How are the lives of people in former Communist countries now? As these "transitional" countries struggle from totalitarian communist to democratic capitalist are people's lives improved, if not idyllic? Before going to Armenia, a former republic Soviet Union, to teach public administration to university students, I had no idea about life there; I barely knew where the country was. Many friends and family thought I was crazy, a woman sixty years old, with a good job, leaving the relative ease of the United States and going off alone to a poor foreign country. As it turned out, joining the Civic Education Project was a wise decision, launching me on a profound journey, both inner and outer. The journey was characterized by surprise, shock, and amazement; by loss, grief and self-doubt; by wonder, laughter, love, and pleasure and ultimately by a sense of emerging wholeness and growing confidence that I can muddle through most situations that I meet in life. Such a journey isn't for everyone but for me it was a remarkable opportunity for learning more about life - and living.
Each new season of the school year brought change. The city, my apartment, my work, my circle of friends changed radically, sometimes in ways that I liked, sometimes in ways I didn't. The change I experienced most keenly, though, was the internal change brought by the struggle to cope with external circumstances while at the same time keeping my sights on my true aspirations. My hope is that this account will enable the reader to glimpse the charm and quirks of Armenia at this stage, to understand some of the challenges of the transition and at the same time to experience how personal change can be fostered by throwing oneself into a foreign environment.