Kyle’s Journey in Armenia

Just Another Peace Corps Blog

  • Kyle? In Armenia?

    My name is Kyle, and I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Noyemberyan, Armenia. I lived here from 2006-2008, and worked as an Information Technology volunteer for the US Peace Corps. In addition to my primary assignment developing my region's WiFi internet, I also taught computer and English classes to area youth. Thank you for visiting!

    This blog remains available for historical purposes, but is no longer actively maintained.

  • Archives:

Nov 2007
The Real Peace Corps?
Posted in Peace Corps by Kyle at 2:53 am | 1 Comment »

I hope all my American readers had a wonderful Thanksgiving this past Thursday and were able to be with friends or family. While I couldn’t be home, of course, I have had a wonderful past few weeks that have given me a lot to be thankful for. After returning from Greece, work picked up quickly, and I spent most of the time working on a Peace Corps SPA grant to make the school’s bathrooms handicap accessible. Tomorrow the committee meets and will decide, so stay tuned for updates. This past week was our All-Volunteer Conference, which was a great time. We had the annual Peace Corps vs. Embassy football game (which we won!), the A14 vs. A15 basketball game (which we lost – blame the marathon!), and most importantly, the annual Thanksgiving Dinner (thank you American taxpayers!), complete with all the trimmings. Combined with my first hot shower in a week and a half (and the 5 that followed), it was a good conference. The rest of the week was spent livin’ the dream:

  • Our Country Director, Lee, hosted us for a generous meal of Mexican and chili, and told us stories about her days in Peace Corps-Samoa. Thanks again!
  • IOC meetings at the US and British Embassies. The US has American outlets – talk about culture shock!
  • Thanksgiving day dinner/party in Yeghegnadzor – a lot of fun: egg rolls, Indian food and enchaladas!
  • The Koghb Art School hosted an exhibition in Yerevan, which was great and had a wonderful turn-out. They are doing some great things and I am really proud of all they’ve accomplished.

Now on to today’s topic: I finally experienced the real Peace Corps™.

I’m not one to complain about how difficult my site is; I have wireless Internet, a sit-down toilet, and plenty of food. I have to admit, though, one of my expectations going into Peace Corps was that I wouldn’t have it this easy. When I thought of Armenia, I thought of small villages in the mountains, where I’d be living by candlelight, killing pigs, and burning wood for heat. Basically, Little House on the Prairie. I finally got that this weekend, when I visited my friend Jessica in a tiny village called Depravak for Thanksgiving dinner #3.

Depravak is a refuge village that is just plain poor. With a small population and the nearest city a world away, it is a village in the truest sense of the word. So when I strolled in with my laptop and pleated khakis, I immediately felt out of place as I walked to her house, dodging sheep, slipping on the ice, and entering a two-room house. The power was out and she was cooking by candlelight on, you guessed it, her woodburning stove. Buckets of recently picked fruits and veggies and seeds lined the walls, several saggy beds provided the sleeping arrangements, and the snow piled on the muddy roads leading up to the mountain fields and down to the river with the drinking water. It was heaven; I’d found the real Peace Corps.

 The village

The best thing about the weekend was how organic the experience was. Everything we cooked was so fresh, and we each contributed a bit to make the meal a success. Don’t be fooled, future Mrs. Gifford, my friends Rud and Jessica did most of the work, and the meal ended up quite tasty. We had mushroom gravy, garlic mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, pumpkin ravioli (I didn’t know you could make that!), and the table centerpiece: Fire Roasted Turkey!

Mmm Fire roasted Turkey-Duck

Quick aside about our “Turkeys” – we purchased them from a friend of a friend, who assured us “100%” they were turkeys, despite their size. Well, after cooking in only 30 minutes, we cut them up to reveal the fatty and delicious dark meat of two local ducks. Still not traditional fare, but better than the enchaladas of Thursday! The meal was spectacular, as I think these photos, viewed side by side, adequately demonstrate:

Dinner - BEFORE Dinner - AFTER

If there’s only thing Thanksgiving is synonomis with, it’s pie. I think it was the three delicious pies (walnut, apple, and caramel apple) we baked that knocked all of us into our food comas.

Kevin enjoys some walnut pie Carmel apple pie

When we finally recovered, we enjoyed a second midnight hike through the snowy mountains, which was such a peaceful, relaxing experience, you’d have to be in Birkenstocks and a hiking back to really understand. I wasn’t, but to me it was everything I’d hoped Peace Corps would be like. Jessica is really roughing it out there, and I have a far greater appreciation for those who live such difficult lives in the villages, day-in and day-out. It has a quality to it that is unmatched, and I’m thankful I was able to spend a few days in it. I’ve always felt that to be a well-rounded person, you had to be willing to see all sides of life, and winter in an Armenian village puts the benefits, and often the frivolty, of the city into perspective.

This brings everything full circle about being thankful for what I have. I have water, power, gas, WiFi, and can call friends and family in America when I want1. A lot of people can’t. I am also thankful that Peace Corps did not let me choose my site and my experience, because I get a more real experience. I learned this weekend that there is no actual real Peace Corps™ experience - it’s all about the people you help and the difference you make, in the environment you’re in. At this point it dawned on me that Peace Corps isn’t always that different from real life, and why it is important to try and see what makes us different and how others live before we judge them and their lifestyles and make them our friends or enemies.

On that note, I’m thankful for my Peace Corps experience so far. And for Mizzou beating Kansas this weekend – go Tigers, you’re #1 (really)! And thanks for waiting till I’m out of the country (this goes for you, too, Cardinals) to start winning. Timing was always my thing…

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One Response:

Mrs Z said:

I love the first picture. It has become one of my screen savers here at the office. It’s amazing what we take for granted here in the USA…like heat and running water in the Winter.
We enjoyed talking to you on Thanksgiving…Sarah’s Grandpa really enjoys reading your blog and looking at the pictures.
Stay warm…..
Mrs. Z

The views expressed herein are the views of the author and do not express those of Peace Corps Armenia or the United States government.