Saturday, September 23, 2006


Oftentimes I have no idea what’s going on in my life over here. My daily schedule is fairly regimented when I work but on weekends it’s a free-for-all. In fairness it is usually my fault as my family tries to explain to me what is going on but I can’t fully comprehend with my current language proficiency. But nonetheless…
Today for instance is a good example. I woke up at my normal time. Not too late not too early. Upon exiting my room I found the house abuzz with preparations. Apparently about 30 people were coming over for a party that morning. Apparently it was some sort of holiday. By the lengths being gone to in the aforementioned preparations I could tell it was gonna be a big one too. So I threw on some decent clothes (gleaned from my extensive wardrobe I brought here all in one backpack) and prepared myself for the conversations I hoped to have. As I sat in my room reviewing phrases like; “do you live here also” “are you related” “I am glad to meet you” “where do you work” or if the spirit hit me right “what do you think about the current government administration?” the guests began pouring in. Most of them had been briefed on the reasons I was there and didn’t seem too shocked by my presence. After sitting and quickly eating some small items everyone got up and began leaving. I not knowing what to do, followed them out of the house. There were many cars there and we all piled into them. I had no idea where we were going and ended up in a car with 4 people in the back seat and no one I had ever met before. In a caravan we proceeded to drive way out of town (making some random stops to pick up various items) everyone chattering to me (assumedly explaining what in the heck was going on) but at such a verbal pace that I understood none of it. When we finally stopped someplace very near Turkey, we all piled out and headed off to a cemetery. Apparently to commemorate some relatives who had died. The cemetery was packed with other people doing the same thing. We went through some service, burning incense, and then stood around starring at each other for an awfully long time. We then piled back in the cars, this time with 5 different people I had never met and headed home.
When we returned there were more people than before and the table was festooned with a feast. We had a huge meal with much food and drink and as things started winding up (4-5 hours later) my family started kicking people out very rapidly. After a painfully difficult conversation with my mother, it was understood that the family was all going to the capitol city to watch some sort of concert. I had had enough. I did not feel like making the trip, and mustering up all the cultural insensitivity I could, I told them so. This, as one might imagine caused some consternation, but fearing the wrath of a youthful American scorned, my family gave in. More truthfully, they were just very late and didn’t have time to browbeat me into going. I realized that maybe, just maybe I would be left home alone for the first time since I arrived. Trying to remember if I had brought a bath-robe with which to walk around in, front shamelessly untied, my family filed out.
The simple pleasure of solitude was short lived. The first visitor was someone hoping to borrow some sort of foodstuff… I never quite figured out which though. She burst past me to retrieve it from our fridge with such speed that I couldn’t tell. The next was what appeared to be some sort of bill collector or perhaps a salesperson. Then it was someone who I never figured out what they wanted. Something having to do with coffee and a fork, I can’t quite be sure. They all spoke very fast. Understand that with every visitor I spat forth a long and poorly formulated explanation in Armenian of where my family was. Most people, not wanting to piece together the vast array of words spluttered from my mouth into some sort of informational exchange, just nodded and walked away. Then came the children. There are many neighborhood children around my home. Not fathoming that my two younger siblings could have gone to the capitol city they all decided to stop by to look for the little buggers. I am often amazed at the surprising patience of these children. As I tried to explain to them where my family was I wished they would just turn and walk away frustrated. I gotta believe that they just enjoyed listening to me butcher the language with such audacity. They were finally dispersed when some mother came to relieve me of this burden and tell them to stop making fun of me. One of the kids explained to this mother that my family was not home. She gasped at such an affront to hospitality and offered to cook me dinner. I said that I was grateful but that I had just eaten. She, like all other Armenians when things of this nature are mentioned, paid my statement no heed and headed off. 5 minutes later, having been informed of my impending starvation, a relative of mine was at the door insisting that dinner be prepared immediately. I have been here long enough to know that resisting this sort of thing is completely futile. With a recently honed ability to restrain my gag reflex and put down ungodly amounts of food, I put down another huge meal.
After the dishes were completed and coffee consumed, I convinced the relative that I would somehow find a way to muddle through on my own until my family returned. She didn’t like it but after much hinting and hectoring left me alone.
Settling in to watch some Russian variety show (a favorite past time of mine) I dozed off on the couch completely confused by the dancing bear and obese man dancing and singing on the screen before me.

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