Saturday, May 31, 2003

After a work week in DC and in transit, I am now in the San Francisco Bay area. I have never imagined so many meeting being possible in three days. Starting on Wednesday we will begin the cycle anew with back to back meetings with the Diaspora here, then in Fresno, then in LA. The Ambassador will be joining me and the head of USAID/Armenia on this tour of the Californian-American Diaspora. If you are in California, a number of public events will be held, so keep your ears open.

I really love the parts of Washington DC we were in. It is my third time there and it is such a clean city, so easy to get around, lots of interesting stuff going on. I wish I had some more time there to enjoy the museums and hang out with my old friends.

At least I have some free time in the San Francisco Bay area, and I will spend a couple nights with my friend I have known since the first grade, and with my sister. Plus the weather here is much better than it was in DC. In LA I will have 4 days off so I reaaaally hope to have one good hot day to go to Newport Beach, which I have not been to in the summer since 1998! Uff, I miss it.

So anyways, I could go into loads of detail, but I won't. Thats the important stuff going on.

Friday, May 30, 2003

I�m flying to Dubai in a couple of hours. At first I was thinking of going to Cyprus but the pictures I saw on line didn�t really look that attractive, compared to the beaches in Sydney so I decided to go to Dubai instead. I hope the beach there lives up to my expectation. Raffi N. happy Birthday for tomorrow.
Mayis 28, national holiday.
Most stores and businesses were closed yesterday.
There has been much action and adaptation for us since we�ve settled in our new apartment. It�s really a cool place. The kids took longer to get rid of their jet lag, which was not very pleasant for us. The first days they slept from noon till 8 p.m. and were wide awake all night. I am glad to tell you that things are back to normal now and they sleep at around 10 p.m. and wake up at about 9 a.m.
We have also hired a young baby sitter who will be a big help since we have no relatives here who can help us out.
What I miss most about life in Montreal is the family and the few close friends. Everything else, you can find in Armenia.
Let me tell you about a few interesting places we�ve found for the kids. The first is a caf� on Mashtots that has games and toys for kids while the parents eat or have coffee. Next, is a drop in day care with indoor games and park for kids between 0-4 years old. It is called Ganach Bardez and is sponsored by a French organization. They have a psychologist and childcare workers who help parents through the tough years. Kids can also have their home made lunch at the Garden.
This is truly a great place to raise your kids. If you want them to have a comfortable and happy childhood, I highly recommend you live here for some years. For those who want more details about child care in Armenia, you can write me on the hotmail account and ask specific questions. You can ask about anything you want from nutrition, to healthcare, to diapers to clothing to toys.
Besides that, life is really beautiful. I wake up in the morning, walk down the building and buy a few fresh fruits for the day, fresh bread, milk. Then I go to work at about 10 a.m. It�s literally a 1 minute walk to the Land and Culture office. As for work, it has its ups and downs, but is a great challenge. Anyone who wants to or is visiting Armenia should make a point of dropping by.
Saturday is my birthday. It will be my first in Armenia. I am thinking of a special way to celebrate this day. Any suggestions?
De lav, tsez bari or u shutov Noritz ku grem.

Thursday, May 29, 2003

while ara logs about the aftermath of war in nkr, i can't help but be saddened ny what we managed to muster up with our new parliament. most are a wrong wrong group of people who have no place in politics. yet another dissapointment. yet another reality. yet another group of people who will park their mercedes jeeps on the sidewalk and sit at big tables (with the ajoining long smaller table for the lesser people who have come to see them) and do favors and deals. yet another group of people who will shortly acquire an outdoor cafe, a gas station, and start a construction group which will receive important infrastructure projects from the government.

i am not saying it is not like this everywhere in the world. dick cheney has the deal to rebuild the oil fields in iraq. this is everywhere. i have always said that the big difference is that in the states and perhaps some other countries in europe... the acting is better. here in armenia everything is obvious, everything is in front of your face. so it is just a little harder to digest. it really has an impact on your psyche.

on a more positive note... it seems like summer is really underway. guests are swarming in and arthur and i are planning our summer. this is the part of year that we don't mind guests too much. it is a bit later that we start to say enough is enough... leave us alone. for now we are excited to be out in the summer sun... and yes people i am finally happy with the weather.

today is my last day of tile remond and later this week we will do the ceiling. after that we will be back to normal and will start thinking of remonding our basement, and building ourselves a garage for the car. this entire city is under construction. so we might as well do whatever we can for ourselves while we are breathing dust anyways.

Monday, May 26, 2003

So the elections are almost over. What a day it was yesterday and today (I count it as one day). After monitoring some poling stations, for counting procedure we selected the one that looked more suspicious. The counting took 12 hours since there are 21 parties, we had 3 majoritarian candidates and also constitutional referendum. Basically 3 different types of ballots, 2 different types of boxes, and 31 possible voting accuracies, i.e. 21 (parties) + 1 (none elected) + 1 invalid, 3 (majoritarian candidates) + 1(none elected) + 1 invalid; referendum - �yes�, �no�, invalid�. Plus to these the unused were counted too. So it was a long process especially in our poling station, since everything has been done very carefully, every single vote has been examined, by observers (us), poling station comity, the party and candidate proxies. The unclearly marked ballots were discussed and put into vote.
We were locked in the station for 12 long and tiring hours, windows and doors closed. The counting process went smoothly, and all the numbers matched, so no extra ballots, and no fake ones too. I am satisfied that votes of 606 people have been respected and secured. Hopefully the numbers won�t be distorted at the upper levels, (TEC and CEC).
The turnout has been pretty low and I think this was true in most of the places, only around 30%.
I hope that in the near future there wont be a need for monitoring it this way, which at some point even becomes an investigation. I am also glad that our presence eliminated any possible distortion, created nice working environment, added something positive to the newly established electoral institution and work ethics.

Coming to other things, we are really getting close to finding a house. Next week we will move one step closer. We think that we have found, I rather say discovered, something pretty close to what we were anticipating.
i thought i would post in two logs and seperate my entries since this weekend was multi-faceted. this log will talk about the wonderful party my husband and i threw yesterday.

the ayo show aired here in armenia fourteen years ago. it was a song competition that was organized by songwriter arthur grigorian which brought a new face to armenian music. armenia still in its soviet era was seeing a transformation of culture as pop music, estrada, was making its presence felt. most of todays singers started their singing careers with the ayo show and it was one of the hottest things since sliced bread back then.

recently i had taken a copy of the ayo series from my mother in law to watch. arthur ispirian, my husband, was a participant and won every ayo competition... hands down with a total of 49/49 at each airing. it was amazing to see the show and to watch arthur and how happy he was with his friends... taping the show and having a great time. it was his childhood that seemed so wonderful. his smile was ear to ear and i wanted him to remember this very precious moment in his life.

at the turn of the 1990s everything changed. many of the singers left, many started single careers, many lost touch. as a present to my wonderful husband i organized an ayo reunion. although i could not get everyone (some were in russia, some in los angeles, some were unreachable) we still had a great impressive group of individuals who have brought so much to our culture.

in attendance were:

arthur grigorian & family:
nune yesayan:
arthur ispirian & me:
vahagn pedian & lovely wife gohar:
ida janibekyan: (grisha aghakhanian's wife, but he is in LA)
ashot hakheyan
anahid manoukian & husband levon
aramo & emma
araxia musheghyan
irina malkhasyan
arminka & armen
and a few other competitors

we had guest from los angeles, moscow, and those who had stayed in armenia... they had a wonderful night of song and reminiscing. at 3:30 am we decided to watch the ayo show 1 and i came to work directly from this 12 hour party fest. it was beautiful to see how music has shaped their lives, how they have shaped this countrys music... and how wonderful they were with eachother.

they drank toasts to the rest of the ayo gang that could not make it... and most important they drank a toast to the future of armenian music. i saw arthur smile ear to ear as they watched the old tapes and remembered special times. what a great night.
what a fantastic weekend.
i have so much to tell.

