Saturday, July 5, 2008

Life in the Village

I have been reflecting on what we thought village life would be like
vs what it really is like, and thought this might be a good topic to
explore in a blog since we have had so few lately.

The first is the weather, we were told it could get up to -35 (F & C
are the same at that temperature) in the winter, we experiences some
of that freezing weather on a trip there in February, and have heard
plenty of stories about the harsh 6+ month winters. This was part of
our decision to winter in the US starting in October. Generally in
Armenia the winters are dry and summers are wet, like the East Coast
in the US. In the village this translates into frequent thunder
storms, which were every day for about 10 days when we moved in during
June. General humidity causes condensation on everything in the
house, the walls are drying VERY slowly from all of the plaster and
concrete work that had been done during the remodeling process and
every two or so days we are wiping MOLD off the walls. At night
sometimes our "dry" sheets feel like they just came out of the wash.
The one good thing is that the summer high doesn't get above 80 F and
the air is clear. while people are sweating and choking in Yerevan we
are enjoying a very temperate summer in the village.

The next thing is the cows, we knew this was the livelihood of most
people in the village but to experience that on a daily basis is
something else. At sunrise (about 7 AM) the cows get milked and are
herded out to the hills by shepherds, then before sunset (about 8 PM)
the cows are brought back to be milked again. If a family does not
participate in the shepherd rotation they pay about $5 per cow per
month for the service. There are about 50 cows that go out with about
5 shepherds. Sheep are a different industry, they are kept in large
buildings above the village, by just a few families, and one shepherd
can handle about 100 sheep, so the monthly pay for this job is only
about $1 per sheep per month. Back to the cows, the morning milk is
usually used by the family to drink, to make yogurt, or cheese, if
there is surplus it is sold. In the morning and the evening about the
same time each day a vehicle slowly makes its way down the village
main roads where women stand with their buckets full of milk, the
going rate is about $0.30/Liter or $1.15 gallon. The women usually
stand together as neighbors and I have seen them waiting into the dark
of night usually about an hour sometimes as much as two. The cows use
the roads (dirt and rock) more than cars do and they generally have
the right away, which goes something like this: cows, sheep, cars,
people, dogs, chickens. Then there is the dung, the indoor pens have
to be cleaned everyday, the dung is spread in flat pile to dry in the
sun. Often it is rolled and compressed each day. This time of year
the dry dung is cut up into squares and stacked to create round towers
to dry further, to be used in as heating fuel in the winter. Cutting
and stacking dung is a job usually done by older women in the family
(80 year old grandmothers that look like they are 100). So with all
this dung you can understand the village has a general smell of poop!

After cows comes potatoes, everyone grows them and everyone eats them,
every day and in every form possible! They plant, then hoe their
fields, water and wait, then they harvest, enough for the whole year.

Then fresh bread is made once a week, in family teams as one rolls out
the dough, the other is sitting over a clay lined hole in the ground
with a fire burning in the bottom. They are making lavash, Armenian
flat bread. We reap fresh bread milk and cheese sometimes, but mostly
we are still buying most of our food from the cities half an hour a
way in either direction.

One more thing is the weeds which grow wild everywhere, the worst of
these is the stinging nettle which sends the kids in running for anti
itch cream. Some crazy locals eat the stuff and even rub it on their
skin to make them immune or tougher, who knows. The flowers this time
of year are very beautiful (bright yellow, white, orange, and purple
flowers. They have already started cutting the fields to be bailed
and stored up for the winter, and they are doing this by hand with
giant sickles, talk about 50 years ago!

I will leave village hospitality and neighbor relations for part two
of this series, until then...


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