here, it is. A Tuesday afternoon is just as good as a Friday night and there are a million reasons to be thankful as well as to slow down. I don't know how much longer I will keep this blog, it's a nice place to breathe, but I don't know. In any case, thank you for taking the time to read it and look at my photos. I hope to take photography more seriously when I return. I have had the time to read many books - like everyone in PC - and the last paragraph I read in "Interpreter of Maladies" really struck an obvious yet ineffably important chord with me and what I can't say I think Jhumpa Lahiri says perfectly.

"I know that my achievement is quite ordinary. I am not the only person to seek their fortune far from home, and certainly I am not the first. Still, there are times I am bewildered by each mile I have traveled, each meal I have eaten, each person I have known, each room in which I have slept. As ordinary as it all appears, there are times when it is beyond my imagination."

De Hajo bolorine...
Paige

Friday, July 16, 2010

e. rabbit haas

I was really glad Emily came around for my second year in Peace Corps - it turned out we had a lot in common and we both share a love for the camera. It has been fortuitous that I have had the luck I have had with site mates- and I am very grateful for these friendships . A goofball extraordinaire - I'll miss her company and silly laugh.
video

Thursday, July 8, 2010

arman the barber

When my hair was longer in the beginning, I'd sometimes go see Arman the Barber and have him straighten it out. He's a marine looking hair stylist that likes to drink homeade vodka while working. I never let him cut my hair, in fear that it would end up like that haircut I got when I was 7 - sad and embarrassing. But I liked sitting in his chair sipping some of the stuff myself and talking to him about things in Vayk, and now that my hair has grown out again I decided to go pay him a visit. He gave me an Armenian music disc and I told him I'd bring him this Michael Jackson cd I have in exchange. Should have seen the grin on his face...
video

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

jon m.

I can easily say that if it weren't for Jon, I don't think I would or could have stayed here for 2 years. It's hard enough to work and live here, it's so much harder without good friends close by . We've spent a lot of time together, talking our way through this experience. It's difficult to explain the friend I've found in Jon - but my soul is lighter because of it.
video

faces & voices

I'm going to try to post as many of these as I can, don't expect too much, but I thought it would be fun to put together some audio recordings along with the faces that I will miss when I leave. This is Rubik and Aygestan, my second host family. I lived with them for 7 months. I asked her what she would remember about that time, and she said she'd remember the time she knocked on my door in the middle of a winter day and found me sleeping in all my clothes, jacket, and hat on under all the blankets. I'd forgotten about that, but she recalls well as told in the audio. Mostly I remember how many things I said wrong around the dinner table that caused everyone to nearly spew drinks from their mouth in laughter, and the times I had to wake them up at 3 or 4 in the morning because a water pipe bust in the bathroom or when I was locked out of the house in the snow from wanting to see how cold it was outside. It was, as I recall, cold enough.

video

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

lav k'lini

I have about 2 weeks left in Armenia, the end has come. I am photographing the little things that I have found oddly charming but never thought they could really tell anyone much about Armenia. Like this bed, that struck me as a possible metaphor for what I've come to know about this country, which carries a simple austere beauty that reflects the waiting I feel like people are doing here. Waiting for the day to pass, the seeds to grow, a job to materialize, a child to be born, the next pension paycheck to arrive. It's a post Soviet country that has been torn apart by Communism and is still struggling to recover from the abandonment. Slowly things are getting better, but not for everyone. Outside of Yerevan, the people of this country sit waiting.....for something to happen.

I finally finished reading Robert Kaplan's "Eastward to Tartary" which is a great geo-political travel book about this part of the world. In it he says this, which I think echoes the status quo regardless of the fact the book was published 10 years ago, "Americans are triumphant about the collapse of the Soviet Union. But throughout the Caucasus and beyond, I experienced firsthand how the Soviet collapse, while a blessing in the long run, has meanwhile ruined millions of real lives. Communism, however disastrous, was still a system that provided pensions, schooling, social peace, and physical security for a multitude of people who often had no recollection of anything better. The collapse of that system has left a chaotic void that, so far, has made life here much worse."
There is still a wonderful spirit here - an identity that is very strong and persistent. And with this, I hope, there will be more on the coming horizon.