This first week has been a lot of PST detox; training was such an intense experience that it’s felt great to spend most of my time so far going on long solo walks in the hills around town and sitting around various kitchen tables just drinking coffee and sharing food with my host family, neighbors, and Karen and his family.
Saturday’s hike deserves particular mention – Karen, Dan (a fellow A24 PCV, teaching English down in Artik), and I hiked up into the hills east of town, where we came across a natural spring in the hills (called “milk spring” by the locals), then walked back into town through a gorge as a thunderstorm menaced overhead (and eventually broke over us our last fifteen minutes of walking). We were joined for the hike by Pumpkin, an adorable stray who lives somewhere in Karen’s yard and has taken to following me all around town. Pumpkin might have regretted joining us, as our descent into the gorge required a lot of portaging to get her over and around rocks that her little legs couldn’t handle.
Additionally in my hikes I’ve met several gamprs, beautiful sheep dogs native to the Armenian highlands. They’re said to be a gentle and inquisitive breed, and the ones I’ve met out herding have backed that up. On the other side of the coin, I witnessed (from afar) my first dog fight in town the other day, between two gamprs on the soccer field – I didn’t get close, but saw a group of fifteen or twenty men standing in a circle shouting as the two dogs went at each other. Apparently it’s a big thing in town, though I’m not sure how widespread it is throughout the country.
The climate up here is just my cup of tea so far. Most mornings it’s in the high 40s or low 50s and sunny when I head out for a walk, and we’ve had a number of exciting afternoon thunderstorms. I’ve heard it doesn’t get much hotter than the 70s in the summer (which only lasts two months!), and while winters will be hard I feel prepared for them. Additionally, the air quality is better than it was down in Aralez; it’s a lot less dusty and there’s less burning organic matter, simply because there’s less growing (crops and weeds alike grow profusely down in Ararat marz). Finally, it’s quiet – generally you can hear a car somewhere, but this is usually drowned out by the town’s collective flock of birds, chickens, sheep, and cows. In sum, every morning as I step outside to use the outhouse I look around and appreciate how lucky I am to have ended up in such a beautiful place, surrounded by such kind people.
Other random thoughts…
I have a mailing address here now! Shoot me an email if you want it.
Also, because this is the first thing that EVERYONE asks about when you bring up Armenia, yes, Armenia TV is currently airing a Full House remake: http://hayojax.am/en/serials/armenia-tv/full-house/.
Today’s fun language facts:
When someone is lazy/doesn’t like to work, they’re called մուկ տշող (mook tshogh), or “mouse-kicker”. Apparently the etymology is you’re doing nothing more than sitting at home and kicking mice. Will definitely be using this one in English literally translated.
Armenian is rich in compound words that on their face are daunting, but lead to both extra language learning opportunities and oftentimes whimsical translations. For instance, the formal word for fork is պատառաքաղ (patarrakagh), which sounds like a mouthful. However, I was told that պատառ is “piece” and քաղել “to pick”, so in learning this word I picked up two others and enjoyed the funny literal translation “piece-picker”. Finally, this being Shirak marz, people also use the Turkish word, չանգյալ (changjal), which adds another layer to language learning.