Seven years ago this week I discovered Armenia. She had been here many millennia
before me of course. All my life, though, this whole region had been hidden under
the cloak of the USSR, which in my incomplete education lumped everything as "Russia".|
here I am now living among a people I didn't know existed, learning, if nothing
else, how little I knew.
An assignment sent me here the day after Levon
Ter Petrosyan was re-elected, to find tanks in the streets and stern faced soldiers
attempting at every turn to confiscate my notebook and my partner's film.
are you doing here?," the officials wanted to know. It is a question I still
Four of my past six years have been spent here, and the question
I get now is: "Where are you going next?"
Next? As if Armenia
were on some "next" list that I had drawn up in mapping out my jagged
career slide. I figure this place is just about enough "next" for anyone.
couple of stories on this week's site remind me of changes that have made this
Armenia different than the one I landed in seven years ago.
In a travelogue
that I wrote from that visit, I remember commenting how remarkable it was that
in such a poor country, there were no beggars. Vahan Ishkhanyan's story about
vagrants might not have been so easily documented in those days.
trip also included a visit to Karabakh, where I found hulls of buildings and fresh
cemeteries in a land that seemed ready to implode from oppression. Suren Deheryan's
story this week about an expo includes information about goods produced in Karabakh
now being exported to the world market.
On my now-rare trips back to the
States I am always asked if things are getting better here.
a former scientist freezes to death in a place that once provided him with a heated
home (see Vahan's story), there's not much improvement to be seen in that society.
when a devastated enclave unrecognized by most of the world rises from war to
show even a spark of economic recovery, surely it indicates a trend toward the
Is life getting better in the States? In Europe?
In the Middle East? I don't know.
I know my life has gotten better in the
past seven years. But, like Armenia herself, the reasons are confounding. I am
embraced and despised here, just like any other place where a byline has been
my biography. I work twice as long and make half as much money. But reward comes
in the denominations by which I first measured this place: In community and family
and a sense of place - factors that are likely to diminish here as the good and
bad of change are equally felt.
I like my neighbors. I like my work. Beer
is cheap and women are pretty.
What am I doing here?
Living, I guess.