Oh, by the way, Jack's 2004 Armenia calendar was printed this week and he picked some up last night. Absolutely beautiful! I hope you have a chance to see it. Tomorrow is his last day in Armenia, his summer here has come to an end. He is heading back to Australia to catch their spring :-)
Saturday, August 30, 2003
Oh, by the way, Jack's 2004 Armenia calendar was printed this week and he picked some up last night. Absolutely beautiful! I hope you have a chance to see it. Tomorrow is his last day in Armenia, his summer here has come to an end. He is heading back to Australia to catch their spring :-)
During the parliamentary elections, for instance, my kids prepared--according to their own interests--public advocacy campaigns for the elections. They drafted issues, researched them, prepared presentations, and argued their points with a representative of one of the candidates, and they did all this in English. It was a wonderful experience for me to see their progress, but also to see how much they care for their country and their surroundings. Last week, they had decided that they were going to do a day of church yard clean up, and so for the English class portion, we did vocabulary of things used to clean up the yard, and did verbs of activities that we were undertaking. This is what living in Armenia is all about, truly! It's about the hope you see in people--kids, particularly, but also the hope they inspire in you.
But, back to the day. So, after teaching class and tutroing two of my kids for their upcoming TOEFL exams (English as Foreign Language Exams, required to enter language programs etc.), I met up with Lena and Raffi and a few others at Artbridge for a quick lunch, after which Lena, Raffi and I walked down to Vernisage for some non-tourist rummaging and shopping. It was a very hot day, and you could certainly feel the heat reflecting off the concrete. After bargaining, looking for wine glasses, almost buying a carpet, we decided to go check out a new hotel that has opened up near the market--Europe Hotel. We were pleasantly surprised by the cool atmosphere, and decided to have a quick bite to eat, and I think we've discovered a new sandwich place. They have a really nice selection--a bit overpriced, but nothing to complain about too much.
While having lunch, we overheard a couple of diasporans speak, and picked up on their accent to be Australian, and you know what that means with Lena around. Oh boy, Raffi and I were treated to a wonderful hour of Australian banter and idioms, and it was a great time. The two visitors had come for the pan Armenian games, and were getting ready to leave on Monday, and had enjoyed Armenia quite a bit. I'll let Lena tell you the rest of the story about the Ausies and their common acquaintances--definitely one for the "it's a small world" file.
But, the reason why this was such a wonderful day, is because we were able to be completely spontaneous enjoying what the day threw our way and not worry about much except the pot holes in the city and staying clear of the dust. Speaking of which, we went out to Republic Square, and I think in our minds hoped that there would be much more to see once the construction concludes. The sidewalks in front of the National Gallery of Art looked good, but nothing to write home about.
Even though the remodeling saga continues all around the city (ask Lena about this, too), we did well. A great day overall.
Last night was the last Hover concert on the cascades. It was very nice since it was outdoors so I could wander around, visit with friends, etc. Just sitting and watching people sing has always bored me, unless it is Arto Tuncboyajian. With him it is just amazing to see how he makes all those noises you hear on his album. I recognized one of the singers from my trips to Jerusalem. He has moved here for the past year. Afterwards we went to have drinks at Cactus, a place with weak Mexican food, but good drinks, with two French women adopting kids here, Alex and Eli, plus two expats from Tblisi I had met two years ago by chance on their last trip to Yerevan. The French were great, and since they had a good sense of humor I of course had to give them a bit of a hard time for being French. The expats from Tblisi told us about Yerevan compared to Kiev, Prague and Tblisi and it was fascinating. They are very impressed with the changes and progress in Yerevan, and love the safety. I hope they will come more often. It is crazy I have not made my way to Tblisi yet, I will just have to stop procrastinating and do it.
Incidentally, notice how there are no mentions of the weather this summer? It is PERFECT! Almost every day it is 85-90 degrees, no humidity, and warm all night long (perfect for outdoor cafes). It is almost September and it is sad to see the summer coming to an end, and night falling earlier, but I must say everyone is quite impressed with this weather.
Friday, August 29, 2003
The summer zoomed by. It was full and tiring, fun but short. My parents and Lara's parents' came to visit. My aunts were in town as well. Other friends from Montreal had come to Armenia... all during the same period. That's when we had organized Varanta's baptism (see previous logs). The LCO guys were great. The campaigns went smoothly with some exceptions which is sort of expected when you work in a village with villagers. You can see some of the pictures on armeniadiaspora.com.
On another note, I witnessed the training of about 3 dozen soldiers who were preparing to head off for a peace keeping mission in Kosovo and Iraq. This made feel proud since it indicated that our military has reached a certain standard that it is involved with international projects. Don't get me wrong, I think the Armey here still has a long way to go. There are still unjust and criminal actions that need to be looked into as well as the whole macho approach to protectiong our country. What I mean is, like Israel and Swiss, we need to think of inviting ALL citizens to military training... men and women. We are not a country with lots of capable people, so we should invest in all our potential and get the smart and devoted women involved especially since they make up the majority of the population here.
Thursday, August 28, 2003
First, I started off looking for an actual house in the Nork area of Yerevan. I looked at a dozen homes, but once I realized how much work and time was involved in building a house, I decided to look at apartments instead.
I then began searching for a top-floor apartment in a 4 or 5 story building, with a plan to build an additional floor above the actual apartment where I could store my recording studio. (In Armenia, it's typical for a top-floor resident to add an additional floor the same size as their actual apartment.)
My last broker was an awesome guy who showed me a lot of great homes, but just last week, from word of mouth, I found a small apartment in a GREAT location. Although I would be compromising on a decent view, I just couldn't give it up.
Today I made all the payments and received the keys. It's right next to the future North Avenue (the pedestrian-only 400m long street which, once finished, will house shops, restaurants, and other businesses.)
Although I was hoping to find a place that hasn't already been renovated, this place is pretty much done. All I have to do is add all the kitchen stuff (counters, cupboards, and appliances), heating/air conditioning, furniture, etc.
Eventually I will have to break down the new, but ugly, white windows the previous owner had put up on the beautifully engraved arched balcony (enclosing the balcony and making it part of the home....a stupid procedure done by many here that ruins the architecture of some of these beautiful buildings.)
