Thursday, July 14, 2011

The End is Near

Got some more signatures on the checklist this week – and said some more goodbyes, though with two weeks to go I’m saying they’re not final goodbyes, but hugging people just in case. Had one of my exit interviews, with the Director of Programming and Training. Returned my language books to the Language Coordinator and my site survey to the Safety and Security Coordinator. Closed my Armenia bank account. Now I’m thinking about toiletries – will my toothpaste tube last or will I need to buy another? Will one more bar of soap be enough?

It’s a busy time for the Peace Corps office. When I was there earlier this week, the A-19s were coming back from site visit, with a range of reactions, from loving their host families to not being sure about the work to being jealous of anyone with indoor plumbing and even occasional running water. The reality of what the next two years will be like (or at least the first few months, until they can live on their own) is beginning to set in. Tomorrow, 10 A-17s are COSing (the rest will COS on August 13). So for them it’s goodbye and on to a different reality. And the week that I COS, the A-18s have their mid-service training (which is one of the reasons I got some signatures this week).

Where does Peace Corps Response fit into all of this? Well, it gets squeezed in when there’s time. The DPT asked some good questions. My assignment has been good but I think it lacks a deliverable; he said that maybe only the organizations with a Western orientation can handle a short-term volunteer, and that given the climate of corruption here they may de-emphasize the B of Community and Business Development and go more towards Community and Youth Development. I think that Peace Corps Response has been a good program for me, and I hope they find ways to continue it in Armenia.

I feel just about ready to go, though. I don’t feel guilty anymore about not staying until the end of the compact (or the end of the year, which is what they originally wanted a volunteer to do) – with the major events over and vacations being taken, the team here is more relaxed and I know they will get everything done. In asking my counterpart for the Partner Evaluation Form I confirmed that they decided not to request another Response volunteer to replace me; that open question had concerned me. We are already writing articles for the final bulletin, so I can help with that, and I’ve volunteered to wordsmith things from home after my service if they want me to. I’ve had about enough of my homestay – I’m ready to go to a place that has air conditioning or at least a fan and where I can shower at the end of a hot day. I’m definitely ready to cook for myself (or to have a salad at Suki Zuki or CPK!), though I enjoy the food at both homestay and the restaurants here. I can’t say I’m looking forward to stepping up the job hunt, but I suppose I’m ready for it. Ready to see friends and family and have different conversations. Glad I’m doing a little travel after my service and glad I land in New York a month from today.

One nice tradition here is the PCT auction – during training, points are awarded for lessons learned or other deeds done. As PCVs COS, they can donate things to the auction – for example, a sleeping bag – and then the PCTs can bid on them just before they swear in. PC staff also donates dinners or other enticing prizes. Sounds like fun! Some of my clothes have gone to other PCVs and some of my other things – perhaps my travel clock or my spa sandals – will end up in the auction.

In other news, I saw a couple of short films and a longer feature, but for the rest of the Golden Apricot festival I am either unavailable or tickets are sold out. There were several international options but I focused on Armenian topics. “Armenian Exile” was made by a diaspora Armenian who was searching for his Armenian-ness – his interviews were interesting and original. “The Volunteer,” about a Russian who decided to volunteer for the Armenians during the Karabakh war, was a little harder to watch, but also good. In both cases, the filmmakers were present, so I felt I was in with the in crowd. “Sunrise over Lake Van” is fiction, telling the story of different generations of a family of diaspora Armenians and their attitude toward the genocide.

And why I am still reading tour books even though I am almost finished – because I learn things. One of my favorite sculptures here is of hands (see the May 28 post). I read in the Bradt guide that it’s from Yerevan’s twin city, Carrara, and that Kiev is also a twin city. So I looked at wikipedia; Yerevan has 30 of them! You can find them all here - - more than the Sister Cities International web site has, but still, opportunity. There’s a tuff tree of life sculpture across the street from the hands that is a replica of one sent to Cararra in return. I went by this week after reading about it; I’ve been on that block several times but it’s off my beaten path. And see the June 22 post for more!

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