Tuesday, November 6, 2007
I expected culture shock for all of us. We all have had those days where we just don't get why people do things differently than we are used to. Cole is constantly baffled by Armenians who are always dressed very nicely; I am still baffled by the 5 inch heels that women wear everywhere; and we are all stunned when babies show up clothed like Alaskans when it is 70 degrees outside.
We have a new issue that I didn't anticipate: playground rules. I figured my children would meet other kids, play football (soccer), hang out at our playground, and play tag. I assumed that children would figure out how to communicate. That is half correct.
Our playground is used by everyone. Adults, however, only supervise babies, toddlers and pre-schoolers. Kids from about 4-5 are on their own. Teen girls congregate together like all teen girls do. The teen boys gather to look at the girls, look "cool" and pass around cigarettes. (Girls and women smoke here; it is just not culturally acceptable to do it in public). I am almost always the only mom supervising elementary aged children.
The playground is mainly dirt, three wooden benches, and a separate concrete section containing dirt that gets turned into a mud pile when water is added from the fountain that doesn't turn off. There are two wooden swings that are more suited for toddlers. There are a few trees, many grape vines overhead, and metal garages all around where kids climb. The garages are one main reason why I supervise; the other is to attempt to prevent throwing rocks, dirt, and trash at one another.
Despite attempts by an older woman to keep the playground clean, it never stays that way for more than 5 minutes. Trash is routinely thrown on the ground. A few weeks ago, we went out and a women with full hair and make up was busy cleaning the park. She did the normal things - pick up trash, sweep the sidewalk, but then she did something very odd: she watered the dirt. Really. And it had just rained (not a lot; there was no mud). The same woman later went to my landlord and complained that my kids were messing up the playground - probably the ONLY children in our neighborhood who do not intentionally litter because they constantly hear me say "Armenia needs no more trash." So, if Cole & Austin don't litter, what was she complaining about? The nest they made out of leaves & twigs the day before.
And then there was the mud pie day when they were chastised for making mud pies on the sidewalk. But the constant cigarette butts, plastic bags, and snack food are not a problem. Go figure.
We sometimes go to the "soccer park". It is across the street and has a soccer field covered in that fake grass stuff, torn nets, and a half field or less surrounded by wooden railings. The park also has more equipment - several sets of monkey bars, 2 see saws, some swings, and multi-level bars to climb on. We should probably call it the Lenin park because a lovely bust of Lenin is there. Here are the boys - and our neighbor Manet - climbing on it. Nobody has yelled at us at the soccer park or accused us of littering. We have, however, found a dead rat that was not moved for several days.