Although I liked the place enough to buy it I haven't decided if I want to move in there. The place is a little small for me so I'm debating if I should rent it out. I'll wait and see once the place is completely furnished.
Tuesday, August 26, 2003
The high of the Pan-Armenian Games, even though I did not attend a lot of events since most were during work hours, could definitely be felt in the city, and at night the thousands of visitors and athletes were out on the streets enjoying all that Yerevan has to offer. It was nice to see people in orange outfits, and be lost in there with my excessive orange shirts etc. That was nice, but there was also another aspect of the groups here that bothered me a bit. Most seemed very isolated from the reality of Armenia, and I know, for all those who are getting ready to write me now, that in a week it's difficult to establish any kind of a real connection, but I also think that there is something to be said about exploring the country side and not always be sheltered in the night clubs, bars and restaurants--although that is also an essential experience in Yerevan, especially for younger people.
On Friday evening, I had the misfortune of having to assist a visiting family friend get through the bureaucratic maze of a local hospital, and let me tell you about frustrations. What really put me over the top though, was the head doctor asking me for a bribe--20,000AMD to be exact, and I just lost it. We ended up paying half that amount with a receipt to substantiate the reason for the payment, but I just wanted to choke someone in sight. And then, on Saturday, my first free day in months (free of work and tourists), I was enjoying the morning catching up on world news and having a cup of tea, when all of a sudden the cable connection went dead. I had just paid the bill, so it couldn't be that, so I decided to go upstairs to the roof to check out what was going on. I knew there was remodeling going on because I hear it every morning starting at 8 a.m. Once up there I saw that the apartment owner had decided that she was going to remodel the whole roof into a spare room for her apartment, and thus had ordered the workers to rip out all of the antennae. Of course, trying to get an explanation out of them or any kind of reasoning on the fact that they should have let us know before ripping our property out for six months was futile at best. So, the level of frustration has been high.
A friend sent me an email after I had written a brief message venting, that "the honeymoon is over." I'm not sure if I believe in that, but I do think that at some point the frustration mounts and one needs an outlet, but one also needs to see change, and that change, I keep telling myself, is why I made the move to Armenia. However slow it may be, I want to see some things change and I have to be an active participant in making it happen.
The Closing Ceremonies of the Pan Armenian Games were fantastic. Lena, Raffi and I along with some additional friends were in the stands, and seemingly the only ones brave enought to dance in the heat up there. But the field looked like a huge trampoline, on which the entire crowd of several hundred were jumping up and down in unison. A beautiful sight and a great party all together.
Having said all of this, it goes to show you that Armenia is that unique place where in a matter of an hour one can experience a myriad of emotions, from all over the spectrum. Be well.
Monday, August 25, 2003
Saturday was nice and relaxing, after breakfast and a short nap, I cleaned all the windows in my flat as well as the fly screens. With all the remond going on in the whole city, they were filthy! The only problem was that after I cleaned all, it rained so the cleanliness lasted one whole hour, oh well.
Sunday, I climbed Mt Aragats. I did it folks, all the places that were on my agenda are done. The climb took just over 2 hours and we went from an altitude of 1000 metres to almost 4000 metres and a huge drop in temperature. There was fresh snow on top, and I could see all the other peaks. Took a picture next to the Armenian flag on top but on that day I could not see Ararat. By the way I thought I was the only (khent) to climb it, but on the way up, met a couple from Munich and it was their first day in Armenia! They were very excited to climb this mountain since it’s a relatively easy climb in comparison to the Alps at the same altitude.
The evening was a big (kef) at the closing ceremony of the Pan Armenian games (I had to participate at one event).
So now that all the places I wanted to visit are over, I will take the next 2 weekends off to recover from all the battering I’ve endured over the last couple of months. Of course there are still further destinations that I wish to visit like Western Armenia, Javakh, Iran etc but they’ll have to wait. If anything I wouldn’t mind going to Karabagh sometime in the next couple of months since I haven’t been this year yet.
Regarding my work situation I’ll know hopefully by the end of this week whether I still have a job or not!!
Sunday, August 24, 2003
Today I had a nice, slow morning, then went to pay my cable bill, a whole year in advance so as to get a discount and not have to worry about it every month. It is a bit out of the way for me. Then I caught up with Aram Hajian at the house of chess, where he was watching Joe from Boston finish up a game. So I actually did watch a pan-Armenian game competition for approximately 3 minutes. Plus I caught about 5 of the final minutes of the very close basketball final (Glendale d. Yerevan) on TV last night. So tonight it seems like everyone is going to the closing ceremonies, so I will go to that later. What the heck.
So anyway, after the chess house we headed to Sayat Nova, a new restaurant on the corner of Khanjian and... Sayat Nova of course. We sat on the roof and the food was great as were the portions and prices. On my way back home I stopped at ArmeniaInformation to visit Armenak. It was good to catch up and compare our summer travels so far, and share what we have missed with each other. Finally I went to Mergelyan Gab to get a phone card. I need to talk to my aunt and cousins in Melbourne Australia and see how they are doing. My uncle, one of the most hayaser people in the world passed away last week.
Saturday, August 23, 2003
Most people would go crazy on deciding how to celebrate this kind of event. Others would lose their mind to think of something nice, unique and to some extent, expensive for their partner. Our day was normal. We went to work and did our thing. At the end of the day, we decided to give each other the most important thing, time. We had dinner at the Indian restaurant on V Sarkssian street. Then we roamed around the streets. Talked and reminded each other of things. Went CD shopping bumped into Raffi and other friends; met another group of friends to go to the Lilit, Movsissian and Arzrouni concert. Then some of us went to Caucasus restaurant for drinks and food. This was by far one of the most memorable days for Lara and I. Simple but full to the rim. Oh, the kids were with the Baby sitter.
By the way, the concert was GREAT! I love Lilit’s voice and style.
Tonight we will meet up with some of our Montreal friends that are in town.
Friday, August 22, 2003
Construction is a real pain especially for a person who drives. Roads are closed and if not by construction than by police who take over the first lane and stop cars randomly. I guess because it’s the end of the month and season. Probably they have to meet their quotes of writing tickets as well as ‘collect’ some money before the cold season when there is less traffic.