of course saturday was hectic. we woke up and started to prepare for eurovision 2003. of course it helped that we received the script a few hours before the show... but it was the usual stress and panic and then ... the realization that we are just going to have a good time... and be natural.

at 10:30 pm my first architectural series that i am co-producing aired. it was exciting to see my hard work pay off and i think it was a great show. it was about the getty museum in los angeles and it was informative and fun.

then at 11:20 pm the eurovision extravaganza started. we started with a live show of people involved in the project. present were serge sargsyan (minister of defense), bagrat sargsyan (president of armenia tv) sebastian dubois (head of the european community here) arthur grigorian (composer/ head of the state song theatre) nune yesayan, susan markarian, arthur ispirian (singers) and me. we talked for forty minutes about the importance of participating in the euro-vision song contest in 2004.

right after arthur (ispirian) and i ran to the sound studio where the armenian football commentator, commentates the football games and we set up for a night of commentating. the eurovision contest started and soon arthur and i relaxed. everybody said they felt that they were tuned in to our living room where we were intimately watching the show. they said it was natural, light and fun. although we are not experienced commentators and we were not very good, we were honest and fun... and a lot of people appreciated that.

as der hova said, turkey won and as der hova said... sertab erener (the girl who performed) did not deserve it. although they put on a good dance number and the presentation was a bit exotic... the vocal was horrible, the song mediocre and the vibe even worse. it totally detoured our great mood and great fun. so next year eurovision will be held in istanbul, turkey and armenia will send a representative. it will be an amazing moment when armenia wins next year... in istanbul.

we came home at four am and it took us a while to unwind. we had so many text messages on our cell phone from friends who were watching, friends who supported and those who were calling to poke fun at us.

the next day at the supermarket the guy who sells us meat... who never talks to me and hardly smiles... spoke his first words to me ever. madlene, he said.... who won last night? i just couldn't stay awake. the same thing kept repeating as many people recognized us and smiled. hmmm i think i am liking this whole stardom thing. lol

Sunday, May 25, 2003

I just finished watching the EuroVision music awards show which Madlene and Arthur were hosting for the Armenian telecast on Armenia TV. The race was between Turkey, Belgium and Russia out of the 30 or so countries which participated. The Turkish and Belgian artists had the most original sounding tracks with obvious ethnic elements (other than the comedic Austrian guy), and Russia was represented by the popular duo TATU. Turkey won the award, but I don't think they deserved it. Ya, I know what you're all thinking, but no....seriously....she was completely off tune. If we get the opportunity to participate next year I think we really need to come up with something original that kicks some butt!

Finally, after 4 days, I got out of the house today and soaked some rays. After the DJ Festival I was trapped at home completing the mastering of Ispirs new album.

I keep forgetting to mention that after the DJ Festival last Saturday, a friend of mine and I went to a restaurant to get something to eat. My friend got Shish Kebob with Cannabis (and I always thought Amsterdam was crazy with their Space Muffins).

So the parliament elections are in a few hours and I pray to God we don't have any serious violations this time. Campaigning seemed fairly calm though. I hope everything goes well and for all those who are chosen to represent our country I pray that they bring only positivity to our one and only Armenia. Good luck to those that deserve it.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

tonight is the big night. arthur and i will be hosting eurovision. for those of you who have access to armenia tv, the schedule is as follows. at 10:30 i will be the guest of a discovery show which will take a look at the getty center in los angeles. that will last half an hour. then you will have a half hour break from me. at 11:30 we will do the pre-show and at 12:00 (midnight) to 2:10 am we will commentate eurovision.

last night we picked up arthur's newly mastered cd from the master der hova and it sounds great. arthur was so excited and described this feeling as giving birth... hmmm i wonder how he knows? anyways the best part about it was hanging out with der hova and listening to 80s music and singing along to his famous remix of forever young by alphaville.

we are in REMOND. our bathroom is full of concrete, loose tiles and remond smell. raffi and lena if you miss remond smell you are more than welcome to come over.

finally i would like to log about (please excuse my french) bitchfest 2002, where some of my girlfriends came over to complain about their spouses, complain about life and complain in general. we had so many cakes and sweets in front of us...and enough mint tea to get us through a dry desert. we talked and talked and talked and it was great to be around girls. i had asked arthur to leave the house without me for once (he felt like he had won the lottery)... and i realized that no matter how much you love someone... sometimes it is best.... just once in a while.... to hang out with the girls and complain to the sex that just listens and listens. although i did not have too many serious things to say... you know annoying habits... that kind of stuff... nevertheless... a very fulfilling night.

i promised to talk about protecting our forests... but will wait till next time... till the invites for our coalition are out and i can tell you more.

welcome home raffi nizibilian, lara and beautiful girls amassia and varanta. you are going to just love it here. i know it. because i know you, and you are caring and beautiful contributors to this world. those type of people always love it here.

My last few days are getting extremely hectic, but at least the trip is not for so long so I don't need to pack all that much. Meanwhile, Yerevan has lots going on with yesterday being the "verji zang" (last bell/last day of school). The kids were all dressed up, and going nuts. Also Aznavour is in town, and he must have been at Hin Erivan with the president on his birthday 2 nights ago because there were loads police cars and fancy cars. And on top of all of that, tomorrow is elections! Parliamentary elections and a referendum on changing the presidents powers, AND allowing dual citizenship. If it passes they still have to work out how it would work, but at least the constitution would allow it. A huge step...

Meanwhile, in the US congress huge steps are being made. A genocide resolution passed the house judiciary committee! This is a huge hurdle and now is the time for all American Armenians to yell at the top of their lungs at their congressmen about this, and about aid to Armenia, which they are talking about cutting by a massive 1/3. This would set a horrible precedent and we should scream so loud they don't even think about it again for years to come. So visit the ANCA website, visit the AAA website, and take action! Call your representative, tell your Armenian AND non-Armenian friends to call, and send around emails. If you live in an area without too many Armenians, then your voice is especially important since your congressmen do not hear as often from Armenians... anyway, enough said about that.

So all sorts of plans keep changing. Lena, Zabel and I decided in the end to pass on the summer house (dacha) since it would be too taxing to drive up there each weekend. Maybe something closer would be nice. Also I am not going to Budapest, but instead will spend a couple of extra days in LA. Thank goodness, it was just so sad thinking that I would be in LA and not have time to even see the ocean. Now I have some breathing space.

Let me take a minute to vent about front loading washing machines. I hate them! They would be bad enough in the US, where you have to wait a hour and a half for one stupid load to wash, but here in Armenia where you only get water a few hours in the morning and a few in the evening, it is especially annoying, since it limits your washing abilities so much. The top loading washers I grew up with took 25 minutes. End of story. I also don't see any dryers for sale, but I will have to find one since line dried clothes leave something to be desired. Especially in the winter :-)

What else? I am sure I am forgetting all sorts of things, but thats all I can think of for now... except to say... now where did all the other loggers go?!?!?

Thursday, May 22, 2003

Wow, what a great string of logs! I myself have enjoyed reading what everyone is up to a great deal, and hope this becomes the norm. On the other hand I should warn readers for now that they have to keep checking in to read the logs since I am not able to archive since April 11. So if you don't check the logs for a week or two you will miss a few logs until that archiving feature is fixed. To the loggers I must say that the problem is with Blogger, they cannot handle archiving "extended ansi characters". This means if you type your logs ahead of time in another program first, PLEASE use notepad or wordpad, but NOT MS Word!! Word slides in extended ansi characters all the time without warning you.

