Brugge

I miss the crisp autumn air tinged with the watery smell of the canals. The quiet of the streets. My red bike with its faulty break and dim lights. The college building. The sprawling tree in the library garden. The wooden benches outside the cafeteria, that would warm up under the sun. Thursday nights and Friday nights. Saturday nights, most of all. The languor and hangovers of Sunday. Fries coated with mayo and served piping hot. Strong and cheap Belgian beer. Lazying around in my dorm room. Eating breakfast for dinner. Air-drying my damp hair. Singing along with the theme songs of favorite TV shows and painting my nails and toes with the craziest colors. Buying Coke and chips from the night shop. Having the luxury of a locked door. 

Walking home at 5 a.m.,dizzy and drunk. Being responsible for myself. Getting startled by horses. Learning Arabic from my friend and delighting her in repeating simple words of greeting every day. Watching the back of his neck and dreaming of impossible things. Listening to Bollywood remixes and studying for exams. The canals at night, covered with swan couples.The windmills and the parks. Small cafes overrun with wealthy old tourists. Waffles with strawberries for outrageous prices. The lack of McDonald’s. The same three songs during every college party. The people, who were my friends. The people, who were not. The cobblestones that ruined my shoes. 

It’s only been six months, but it already feels like somebody’s else’s life.

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A pledge to myself

I love my country. I wouldn’t want to be born anywhere else. But it’s hard sometimes. It’s hard to be a woman with liberal and feminist values in Armenia. Not that I’m disparaging the experiences of women in developed countries, but trust me, our kind of patriarchy is hardcore. I live in a society with strict gender roles, with conservative views on every aspect of human life, a society, where traditionalism is celebrated and equated with patriotism.

It’s hard, no, it’s TIRING to live surrounded by people, who don’t share the same values as you. Why? Because at some point you realize that you can’t beat them. You can’t even start a dialogue with them, because they simply don’t want to understand a different point of view.

What do you do when you get too tired of speaking out? What do you do when you’re not sure speaking out will help? When you think that vocalizing your values and principles will get you ostracized from your friends and family?

I wish I could say that there’s a clear-cut answer to these questions. Lately I have noticed that I’ve been taking the cowardly (and easy) way out of this situation. I’ve been turning a blind eye and a deaf ear. I’ve been pretending I don’t hear the homophobic comments, sexist jokes, or racist assumptions.

It turns out it’s goddamn easy to ignore bigotry, misogyny and social injustice. It saves you a lot of time, effort and red-faced yelling. Of course, it adds a ton of HEAVY bricks to your conscious and makes you feel like you’re the worst person that ever lived.

Oh, you try and make excuses for yourself. You tell yourself that Armenians don’t self-censor as much as people in Europe or the US. Political correctness is not even a blimp on Armenia’s radar! Phooey! We were trapped under the Soviet rule for years! Come on, conscious!

Even though these excuses sound very good (and are partially true), after a very short while, that pesky ton of bricks topples all of them. And you’re left with a nasty feeling. A feeling that you’re a failure and a fraud. A person, who knows better and betrays that knowledge every fucking day.

So, here goes…I’m not saying I’m going to join an NGO or become an activist. But this is a pledge to myself, that I’m going to try and be more outspoken about the issues that matter to me. I’m going to try and educate people around me. I’m gonna stop making excuses.

Blogging

I have a lot of thoughts about a lot of things. I feel strongly about pop culture (American, most of it), about Indian films (in Hindi, most of them) and about different aspects of my life as a young woman in an Armenian reality.

For the past three months, I’ve been feeling that I need an outlet to lay these thoughts to rest. I’m not an eloquent writer, and not all of my opinions are really all that groundbreaking, but I feel the urge to do this blogging thing. And, hey, sometimes the wisest thing is to act on an urge.