Just to add that Zvartnots Airport departure part is not that bad, the arrival part is horrible though.
The Armenian International Airline services had improved... they were smiling and some attempts of humor was evident. There are also cafes and souvenir shops for the last minute buyers and the waiting and such.
Tourists, they are not just Armenians. I met a very cute couple from Israel who were touring from Turkey to India. This would take them 1year. They had already spent 4 months in Turkey and 6 weeks in Georgia. They had been in Armenia for about a week and were heading to Arakadz when I met them at Artbridge. They were very impressed with Armenia, but most particularly with Armenians. They thought the people here were welcoming, calm and relatively not too crooked. I guess after Georgia and turkey, one can come to that conclusion. They wanted to go to Azerbeijan and Turkmenistan, but will have to cancel because it is too costly and or too dangerous. Visa to Turkmenistan is $300.Maybe us Armenians need to stop Bitching about Armenia all the time and see what is happening in the neighboring countries and we can start appreciating what we have. We have a Beautiful country (and I am not saying this because I am Armenian... totally unbiased;o), smart people and a strong will. OK there is some corruption, some injustice but these are things that could be overcome through that strong will I just mentioned. Let's try to look at Armenia through the eyes of these non-Armenian tourists and give this young country a break.
PS: Opera square has become a hang out for waaay too many people.
Thursday, August 21, 2003
Left Friday night after work, spent the night in Sissian. The following morning, we went through Tatev Monastery then followed the back road to Kapan. This town would have to be one of favourite places in Armenia, the air is crystal clear, the temperature is very pleasant and the locals, well they don’t even stare, just a quick look to kill their curiosity and that’s it, it’s wonderful.
We went on to visit Halidzor fortress (a nice hike covered by trees), Vahanavank Monastery, Baghaberd fortress on a huge cliff where heaps of foreign tourists were descending from. Kajaran pass at an altitude of 2500 m was great, then onto Meghri. Saw a great church filled with frescoes where I went stupid photographing.
From Meghri, we went to the border driving along the Arax river which had an amazing effect being so close to it, all the way to Zangelan village. On the way back near Kapan, we visited Yeritsavank where the view from the top was out of this world!!!
Driving through Goris we ran into the legendary Norair, from Jack’s “My Limp” book from last year. This guy is such a character, I spotted him on the highway dancing on top of a diesel barrel, really someone should do a documentary on him.
Lastly the Armenians from Istambul are a blast, they are such a hoot, loud and hot blooded. More later.
I just moved into this apartment, and have put absolutely nothing away yet, but it is time to start getting ready for work, so that will have to wait for another day, and I will have to cut this log short.
Just one more thing -- STOP OPENING EMAIL ATTACHMENTS!!! I don't know who to curse more, the people writing the viruses, or the people opening them (thus spreading them).
Wednesday, August 20, 2003
I write that down 100 times each day to remind myself that I love this interesting breed of human beings--or should I say hybrid humans. This species is interesting: It likes to walk around Yerevan a lot, stopping unannounced to look at high stone buildings, whip out a camera, and take a photo of an arch, a broken window, or the the delapitated balcony. Then, putting the camera into its case, shaking his/her head in disbelief:
"What is it, dear tourist?"
"It's just beautiful!"
"What is beautiful?"
"The broken window."
Yep, that's a typical conversation you'll hear at every corner of this city this week, and many more weeks to come into the Indian Summer that Armenia tends to experience.
All joking aside, tourists have taken over Yerevan, and there is not a more beautiful sight than seeing Armenians of all colors and stripes interacting with one another--or not. Thousands of tourists are here--so much so, that flights in and out of Armenia are on average 10% overbooked according to travel agencies. No chance of getting into or out of this country, especially this month!
This tourist issue is a sensitive one for me, because I seemed to host half of them in my house over the last month. Every room of my apartment was home 2 out of towners. At one point last week 7 people, with 3 different groups were staying at my house. It was enjoyable, and it would have been more enjoyable, if I didn't have to wake up at 7 a.m. each morning to go to work. But, nonetheless, summer holidays are in high gear in Armenia--and that's just the way we like it, except that all of the "repats" have a sudden yearning for late November/early December winter days (if you can believe it?), because that's when we actually get to see one another and spend quality time with each other.
I, too, went to the opening ceremonies of the Pan-Armenian Games, and I must say what great pride I had to watch all of the teams enter the stadium from various locales of the world, celebrating the simple fact that they share a cultural heritage that has brought them here to compete in athletics. Particularly proud moments were when Armenian enclaves from Africa, Javakhk, the whole of Karabakh showed up, wearing their uniforms and carrying their flags. What a sight to see!
On the concern that my fellow loggers have expressed about the low number of participants from various, traditionally Armenian populous cities in the world, I tend to think that quality supercedes quantity. So, perhaps the two Montreal athletes will mark great victories. But, it was indeed quite visible that middle eastern, and generally east of euope communities were better represented at the opening ceremonies.
The program was extremely well organized, and the few mishaps, I'm sure, are part of such large events, except when we watch the international Olypmics we get a filtered view from the camera operator's perspective, and not the raw event. In any event, a job well done by the organizers!
I have to concur with Der Hova on the airport situation. I've made about nine trips to the ariport in the last 2 months, and the level of aggravation seemse to be climbing with each visit. It's high time that people are held accountable for some of the happenings at Zvartnots International.
I must say that I was quite disappointed to find out that only 15 or so Canadian-Armenians are participating this year. What's even more sad is that Montreal, with an Armenian population of 40,000 or more, has only 2 athletes representing their city this year. Iran was definitely the most impressive. Tehran alone had over 200 participants.
There were a couple of accidents when the fireworks show began. Sparks were raining all over the stands where the athletes were seated, as well as on the huge banners which quickly caught on fire. Nevertheless the music and fireworks show continued while the fire truck was putting out the flames. As we always say "Only in Armenia".