So time is flying by, and in a few days I leave for the states on a business trip. I can't believe it is sneaking up on me so quick. It will be nice travelling lightly for once, even though I really don't have too much choice in the matter. At work I have been doing all sorts of scattered tasks, and this week we got to go on a field trip to the Nuclear Power Plant at Metsamor. It was quite cool, and looked well run, but I was still glad to know that it had been turned off and is being refueled anytime now. It felt like a Simpsons episode, visiting Mr. Burns' power plant, but instead of a containment dome they only have massive cooling towers, so it looks rather different. This plant is capable of generating 42% of Armenia's electricity if you want to know how critical it is for Armenia at this time. The problem is it is supposed to be shut down as soon as possible for two reasons, first it was only designed and meant to be run for so many decades, and second, the lack of the containment dome, despite all the other safety precautions, is still a concern.

Oh and just as I was giving up on the summer house, they called and said everything, including all the land, was finally in order. It only took about SIX months!! :-)

Wednesday, May 21, 2003

As mentioned in my previous log, I went home for lunch yesterday and everything was normal. When I got home just after 11 last night, the glass from the painting on the wall was shattered into a million pieces on the floor. What happened between 2pm and 11pm, did we have an earthquake I�m not aware of or is due to the fact that I have people remonding in my whole building? Don�t even know how to start picking up the pieces.

Last night, I met Raffi N�s lovely family, welcome to all of you. Also it was great seeing Armen again, Gohar, come soon we miss you terribly.
The life is really hectic for me for the past month. There are always lots of things to do after the job, and I have even missed the rave party this past Saturday. I was out of Yerevan for a house search and every time we get closer. Hopefully by the end of June things will be clearer.
I am saving all my news for a Massive Breaking News highlights. Hopefully it will happen sometimes soon.
This Thursday I will attend to an intro session for OSCE observers. Sunday is the election day. More updates on this soon.
It�s past midnight, got to sleep.

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Tis morning I woke up for the first time as a resident of Armenia and not another tourist. It's a great feeling. Besides the jetlag and the luggage fiasco at the airport (see Alex's log) things have been running smoothly. I had rented a nice appartment. Lara and the kids love it! We are settling in and will make the place our home in no time.
Tonight I had supper with friends at the Thai restaurant. It's called breeze and is litteraly 5 minutes from our place. We then took a walk to hrabarag... they have destroyed the place. I am sure it will look very nice once it's finished.
This is my first log in the repats page. I think I am the first to move from the Diaspora page to the Repats. I hope more of you will come cause this is where it's at people!
I am working late out of my home and the abraham russo concert outside my window is so loud i can't even hear myself type. i do not really like abraham russo but republic square and opera square are under construction so i am stuck with him since i live right behind hotel yerevan and kino moscow.

there are so many reasons i am working late, all of which are exciting and great.

first of all i am co-producing (along with armenia tv) a series on architecture. the show series (there will be six of them) will highlight 20th Century Architecture and the impact it has had on its surrounding cities and countries. we are doing things like the pompidou center, the getty center, bilbao guggenheim, the sydney opera house etc. etc. and so far it is going well. we will premiere the series this weekend.

arthur and i have been invited to host the euro-vision song concert that will be televised live this saturday in riga, latvia. no not the real live show, but the televised version here in armenia. we will translate what is going on and comment on wardrobe, vocal capabilities and overall performance. the show will go sat/sun from 12:00 am to 2:10 am and we are ready to give it all we can. this is the first time arthur and i will be hosting anything so i am excited to see how we will do. at first we thought arthur was going to go to riga, latvia... and i would be here. but it ends up we will both be at the studio (armenia tv). of course arthur is a better judge of the singing... i just hope i can fare well in the translating and commentating department. that takes skill.

another reason why i am so busy is because i am swamped with protect our forests... but i will save that for next time.

tonight i will work late. but arthur bought me my favorite pastry so that i am not too sad. i just wish he also bought ear plugs. okay abraham russo is not that bad... but i would rather sing along to my joseph and the techni-color dream coat soundtrack while i try to take one step towards nature protection, tv production, and being the hostest with the mostest.
The one day I decide to go home for lunch to have leftovers, I get an unexpected visitor at my work. As soon as I got back from lunch, I was told there was a blond Hagop who was asking for me but of course I missed him.

I ran into Hagop from LA last Saturday while I was tile shopping with a friend and there he was outside the shop on Komitas Street. I mean really what are the chances; I didn�t even know he was in town.

It�s coming up to 3 months since I�ve had a break from Armenia, and I�m really itching to get out just for a couple of days. A beach resort would be nice we�ll see.

Monday, May 19, 2003

The travel season kicked off with a bang this morning for me! I arrived at Zvartnots Int'l bright and early at 4:50 a.m. to welcome my cousin arriving from Vienna. We did not leave the airport until 7:55 a.m. A full three hour ordeal...I suppose it was worse for those arriving than it was for those of us waiting outside, but let me tell you, it was no walk in the park out there either. Some of the noteworthy things that happened, included:

a) a cab driver almost killed a maintenance worker out in the parking lot, when he backed his mercedes cab into the person who was crouched sweeping the cigarette buds.
b) reportedly, the baggage carousel broke, leaving a number of travleres stranded without their bags...some opted to leave than be aggravated any further
c) apparently there is a new cart system inside the terminal/baggage claim area, where carts are available for 800 AMD for self service, and 2500 AMD with a porter...but, you guessed it, there are no stand alone carts available anywhere--just the sign. All that's available are carts with porters.

Just some of those unique features of our land. But, don't let this scare you, once you're out of the airport, things come back to earth--except for Mt. Ararat, which is still out of this world. Welcome, Summer!

Oh, and a couple of other things that might be of interest. Next weekend will be a historical one for Armenia, as all Armenian citizens will be casting their ballots for a new National Assembly (the legisltiave body of Armenia), as well as the referendum on the new Constitution of the republic. I will participate as an OSCE observer, once again, and will report back any news as it becomes available. But more importantly, last night I had the chance to attend a live TV debate between some of the participating political parties, organized by Astghik NGO (an NGO of disabled children's parents), and sponsored by USAID and World Learning (NGO strengthening program). Although the whole program left something to be desired in terms of organization and execution, kudos to Astghik and those responsible for putting this on, as it and programs like it are important steps forward for Armenia's democratic development. It gave me hope.

And then I met up with some friends, whose company I love. They had a visitor from the US. This visitor who is an Armenian emigree has returned after 11 years of being outside of Armenia, and is staying at a local hotel. We got into discussions about Armenia, his impressions after returning etc. My friends and I, I think, were taken aback a bit by the insistence of this visitor that we needn't do anything in/for/about Armenia, because there is no more hope left, and while I understood his perspective, I felt myself getting very aggravated because essentially his thesis was that we need to let things be the way they are and hope that a new generation will fix it. I'm not one to preach, but c'mon. I think we owe ourselves a bit more than that as humans--and not as Armenians. Unlike others, I don't think that the only way or the only real way of helping Armenia/Armenians is to move to the homeland--far from it, but I also don't think sitting in our suburban homes, running our successful businesses and attending weekly dinner dance events, and THEN saying that things will straighten out eventually is the right MO.

I propose for us to begin with psychological repatriation, after which we can start seriously considering the physical alternative. As long as we are psycho-socially removed from Armenia (and I mean Armenia in its present form, in its historical form, and in its conceptual form), then we are removed from any real way of contributing to its progress. Lots of things for a daytime log. Be well.

Well, this weekends DJ Festival (actually it was more of a rave...I hate these terms) was a great event. Unfortunately, I had a major technical problem in the studio and got there a little late. When I arrived I found out that the power had gone out for an hour and so the DJ schedule had to be altered to fit in all the remaining DJ's before the stupid 1am deadline (when the party was supposed to end).

When I got there, all the local DJ's had played earlier and the international ones had already started spinning. DJ Cristo from London played, followed by some Russian DJ who played complete hardcore which started driving away the thousands of partiers that had gathered into a huge crowd in Karapi Lidj (Swan Lake). They had drained all the water just for the event. After him was a great DJ from France and then it was my turn. I cut down my half hour set to 20 minutes to make the 1am deadline and I decided NOT to premiere a new surprise track I had been working on for the past three days. The poor DJ who was supposed to follow my set didn't even get a chance to spin since it was time for the party to end.

