The first snow of the year is always nice to
see. The blanket of whiteness puts a hush over
the city and a smile on people's faces. Scarves
and sweaters, hats and gloves are pulled out of
closets and people look like bundles of clothes
waddling down the sidewalks. We know the holiday
season is here finally. With our mild fall this
year, it seemed to take forever.
The holiday season is a time of happiness because
we spend lots of time with family and friends.
Offices close. For the most part, work ceases.
Like most foreigners living and working in Armenia,
I will be returning to my home for a badly needed
visit to family and friends.
I have a lot of catch up to do and just a short
time to do it. My sister just had a baby that
she wanted for a long time. My brother's children
will be home from their universities. I need to
help my daughter move into a new apartment and
my son move to another city where he begins a
job after the New Year.
In the midst of this, I will be calling and meeting
with old friends, telling them where I've been
living for the past few years. "Armenia?"
they will say, and when I explain where it is,
they'll smile and nod and say, "that's nice,"
without an idea of what I'm talking about. I'm
used to it.
Of course, before I leave Armenia, I'll make
my necessary visit to the vernisage market where
I will look for gifts I can take back for everyone.
This being my third year in Armenia, I've bought
all that is possible to get there: Nardi boards,
happiness dolls, traditional Armenian hats, matruska
dolls, hand painted and hand-carved boxes, ceramic
salt sacks, pepper grinders, silver jewelry, and
lately a few rugs. And of course, bottles of Armenian
While the holiday season is a time of joy, it
is also a time of sadness. Something has passed,
something is gone. When we take time to celebrate,
we mark the passing of another year. We think
about all the good and all the bad that happened.
We think about all that could have changed, but
didn't, and all that could have been done, but
was not. We think about all the unfulfilled hopes
This is also a time to look forward to the coming
year, and this is something that fills everyone
with hope for the future. Armenia has cause for
hope. In the past couple of years, I have seen
marked progress, and I see no reason for this
progress not to accelerate.
With the help of a few wealthy Diaspora who truly
care about Armenia, life is improving. Kirk Krikorian
has insured that the sidewalks are repaired and
the streets are paved. This alone is enough to
raise the spirits of all Yerevan residents.
But there's more. There is new construction all
around the city. The streets are congested with
more cars. New stores are opening all over town.
The pace of life has quickened, because there
is more to do. Armenia has a presidential election
soon after the new year, and it looks like Robert
Kocharyan will be easily re-elected. While not
all like him or agree with his policies, political
stability is a requirement of economic growth.
Still too many Armenians struggle to survive;
too many pick up sticks and branches from the
parks so they can have some heat and too many
collect bottles to sell so they can eat. But there
is reason for hope and this is the season for
hope. It may be too soon to say that Armenia has
turned the corner, but that time is fast approaching.
(Peter Eichstaedt, who lives in Yerevan, is a
writer and journalist and directs a media training
center in Armenia.)