After the opening ceremony I went to Caucasus restaurant. The food was pretty decent, especially the pork with garlic and wine, as well as the harisa (the most Armenian dish out there). Yes, I agree with Haig that the place was very smoky, which brings me to another topic. 'Thomas Twinings' (the popular tea-house on Abovian) was the first non-smoking cafe/restaurant in Armenia. Now both 'Yum-Yum Donuts' stores are also non-smoking.
Today I had a chance to check out the Toronto vs. Pasadena Men's Basketball game. The Toronto boys were doing great 'till halfway into the game when they started getting lazy. Pasadena ended up winning the game. That game was followed by Tbilisi vs. Gyumri.
Since I'm always talking about city renovations I must say that behind the Opera House, where there has been non-stop construction for months, is looking really good. Toumanian Street is a mess; Abovian is completely closed; Baghramian has been a mess for a month; Republic Square, although still a mess, is looking better and better. Also, Cascade is looking beautiful. When looking from above, the flowerbeds look awesome. Now if only Ernekian sped up his airport construction as smoothly as Cafesjian is with Cascade. The airport mess, which most visitors and residents of this country know about, has been at its worst this year.
If I'm not mistaken there are a few more weeks left 'till the Lincy Foundation renovations are finished. I've heard that most of the theatres have been preparing new pieces which they will present this autumn. I'm just hoping that they'll have heating.
Monday, August 18, 2003
Coming to some ‘extraordinary’ Armenia life episodes, I will talk about the Zvartnots International Airport. It’s a nightmare to be by the Arrival gate on Monday early mornings. There was absolutely no space to park in the “parking” area. There is a disaster going on in front of the Arrival gate. Imagine 5 flights in 2 hours in an airport that has only two luggage carrousels (although I think one is broken) and one Arrival gate (one visa control) and a Russian soldier who decides that who is welcomed and who is not.
There were lots of people pushing each other. White painted windows that keep you lost from what is happening to the people who has just arrived. In short if Franz Kafka were alive he could write a good story about it.
If Armenia wants to become a tourist and open country airport is the first place that needs to be renovated and modified. And if considering it as our gate to Europe… we don’t have a chance.
Sunday, August 17, 2003
On another hand, I was surprised to see players from Nigeria, Addis Ababa, Swiss and Belgium.
Last night was also a good friend’s wedding from Montreal. They had decided to get married in Armenia and have asked their family to join them here. I wasn’t able to attend Saro and Tania’s wedding but I think this is a fantastic way to make these special ceremonies more memorable.
I missed the meeting with Shooshig, but I had bumped into her at the Parev Inn where she was staying. It was nice putting a face to the name.
Friday, August 15, 2003
After moving we went to Malibu cafe and restaurant on Mashdots and had some food and drinks so all the loggers we could gather at the last minute got a chance to meet Shooshig. Since we are critiquing restaurants these days, I will give the place a thumbs up. The service is usually good and the food is usually ok, plus the prices are normal. This is like most places. You can have a bad experience every now again at your favorite place, and the place that Haig mentioned in his last post has an excellent reputation. This happens in America too, remember? :-) Towards the end of our evening a horde of Brazlian-Armenian's arrived, who were here for the games. Brazilian-Armenians, how cool!
This morning I got up early and cleaned the apartment I am moving out of completely, them moved some remaining items. I think one last trip will finally complete the entire move... plus go up again to take out a bunch of trash. I am absolutely exhausted, but since I head to Syunik this weekend there will be no more stairs in the forseeable future. I will be away from Yerevan, stairs, computers, yev ayl'n...
Thursday, August 14, 2003
On a seperate note, I was skimming the logs from two years ago and it was a fun trip down memory lane. I am moving back to the same exact apartment I moved out of two years ago :-)
Wednesday, August 13, 2003
At lunch time, I met up with a group of friends from Montreal who are leaving tonight... I will miss ANNA the most. She is Amassia's Godmother. She is like our younger sister. She was in town with some scout group to do some work on the rehab center. She stayed a bit longer with her boyfriend and brother. She is totally "repat" material.
OK, lunch at Artbridge... you all know Artbridge by now. We were sitting with these friends at a very long table with Sylvie K and Sam and others when in comes Rafi K, Lena M and Alex S, all fellow loggers. This was a great reunion. I had missed them all. I had practically not seen them all summer. I saw Raffi at Varanta's baptism and Alex at his appartment once, while picking up a parcel.
Anyway life is good, it�s hot and I love it. Work is busy. Looking forward to meeting Shushig soon. Oh and the walk up the cascade was worth it today, Ararat looked ummm!
Work is going ok, they have me on a hundred different things it seems, but I am getting used to that. I am getting ready for my trip to Syunik while I try to move to another apartment before my trip. My intentions of moving a few loads of junk over this morning before work seem to have come to nothing :-) My water tank broke again, so that has to get fixed too before I move. What a pain. Last night I took a load of stuff to the new place and watched a stupid movie on cable. It was great!
On the web site front, I am thinking about hiring someone to work on the site, but the main problem I see is finding the time to manage them. In any case, if there is someone out there in Yerevan who is quite good at creating .eps files, I would like to talk about perhaps having some new Armenian fonts created. Also maybe someone who knows Quark pretty well and could do a book layout. That would make it possible to do a new version of Rediscovering Armenia...
Tuesday, August 12, 2003
I hope I didn't kill his story. I am a very bad story teller. But I do know how to party.
Tomorrow I will head out to visit the second LCO group in Ayroum. The first group faced very harsh conditions. We tried to work things out for the second group and it seemed that we have succeeded. Friday I will visit the Shushi group who is working on the Hospital. They are great. I can't wait to go back on Karabagh soil again.
Yerevan is just too hot.... way too hot to enjoy anything.
Didi I tell you that I had finished shooting my film? I am now working on the sound and will soon start the editing. I am working with Bars Media to produce the film. All I can say is it will be a great peice... I hope!
Monday, August 11, 2003
1. The menu is not 1 per table but 1 per person. 2. The waiters are very polite and well trained and if you are nice to them they are extra carful to keep you happy. 3. the menu is designed by a person who has traveled a lot , has a good taste and knows what a customer whould like to see. 4. You dont need to fight in order to keep your plates on the table, here they ask you if they can take your plate away. 5. You can actually see the manager, who might drope by to ask if you like your food and what you recomend. 6. Waiters dont avoid the customers. and if you need assistance and no body is around just press the wirless bell.