It was a great experience, another one I can say "I can't believe it exists in Hayastan (Armenia)" to.

Sunday, May 18, 2003

What a beautiful day, once again. Perfect weather day after day this month. At breakfast this morning at an outdoor cafe, Madlene was the only one dressed warm, the rest of us had t-shirts on... so I submit that she is a freak not qualified to complain about the weather :-) Incidentally, Zabel has said at least a half a dozen times the weather here has been so nice and warm compared to NYC, so maybe I should just let them battle it out.

Our plan to buy a particular summer house (dacha) are just not moving along at all, I wonder if it is going to fall through. We were supposed to have the title long ago and they were supposed to move out by May 31. It is quite clear that neither of these will be happening by the end of this month. I dunno, now that I am working five days a week with few days off and the Lori Region is a couple of hours away, I am not sure I will be so heartbroken if it does not come through. They did get the privatization paperwork for the house, and the land directly around it, but not for the other plots of land they have in the village that they showed us. They seemed surprised we even wanted papers for it, since we could "just use it", but now that we are insisting, they seem to be having trouble obtaining this paperwork. I really don't think this is some kind of dishonesty that they are trying to pull, but I was buying a package deal, and want proof of it certainly. So, we'll see. Now I have a bunch of plants which I brought and which I was forced to get pots for and lug soil up to my apartment for since I don't have a place to plant them afterall. :-(

So I have been at work for two weeks, and in one week I leave for the USA on a working trip. It should be quite interesting, I just hope I am not jet lagged the entire time since I will be on the East coast, then West, then a few days in Budapest, then back to Yerevan in mid june. Because I will be spending a few days in Europe on the way back, I think my luggeage weight allowance drops like a rock, so I won't be able to lug a bunch of goodies back with me. At least if I can get a 220 volt bug zapper in Budapest it will all be worth it. That would just make the nights with the window open so nice. Meanwhile, I will have to find a babysitter for my plants while I am gone. Oh, any advice on Budapest would be appreciated!

Saturday, May 17, 2003

I�m not going to bore you with my connection problems, I�m just going to say that I still have them and that working with a 9,600bps connection is no fun at all. They tell me that come Monday, they will be dealing with this problem. I sure hope so.

We are within a matter of days away until we really start to cut stone. Yes, even I see that we are there. We worked all day Friday to finish putting on all the limit sensors on the main saw and whatever minor expected problems we could have encountered have finally passed. Monday or Tuesday should be the big day!!!

The weather has been great these last few days and I can feel that summer is just around the corner.

In the next couple of days, my cabinetmaker and I are going out to my lake where I am building a Dacha (a rest house). The building is just about finished and all that�s will be left is the furniture which I hope will be ready in the next month.
tonight is the spring ball by a well respected armenian-american organization (american chamber of commerce here in yerevan) and for the first time in a long time I am going to get spruced up to go to a bara-handes. actually a lot of us are going, so I am pretty excited.

i am working hard and today spent some of the day designing my new business card now that we have a logo. have you all visited our website ?

i am still dressing warm. i can't believe it. new york didn't even do this to me. this is my last warning for yerevan to warm up.

as for my personal life my marriage is plagued with arguments about "to dog in the house or not to dog in the house" arthur is strictly against it and i have been known to bring home a puppy... cry and beg and beg and then get rejected by arthur... meaning we can't keep the puppy... then i take the puppy back in tears (and everyone thinks i am crazy to cry over a dog i only knew for over three hours in the middle of vernisage)... and then i come home and sulk till arthur tries to make me happy... which works until i see the next puppy. vernisage people laugh at us every time we pass by the dog section because this has happened with three puppies. we live in an apartment so we would have to keep it in the house. arthur likes dogs but not in the house. this argument has been going on for the last year... and especially this spring since dogs all over armenia started giving birth to adorable lakots (armenian for puppy) and i started to see them. i don't know how i am going to convince him... or if i am going to convince him at all.

maybe we can try to have kids and then i will forget all about my favorite four legged creature. maybe i will never quench my thirst for puppy power.

Friday, May 16, 2003

Just a quick log in regards to the DJ Festival which I mentioned in my last log.

The event will take place this Saturday the 17th right by "Karapi Lidj" (Swan Lake) by the Opera. I know the event usually takes place at Republic Square, but this year the Square is under construction.

It starts in the afternoon and goes all night.

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Wow, what a night! (don't get any ideas!! :-) I slept for 12 hours last night. I must say I cannot remember the last time that has happened to me. I just crashed after coming home from work and feeding my face at around 7:30 in the evening, and woke up at 7:30 in the morning. I am not one of those people who can usually just make up for lost sleep by napping as long as I like, so I am quite refreshed and happy.

Work has been hectic with more meetings than I can keep track of. I wonder if it will settle down from this level, or if this is normal. I only sat at my desk for 20 minutes yesterday.

The weather has been quite nice, except that I have been way too overdressed for it with my work clothes. Shorts weather is already here and I can't wait till the weekened to wear sandals and shorts. I also got an excersize bike last weekend so I hope to ride it somewhat regularly in the mornings. I don't want to lug a bike up and down 5 flights of stairs, and anyways I wouldn't be able to ride in the winter.

Last night I found out that 3 apartments have sold in our "mudk" (stairwell), plus the first floor shop which is almost finished will have "food and makeup". So lots of new remonds will be starting, but may as well have a bunch at once. Maybe we will be able to apply for natural gas to be brought to our building now, and get more motion sensor lights in the halls. The one bedroom across the hall from me sold for $20,500 (it is very run down) which is certainly much higher than what I paid, but still pretty reasonable I think. I did not even know any of these places were for sale!

Here are a couple of humorous ads in Gind (Kint), which is a classified ad newspaper. When you read the first one you'll see what can still be considered as "features" in this day and age in Yerevan. The second one shows just how stingy they can be with information. I don't know how they plan to sell the place, whatever it is, since I have included all the information they give and I have no idea what they are selling.

In "Houses for sale" section:

61 Nar Dos Street, Yerevan
1 bedroom, indoor toilet, small yard, water meter, bbq in yard, can add 2nd floor or expand into yard. Would consider trading for a place in Nork neighborhood or 1st neighborhood for a 2 bedroom apartment up to the 6th floor. $10,000 USD (tel. 570889 call after 17:00)

Aygedzor Neighborhood, Yerevan
Near what used to be the governor's house. $300,000 USD. Call Anahit (tel. 532184)

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

My internet connection was down again today and I figured that from what the regional director of the phone company told me was coming true, no real connection until maybe Friday due to cable damage.

Well a call to the top person at Nargorno-Karabagh Telephone gave me hope with him saying that he will make sure I have a connection as "the customer comes first." A great policy and defiantly a new way of thinking in Artsakh and Armenia.

Anyway, I wont dwell on this issue to save you reading time, but will say that ever since that conversation, I've been getting the extra-royal treatment from the technical people and tonight's line failure was resolved within 10 minutes. Thanks Norair and Roman for your quick help.

Now that I have a connection again, I trying my best to catch up on my e-mail and also the news. It's amazing what one week of no connection can do.

I want to thank everyone who wrote to me with your concerns in regards to the gas station project and possible problems I could encounter. A bigger thanks to all the people who wrote and are interested in investing. As soon as I have more details and a business plan ready, I'll post it on the log.

Since it was mentioned in a few (this means more than 3) messages I got about a "gasoline mafia", I wanted to touch on this subject.

In the former Soviet Union, there appears to be on the news every now and then about different "mafias" controlling one industry or another and I'm sure such things do exist.

One thing that is magical about Artsakh and maybe even Armenia is that Diaspora-Armenians who respect people and the laws here are not bothered by such "mafias".

