Armenian Volunteer Corps

Welcome to the Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC) blog. Here our volunteers and alumni reflect on their experiences living and volunteering in Armenia. For more information about our programs, visit our website, follow us on Facebook or drop us an email: .

Monday, July 26, 2010

Six weeks in Armenia...Volunteering

Kareen Boyadjian

Six weeks ago, countless thoughts were circulating in my head as I was driving to LAX to finally embark on my trip to Yerevan, Armenia. The preparations were made, including living arrangements, work appointments, orientation dates, and a collection of relatively generic, yet comforting thoughts of what I expected to participate in throughout the trip. However, in hindsight, all the planning and imaginary expectations couldn’t possibly have prepared me for such an inconceivable experience.

When I first reached Yerevan, I was not aware of how prominent the language barrier was. Back in Los Angeles, I attended an Armenian school for 15 years and so I believed my language experience was more than necessary to get by in Yerevan. My assumption could not have been more incorrect. It was when I first heard the lightning speed at which the locals spoke, and the effortless insertions of Russian slang that led to me believe the language may take some getting used to. Furthermore, it took close to a week to easily understand the great majority of daily conversation that took place in my work environment and otherwise.

Daily wardrobe, on the other hand was a little more difficult getting used to. Coming from Southern California, I’m used to the daily uniform consisting of jeans, a t-shirt with converse all-stars of every color. Once again, I could not have been more wrong. In Yerevan, the daily wardrobe consists of tight jeans, skirts, frilly tops and high heels. In rain or shine, through potholes and up multiple flights of stairs, high heels must be worn at all times, and any other type of footwear, signals “tourist.” At that point, one might as well be wearing a gigantic camera around their neck with a map in their hands and a LA Dodgers baseball cap.

Things to note when first arriving to Armenia:

Do not have expectations

Try to have an Eastern Armenian friend with you at all times… they really come in handy!

If you’re a Western Armenian speaker, remember, “gor = oom em,” “yao = eli,” “hajees = khntrem” “T = D” “K = G” “P = B” “S = Z” “ooghigh = straight”

In the work place, it is okay to work at a slower pace… everyone does. (don’t slack off though)

Getting the Armenian menu – the biggest compliment
Getting the English menu – slight insult (you’re probably wearing sneakers)

Work environment is very much similar to a family environment… don’t be so serious

SAS Supermarket delivers!

You will always different because you look different, speak different and act different… instead of imitating them, observe them, and embrace the differences.

Everyone stares… it’s okay, it’s not because there is something in your teeth

Always carry manr’s (change)… everyone hates making change

Kareen Boyadjian is volunteering with ReAnimania Film Festival.

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