The only disatvantage that i noticed is that the toilets are just in front of the main entrance.
Some tips: take a table in downstairs, there are small canals there, pillows are provided if the wooden chairs are not that comfy for you. On the door it says that they honour Visa cards , I havent tried this but you can give a shot. Food: I recomend their Ishkhan, and Old Trbilisi white wine. Also try the Georgian starters that have wallnut in them. Just perfect.
We have been in search for such a place from the first day of my arrival, and finally we found one.
The place that i wouldnt recomend is the small restairant near Cascade, people know it as Alamo, but it's nameless now and on the menu it has a "female name's place" . I guess it's Anush's Place or something.
I went there once and whatever we ordered was horrible. Steak was theworst that i have ever had in my life. and when Icomplained they started teaching me that what a steak is, to a person who comes from Mid-west USA. Taboule was a disgrace and we had to return it before breaking our teeth. I found some rice next to my non-rice steak side-dish. Drinks came late. First time in my life I had to leave no tip. and the pathetic part is that it was included in the bill.
From time to time i will write about places to eat while in Yerevan. next is a cafe near opera, where they change the tablecloths very frequently and even when you spil water on it. The place is next to Opera and if you want to give a guess please e-mail them to me.
What a nice weekend, so relaxing. Saturday was a nice, slow day. I picked up my rug which I had taken for repair, and it looked good. I bummed around, went out for some Thai food, and took it easy. Sunday I went to a co-workers summer house (Amaranots/Dacha) near Garni where we had a great bbq. I know what Ara means about relaxing day. Her dacha is at the edge of the huge canyon, with the river running below, a pool at almost the edge of the cliff, and a small orchard. We were sitting and laying on the edge, with our feet in the water... okh, it was so amazing how you get transported to a better place. It was too cold to swim in, but a couple of people braved it for a few minutes each. There were two Americans, I was the diasporan, and seven locals, most of whom had spent a lot of time abroad. This made for a very interesting mix and conversation. One of the guys has a very interesting business going, and I will definitely go and check it out. It is involved in a number of unrelated activities, but I want to see the tile production myself.
Last night a large group got together at a cafe by Opera to say goodbye to a few of those leaving us this morning. They are all up in the air now, overloaded with goodies from Armenia. Hopefully they have a pleasant journey and find all their stuff in the baggage carousel in America. I saw folks I had not seen in too long, and just drank loads of fluids to fight the heat. It is definitely August weather now. A half a dozen friends have left this week, and most of them would have stayed if they could find decent jobs. It really makes me appreciate mine and wonder how more job opportunities can be created here for everyone, so that nobody has to leave Armenia to find work. One way of course would be for diasporans to open loads of businesses :-)
Saturday, August 09, 2003
i have made my way out to los angeles for a little visit. i will be here all month and am excited to visit with family.
my luggage was lost (for the first time on the way to LA) and so i am waiting for someone in the house to wake up so i can ask if i can borrow the car and go to save-on or something to buy toothbrushes, toothpaste, blah blah blah.
we (my parents) have a new house here. it is beautiful and has a pool. my dad did a great job remodelling and it is a very spacious comfortable house. arthur and i have our own room and new furniture to fill it.
i left ozzie with her trainer but i miss her already. i am however having a nice break from tourist season, reconstruction Yerevan and ... my daily routine.
i just have to say... that we always make fun of armenia for its poorly tranlsated menus and its customer service etc. i had the worst experiences at the vienna airport during my layover... and let me tell you they did not do a good job translatign their stuff either. i am not making excuses for armenia... i am just saying... we are not alone. we tend to isolate ourselves way too much. although i did not order the spit burger they raved about at the airport... i smiled knowing it was there.
I must say that Rhoda Manook always does a great job promoting the choir. The majority of people watching the performance were tourists and non-locals. Personally, I think that there are other amazing Armenian choirs that deserve more attention (unfortunately lacking better publicity) such as "The Little Singers of Armenia" and "The Armenian Chamber Choir". Both very outstanding.
One of my best friends (a non-Armenian) who came here in October had returned this April for a short work contract. His return ticket was just a couple of days ago and although Austrian Airlines has a really pathetic and stubborn attitude with extending return dates, he let the ticket go to waste and decided to stay just a little longer since he likes it here. Meanwhile, I know many Armenians who have never been to Armenia, yet take at least one or two annual Cuba or Mexico trips and never bother making the effort to see part of their historic homeland.
I have to correct a mistake I had made in a previous log. Admission to Water World is actually about $6 US (a little too much if you ask me) and VIP is about $10 US, which allows you to sit in a designated area. (Whoop-dee-doo!) I went to the park a few days ago and had a great time. Although, I did get into a few confrontations which I would love to write about, I won�t bother getting into it. I just have to say that this inconsiderate habit of budding in front of people in lineups has to improve. It's not only the adults who have been negatively affected by this terrible Soviet era custom, but also their children (since they have passed it on to them). People still think they need to push and shove and get to the front of a line to get what they want, even though there is enough to go around for everyone.
On another note, last week I did an interview on the ArmenAgop network. The interview went quite well (other than a couple of misunderstood questions and wrong answers). We also got a bunch of people calling in asking questions and making comments. Here are a few just to show you what local young Armenians have to say:
-The most famous question of all "Are you married?"
-"Is having a buzzed haircut accepted in Armenia?"
-"Obviously something bad must of happened to you in Toronto and that is why you moved here, right?"
-And my most favorite of all "Please don't give up on Armenia too quickly. A lot of visitors come and leave with only bad experiences. Please have patience with this country."
Friday, August 08, 2003
In my personal life, my 4 year relationship is over, which is something I don't want to talk about any more than that, but it is a huge change in my life. This weekend I will visit friends in Garni and next week I move, so really my life continues to be like a 3 ring circus. I am really looking forward to the peacefulness of the village though.