I think this is possible because such "mafias" really do admire and respect our innocence, honesty and cleanliness. In fact I've been told this from just such people in the past.

For that reason, I want to tell everyone that you really should not worry too much about me when I deal with such issues.

There is also another something that was only a couple days ago pointed out to me by some native teenagers. There are some people here in Artsakh and probably in Armenia that fear me.

When I returned from Yerevan the other day, I brought with me the son of a friend who is from Artsakh, but live in Armenia.

The son wanted to visit his cousin who is serving in the army in Stepanagert.

We went to the base where the cousin is serving and it just so happens that on the day we went to visit the cousin with plans to see about getting permission to take the cousin out for pizza, they were waiting for the minister of defense who was due in a matter minutes for an inspection.

I had noticed the minister of defense's jeep parked up the street and figured we could wait until the inspection was over and then maybe get the cousin freed for an hour.

After a 5 minute wait, the minister of defense's jeep drove past the base and kept on driving.

We continued to wait and I noticed a little bit of a commotion with higher ranking officers looking out the gate to my car and then going back in.

At one point, the commander of the base pulled up and before entering the gate, got out of his jeep and told my friends son that our car was parked too close to the gate (I was sitting in the car, so I could only see he was not happy). I really didn't notice any restricted parking sign, but backed my car up the street a bit and we continued to wait.

Well since the minister of defense had not yet shown up and we were starving after waiting an hour, we left.

We returned the next day and met with the cousin a bit while waiting for the commander to give his approval.

While talking to the cousin, we learned that the day before while we were waiting, a high ranking commander who came out to look at my parked car had asked the people working the gate if anyone from my car had entered the base? It was asked out of some kind of fear and not curiosity.

The commander showed up while we were talking and wanted to know from the cousin if my friends son was related to his solider and looked to me and said that he knows I can't be related to him, as he knows me and then asked me if my car is the one that use to belong to another commander (my neighbor), that the minister of defense had gifted and I purchased from the commander?

Anyway, as we drove off, I asked my passengers why people fear me and who am I that anyone should fear? They told me that they didn't understand it either, but I should not feel bad about it as they and the common people don't fear me, it's only the people in government, law, law enforcement and the military that know if they did something wrong and I found out about it, I'm the one person that wont turn a blind eye and am capable of finding it, documenting it, exposing it and make sure it's corrected.

This is not really something I'm not all that proud of (because it does not make life here all that easy), but something I have to learn to live with, as I know it's in my genes and there's nothing I can do to change it.

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

In my last log I mentioned that I've been swamped in work.

I've been asked to take part in the annual DJ Festival (the outdoor "rave" that usually takes place in Republic Square with dj's from Armenia as well as from abroad, spinning techno, trance, house, drum 'n bass, etc.). Seeing that I am from Canada, I've been asked to represent Canada. The event will take place this coming Saturday. In the meantime, I'm mastering Arthur Ispirian's new album (a technical process that doesn't really exist in Armenia). So I've been juggling between these gigs, still looking for a home, entertaining friends from out of town, and trying to enjoy the nice weather.

By the way, not to scare any tourists away, but construction season is back! Republic Square is pretty much a disaster; the Opera House is still under construction; the sidewalks, museums and theatres are still being renovated. Nevertheless, there's so much more to see in this beautiful country.

Looks like the temperature for the rest of the week will be in the late 20's. I love the fact that Yerevan's humidity is much lower than Toronto's, where temperatures above 25 degrees mean you can hardly breathe and your clothes become glued to your body.

Speaking of degrees, I saw a great play the other night called 44 degrees. The venue was flooded in tears. It was another great piece focusing on Armenia, Armenians, and the emigration and repatriation issues.

Well, that's about it for now. For anyone who's interested in checking out the DJ Festival (which, by the way, is free), I will post some more details before the weekend.

Monday, May 12, 2003

i am planning a big event for work. the three final competitors for the building of the gerard l cafesjian museum of contemporary art are about to turn in their designs. first these designs will showcase in new york and then we will bring them to yerevan for an exhibition/reception. soon after we will announce a winner!!!

for those of you who do not know what i do, i am the director of public relations and events for the cafesjian museum foundation which is dedicated to building a world class contemporary art museum in armenia. mr. cafesjian is one of our greatest benefactors here in armenia and for armenian causes.

our reception is going to be grand because these three architectural firms are so exciting and important (mvrdv out of rotterdam, holland; bernard tschumi out of new york and paris, and coop-himmelblau out of vienna, austria). i am anxious to see their designs. until mid-june (our event is scheduled for then)... i am busy making up an invite list, choosing venues, entertainment etc. all the while i must hype the population here through media. now i am compiling an invite list that is going to be huge (i am estimating 600 people)... and am working hard getting it all together. I have about a month to do so.

this weekend was nice. i almost forgot mother's day though because it is not celebrated here and because noone had spoken of it. i called my boss to talk work and he was at a mothers day brunch. i saved myself by getting off the phone and calling my mommy right away. i also called my hard of hearing grandmother and i kept screaming mamik, i love you happy mothers day and she kept saying ov e, ov e (who is it? who is it?)... it wasnt the most romantic of mothers days (and i hate being away from my mom and grandma) but i still remembered them and will light a candle at church for both of these amazing women.

I got back to Artsakh on the 7th and since my return, I�ve had no internet connection. Yes, technical complications at the phone company continues, but since this log is now posted, it�s obvious that it is a resolvable issue (though it�s still not working 100%). If anyone out there is waiting for an e-mail from me, hang in there, I�m told the connection should be normal soon.

Anyway, a report from my trip to Yerevan.

1. I was able at the last minute to find a saw to replace the saw for my stone factory that was damaged. This means that we should soon be cutting stone.

2. Serge was checked by a doctor and unfortunately for now, the technology in Armenia does not exist to restore his vision. I will be contacting a doctor in America to see if we can maybe send Serge to America for surgery, if such technology exists there.

3. Discovered that there really was nothing at all wrong with my car, and the problem was the gasoline they are selling in Artsakh. Will deal with this issue in a legal manor so that in the future I and my fellow residence can get a decent tank of gas and the people selling gasoline will understand their responsibility when selling gas (later in this log you can read about a conversation I had with one of the sellers and also a real business opportunity here in Artsakh).

So my return to Artsakh was really quite nice and took only four and a half hours, though it should have only taken three and a half hours, but we encountered snow in Saravan, Sisiyan and Goris. Yes, on May 7th, were still getting snow!!!

On May 8th, I returned to Martuni to learn from my operations director that one of my guards and fisherman who works on my lake where we are farming fish, had been caught removing fish and selling it on the side.

My operation director told me that the supervisor for the lake will go and forcefully confiscate the fisherman�s personal nets and then when he pays 100,000 dram to me in compensation, he will return the nets. As for the guard, we will not pay him and fire him since he admitted to selling fish that exceeded his salary. They were not interested in any harsher punishment because they felt sorry for him since he has 5 children.

I could not believe that my operations director would even suggest such solutions and told her that first of all, by confiscating the nets and then demanding a ransom is illegal and would make us no better than the corrupt system we are trying to change. As for the guard that needs to be punished, by letting him off the hook for theft, we send out a message to people that it�s okay to take advantage of me.

I called my legal advisor who quickly brought us up to speed on the law and later this week, I�ll be filing charges with the prosecutor�s office that when we prevail, the government will confiscate the fisherman�s nets and fine him something like 500 Rubles (I�m not sure how much this is in Drams, but would image not much). As for the guard, he has already been fired and is now facing theft charges, which I�m just going to let the legal system work and then react accordingly.

May 9th was victory day here in Artsakh (the equivalent to July 4th in America) and I made my way back to Stepanagert that night to be present at the celebrations.

We attended a concert which was held in front of the building the President works out of.

