I’ve always been a person who favors fall. As a child, “Back to School” was my favorite time of year. My favorite season is by far fall and I am looking forward to my first fall in Armenia. Sometimes the anticipation of fall is almost better than actually experiencing fall.
Summer has always been my least favorite season. Back in Michigan, the humidity was my number one enemy. I dislike the heat and hate the humidity even more. Armenia was an appealing Peace Corps post for me because most of the country isn’t humid.
During Pre Service training, the weather in Ararat Marz started to heat up. When it reached 80, I started to complain. “Thank goodness you’re all moving to your permanent sites before it gets hot in Ararat Marz” everyone said.
I looked forward to escaping the heat. What I didn’t realize was that my permanent site would be just as hot, or maybe hotter than Ararat Marz. As the temperatures started to climb more and more into the end of June, I slowly realized I was in for a difficult summer.
By July, the temperature was well over 100 degrees every day. I stopped drinking my tea in the mornings because by 7am, the heat was already uncomfortable. Going to my English club was no longer fun. Students were too uncomfortable in the hot school to focus, and I often was sweating so much it was running into my eyes.
At night, I started staying awake later just to enjoy when the temperature dropped to 85 degrees at 11pm. My village slowly turned into a ghost town from late morning until early evening. People would wake up early, rush out to their gardens and do other outdoor work when it was still relatively ‘cool’ outside. During the heat of the day, we all stayed inside in an effort to stay as cool as possible. Even without air conditioning, the houses are made of stone and are still cooler than the heat outside.
I stopped going for walks in the morning because it was no longer refreshing. It was exhausting in the 90 degree heat and it felt pointless to work up a sweat and then not be able to shower when my village didn’t have water most of the time.
The first week of August was by far the worst. For a week and a half, the temperature was consistently around 110 degrees every day. I laid in bed all day, as still as possible while hugging frozen water bottles in an effort to stay cool. I did laundry and cooking early in the morning, as to avoid sweating like crazy and making the house even hotter when turning the oven on.
Towards the end of July, I cut off around 13 or 14 inches of my hair. It had become too much to take care of with my limited water supply and was only making me hotter. Everyone in my village had the same reaction of “Oh you must have cut your hair because its hot and so hard to wash”.
I avoided leaving the house as much as possible and when I did travel to escape the heat, I planned my travel early in the morning when the heat wasn’t as severe. When I wasn’t traveling, I simply hid in my house and spent my days knitting.
The week after the most miserable weather brought a cyclone from Russia and the Black Sea. I felt like crying tears of happiness at the smell of rain. For four days, the heat and sun subsided and I enjoyed drinking tea in the morning and even wore pants a few times. In all reality, it was still 75 degrees but it was an amazing break from the heat.
Since the cyclone, the heat has returned but has not been as severe. It hovers around 90-95 degrees and is much cooler at night. Everyone here (Armenians and Americans) says fall weather truly does arrive on Sept. 1.
Despite the weather related miseries this summer, I did also have a little fun. Here are some of my favorite summer memories:
- In July, I attended ACCESS Camp, an English program run all over the world by the U.S. Embassy. In Armenia, the program is also partnered with COAF (Children of Armenia Fund). The camp was held in Dilijan in northern Armenia where the weather is cool and pleasant in the summer. Besides escaping the heat, the camp was a chance to see Armenian youth learn and develop their talents and leadership skills. At the end of the camp, we went on a field trip to a local monastery in Dilijan.
2. Everyone says the first summer at site isn’t for work: its for integration. This summer, I spent a lot of time getting to know my host mom and her family. I spent time eating dinner with them and telling them about my life in the U.S. In an almost comical play of fate, my Armenian host family members are employed as pig farmers (the same profession as my family in the U.S.) Using my minimal Armenia, I enjoyed discussing the differences in farming practices with them for many long hours.
In late July, I attended a party with my host family. This event was held to commemorate the young men who served in the military during a war last year. There was a band that sang military songs and many toasts made to the young men who died for their country. Unfortunately, I was experiencing some typical Peace Corps volunteer stomach troubles during the party and didn’t get to enjoy it as much as I would have if I had been well. Thankfully the stomach troubles passed and I did still get to experience this important cultural event.
3. In August, I went on a trip down south to Goris. Since I live on the Ararat plain (aka the desert), I loved having the chance to see the mountains and lush trees in the south of the country. Near Goris is perhaps the most popular tourist destination in Armenia, Tatev Monastery.
Now I am back at site, enjoying my last two weeks of free time before school begins. I’m looking forward to finally being in the classroom and for the cool fall weather.