Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Long lost friend...

The other day, I saw a meme on Facebook that was posted on the group Knowing a Narcissist.

I read this and had a sudden flashback...

In 1995, I joined the Peace Corps and moved to the Republic of Armenia.  After completing twelve weeks of intensive training, I was turned loose at my site.  In my case, my site was Yerevan, which is the capital city.  Our country director, an American who was ethnically Armenian, was the type of person who made a very good first impression.  She seemed very friendly, social, and caring.  Once you got to know her, you'd see a different, far less likable side of her.  The above meme reminded me of something that happened not long after I moved to my site.

When I first became a Volunteer, I moved into a house with a young woman and her nine year old brother.  The young woman was my age and lived in a single family dwelling that was owned by her parents before they died.  It was not in good repair and I was given a cave like room with no windows except one that opened into the kitchen.  A lone lightbulb hung from the ceiling, not that we had power most of the time. The window that opened into the kitchen did not have any glass in it, so privacy was non existent.  It was cold and drafty.

I was not very happy with that arrangement.  I didn't feel comfortable living there.  The sister and her brother would fight and she'd yell at him and slap him across the face.  Besides that, the brother would come into my room when I wasn't there and go through my things.  I felt like I couldn't relax and be myself.  It was making me feel depressed and anxious. 

One day, early in my assignment, the country director came over to see where I was living.  I distinctly remember her saying that my living situation was not good and that I should move.  A few days later, I decided that I would move and I mentioned to the country director that I was going to "take her advice" and find a new place to live. 

She was immediately aghast and claimed that she'd never said I should move.  She said she never "advised" me to do anything.  I knew that was a lie because I clearly remember hearing her say it.  I wasn't going to argue with her, though, because I was 23 years old and had no experience dealing with slick people like her.  I will admit, though, that I was dumbfounded by her insistence that she never said what I knew I'd heard her say.  

I was miserable in that house and knew I had to make a move happen or I would end up leaving.  Fortunately, I was able to move after about two months at my assignment.  I found an apartment for $50 a month and I got an Armenian friend to help me move.  That rent may seem dirt cheap, but when you only get $144 a month and $48 of that is supposed to be "vacation" money, it's really not much at all.  There were a few times that I went hungry as a Peace Corps Volunteer.  Then I found a "job" teaching business English at a NGO and they paid my rent, which they were not supposed to do.  The Peace Corps turned a blind eye to it, though, because they didn't have the budget to help Volunteers pay for housing.

The country director and I did not get along very well and we butted heads throughout my service.  Knowing now what I didn't know then, I probably should have tried to get an assignment out of the capital city.  They no longer put full time Volunteers in the capital city, which is probably for the best.  

Anyway, the above meme reminded me of the country director... and because I am morbidly curious about people, I looked her up on Facebook.  I easily found her and started looking at all her friends, some of whom were people I knew back in the day.  One of her friends was my very first Armenian teacher, Armine.

Overcome with a rush of nostalgia, I sent Armine a friend request.  I wondered if she'd remember me.  I was delighted yesterday when we became Facebook friends and were able to catch up.  She still teaches Peace Corps Trainees Armenian and a new group, A-24, is due to start in March.  To put this in perspective, I was a member of A-3.  I learned that I was among her very first students, since my group was the first she taught Armenian to and I happened to be in her first set of students.  We changed teachers three times over the summer.

I probably spent an hour chatting with Armine, catching up.  She's just as lovely and funny as she was when I knew her in the 90s.  She said my group had a "real" Peace Corps experience.  The newer Volunteers complain about the conditions there, but they have no idea how it was in my day, when there was often no electricity or running water.  The two groups that were there before mine had it even worse than we did.  A lot of people could not hack it and left early.  A lot of other people ended up marrying locals.

I told Armine that sometimes I go on Google Earth to see how much Yerevan has changed since I was there.  She asked if I had been back and I said not since 1997, when I left.  She agreed that it's a different place now... and said that if Bill and I ever visit, we should come stay with her!  It's nice to know that I still have at least one friend in Yerevan and if we do manage to visit, I can show Bill what the people are really like there.

As for the country director, I can't say for certain, but I think she is a toxic person.  I had enough run ins with her to know.  But in a way, I think it's a good thing that I encountered her.  Dealing with her helped prepare me for dealing with Bill's ex wife, who is even more toxic and narcissistic than my old "boss" could ever be.  

The dentist removed my stitches yesterday.  In about four months, I will go in and he'll put the screw in for the implant.  He says that surgery will not be as traumatic as last week's procedure.  I'll probably ask for Ativan again, anyway.


  1. I believe one of the professors in my program has toxic amnesia. People have started to record what he says so that we have evidence. In general, with technology being what it is, it's a bit harder in some settings to pull off as many episodes of toxic amnesia, especially when it's known that a person is a toxic amnesiac. You don't always know in advance, however, and we don't always go around recording conversations, nor should we. (It's possibly even illegal in certain settings.) Med school lectures are fair game, however, so we take turns recording everything this guy says to the group. What he says to anyone individually is probably worth less than the ink it would tape to print the words one they have been transcribed.

    How fluent in Armenian were you at the height of your work in Armenia? Do you still speak it at all?

    My mom said the first phase of the implant procedure is the only one to be truly concerned about, but if someone offers you Ativan (or gives it to you when you ask), by all means take it. I take Klonopin on occasion after really bad nightmares. Knowing that I have it for times when it's really needed makes all the difference in the world to me.

    1. I was never really fluent in Armenian because I was rather lazy about learning the language. I spoke it well enough to get by, though, and still remember a lot of words. If I spent some time in Armenia again, I'd probably pick it up with little difficulty. When I try to speak German, it often comes out Armenian.

      I used to take Klonopin back in the early 00s. It did nothing for me, so I stopped. The dentist said he doesn't often medicate his patients. I think it's because Germans tend to be very stoic about these things. Ativan was not a "fun" drug, though. It just made me feel very calm, which was a good thing before that surgery. Otherwise, I would have been freaking out.


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