Thursday, August 07, 2003
The last few weeks have been quite fast. Many visitors, an unusally unpredictable summer season, the forthcoming influx in tourists and the preparations therefore, and so on. I'm noticing a change in me as well--compared to last summer. Last summer, having only been in Armenia for just a few months, I was just as excited as the tourists were about being in Armenia, albeit for them for an all too short of a period. This year, however, I'm a bit less tolerant of the "tourist" culture, and it's not so much that I don't appreciate the visits and the reunions, but it's that the mroe time I spend in Armenia the more I'm convinced that it is not possible to discover and understand Armenia, in all of its multilayered complexities in two weeks time, perched high atop the city in a hotel. It's just not possible. Again, please understand that I'm not being critical of tourists and the much needed and brief infusion of economic and psycho-social alternatives that they provide, but as a nation, I'm convinced, we need to be able to start taking a long look at what we're trying to do, and start taking the right steps toward that. Repatriation is certainly one way, but not the only one, but I will say that if one is to really understand the needs of Armenia, then it is necessary to spend some time here, and opportunities for that abound--but let's make it happend. That part is dependent only on us!
The summer flew by this year, and last night we had a bash for many from our fold who are leaving us for greener pastures (dare I say this?!). But, one thing that I will say about my friends in Armenia--particularly the ones who have understood that even if they can't commit or don't have the ability to commit to living in Armenia full time on a semi-permanent basis--that their presence here makes a difference, and this consciousness is present at all times, regardless of what one is doing: working at the pc, building churches in the villages, gyrating on the dance floor, or simply kicking back with a view of Mt. Ararat. That consciousness is always there.
I'll try to log more and that's a gray promise! Cheers.
Tuesday, August 05, 2003
You can read about his on www.AraManoogian.blogspot.com
I saw two more help wanted signs this week. Before this year I had never seen one, so I think this is really a big thing. Businesses are growing so much they don't have enough friends and relatives to fill all the positions :-)
Last week I got an email from a non-Armenian, American couple who had some interest in moving to Armenia and had a lot of questions. They loved the answers, even the ones that would scare most Americans (shopping is not so easy here, English is not widely spoken, etc). It has been a real pleasure to exchange messages with such an open-minded couple who are considering a major move in life. I still have another 33 questions to answer, so lets see what they think in the end. It is a lot of work answering all those questions, so maybe I will post some of them on the message boards for others to share...
Tomorrow I head off to Tavush for a work trip, which will include a visit to Shamshadin. Absolutely beautiful landscapes, but I won't get to do any exploring. We will visit a small business incubator for women, a constitutional/human rights protection center and library, a cheese plant, Ijevan Economic Development project, the Peace Corps volunteers, a village water supply opening, and a slaughterhouse (yes, I will have the camera :-). These are not all USAID, but they all get US government assistance. If you are curious about these projects, let me know. It is my job to tell you about them :-)
In a week I will be moved across the street to my smaller apartment where I will have cable TV, which I miss. I think I already mentioned this, but it will be nice to have Euro MTV and VH1 to know what is going on in the music world, to have BBC and Discovery, to have some movie channels and a sitcom channel... I have really given Armenian broadcast television a fair chance, and it sucks! Even if I understood Russian, there would be the occasional movie I could enjoy, but thats it.
tourists have me on a leash shorter than ozzie's. i have (and i know that sarcasm brings laughs and makes things interesting... but i am not exaggerating here) over 40 tourists visiting yerevan. they all want a peice of me and i can't take it anymore. i want winter to come so i can be alone to drink hot chocolate at art bridge and sit next to my heater... begging for summer. what a twisted world, the world of four seasons.
work is great, home is great, ozzie is the best. she has already learned and adapted to us and the most amazing thing is that arthur has adapted to her. i never thought he would but he really appreciates ozzie and what puppy power she has.
i hope everyone is having an amazing summer. i will write from my journeys abroad and let you know how it goes. by the way, this will be my first summer away from armenia in eight years. how sad.
Tonight I�m invited to the mayor�s house, where we will be celebrating his father�s birthday. We will also be celebrating someone else�s birthday of someone that is very close to me, but lives in a far off land. Happy Birthday to everyone that is born on this day.
With the back-out, I had no reason to go to the factory (though I will go down as soon as the power is restored), so I stayed in bed and worked some on my book. I�m really amazed how long a lap-top can work on battery power. I�ve been on for hours and I still have 34% left.
The same-sex couple adoption issue is really heating up and it looks like it will hit the local (Armenia) press tomorrow, if it didn�t already get printed today. Last night a doctor who I had told yesterday of this issue and this is a doctor who has worked in Russia and had seen much more than those who have never left the country, told me that she is still in shock and said that I have to do something to save that child.
A comment was made on www.aramanoogian.blogspot.com about how homosexuality is not contagious, but if you ask the natives here and I�m even sure most people in Armenia, then you will see that they don�t understand this idea and think that the child could in fact be infected. Irregardless of who is right, as long as the majority feel uncomfortable with the situation, then this means that this situation is culturally wrong and should have been avoided.
I also got word from the sates that there is a particular American adoption agency that has completed many adoptions in Armenia and word is that they omit or rewrite home studies to conceal information that could prevent a positive outcome of an adoption. I will be researching this when I go to Yerevan and if I find that this is the case (and if it is, you can be sure I will find it), I will be pushing for criminal charges (in Armenian and the US) for anyone that was involved in such practices and if need be we will make those adoptions null and void and retrieve our children from those criminals.
Monday, August 04, 2003
One old woman pointed out the laws of nature, which is a child is of a result of a male and female union. This whole package is called a family. She went on to say that if someone decides to be with someone of the same-sex, so be it, but nature and our Armenian culture does not allow for children to be part of their union. She said that if children are to be adopted, they should be adopted by a �normal couple� (meaning a man and woman). You can�t imagine what opinion she now has about Americans.
