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 September 12, 2003 




Outside Eye: A non-Armenian's view of life in his adopted home


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".

So 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.

"What are you doing here?," the officials wanted to know. It is a question I still can't answer.

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.

A 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.

That first 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.

Yes. No.

When 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.

But 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 better.

Better? Worse?

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.

 


According to Agnes
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  Inside
 

Death for Death Penalty: Capital punishment abolished; Human Rights Law approved

Full story

 
 
 
 

Tigran Naghdalyan Murder Case: Prosecutor accuses attorney of having fake license

Full story

 
 
 
 

Bad Connection: Government wants to invalidate telecommunications monopoly of ArmenTel

Full story

 
 
 

 


The Week in seven days

 

 


The Arts in seven days

 

  Photo of the week
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September 11, Yerevan. Commemorating the American tragedy, events at Moscow cinema hosted by the US embassy became a solemn tribute due to Armenian citizens -- officials, clergymen, simple people, children, who came to join their voices to the world's choir condemning terrorism.

 

 





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