Musings of a wondering Armenian
|A March windstorm toppled the cross from the |
red cupola of the Armenian Evangelical Church.
(31 May 2020 – Nor Marash - Bourj Hammoud)
Over and over again, we are hearing from medical and epidemiological experts telling us, to the best of their knowledge and experience, that we are going to be living with, not defeating the Coronavirus. It will be just one more thing that we have to take into account in our daily routine. What that means in terms of our lifestyles, our long-range plans, the economies and habits of families and countries, is still to be determined. How it will decimate minority communities, is also to be determined, although we are already getting a taste of what is to come. The Armenian community here in the Middle East, such a crucial guarantor of the continued existence of the Armenian people the world over, is facing daily traumas as it fights for its existence. In the past few days we lost yet another Armenian school, the St. Agnes Armenian Catholic School in Bourj Hammoud, while two weeks ago the last Armenian School in Jordan closed its doors. Yesterday I read that one of the two local Armenian FM radio stations was forced to go off-air and continue (hopefully) as an Internet-only station. In at least as critical a situation as we face today, Middle East Armenian families a hundred years ago went without many things, including shoes and new clothing, in order to maintain their schools and culture, and they produced vibrant and tough generations. But today people’s values and priorities are… not the same.
|Experts report that a majority of mini-pizzas are
displeased with |
the direction of the economy. (9 May 2020 – Watwat - Beirut)
We were scheduled for a few months of home assignment (or “furlough” in missionary parlance) in the U.S. later this year, beginning in late summer, in order to travel and inform interested church groups about the work of our partner organizations (the church union and the university). Now, all of that has come under question, and our sending body is studying the situation, examining what governments and the air travel industry will do to recover from their current state of disarray. Making any sort of prediction about travel, or saying anything else about what life will look like “A.C.” is a fool’s errand. (“B.C.” = “Before Corona/ Covid-19”; yet although it is inaccurate, I use “A.C.” = “After Corona”; it’s a better abbreviation than “W.C.” = “With Corona”, no?)
|Reaching out to those in need now takes the form of leaving |
clothing and shoes where they can be taken without
drawing attention to oneself. (25 May 2020 –
Khalil Badawi - Beirut)
Tomorrow Maria will be venturing outside our home for the first time in 2 months, for a health checkup and a stop at Haigazian University. It will be interesting to hear her observations on this “release from captivity” when she returns. I know that I often dread venturing outside our home, particularly with all the protective items I am forced to wear. The Lebanese government now mandates wearing a mask when going outside, and is stressing the need to keep infection numbers low because of the lack of hospital capacity for those needing respiratory care for the virus.
Nevertheless, my excursions outside the house have been more frequent, and not always negative. Three weeks ago a friend was driving me to do some grocery shopping, and I asked him to run by our old neighborhood, where we lived 20 years ago. What a refreshing visit, seeing old friends – the baker and the greengrocer – who asked about Maria and the boys by name, and were truly happy for this quick visit (and exhibited boundless patience with my stumbling Arabic). When we see how much we matter to people like this, who seek nothing of us but friendship, that’s when we feel truly alive, truly connected to this place.
Coronahair and coronahaircut. Apparently the barber
was quite satisfied with the job he did.
(29 May 2020 – Geitawi - Beirut)
If it is permissible to say, I intensely dislike this plethora of online meetings and digital gatherings that are sometimes touted as the “new normal”. I doubt that it’s a generational thing, because I know of young people who say the same thing, and like me do not reject the technology, but do not also consider it universally applicable. The majority of communication that is done nonverbally is virtually (pun intended) eliminated from these electronic methods, rendering human interaction shallower, and distances farther. It’s not a small world after all. My sister as well as my son, both school teachers yet of different generations, realize how little real teaching and learning happens in this “virtual classroom space”. They know very well how struggling students need the physical presence of an instructor who can “read” their body language and step in with the necessary support, encouragement and creativity to help them move forward. This also is the case with online worship experiences, something in which I have been heavily involved in the past 2-1/2 months. We are enduring the pain of human separation, a pain that will remain for the foreseeable future, as long as “social distancing” is required.
|LebCats 35: Lebanon’s success in stemming the
spread of the virus is due to high levels of
cooperation – even among cats – with social
distancing principles. (31 May 2020 –
A fun project that came about because of a need for musical content in our worship broadcasts was a “virtual choir”. For the nine participants it was our first foray into this type of production, where the musicians, each in a different part of the world, collaborated in recording a song. Listening to the piano track we sang our parts into our computers or phones – some of us singing more than one part. Then the files went back to Washington state from Oregon, greater LA, Philadelphia and Beirut to the producer/ accompanist, who turned them all into one wonderful online vocal ensemble. Way to go Shahan, Arek, Sako, Palig, Sevag, Garin, Talar and of course Maria and me! Not a bad way to deal with this “A.C.” world!
As I was walking around Bourj Hammoud recently, searching in vain for an open money-exchange house so that I could obtain local currency and buy some groceries, something struck my ear as one Armenian woman was commiserating with another over the current social and economic situation. She said (in Armenian), “Sa Koronyan yete asang sharounagvi…” (If this Koronya continues like this…). I was past them a few steps before I realized she was not referring to a perfume, but had Armenianized the word “corona”. Maybe the Armenian community will be able to adjust and even thrive in this “A.C.” world after all. [LNB]