Birthright Armenia, Musings

[Blog] Week Twelve, Rambling

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The weather has gotten colder again, and my breath rolls from my mouth and nose in clouds when I walk outside each morning. Some green and yellow leaves still cling to the branches of the trees, but more fall every day, carpeting the sidewalks and the streets. In the park beside the Republic Square metro, the emptied fountains have been decorated with white Christmas lights.

Four weeks. That’s how much time I have left before I head back home. And it’s passing at an astonishing rate, leaving me in a state of mild panic. It’s not unlike the feeling you get when lose your footing while running down a hill, leaving you sliding and digging in your heels in a desperate attempt to stop.

The past few days have been fairly quiet on my end, which I’ve enjoyed. I took a little time to wander Yerevan with my camera, and though I didn’t get half as many pictures as I’d like, I have a few now that give a lovely impression of the city. I finally made my way up the Cascade. The climb was impromptu and after dark, so I’ll need to do it again when I have a little more time to just sit and enjoy the incredible view, but even a few minutes looking out across the spread of city lights was a lovely experience.

My wanderings also, predictably, took me into a bookstore. Anyone who loves books knows the pleasure of wandering along the shelves and hunting for another world to explore. It’s a slightly different experience when most of them are written in a language you don’t speak (or read) fluently, though the extra time it takes to read even the titles can be enjoyable in its own right. The clerk came over to me after a few minutes and asked if she could help me find anything, and when I asked if she had any fantasy stories in Armenian she told me she had translations of Harry Potter and The Hobbit; I left a little while later with my own new copy of the latter, still grinning like a little kid.

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The Hobbit… in Armenian!

I’ve had a rough spot or two in the last little bit as well, as if the honeymoonish feel of visiting for the first time has begun to wear off and leave me overwhelmed by everything that still needs to be done to get Armenia to thrive. One of the first pieces of advice that every Birthright Armenia volunteer receives is to not give in to negativity, and while that always made sense to me, I understand a little better why the staff makes sure that it’s one of the first things we hear on our arrival. Armenia is a developing country, with all that comes with that– both the good and the bad. It’s sometimes hard to ignore the little voice of fear and frustration that whispers that things will never change.

But that view is so small. It forgets about how far we have already come and denies the work and the vision of so many people who see potential where others see failure. It looks around and sees what doesn’t work but not everything that has already been fixed. Worst of all, it’s the kind of thinking that paralyzes, because if nothing is going to change, trying to make things better is a waste of time. It’s also categorically false.

That’s about it for this week. To those of you who celebrated Thanksgiving yesterday I hope you had a wonderful time with family and friends! December is coming fast, but I’m still hoping to finish and post a new short story here before the end of the month, so keep an eye out for that. It should go up early next week as long as I don’t get distracted by outlining the second draft of my current novel instead.

Musings

[Blog] Hobbits and Droids

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There are two stories that may go a long way in explaining who I am and why I write what I write. Or at least, they provide as much of a reason as I’ve been able to find, and it seems fair to blame them for my preoccupation with daring deeds and grand adventures. In any case, I find them enjoyable enough to be worth retelling. Perhaps you will too.

Both happened long enough ago that I’m no longer certain how old I was. That particular detail is lost in the fog, so I’ll just have to make do and say that I was old enough to enjoy a good story, but young enough that I had not yet discovered most of the ones that have since influenced me the most. So, something less than ten.

The first one started with a joke, and a silly one at that. My dad, as he often did, was teasing me. And I, as I often did, was teasing him right back. On this particular day, the final volleys of our exchange went something like this:

Me: “Dad, you’re silly!”

Dad: “Who, me? No I’m not!”

Me: “Are too!”

Dad: “D2.”

Me: “…what?”

At this point, my mom figured it was high time I was introduced to a certain short, feisty, blue-and-white droid. Our family spent the rest of the afternoon watching A New Hope, and I’ve spent the rest of my life wishing I had a light saber. Thus was my introduction to Star Wars and science fiction in general.

My other memory is of a road trip and a book read aloud in the car. We were on our way to visit some relatives, and though a quick search suggests that it probably took us less than two hours to get there*, as a kid it felt a great deal longer than that. Or rather, it would have had my dad not been reading The Hobbit to us. It’s difficult to be bored when Gollum is in the front seat playing riddles in the dark.

That was the day I fell in love with Middle Earth. You can imagine my joy, then, when I found out that there was a whole trilogy besides set in the same world. My heart was still broken at Khazad Dum, of course, and my first reading of The Fellowship of the Ring took far longer than it should have, but that’s a different story. I can still say that that car trip is what kindled a deep and abiding appreciation for Tolkien and his work.

Since those days, my love of all kinds of fantasy and science fiction has only grown. I’ve seen The Princess Bride and Star Trek and Firefly. I’ve read The Chronicles of Narnia through at least twice. The Last Unicorn enchanted me- both the book and the movie. Hugh Howey’s Silo Saga and Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy both kept me up way too late on multiple occasions. All these and a hundred others are all stuck in my head and spilling over into my own imaginings, making them richer and far better than they would be otherwise. I owe a debt to all of these and more, but it all started when my parents introduced me to Star Wars and The Hobbit, which is why those two worlds will always be particularly special to me.

 

 

 

* That is, assuming I remember our destination correctly. If it was farther away, then I’ve underestimated how good my Dad is at reading out loud for extended periods of time, and I already knew he was good.