After six months in my own personal hell, I made it safely back the US: land of McDonald’s, Starbucks, and smiles (all of which are lacking in Armenia). I know that my critique of little Armenia Jackson may have come across as harsh and whiny, so I think that I owe my blog followers a justification for my massive hate of a country with so few friends.
I did not choose to go to Armenia because I liked the country. I was indifferent to it but really wanted to intern with the UN. A UN internship is very selective and only applicants enrolled in a graduate program are supposed to be eligible. Little old fat girl Peter from Oklahoma never imagined he would be selected for such a position, especially while not even a grad student. So I jumped at the opportunity and gave up a lot to finance my six months in former USSR-land: I sold my car, left my friends in Oklahoma, moved away from the boy I was hardcore into. (Now, that I’m back, I have only regained the friends)
I’ve lived abroad in three countries before (four if you count Oklahoma) and always had to struggle a little bit before enjoying myself completely. With Armenia, the joy never came. Yerevan, the capital where I lived, is a disgusting Soviet construction that prides itself on being a subpar replication of a European city. Over the years, the city has eliminated a great deal of its historical landmarks in place of luxury boutiques, like Armani and Versace, and fancy apartment complexes that are continuously empty because few residents have the money to afford such a posh lifestyle. Corruption is rampant and much of the older generation even prefer Soviet times because they at least were employed and enjoyed an adequate standard of living.
This background makes you feel for the average Armenian a little. They are cheated by the oligarch government and can’t always make ends meet for themselves. But then, you realize that Armenians have no understanding, etiquette, or common sense when it comes to foreigners like me. The UN, in theory, is meant to combine national and international expertise to create stability, economic growth, development, all that. I feel like a terrible person after all of my cultural sensitivity training, but I could really give two shits about Armenia’s future now. The country does not function well, not many people want to do anything about it, the people that do want to do something don’t have the skills to change anything. This is Armenia in a nutshell.
So, working at the UN in such an environment was frustrating. I was given work during my six months that I could have completed in one month. No one knew what to do with me. My office mate was bipolar and cried twice while I was in the office. What is this shit?
But what really got my gander was the way I was treated as a foreigner. Let me be honest for two secs: I’m tall, white, and semi-racially ambiguous. If you have a problem with any of these characteristics, get away from my blog. Not to brag, but I have traveled quite a considerable amount before and usually blend in to some degree. In Yerevan, people gawked at me like I was the fucking lovechild of the Abominable Snowman and Godzilla. Walking down the street, minding my own business, heads would turn, jaws would drop, eyes would not blink. I hit a low point during my last few days. I yelled at a 9-ish-year-old girl as I walked by. In America, our parents would say something. “Staring is not polite.” “Don’t stare. It’s rude.” In Armenia, the parents are right next to their spawn, eyes wide open like I’m a rainbow polar bear. I just want to go to the grocery store like everyone else!
Also, the one quazi-gay club in the city (stupidly named DIY) had a firebomb thrown into it and was shut down. My guess is that it was not homophobes but rather people who thought the club’s name was dumb. Don’t you go to a gay club so you don’t have to “do it yourself”?
My travel back to the US was a little unnerving but I made it back safely in the end. After three hours of delay, we left Yerevan in a snowstorm. Shortly after takeoff, I was convinced that we were going to crash and I would die. I accepted my fate, but was disappointed because my journal would probably blow up. How would my memoir ever get published and become a bestseller? Two separate Armenian children kicked the back of my seat from Vienna to Washington and the airline lost my bag. I consider this a final “Fuck You” present from Armenia. Don’t worry I won’t be back hopefully ever.
Despite the horrors of this trip, I’ll try to be introspective and corny to make it seem like all of this effort was not in vain. Armenia helped me cope with my anxiety a lot. In the US, I would have an anxiety attack and call my friend or roommate or rush myself to the ER because I thought I was dying. When panic attacked in Armenia, I just accepted that I would die and no one would find me for a week or so. Slowly, I realized that I wasn’t dying and that freaking out over not having a job is silly. I had to find my priorities, which are people I love and the things I love doing. Now, that I’m back in the US, I could continue to freak out over the fact that I have no car, no place of my own (YET), and I just took a nap in Lion King sheets, but I won’t. Things, like my blog, are way more important.