I ran into quite a few people including Jeff Ryan, a potter from America who is running, managing and teaching his trade to the people of Ningi (a village in the Martuni region).

So while Jeff and I were talking, a couple of Australian-Armenians walk up to us since they could hear us speaking English.

We talked to them for a while and the older of the two of them told us that they were not expecting Karabagh to be so non-militant and so open, free and joyful. I guess the younger of the two was into Armenian politics (he eluted to being a member of the Dashnag party and Lena later told me that many of the active Australian-Armenians are Dashnag�s), as he began to ask me political questions about the present day government.

I guess what I had to say was too much for him to digest and after my �democracy does not work in America, so how do you expect it to work here� sermon, the two of them excused themselves.

Besides the presents of the president and prime minister of Artsakh, we had to honor of the President of Armenia Robert Kocharian, who was accompanied by his minister of foreign affairs Vartan Oskanian. Vartan looked to be having fun as he appeared to be signing autographs.

When the fireworks started at 10 PM, and I turned to see if the government officials were enjoying the pyrotechnic display and found the podium they were standing on was abandoned.

The locals who were watching the officials when the fireworks started, told me that Goulkasian was the first to panic and started to run for cover in his building, followed close behind by Kocharian and the rest. I don�t know, but will say that Goulkasian made the right move, as there were so many people in the crowd commenting on how this would be an ideal time for someone to assassinate someone with all the fireworks going and it would be hard to determine where the shot came from. So if Goulkasian really ran for his building like a scared rabbit (as the people watching him says he did) and was thinking on the same level as the locals, then in my opinion, his actions were fully justified and understandable.

The celebration ended with Jeff and a few of my friends going off to have pizza and drinks.

Now for the conversation with the owner of the gas station.

So on the 8th, after returning to Stapanagert without really do anything to my car other than filling it up with real gasoline, I had a need for some more gas. I knew where not to go, but the big question was where can I go to find gasoline that was really gasoline?

I went to one of the places that I had not been to, but had heard that their gasoline was also bad, but figured that there really was no other option.

I pulled into the gas station and asked the attendant if their super gas was really super or not (like I was expecting him to tell me no, it was not, right?). So he said it was good and I told him to fill 40 liters.

I drove not 1 kilometer and it was clear that this gas was also no good.

I called the owner of the gas station on his cell phone and in a very nice way told him of this problem, which instead of him being understanding, he became very defensive.

He told me that he had no blame, as he purchases his gas from Stepanagert. I told him I didn�t know where he purchased his gas and all I knew was that I purchased my gas from him and since he sold me �super� gasoline, that�s what I expected.

He told me if I don�t like his gasoline, then I should not purchase it in the future.

You should also know that this person who owns the gas station in question is also the director and President of Agro-Bank here in Karabagh. He is also an owner in many of the wine factories in Artsakh.

Anyway, I told him in a not so nice tone of voice thank you and please don�t be angry at me for what I am going to do.

And what am I going to do? Well when I went to Yerevan, I took the liberty to collect gasoline samples from all the major gas stations in Stepanagert which I have sent off to have analyzed and at which time I will be contacting the owners of the gas stations individually when I get the results.

On top of this, I�m seriously considering opening up a gas station that sells only high quality gasoline. By doing this, the gas stations that sell non-burning gasoline will be forced to bring in real gas or loose business.

So here is your business investment opportunity. If you are interested in investing in a gas station in Artsakh, please e-mail me. I�m only looking for people who are interested in making money and expecting a return for their investment. I guarantee you there is a big market and this is one investment and business you can really be proud of. Also understand that were not talking about very much money, so small investors are encouraged to inquire (this means even people who have less than $100 to invest).

Friday, May 09, 2003

Happy Victory Day!

Yes, May 9 is the old Soviet holiday marking the victory over the NAZI forces during WWII. Many more Armenians died fighting the NAZIs than fighting the Azeris, to put it in perspective. The capture of Shushi in Karabakh marked a turning point in the Karabakh war, and it coincidentally happened on May 9 as well, so now the holiday celebrates both events.

So I jotted down a couple of other little stories I meant to share with you...

When I got back to Armenia and went out onto my balcony to check the thermometer, which goes down to -30 celcius, it had exploded from the cold this winter. Ouch! Coldest winter in over a century.

The second story is funny in a not funny kind of way, and I am surprised Ara did not log about it since he told it to me. In his town, CSR (Catholic Relief Services) undertook a project to bring 24 hour water to all the households. A noble plan certainly. Well this meant that they had to install water meters at each house for the first time, in order to keep the project successful in the long run. Otherwise the water company could not afford to keep the water turned on, just like before, since nobody would pay their fair share. So they installed the water meters, and lo and behold, "water conservation" was born in Martuni. When we think of water conservation in the west, it means watering your lawn less often. In this region it is more like installing a faucet on pipes which have just been left competely open to flow 24 hours a day for years. When I turn off a water tap inside a persons house, they turn it right back on and inform me "it's free", or "it's the one free thing we have left". For someone raised to conserve everything, recycling all that is possible, this is of course a mind boggling attitude. Water purification for drinking water is not free. Pumping water up to apartments in Yerevan is not free. This is why so many places do not have 24 hour water anymore. So now to get to the (questionably) funny part. So many people in Martuni either installed a faucet, fixed one, or turned the one they had off, that... the water main into the town exploded from all the pressure! What a perfect illustration of how much water is just wasted. So anyways, they have now mandated water meters in Yerevan and I think we really are getting close to that magical day when water becomes 24 hours a day. Natural gas lines are also being drawn into homes and apartments at a slow pace, so soon all the utilities will be back to normal.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

Work is going quite well, and things in general for that matter. I am feeling a little bit under the weather today :-( I will have to take care that this does not get worse if it is not too late.

Zabel is coming to visit this week. Woohoo! At the end of her visit, I will fly to the states for work, but won't get to see her since NY/Boston is not in the plans. Eh, thats all the excitement (not much) on this end...

Sunday, May 04, 2003

Sunday mornings I teach a group of young, spirited and talented 9-17 year olds English at St. Katoghike Church in the heart of Yerevan. I look forward to my lessons every Sunday, because they completely restore my faith in humanity. It's just too much fun. Today after the lesson, a couple of my students and I took a short walk down to the Yerevan Children's Museum at the corner of Abovian and Sayat Nova, where I was literally in awe of the talent and the sheer number of displays and exhibits in this outwardly conceiled, yet absolutely amazing museum. I recommend it highly to anyone who is planning on visiting Yerevan.

The day was magnificent. I had a wonderful time with friends in what seemed to be a hot summer day. Got a bit of a sun burn, but am awaiting the arrival of some old friends from the States and Canada for what promises to be a great week with ANC colleagues and friends. Have a great week all!

Ah, my water tank is fixed. It was apparently the circuit breaker that went bad this time. I have not had good fortune with water tanks except my first, and can't wait till the water and natural gas lines are normalized so we won't even need these stupid things. Tomorrow is my first day at my new job, and I did not want to have to think about taking a "bucket bath" or a cold shower.

So what is this new job I promised so long ago to tell you about some day? It is the Diaspora Outreach Coordinator for USAID. I will be working within the US Embassy compound, which means I have the dubious honor of getting to pay US Federal taxes while working in Armenia. But the embassy compound is a ten minute walk from my place, so that will be quite nice. My first day already promises to be quite hectic and interesting, and I believe I will be going to the states this month for work. So although I have read a very long job description, I will have a much better idea of what I will be doing in a week or better yet in a month. To get a job in the compound means getting security clearance as well, and the forms you have to fill out are by no means short. Plus you have to go to a police station and get your fingerprints taken, which did not turn out to be as easy as it sounds. The station in my NY precinct never seemed to have its fingerprint guy in, so I wondered how they ever got prints from suspects. I eventually had to go to headquarters. So anyway, I am sure that I will have all sorts of interesting things to share with you from work. One of the things I will be doing is to compile a list of all the projects USAID funds in Armenia, which I will put online. So as I said, more on all this later.

