Success Stories: PST Edition

Peace Corps service is full of accomplishments. Every volunteer has their own reasons for serving and every volunteer has different struggles and victories during their service.

Over the course of my time in Armenia, I will be doing a series called Success Stories. This series will highlight my accomplishments as a volunteer and hopefully show my progress over the course of two years.

Here are my successes during my time in PST:

  1. Learning to work the washing machine. It’s in Russian. It really loud and pretty scary. But somehow I manage to use it and have semi clean clothes on a regular basis.
  2. Finding conditioner. Again, all the beauty products are in Russian (which have I mentioned, I don’t know and we aren’t learning!?) Somehow I found a bottle in English, thankfully.
  3. Finding yarn. One of my favorite hobbies is knitting. However I didn’t bring any yarn to Armenia with me. With the help of a current volunteer, I found the only store that sells yarn in our PST hub site. I also found the yarn store in Yerevan. I may be excited but my bank account isn’t.
  4. Navigating Yerevan. I’ll be honest, I’m AWFUL with directions. I’ve been known to get lost in my hometown. in America. So navigating the capital city of Armenia seemed like a daunting task. However, I am happy to say that after spending a few afternoons there, I can manage relatively well. Sometimes I cheat and use a map, but its still harder than simply being able to ask Siri to get me where I need to go.
  5. Taking public transportation. Before coming to Armenia, my public transportation experience (in the U.S. and overseas) was very limited. Figuring out bus routes, bus stops and how to pay was very daunting to me. Since coming to Armenia I have taken three forms of public transportation: mini buses, regular buses and taxis. Although the schedules and routes (or lack thereof) still confuse me, I am now confident in my ability to at least get from my site to Yerevan in a timely and almost painless manner.
  6. Passing my Language Proficiency Interview. In order to swear in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer, I had to complete an oral Language Proficiency Interview (LPI) in Eastern Armenia. I am so happy to say that I passed two levels above the requirement to be a volunteer. Language lessons were many hours of hard work and it is wonderful to know that it has paid off in my ability to communicate.

Stay tuned for my list of summer successes as I move to my permanent site!

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Ararat Appreciation: Part 1

With swearing in two weeks away, I have been reflecting on my time living in Ararat Marz. Soon I will be moving to the north west of Armenia to live in Armavir Marz for the next two years.

Before that happens here is a little slice of Ararat that I wanted to share with my followers: A few of my favorite things about Ararat Marz.

  1. My host family: My host family during PST has been one of the highlights of my everyday life. They are kind, caring people who worry over me constantly. I am too busy to cook during training so they prepare most of my meals for me. They are patient with my minimal knowledge of Armenian and have studied with me for many long hours. My host mom has corrected my spelling countless times and my host sisters help me with vocabulary and pronunciation. My youngest host sister has patiently taught me how to make Armenian dishes and graciously not got angry when I invaded her space in the kitchen. I could go on and on, but what I am realizing more and more is that I will truly miss these people.

With my host mom and sisters at Khor Virap.

2. Mt. Ararat: Growing up in Michigan, I can appreciate some good views. But living with M. Ararat in my backyard has been a wonderfully surreal experience. I remember the first day that Ararat appeared from the clouds for me to see. It felt like a picture from a post card, but in real life. Spring is when Ararat is the most visible and I have really enjoyed waking up with this view every morning.

3. The Storks: The Ararat region of Armenia is home to beautiful storks who make their nests on power polls and street lights in the villages. It is considered an honor to have a stork make a nest on your property here. Many people even make fake nests with fake storks as a symbol of wealth and prosperity.

A stork nest and stork in my village.

4. I can poop inside: I’m not sure I need to elaborate. You get the point. This is not the case at my next site.

5. My host Mom’s garden:¬†Another thing that adds to the beauty of my every day life is my host mom’s garden at the front of the house. All spring, she has had various flowers, bushes and trees blooming and creating beauty right outside my window.

 

Welcome to Armavir

During Pre-Service Training (PST) trainees are allowed to travel to their permanent site for a four day visit. I spent the last four days in Armavir Marz meeting my new host mom and learning about my school.

I recently met my English teaching counterpart who is a Teach For Armenia fellow. She has taught at my secondary school for one year and allowed me to sit in on her lessons after she showed me around the school.

My site visit was a wonderful opportunity to get to meet my students for the first time while observing their learning and language levels.

I was most inspired by the third grade class which was full of smiling students who are excited and eager to learn English. I was also very impressed with the beauty of my school which was recently renovated by the Children of Armenian Fund (COAF).

Currently I am back in Ararat Marz in my training village. Language lessons and TEFL training resume tomorrow and our swearing in ceremony to actually become Peace Corps volunteers is fast approaching.

Below are some photos of my beautiful school and my village in Armavir.

 

The cafeteria at my school

The entrance of my secondary school in Armavir Marz

An elementary classroom

My school has a small computer lab

The “smart room” at my school where teachers can take students to listen to presentations

The entry way at my school

The psychologist’s room at my school. Our psychologist is a Teach for Armenia fellow and helps students work through their problems and also works to instill confidence in them.

50 Days in Armenia

Reaching 50 days in Armenia seems like a big deal now. I am sure after two years here, it will seem like nothing, but still.

Since my last blog update I have received some exciting news: I now know where I will be living in Armenia for the next two years!

Two days ago, Peace Corps Armenia did our site announcement day and I found out that I will be living in Armavir Marz. This is a small Marz in north-western Armenia.

First of all, knowing where I will be living is HUGE. I have waited for this day for a very long time. I don’t know a lot about Armavir so far, but I am going for a visit this weekend.

During this visit, I will meet my host mom and my counterpart teacher who I will be working with for the next year.

Oh and another thing, I am the ONLY A25 going to Armavir! This is both exciting and scary for me. I am pretty close to Yerevan so I am not isolated, and it will be nice to take ownership of my Marz as I have it mostly to myself. There are a few other volunteers there, but no one from my group will be living there with me.

Stay tuned for more information about my site after my visit!

On the ma of Armenia at site announcement. Photo credit to Thong Do