It’s funny how quickly my mood swings here in Armenia. I’ve spoken to many other Peace Corps Armenia volunteers and everyone else seems to concur. I wish there was a word that better represented what I mean more than “mood”. My mood is included in these swings but there other things like my outlook on life (probably similar) and my confidence in my decision to spend 2 years of my life as a “professional volunteer”. There may well be a better word, but due to my lack an English thesaurus here in Armenia, I’ll have to stick with what I’ve got.
There’s really no telling what will loose the pendulum of my mood and send it throttling downwards. Today strikes a good example. Indeed it was the impetus for this post. Started the day off with some Pilates (don’t tell my guy friends… I’m pretty sure they don’t read this thing), a coupla fried eggs and a nice dog-attack free walk to work. Work went well. I felt relatively productive, got some things done etc… Walked out of work on a high note, feelin’ good about my life. Next thing I know I go into buy something at a shop and a store keeper starts yelling something at me that I don’t understand. I come to understand that he doesn’t like Russians… and apparently I look enough like one to be the receptacle for his angst. Not a big deal, and I weather the storm and get my bread and head out. My language skills have advanced enough that I can now understand most of the pretty consistent heckling spewing from the mouths of young punk kids as I walked down the street. They’re everywhere. I should be used to it. Even the snowball that glanced off my back (thrown by the aforementioned) didn’t set me off.
The tough part for me is that, since coming to Armenia there is really no telling when my mood will change or what will set it off, but when it turns, it turns sharply. In this particular instance it was an old lady cutting in front of me in the line to buy potatoes. The fury came flooding in.
In a normal situation this old lady would merely be a sweet, hunch-backed granny, but my mood now had gravity mercilessly pulling it downwards . I didn’t just want to say something to her… I wanted to yell at this old thoughtless hag… Make her understand the injustice of her actions. This is always the first stage of my mood swing… The righting of the wrong.
The second stage is inevitably the unfounded self-righteous indignance. If my language had allowed it, I may well have grabbed this old lady and explained to her that I did not come from the other side of the world to be subjected to such nonsense as this… Did she have any idea of how much money I could be making in the states…I’m teaching your grandchildren to speak English and love democracy and the rule of law….and then on to ranting about how the very action of cutting in line is just a microcosm of her country’s problems and how dare she cut in front of me of all people. But again I was able to hold back the fury bubbling up inside me, and go to that quiet place in my head. My “happy place” as some of the Peace Corps’ more ridiculous training told me to refer to it as.
As I got my coupla of kilos of potatoes and exited the store the third stage set in. The questioning on my motivation for being here and my value to this country… The wondering if I didn’t just make a huge mistake by coming here in the first place…etc… But as I walked with my doldrums, just wanting to be back at my apartment with the Peace Corps Armenia equivalent of a quart of ice cream and a rented movie (a bottle of cheap Russian vodka and a gas heater) one of my friends saw me on the street and excitedly explained to me that she had just done well on an interview that I had helped coach her for. If she passes 1 more round then she’ll be on her way to the states on a full scholarship. It was so neat to see her excitement and anticipation of opportunity. It was one of the few tangible successes I have felt a part of in my time here.
I suppose that just as the pendulum of my mood can plunge so quickly downward it just as forcefully has the momentum of to hurtle back up again. I’m not sure if this is a good thing or a bad thing. Hell, maybe it’s what my cousins refer to as the “Seattle Syndrome” meaning when a lack of sunlight and warmth screws with you (especially for people from sunny warm climates.) Or maybe I’ve always possessed a latent bitterness and self-righteousness that has finally been loosed upon the unsuspecting inhabitants of Armenia. Whatever it is, this certainly is an emotional rollercoaster of an experience. I just hope I can hold back any public fits of vitriol until the sun and warmth of spring gets here.