Alright, when I am walking the streets of Yerevan, I am just overflowing with ideas of what to log about, but when I get home I forget most of them. I may need to get a palmpilot just to jot down the ideas. One thing I cannot forget is the massive number of visitors in town. The diasporan and non-Armenian visitors are so numerous they are practically tripping over one another. I got a couple of things at vernissage on Saturday before things get too picked through and overpriced.

Ah, so last night was a bit of an adventure. Ara Manoogian pops by in the afternoon, and we head to Diamond Pizza to meet some others. As I have said, Diamond Pizza I think stands out by far as the best pizza in Yerevan, and has a strong selection of other dishes as well. So who does Lena run into on the street on her way over but Vartan Marashlian of Moscow, who used to log in the diasporan logs. He had been in town for 3 hours and was walking around when they bumped into each other. I have said before how often you bump into people you know walking the streets here. On my walk back from Yeritasardakan Metro this afternoon (beautiful weather), I ran into nine people I know. So we had fun at Diamond Pizza, where Arsine's (Diaspora Log) boss Aram Hamparian and others joined us. Afterwords we went to Haro's party at Garegin N'jhde Metro, a rather nice spot in the outskirts of Yerevan. It was good to see all sorts of people at the party, including people I had not caught up with yet since my return, but I left before 11pm so that I could catch the last metro home and not mess up my sleep schedule too badly after just having recovered from jet lag and right before my first day at work.

Well I think I have filled your ears enough for now...

Saturday, May 03, 2003

I find myself in a not so smoky internet caf� in Yerevan.

Yes, my trip I planned for Yerevan happened yesterday and this only after towing my car to Stepanagert 3 days ago and only after working a whole day on trying to figure out what was wrong with my car.

Well it seems that my car would not start not because of some minor electrical problem due to the engine being washed and not because of obvious mechanical reasons, but because the super 93 octane gasoline was not 93 octane, nor did it really resemble gasoline.

We discovered that the gas was the problem only after having to have the starter rebuilt and also purchase a new battery, which the auto electrician had to take to his shop to charge. Since he was almost out of gas when he rushed over to my mechanics, we siphoned a couple liters of gas from my car for him and he discovered that his car didn�t work well at all.

So we drained the gas out of my car and got new �93 octane� gas, which with the new charged battery the car started right up.

We did everything we could to make the car right, but it still seemed to not work all that great, but was working to the point that we made it to Yerevan in 5 hours (though it should have taken 4 hours).

When we pulled in to Yerevan, I filled up the car to see how much gas it used and discovered that to used 70 liters (about 19 gallons) instead of the usual 55 liters (15 gallons).

So by the time we arrived, the car was almost not working and had very little power, which I drove to my Yerevan mechanic who was busy and only had time to change the oil since it was filled with whatever the �gasoline� didn�t burn and told me to come back later.

I should mention that I brought with me Serge, our aid recipient that was blinded during the war and his wife Sylva. I put him and his wife in a taxi to send him off to his relatives house to wait until Monday at which time I will take him to have his eyes checked to see if they can restore him sight.

Also with us was a woman who has lumps in her breasts. Madlene helped me to arange for her to get a breast examination at the Mammography center that Madlene use to direct. She was relieved to learn today that she does not have breast cancer, but does have some hormonal imbalance of some kind, which Madlene is going to give me the name of a really good doctor to see about helping with that problem.

So back to me at my mechanic�s garage here in Yerevan. We change the oil and my mechanic tells me to come back tomorrow and we will deal with all the other problems.

So I drive off and not a half our passes, my car begins to regain some of its power. In an hour, it�s driving 110 kilometers up hill. So it seems that the gasoline even from the good gas station in Stepanagert was not so good.

Last night I was over to Madlene�s house and saw Harout (DerHova) and a few other people.

Today I saw Raffi and though he has not yet announced his new job is, all I will say is that when he tells you what it is, you will understand that I am his counterpart.

Tonight a few of us also went out for dinner. Lena, Madlene, Arthur, Alex, ex-logger Vartan, Raffi and a few other people at Diamond pizza. Raffi and I shared a ham and pineapple pizza, and a spaghetti, both were really good.

Then we went to a going away party, which since I was really tired (and still am as I write this), didn�t stay and Vartan and I said our goodbyes.

I was going to mention that since I�ve been in Yerevan, I have had no encounters at all with the traffic police, but as I was coming home, I kind of made a wide right hand turn on a green right arrow in sight of a parked cop car.

The cop pulled me over and asked me for my documents.

He asked me where my drivers license was and I pointed out my California drivers license which he told me does not pass here.

I told him it does and asked him if he had a communication radio in his car, which he told me he did.

I told him to radio his headquarters, give my license number and ask them what they should do?

He asked me step out of the car to be out of Vartan�s earshot I guess, but Vartan joined us. He asked me why he should call his chief and so on and after a very short conversation he told me he didn�t have a radio (but the car did have an antenna and I�m sure a radio), he gave me back my documents and let me go, but reminded me that I did break the law (which I don�t dispute and would have without any problem accepted and paid any fine if he had written me up).

Anyway, as much as I like this internet caf�, it�s time to get some sleep.
While Alex, Raffi, Lena and Madlene had a blast on Labour Day, I was at home working. I've got soooooo much work to do and I will share it with my readers once I get closer to completing the projects.

My friend Terence has been in Armenia for a week now and has mentioned that he doesn't want to return to Canada. He's loving it here! I suppose the great view he has of Ararat/Masis from his apartment helps his attachment to Armenia.

Yesterday I saw "Aram" (the film). Honestly, I can't say I enjoyed it that much.

When I arrived home after the movie and "Twinings" (the teahouse, and the first so-called place in Armenia that has a non-smoking section), I got a call from Sirusho and Susan Markarian telling me to come over 1 in the morning to see my good friend Arpi Meras from Toronto. I ended up coming home 4:30 in the morning. I need to stop being brave and walking home at these odd hours. Although Armenia is a very safe country, I haven't adjusted to all my surroundings just yet. After midnight, when all the lights on the inside streets shut off, it's not easy walking in the dark, not being able to see potholes, and keeping an eye on the surroundings.

Tomorrow I'm going to Ashtarak where my good friend Radig is from.

BTW, the temperature this weekend is supposed to reach the late 20's. WOO-HOO!

Friday, May 02, 2003

Ok I don�t want to be the only one not logging about our experience yesterday. It truly was a magical, spur of the moment day, which is quite easy to do in Armenia since everything is so close by. I also share Alex�s feelings about having energy again, it�s amazing what one great day can do for you in this country. Plus I haven�t laughed so hard for a long time, it was crazy, we were like 12 year olds, here�s to many more! What the other loggers omitted to write was that we even experienced someone fishing in his leather pants.

