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similar to my alter-ego that seemed to be of interest to people before, times square brian, i think i’ve discovered a new self in the last year or so.  his name is south asian brain.

after spending aroundish 5 months in Sri Lanka and now arriving to the Indian state of Bihar, i’m racking up my south asian experience.  and an alter-ego is emerging.

the letter combination i-a doesn’t seem to really exist in the languages across this region, whereas a-i is very popular.  upon following up on the matter, i was told in hindi, there IS no sound for i-a, its simply a-y, or something….

so basically this grammar lesson is the reason that nearly everyone here calls me “Brain” instead of brian.  it has always happened when people type it and mix up the keys, but i started noticing it more than a few times in sri lanka when it was “brain, brain, brain.” so i’ve come to embrace it.

south asian brain has a few idiosyncracies not shared with north american brian.  for one he wakes up much earlier than normal.  I’m always awake by 6:30 or 7:00 here and have trouble falling back asleep if I try.  and those who know me can attest, I enjoy sleeping, and have never been what the pundits like to call a “morning person.”

burping: burping is totally acceptable and almost expected here.  its not impolite, rude, or offensive.  its simply not noticed.  to burp mid-sentence in a meeting would be completely acceptable.  so in the spirit of cultural learning, i’m trying to burp in public as much as possible.

hand eating…as mentioned in the SL days, cutlery is pretty absent round these parts.  i made the cultural mistake the first time around of eating with my left hand (lefties are persecuted in many parts of the world and forbidden to let their true awesomeness shine – its a cause i’m passionate about), which is viewed as very odd and slightly gross (think of the hand you use to wipe with)……so i’m starting anew here and learning to do it with the right hand.  its not pretty, but its my life.  whenever i’m eating with my hands, all eyes immediately start watching the spectacle with great entertainment.

I’m sure there are other little aspects to my south asian brain existence i’m not even noticing at this point. i’ll continue to keep updates coming as i notice them.



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This is a very common list of items that I come away from the grocery store with here in yerevan.  Partly because they represent several staples in my lifestyle here, but also partly because its a great way to break change.  this country is an extremely change-breaking averse society, and i find it interesting because the bills are denominated so highly.  When i pull money from the ATM, i only get 20’s (twenty thousand notes), which are about $50 each.  anyway, NOBODY but a grocery store will take these.  therefore i use a trip to the grocery store to break my dubs, but also to stock up on those necessary items.

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Check this out, its cool.

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[from ze fellows blog]

Mt Ararat lies just across the Turkish border, miles from Yerevan, Armenia’s capital

Since arriving in Armenia, I’ve tried as much as possible to be a sponge.  Attempting to soak up everything there is to know about microfinance, cultural tendencies here, and especially current political happenings. Coming from the United States, a relative kindergartener historically-speaking compared to cane-wielding Armenia, and without a particularly strong allegiance to any real ethnic identity, (despite my name sounding more Irish than the potato famine) it’s hard to fully comprehend the Armenian history and deep-rooted identity.  The country has existed for so many years in so many different forms, changed its borders many times, and suffered devastating tragedy during its history. (more…)

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mystery note

landlord note

the mysterious love note left on my door saturday night. i was hoping it was telling me i had won the lottery or a lifetime supply of free lahmujan from my friend the lahmajun lunchlady

i found this posted on my door as i stumbled into my apt saturday night returning from a bar.  I’ve gotten one of these before, and had a friend translate it, which turned out to be “sorry the gas went out, but now its back on.” gee thanks.

I was slightly worried that this one was about the utilities i havent paid in a month +, so i brought it along with me today to hopefully be translated by the lovely Lilit.

So, apparently it reads like this:

“Dear Customer,

We want to let you know that the lights in the entry hallway need replacing.  If you would like to continue to have functioning lights, please call this phone number, get in touch with [some guy’s name], and pay this person 700 drams (~$1.75).  Thank you”

oh, ok.  i’ll make sure to disregard the broken windows in the hall entryway and be sure not to forego the luxury of the motion-detecting lights that only switch on half of the time.  yes, i’ll make sure to find this mystery person at the above listed phone number to pay the 700 drams to insure the continued success of my hallway lights.  nevermind the broken front door either, but dont let us forget these hallway lights!

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[from Ze Fellows Blog]

Not very good, at least in some of these Armenian villages I’ve been dropping in on lately.  Have you smelled a chicken coop, or a sty filled with 20 pigs lately? It’s tough to carry a conversation in there.  Visiting borrowers, at least in Armenian villages is quite the sensory overload.  You will smell more than you hoped to, probably taste something you never expected to, and perhaps hear a story that will inspire you to start your own apricot grove.

Atashat Borrower

Haaaayyyy. This will feed the animals throughout the winter, looks tasty

Kiva does an interesting thing.  It helps put stories to the often boringly academic discipline of microfinance.  Without the stories, Kiva would struggle to fund loans as quickly as it does.  They help to strike a chord inside of us that increases willingness to lend or donate because of a connection felt on a human level.  But you probably know all of that already, (or have read some of the chatter) and this spiel sounds all good and nice, but what does a loan really LOOK like.  What does it feel like, taste like up close?  How is access to credit really affecting the borrower?  Well that question is one of the unique opportunities that Kiva Fellows get to ask and hopefully attempt to answer. (more…)

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