“How’s your poop?” was almost always Hanna’s first inquiry of the day when we 15 Community Youth Development Volunteers were training together in Ararat marz last spring. The question always sparked a wide and fairly disgusting range of answers–a running commentary if you like–for American guts previously used to digesting large hunks of meat, and mountains of processed food, didn’t always adapt well to an all-natural vegetable diet, and food perhaps prepared with more oil and salt than most of us were used to. By the time we moved to our permanent sites in June, most of our intestines had made their peace with Armenia, but Hanna would still often text or email “HYP?” just to check in on our movements. She was good like that.
I miss Hanna for many reasons and you should too: you wouldn’t be subjected to this post if I still had her to confide in. Sorry about that.
It is often said that Peace Corps Volunteers must expect embarrassing accidents as part of their service–the downside of overseas adventure. I will spare you the details of my own, err, slippages up to now, suffice it to say that there is a taxi driver in Dubai who was definitely glad to see the back of me after much from the back of me was unfortunately—oh well, no need to explain. Then there was that time in the school with the squat toilet. And in the hostel with the line for the bathroom. And the all time low this week in my own apartment when violent throwing up at one end made it impossible to stay clenched at the other…
I should stress that I have only myself to blame for any foodborne illness I suffer here. Armenians are clean freaks and indeed my office mate Mariam refuses to allow me to wash dishes at work, because she think I don’t wait for the water to get hot enough, and that I don’t scrub the china hard enough. My family here, seeing me once more whey-faced and armed with a bottle of bleach, will urge a cutback on wine, and a new fondness for mint tea. They light the fire, fill my hot water bottle, and presumably say a prayer that their carpeting will survive my tenure.
In the course of 6 months, I am pleased to say that we can now discuss my delicate condition without recourse to unattractive mime. Luts լուծ and vortskal ործկալ are two important words to know.
I think back to the time that one of our predecessors here advised us to secrete some adult diapers in our Peace Corps packing, in case of emergency. I shuddered at the time, laughed, and ignored her Dependsable advice. ‘Better safe than sorry’ she said, ruefully. Incoming volunteers: you have been warned.