When Hanna died, we crawled to Peace Corps HQ in Yerevan, and huddled together damply in a shocked and miserable heap. Olivia and Hannah, two volunteers a couple of years ahead of our cohort, made mac n’ cheese for all of us. It helped, it really helped. I thought of that day yesterday, when Sierra brought a large pot of mac n cheese to our Thanksgiving celebration–it is truly the food of friendship. On our dark days in Yerevan, staff at the U.S. Embassy–most of whom we had never met– sent homemade pies and plates of sandwiches to keep us going. They catered for Hanna’s memorial too: hummus and salsa and chips and crackers and other good things we haven’t seen for a while. And more baked goods. Lots of baked goods. It was like having a hug from home.
Because of Hanna’s loss, and for all the more ordinary reasons, a lot of Peace Corps Volunteers here in Armenia might have been feeling lonely, sad and homesick this Thanksgiving. But, ever resourceful, we are cooking–and eating– our way through the crisis.
Last night 8 of us in Goris tucked into carbs in every form available–the mac n cheese was supplemented by roast potatoes, mashed potatoes, two kinds of stuffing, a mash of cauliflower, turnip and carrot eased with half a pound of salted butter, chicken, broccoli (there had to be something healthy), brownies, apple crisp and baklava. We washed it down with a vat of punch made from mulberry vodka, Armenian fizz, orange Fanta and peach juice. There are two boxes of chocolates that haven’t been opened yet, and there are left-overs for days.
In Gyumri, they have secured a 46 pound turkey which is cooking as I write. About 15 volunteers will celebrate together there. There is talk of cranberry jelly and sweet potatoes–they have been very particular to do the whole thing right. In Kapan and Sisian, there are Peace Corps Thanksgiving dinners this weekend. In Dilijan, and somewhere close to Ararat too. We are thankful, truly thankful we have each other and a little piece of America here in Armenia this week.
In Gyumri last weekend, I visited an art gallery packed with the paintings of two 20th century sisters: Eranuhi and Mariam Aslamazyan. Among many landscapes and portraits, each sister had beautiful, warm, welcoming pictures of food and other domestic bits and pieces, much of it painted in the colors of fall. I bought postcards and wished I’d known the sisters. Travelers, feminist pioneers and open-minded observers of human life, I think they would have been fun. And I bet they cooked a great dinner.