There is a somewhat hot discussion going on at www.aramanoogian.blogspot.com, where there are a couple of people who are implying that I�m not ��progressive, open minded, [or] caring�� and I should be more open to the idea and think about the welfare of the child. Well guess what, even Americans are not all that open to the idea of same-sex couples and if we are thinking of the child, then we should remember that the child could end up being known as the daughter of the lesbians. I wonder what effect that is going to have on her? I would guess that she could even be labeled as a lesbian herself by the majority of the non-progressive homophobic people of the world. And if this makes her bitter, who does she have to blame, her mom and her mom that adopted her or her biological mother and the Armenian government that allowed this adoption to happen in the first place? The people who allowed this adoption to happen I can say are going to get so much heat from the people here that they just may have to resign their post and run for the hills (this is how outraged the people here in Martuni are about this and I would guess the majority of Armenians all over the world reflect this feeling).
Anyway, the international adoption issues was very big, but now with this, I would guess that the non-progressive and very closed minded government we have will probably scrap international adoptions altogether, deeming them an unnecessary risk to our children, their own personal well being and national pride. With this latest development, can we blame them if they do just that? I�m not for this type of solution, but it wont surprise if they do this.
Sunday, August 03, 2003
Another event that caught my attention this week is that the Government is shutting down the Zeytoon Student hostel ( I believe the only one in Yerevan) leaving many students who can not afford higher rental costs without shelter. I have been told that the apartment block is going to be privatized by newly elected Parliament Chairman, A. Baghdasaryan. I am not sure about the validity of this info, but what I can say is that it's a brutal act to force so many students out of their apartments and also from their education. This is an example that how everything is concentrated in Yerevan and from now on only the Yerevantsi have the luxury of education in many fields that are not offered in the 'regions'. And I am not talking about the level of insensibility of the current administration. The students are picketing in front of the President's Palace and there were more police than demonstrators. If interested you can join in to protect democracy in Armenia.
We have a new month and I am sure it's going to be a busy one for me, but not that busy as the previous month and a half when I was not even managing to replying to my personal e-mails. However I am starting to see the fruits of my work. This also means that from now on I will have more free time and will be posting more often.
Saturday, August 02, 2003
Of course I will continue to write here, but when there is a need to vent or just write really long logs, I will write them on www.AraManoogian.blogspot.com and then direct your attention to that site so those that wish to read them may.
Today I had a visitor from California. He is a film-maker and is working on a project to document the Karabagh war and its effect on the children.
We visited at the Mayor�s house and talked about his film, which the Mayor and I were very impressed with the format.
He asked us to call a couple of children who are between 14 and 26 to talk on camera about what they remember of the war and what life is like now.
After his filming this, we sat and caught up on what life is like now in America and what I�ve been up to here.
Well I have to get going now, as I�m expected back to the Mayor�s house for dinner. Were having chicken.
BTW, when I came home from the Mayor�s house after my friend left, I brought with me 2 huge bottle of pickled chicken feet. YUM!!!
Today has had a pretty funny start... I actually woke up thinking it is a work day, which never happens to me, but recovered in less than a minute from that nightmare :-) Then I headed for brunch with Shant, who is leaving soon and I can't believe how little I have seen of him, as well as so many of my other friends in Yerevan. So at brunch we run into everyone and their brother, or maybe I should say mother, since so many parents are visiting this week. And from there we go to look at an apartment, which we had to get the key for from Jeff, who is with my old 1994 co-volunteer in Armenia Sevane. Well I knew she was in town, but she mentioned that another co-volunteer from that summer was on her flight, Yervant, who I have not seen in 5 years and will give a hard time to for not warning me that he is coming. Then at Vernissage, we run into Stepan, who was the architect of our project when we were volunteering! So somehow the four of us will get together and have a mini reunion. After a hot trip to vernissage, I finally got my act together and bought a watermelon on my way home and have feasted on that as well.
So it seems that Rediscover Armenia's print run will sell out this month or next. If I am going to do a second edition, I have to really burn the midnight oil to have it ready anytime soon... somehow I doubt I will, but we'll see. Sometimes I just get a burst of energy for these projects. I know I will go on two more work trips which will eat up 6 days of my next month, I will move, there will be lots of visitors, etc, etc...
So while elevating my foot, I�ve been working on my book, which is turning out to be much more work than I was hoping for and I�ve also come to realize that it�s also a very big responsibility to write a book on the subject of life here. There are so many issues that must be covered in this book and they must be covered in a very responsible way.
One thing I have come to realize about this book, like it or not, as politically correct as it may be, in today�s world, it could be viewed by some as very politically incorrect. This means that everything I say, has to have facts and evidence to back up my statements so if I come under attack (which I hope I don�t, but know this is a very real possibly), I can and will defend myself.
The subject I am now working on is foreign aid and its effects on life here and how it has hindered development. Unfortunately, most everything I�ve documented and my analyses really has nothing good to say about any kind of aid (even the kind I�m providing) and paints a picture of aid as being the most negative force in our country today (even more than corruption, since it feeds into making corrupt people even more powerful). There will be a mention of the Armenian Assembly, which will note that the best thing Azerbaijan has going for it is the AA and their working to block foreign aid to Azerbaijan, a country that as a result has greater potential to learn to fish.
Well, I�m not going to bore you with anything more in regards to the up and coming book that the more I work on it, the more I�m thinking that just maybe no one will be interested in reading, as though there will be happy stories in it, for the most part the only thing that it could accomplish is to help increase the sales of antidepressants. Start buying shares in pharmaceutical companies, as I get the feeling there is going to be a big demand for Prozac in the near future.
One thing I�ve come to realize is that my most prized belongings are my �books� (or in my case, text files and information found on the internet). I remember as a kid not caring that much about reading anything, but now I have veracious appetite for literature and knowledge. I�m even thinking about taking some courses so I can become a professional writer, as there is so much that I want to share with people and the best way is in books and articles.
Okay, I�ll stop boring you with my babbling and let you get back to more important things and I�ll get back to working on my book.
Friday, August 01, 2003
This morning I got up a bit earlier than I wanted, so I could go to the factory to give instructions to my workers and then drove to the school where the daycare program is held.
As I drove up to the main building, all the kids came running over to greet me. I said �Parev� to them as I stepped out of my car and they broke the silence with all 50 of them in unison responding with �Parev!�
Today we took the kids on a fieldtrip to Avo�s (Monte�s) spring which is 10 kilometers outside of Martuni, just bellow the village of Spitagashen.