Today was yet another glorious day, I went to Avan for work, and my Ararat, Aragats and Arai were indescribable.
will you be sick of the victory park story if i tell it one more time? my entire day from beginning to end was great.

arthur and i woke up early and decided that today we would have the greatest day ever... no holds bar. we decided to start the day off with a nice manicure/pedicure. we went to natasha our manicurist and ordered two manicures and two pedicures. natasha is russian and you cannot imagine how much russian i spoke. my nails are a nice french manicure and my toes have not looked so good since last fall.

all manicured and pedicured arthur and i went to buy him cologne (oh we had also decided today we would celebrate a recent income boost i have gotten and spend on whatever we want... no holds bar.) we went to the nike store and i bought summer sandals and then we went to our favorite khorovatsanots... ardashi mot (by the new church)... that is the yummiest khorovats in town... once a hole in the wall... now a bigger hole in the wall... but still a hole... ardashi mot is a meat lovers dream.

alex called my cell phone and we decided to meet for coffee. after we had settled at the cafe we realized it is right under lena's house. we called lena and she called raffi and we were all of a sudden all sitting in the cafe drinking freshes. freshes are freshly squeezed fruits. i had orange/carrot... others had kiwi... we were under the sun. it was nice.

i dont know how it happened but let me just jump to the ferris wheel ride where the five of us were in one little ferris larger than life bottlecap with my beautiful ararat in her full glory in front of us to adore.

after a nice dinner arthur and i came home to our beautiful home and we relaxed and talked about our great day... smelled his perfume and wore my slippers until i had to crawl into bed. my tongue was still pink from the cotton candy so i had to brush really well. it was a riot.

then my boss called with some exciting news about work. he is a really nice and dynamic so it is always inspiring to talk to him. no, he does not read these logs. this is the honest truth. we talked about the new and exciting stuff and it got me excited. i could not sleep all night because i had such a great day.

i woke up this morning early enough to make it to morning coffee here before we officially sit at our desks... and i told all my colleagues (friends) all about my day. we have another day off on may 9th... i hope it becomes a tradition to live our days off... as real days off... and retreat to childhood desires of cotton candy... and laughing hysterically until you have tears in your eyes.

As Alex wrote, yesterday was just a beautiful May Day. We laughed so hard for so long, especially in the stupid house of horrors. The warm weather is supposed to get better and better, last night I left the windows open all night and wasn't cold. What a relief after the long winter (in NYC for me). OK, enough about the weather.

To Alex, I want to say publicly that every time you log you do not have to inspire the world... just logging the day to day events of life in Armenia, sometimes interesting, sometimes inspirational, sometimes run of the mill gives the complete picture of living here. (And keep logging, or else! :-)

Repatriates live in Armenia by choice, unlike many of its native inhabitants. So when you are feeling down it is natural to question whether you did the right thing in moving here. I used to experience those cycles of feeling great about being here and then wondering whether it was the right choice very rapidly (monthly). Now I tend to question my decision once or twice a year, usually soon before winter comes :-) But seriously, although I never pictured myself staying here forever, the more time that passes, the easier it is to do so. The changes you see every day for the good, although not far-reaching enough, are obvious. Most of the sidewalks are complete now, although some of the concrete bricks seem to be disintegrating from bird droppings already. There are just loads of new construction sites all over the city. Massive ones at that. Old projects and remodelings are complete, many shops have closed, more have opened. It is fascinating watching all of this evolution. Many people have a more positive outlook on the future. Gas lines are being restored to homes, water is becoming 24 hour soon, and this month there is a national referendum which includes allowing dual citizenship. If it passes, it is still not clear when it will be offered, or in what form, but it is a big step nevertheless.

Also, I met Der Hova this week for the first time. I did not get much of a chance to talk to him, but I finally have a face to associate with the name. A few others have repatriated that I have not met yet, and a couple of more that I know of are in the pipeline.
OK, I'm back! Not that anyone was dying for me to return, but I must say that between the guilt I've been feeling for not logging, and the lectures and warnings that I've gotten from my friends and fellow loggers for being absent from this virtual community, I've been finally shamed into logging tonight. But I had a bigger reason, I was quite uninspired with life in Armenia, and I had nothing interesting to log about. Until today, that is.

May Day--International Labor Day--was celebrated in Armenia, and luckily most of us had the day off. Although I went to work for a couple of hours in the morning, I met up with fellow loggers Madlene, Lena, Raffi, and Madlene's husband Arthur, and we created a great holiday for ourselves. This was the first truly beautiful day we've had since the arctic winter most of us survived in Armenia. With temperatures in the 20's C, clear blue skies, and heavenly air quality, we relaxed at a newly built outdoor cafe on Sayat Nova. A few moments into our relaxed state, Lena jumped up from her seat, and entranced we all followed her, as we saw majestic Mt. Ararat looking at us from afar. By far, this was the most amazing, the clearest, and inspiring view of our Ararat that we've had in a long time. We stood there for minutes gazing at her beauty. After visiting an apartment that one of us is thinking about moving into, we came up with the idea to prolong this beautiful day as much as possible and go up to the Monument Victory Park, where there is a mini amusement park, and ride the ferris wheel. As we were winding our way up the top of the city, Mt. Ararat was just with us, in our view and in our hearts. We went up, walked through a portion of the park which was full of families and young lovers. We walked at the foot of Mayr Hayastan, or as we "locals" have dubbed her "Mama" and stood in line like a group of young kids to get on the rides. On the Coca Cola ferris wheel, where the five of us sat intent on not missing a moment of the view, we rose to see our compatriots enjoying our city, and we rose to see her again--our mountain. Simply breath taking!

After participating in a few other rides, including the haunted house, where our fearless leader Madlene took the other four scared ones through the most hillarious experience of the the last year, where we laughed to a point of crying, we made our way to the car and rode down to Central Yerevan once again, enjoying the sights and sounds of the Capital.

We concluded the day with a nice dinner at the Thai restaurant Breeze in the city, joined by our friends Kelley and Brad (from Tbilisi). The reason I wanted to log today is the reason I gave my friends this afternoon in the shadows of Mount Ararat. For a while I had forgotten why I'm in Armenia. I had forgotten that there is a reason much bigger than the daily frustrations, and the hardships one faces here (just like any other country). There is a grander purpose to it all, and I think we all agreed today that the reason was in front of us, the two peaks, rising out of the plateaus of our homeland, and reminding us all of the purpose we each have inherited, whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. After a long winter, a tense political season, and some personal issues, I'm inspired again, and I'm hoping that this inspiration will stay with me. I don't mean to sound like an ad billboard, but come to Armenia this year and be inspired. We need you.

As always, thanks for your indulgence, and here's to a great summer of more days like this, and many visitors (I can't believe I'm putting this in writing) who help us remain on track. Happy May Day!

Thursday, May 01, 2003

I was pretty busy lately and couldn�t log for a long time already.

So what was going on with me during this time? I will start with the nice things.
I got an IT Manager position at a well known British organization that has offices in 109 countries. We are moving to the new premises on Baghramyan Ave and there is lots of computer job to do there. I will give some updates from time to time.
I guess I have found that from where I am going to purchase a house and the search is in progress. That�s another good news. More updates coming soon.
After a week OSCE is going to start registrations for observers for the Parliamentary Elections and Cyprus as a member I will be registering.

So I guess that�s the good news so far. Now the bad events.

Our car has been ransacked but luckily I lost only few CDs and from now on I drag the battery to home every night, we changed the parking location and will have an alarm installed.

There is a huge diversion in the building where I live. There are some water leaks in some of the apartments and I don�t know why the people living there knock at my door, at some point basically knocking it down and complaining. I have no common wall with them and no bad water pipes but I guess sometimes being a nice guy who patiently listens to and gives polite answers is not good. I told them to organize a meeting that all the involved parties can sit and talk in a civilized way. Let them deal with the owner than. So what I can tell about this, most of the buildings in Armenia are already in the process of decay, people do Eu-remond or whatever, however the building carcasses are getting old. Having in mind that during the Soviet times they have not been built properly this process is pretty rapid and alarming. There are no inspection services as far as I know or neighbourhood boards who can deal with such things. Basically if you live in Yerevan you don�t only need to dodge the cars while crossing the roads, and if you are a driver - cars, marshootkas and pedestrians but also you should learn how to dodge your neighbours.

Yesterday one of my door locks has failed so we had to totally smash the lock to be able to get in, I know if i have called " de experts" they would have knocked down the door and gave some pleasure to my "water neighbours", so me and my Melkonian friend did the job ourselves without even scratching the door. Fortunately my next door neighbours (they are not the ones who frantically knock my door for the water situation) were very supportive to help with some tools and let us use their power for drilling. Now the lock is replaced.

Now, somebody is yelling and selling "Javeli Spirt" (bleach) under my window. :)