Disclaimer: this post was written while jet-lagged several days ago and never properly revised, to accurately reflect my thoughts at the time. Please excuse typos, mixed metaphors, dangling participles, etc.
We arrived early, early AM Thursday at Aghveran, a resort town 90 minutes north of Yerevan (attempted to post picture of it above, but WiFi not good enough). We’re here for a few days for general information applicable to everyone (safety and security, interviews with Peace Corps doctors, etc.). On Sunday we head to our pre-service training (PST) villages, where we’ll live for the next ten weeks, meeting as an entire group in the central town of Artashat weekly. Each village has 7 or 8 volunteers, all of the same type (see below). Mornings will be intensive language lessons, with afternoons devoted to technical training; on weekends we have free time, organized trips, or extended time with our host families. After the ten weeks we get sworn in and sent to our sites, to stay with new host families for at least three months.
Our group is just under 40 folks, 2/3 teaching English (TEFL) and 1/3 doing Community and Youth Development (CYD, my group). The geographic spread around the U.S. is pretty comprehensive, and we’ve got a nice range of ages, including about a fifth of our group over 50; pretty standard seeming Peace Corps big group of folks in their 20s as well. We shared interesting facts about ourselves this morning and include an archery instructor, cabinet builder, and enough washed-up former musicians to put together a decent little orchestra (so far represented – flute, clarinet x2, trombone, tuba, cello, and violin). Naturally too we’ve got some pretty impressive world travelers and lifetime adventurers. All in all, a group I’m excited to begin two years of service with!
So far Armenia is very much living up to the hype of hospitable people and beautiful countryside. I went on a short run today after training, half straight uphill and half straight down, and can’t wait to explore the areas around where I’ll be living on foot. I’m also currently full of lamb meatballs, eggplant, and pastries, which is a plus.
On a final exciting note, I’ve gotten a smart phone for the first time in my life, a little Android number called the Pixie that feels like it’s made of Styrofoam. I didn’t want to feel too cut off from the other volunteers in the group after training, who I figure will be my main in-country support network, so I overcame my Luddite ways, at least partially. I’m sure it’ll be a balancing act figuring out how much to use it, but all part of the adventure.
Rambling done for now. As I previously wrote, I’ll post a more coherent post sometime in the next week summarizing what about Peace Corps in Armenia I’m most looking forward to.
ACTUALLY IN TIME UPDATE (3/29): I occasionally have WiFi at my host family’s house and will post as able during PST, which I imagine between the limited WiFi and extremely packed training schedule will be rarely. In brief, my host family is awesome, and lives in a large country house with a huge attached garden full of fruit trees and chickens. It’s a mom and dad, son my age, daughter in Russia, and a whole revolving cast of family members who come over at all times of the day for coffee and visiting. Aralez is a town of approx. 2,500, with views of the Caucasus to the East and absolutely mind-exploding views of Ararat on a clear day to the West. Like, probably drop whatever you’re holding when you first see it in full once the clouds have lifted. Unfortunately, pictures must wait ‘til I have better WiFi. Every morning is intense language training, the afternoon technical training, and if this week is any guide the early evening raucous soccer matches out behind the school. Every day here has been equal measures wonderful and incredibly difficult and long, i.e. exactly what I expected. Signing off for now… more as I’m able!