Amanda in Armenia: Getting there and family life

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Amanda Higbee is a December 2016 graduate of HAC with a degree in communication. She is currently serving a two-year stint with the Peace Corps in Armenia teaching English. We plan to occasionally feature updates on her unique, exciting experience. Some entries might be slightly edited for length. You can follow her between our updates on her blog, My Northern Heart.

April 8, 2017: Reflections on family life

Having now spent two weeks at my Pre-Service Training site, I can now say that I feel pretty comfortable with my host family. As I am writing this, my host dad is snoring in his chair in the living room and my host sisters and I are doing laundry. We’ve had coffee/tea time just a little bit ago and now we are all sitting around looking stuffed and bored.

Earlier today, my youngest host sister and I baked a cake, which I absolutely cannot wait to eat! Beside eating lots of food and doing laundry, nothing else is happening today, causing me to realize that Armenian families are really much like American families: they both relax on Sundays in much the same manner.

A sample of food in Armenia.

A sample of food in Armenia.

Over the past weeks in Armenia, I have sometimes found myself focusing on the differences between Armenian and American culture. Instead today, I tried to focus on the similarities. In both American and Armenia I have loving families who look out for me and care about me greatly. If I were back in the States right now, I would likely be relaxing with my family in the same manner. Sometimes, it may be more challenging to look for the similarities in things rather than the differences, but it can make you appreciate life a little bit more.

And so today I am missing my American family but also feeling thankful for the loving family I have right here in Armenia.

April 23, 2017: First days with the Peace Corps

This last week marked one month in Armenia!

When I write posts for this blog, I try to focus on two main groups of people. First is my family and friends back home who want to keep up with my travels and find out what my life in Armenia is like.

Secondly, I write for potential/future Peace Corps applicants who want to get a sense of what it would be like to live in Armenia as a member of the Peace Corps.

So here is my process of coming to Armenia once I had received my invitation and was all ready to go:

Some of the Peace Corps crew.

Some of the Peace Corps crew.

The entire group of trainees met in Washington D.C. for what Peace Corps calls “Staging”. This is a chance for the group to get to know one another and get a basic introduction to Peace Corps expectations, rules etc. We stayed at the hotel for 4 days. Travel to the hotel was paid for by Peace Corps as well as the stay at the hotel. We also received $200 for meals and other expenses during that time. The only meal provided was breakfast at the hotel. On the last day, we were taken in two greyhound buses to the airport where we flew from D.C. to Paris via a very comfortable Air France plane and then to Yerevan. Peace Corps gave us each a $100 coupon to be used for our second checked bag so we would not have to pay for baggage fees as long as we were not overweight.

Once we arrived in Armenia it was quite the process to gather the language of 40 people in an international airport, but we all worked together and managed. At the arrivals gate, we received a warm welcome from Peace Corps staff who also helped us with our baggage. Peace Corps had a greyhound type bus waiting for us in Yerevan as well as a separate truck for our luggage. Once we stepped onto the bus, there were goodie bags with snacks and electrical adapters, tissues and other small things we needed for our first few days. Once we arrived at the resort around 1 in the morning, we were treated to a full meal and then allowed to sleep off our jet lag.

After a week of orientation, we were split into groups based on our language level and then were taken to 5 different villages. For the last month, I have been learning Eastern Armenian 6 days a week within my small group. This will continue until the end of May when I will take a language test and then swear in as an official Peace Corps volunteer.

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Amanda Higbee is a Communication major and a Humanities minor. She is Vice President of Student Activities for the Mulitcultural Student Organization, as well as an intern for the Peace Corps. In 2014 she received the American Degree from FFA--their highest honor.