Do It Yourself

A couple years ago, en route to Armenia during Winter, I got stuck at the Vnukovo airport in Russia. I’ll spare you (and myself) the traumatic details, but basically it was a little bit my fault (I kinda dozed off) and a little bit the airline’s fault (they never announced the gate change). It took hours to find my way to the ticketing agent, no thanks to the unhelpful and cruel airport workers. When I finally got myself out of what felt like a hopeless situation (was I at an airport or the jungle?!) my brother said something very telling. He said: “In America, they do everything so you don’t think. In these parts, they do everything for you to think.”

Since living in Armenia, I’ve definitely felt my brother’s words on my skin, although on a much less scary level than my airport experience. One example: directions are highly complicated here. It’s not as easy as giving the address of your destination. It’s always a long, drawn-out conversation. And even when you give the cross streets, some taxis won’t know where it is, and they will always ask you which road they should take — you’re basically the navigation system. Or, in some places, instead of lines, there are mobs, and you have to fight your way to the front. Slightly intimidating, to say the least. Another example, it’s not so easy to find ready cut vegetables here. I bought carrots today, and after peeling and cutting them myself (gasp), I realized how easy I had it with those cute little bagged baby carrots at Trader Joe’s.

Back in 2013, during my Russian airport debacle, I would have given anything to be in a place like America, where the employees would have just about held my hand and shown me to the ticketing counter, but today I’ve come to appreciate figuring things out on my own, even if it does take longer and more work. Because when you do, you feel so much more accomplished.

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