Monday, November 12, 2012

At My Doorstep - Dispatch From Armenia #1


I thought I wouldn't blog in Armenia during my Fulbright year as it would deter time from scribing larger works, like a novel, play, second album, etc. Everyday things happen to me that are blogworthy. In contemplating launching these blog entries, I wondered would it be excessive to start a brand new blog URL, or build on this URL, "Single Steps", a blog I started after graduating from college with a one way ticket overseas (yes, I just used "blog" three times in a single sentence). The decision should be apparent (hint: epic entries from walking across Spain, WWOOFing in Portugal, cycling across the US and more can be found in "Single Step" entries past). Well I quickly wanted to write about two encounters that happened to me in my apartment building, which I love. One morning about a month ago I am preparing to leave the apartment when a knock is at the door. I don't usually have unannounced visitors. I peer through the peephole and find an elderly lady. I open the door. She starts yelling. Doesn't have teeth. It's incomprehensible but her desperation and purposes is apparent. She is fragile. Ancient. Lines all over her face. I shut the door and feel like a vagabond for doing so. But what can I do to help her? I think about my grandmother. My father who was educated in this country. All the people who helped me when I needed a hand. Who do I think I am for shutting the door on her? It's easy to pass up on the elderly. They'll be gone soon, right? Yet they seem to constitute the majority of beggars I have seen in this country. One man by the opera who sits at his stoop 8am on the dot, every morning. Another who walks around in the finest suit writing - with incredible braggadocio - your name and insisting on payment. I open the door and she's still there, thinking about which door to knock on next. I give her some change and it feels inadequate. Still would have had I given her a few bills. I can't save this woman whose age compels me to consider her simply as a source of innocence. I shut the door and think - what could I have done more? Another morning I am headed to class. It's super early. Birds are chipping. Streets are empty. I have some trash to take out - there's a big trashcan along my commute route and my bag is small and would fit easily in it. I step out and there's an old man in the classic Armenian sweatsuit. He sees the trash bag in my hand and asks me what I'm up to. Throwing it out, I tell him. Not in the dumpster out back? That's where we're supposed to throw it out. No, I tell him. There's a trashcan on my commute. You shameful little boy, he scowls. How dare you. You should be ashamed. ASHAMED. And I walk off. Who has time for this crap? Maybe there's a reason, maybe there's an art to trash gathering and collecting in Armenia that I'm not privvy to. But at the end of the day, trash is trash, a trashcan is a trashcan, and for two instances, I opened my door here in Armenia and found some interesting characters on the other end.

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