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Eric in Aremnia
Eric in Aremnia
Monday, December 22, 2003
This is background information, and wholly uninteresting alone:
About a week ago, I was handed a book by a Peace Corps Volunteer which I then put into my jacket pocket.
Over my heart.
That's it for the background information. Thanks for your patience.
My hands quickly worried the paper I'd ripped from my notebook, softening it until it felt like a kleenex, at which point I pulled it into halves and shoved it into my ears. Behind me, at more decibels than a space shuttle launch, the screaming sound of a tortured cat raised by clairinets mocked children in school-yards continents away. The windy mountain road - and the inner ear damage I had just suffered - combined into car-sickness, and the Armenian army recruit to my right fell asleep onto my shoulder.
And none of this dislodged my smile.
I've spent the last four days idling in Yerevan. My few excuses for being here - planning a trip, talking to the doctor about damage to my knee, and meeting with various organizations - have been largely eclipsed by my reasons for being here. In the last few days, I've hit a bucket of golf balls, bowled a game, and danced 'til my body succumbed to soreness.
And whyfor this escape? This sudden need for release purchased release? Do not declaim the coming holidays for my surcease, nor my baser greeds. It was for my fears that I traveled here, for my hate, my spite, my avarice - for the cold days and too-friendly smiles have turned me from my neighborhood, fleeing screaming from my community.
After an unproductive Russian Language session, I was speaking with the mother of my tutor, and she asked me if I had ever been bitten as a child. And, though I don't think I was, I have a strange childhood story about biting my mother which I had to tell. Then, a ten second uncomfortable silence. And then, a clarification: "Had you ever been beaten as a child?"
Oh, gosh. Gosh, no.
But what about when you and your brother fought, and you tried to pummel him into oblivion? Or he pushed your head into the fish tank and tried to channel their inner pirahna? Kids are angry wild dogs and all they know is biting and horror and pain and pestilential floods so we beat and kick and stab them until they grow to be drafted in the army to return to us as responsible adults, too tall, too strong, to be beaten.
Gosh, golly. I don't think it ever occured to him. You see, we had not been beaten by our parents, and it just didn't seem like an option. Oh, no. We had much less straight-forward ways of expressing our angst and ennui.
And then me out the door a'walking the road amidst the howls of dogs and darkness with the greetings of Armenian boys who were about to end their day with a quick turn left instead of home and up the hill to where Frank may be but not and then back out the door to the boys and the dogs once again and a'quickly the dog challenging his space and the boys calling to me and a quick glance over to see them.
And then the dog at my jacket, claws on my chest, biting to rip out my heart with it's teeth.
And here, dear reader, remember that I was borrowing a book from my sitemate, and that I'd had it over my heart. Like a dog-proof jacket or policeman's shield in an afterschool special, it caught that diseased bullet leaving me no more than a slighly abraised stomach and lingering bruises.
And so the only damage that was done was the children who ran up not to offer assistance, but to ask me my name. To grab my weakness as a chance to meet me. To see me as a simple object: an American. And to forget the complexity of a person who has been attacked, and is afraid.
Oh, dread interest. How you malign us!
From that point, the casual interest of children on the street, as they call out to me to ask what my name is, has invoked my ire. I felt that I was left with two choices: to either convince the next generation of Armenia that Americans are spiteful Mr. Wilson's still angry at that menacing Dennis, or to escape to Yerevan, where the current generation has already formed their opinion of us.
And so I'm here. It's like a medical visit for mental health where I'm perscribed golf and bowling, and my drugs are video games and movies purchased for home use.
Peace Corps volunteers, so many feeling as I do for different reasons, are common in this city right now. Even though I didn't come with plans, I'm able to see folks on the street, to join them for lunch or dancing, and to relax relax relax.
I received a wonderfully pleasant email from somebody that I'd never met who found this page and offered to send me something through her father's suitcase when he came to visit Armenia. Just to support the Peace Corps here.
That's quite nice, really.
I declined, thanking her, telling her that we were already well provided for by the Peace Corps - how we are comfortable and fed, warm and able to see our friends for the holidays.
Of course, I'd just finished hitting a bucket of golf balls. So what was I to say?
The holidays are here now. The time of advent and armistice, christmas carols and channukah, depression and divorce. Thus far I've not realized that they're upon me, but I can't doubt that they are, as I so firmly fondly wholly hope that my friends back home are happy and warm, that this Holiday season will pass simply for me, and that love and hope and idealism will be renewed with the new year.
Our connection, kind reader, is dear. Pull in your arm from your mouse, and embrace yourself in sweet harmony bliss.
And have a happy holiday.
posted by Eric | Monday, December 22, 2003