It was good weather today for our activities, which was spent playing the typical picnic group games. The kids had a great time and I didn�t see one unhappy face among them.
After a group picture and them sitting down to lunch, I returned to Martuni, as I have guests coming from Yerevan today and though housecleaning is a constant thing around here, I had still really not caught up on the beddings and so on since my last guest.
I first stopped in to seeing the Mayor, where I joined him for lunch. Today we ate what I would call Cornish Game Hen, which are basically chickens from the chicken farm that were the runts of the brood. Very tasty and for the 7 of us to eat, it cost us for the 5 hens 900 dram. They were very tasty and I think much better than the full size chickens.
I asked the Mayor�s wife were she got the hens and she told me that the store down the street had them at 600 dram a kilo, but what we just ate was the last of what they had.
The Mayor called the chicken farm to see if I could stop by to pick up some hens and also chicken feet, which the Mayor�s wife and mother offered to pickle for me, so when I am hungry, I can snack on them.
I took the Mayor�s daughters and nephew with me and we went to the wine factory to get some vinegar for the pickling of the feet and then to the chicken farm, where I picked up 19.1 kilos of game hens and 5 kilos of feet. In all it cost me 11,050 dram (about $20).
I drove back to the Mayor�s house, where I dropped off the kids, 10 of the chickens for the Mayor and his family and the feet and vinegar for the wife and mother to pickle for me.
I then drove home and as I was taking the remaining 37 chickens into the house, I could not see where I was walking, since the boxes of chickens were quite large and I didn�t notice a small log that my dog had dragged from the woodpile and stepped on it and twisted my ankle. What was really strange was I felt something was going to happen to me less than a minute before it happened and instead of freezing in my tracks to see what the danger was, in my rush, I kept on moving.
I was not happy at all about this, as I had no ice in the freezer to preventing my foot from swelling and I had cleaning to do before the guests arrived.
I gathered myself and again, picked up the boxed of chickens and made my way into the house.
After putting most of the chickens in the freezer, I kept 3 of them out and wrapped my ankle with these chickens and boy were they cold. After 15 minutes, the chickens seemed to be thawing out and the swelling had gone down quite a bit. I took 2 Advil�s and am now laying in bed with my foot elevated.
I hope my guests are understanding and don�t mind ironing their own bed sheets, as I really can�t take the risk of being off my feet for even one day. I�ve just got too much going on right now.
I forgot to mention yesterday I had a couple of guest from California/Nevada pass threw town yesterday, one being one of the students from CSUN that was with the group that visited me last summer and the guy was her new husband. They invited me to lunch where we talked about what business one can do here that would be helpful to the investor and to the people working in that business. I hope it was interesting and informative for them. I hope that they can realize their dream of one day living and working here.
PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE SAYS ARTASHAT INCIDENT WAS A PRE-PLANNED ACTION
YEREVAN, February 4 (Noyan Tapan) - Around 50 drunk people armed with knives and steel rods made an assault on the RA presidential candidate Aram Karapetian's campaign manager, deputy chairman of the "Constitutional Right" Union, NA deputy Hayk Babukhanian and his companions in Artashat, the Ararat Region, at around 3:50pm on February 4. The incident occurred during a visit to the Ararat region staged as part of Aram Karapetian's electoral campaign. Hayk Barukhanian was rushed to hospital with a back injury. The doctors assure that the patient's life is out of danger. Mr. Babukhanian's driver sustained a head injury, another two of his companions incurred slight corporal injuries.
Mr. Babukhanian fired into the air out of self-defense during the clash, Aram Karapetian's Campaign Headquarters press secretary Artur Sahakian revealed to Noyan Tapan. The primary gunshot was shortly followed by another 2 or 3 shots, however it was impossible to locate the source of those shots due to the general turmoil. Those gathered, according to Sahakian, told the assailants belonged to the Campaign Hedquarters of the presidential candidate, President Robert Kocharian. The "Constitutional Right" Union chairman Hrant Khachatrian revealed in an interview with Radio Liberty that being originally from Artashat he recognized the attackers as "men" of Hovik Abrahamian, the minister in charge of local government and industial infrastructure affairs.
Aram Karapetian didn't rule out the possibility that both of the theories might be true to fact. He expressed his certitude that the incident was a pre-planned action, as "it is impossible for so many armed men to incidenatally gather at the same spot." Besides, they staged a particularly successful meetings prior to their visit to Artashat in other parts of the Ararat region and the people didn't harbor any foul mood, Mr. Karapetian stated. Everywhere they received a warm and cordial welcome.
Meanwhile, an investigation has been launched in connection with the case.
I don't know how many of you remember this incident, but when the smoke settled and the elections were over, I visited Artashat to see what happened that day and look into seeing who this Hovik Abrahamian is?
What I found was the people of Artashat believed that Hovik Abrahamian, AKA "Mook" (meaning "Mouse" in Armenian) was in fact the one who organized the men who ran the campaigners out of Artashat. They added that those that did the stabbing were compensated for their services by "Mouse" after Kocharian was elected, meaning they were not charged and are now doing well for themselves.
The people I spoke with went on to tell that "Mouse" has privatized most everything that is worth privatizing in Artashat, done everything he could to prevent the educated people who live in Artashat from working in government and in some cases even in their own private businesses, and has brought in his uneducated relatives and friends to hold almost every government post and control business and industry there.
I wont even bore you with Mook's house, which if you ask me, makes Vasken Sarkisian's father's house (this is a huge complex that you can see on the main road in the Ararat region) look like a small common house.
So why am I bringing this subject up now?
Well it seems that the Armenian government is considering a major overhaul of its policing structure that could lead to the creation of a single powerful ministry overseeing local governments and the national police.
You would think that such a structure would prevent people like "Mouse" from doing what they have been doing in the past, but from what I recently read, I fear that such a structure could make things even worse.
And why would such a structure be bad for us? Well guess who they are thinking about putting in charge of this new ministry? You guessed it, Hovik "The Mouse" Abrahamian, who is said to be the unofficial number two figure in Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's coalition government.
If the story "Armenian Government Mulls Major Police Overhaul" (click here for story and picture of "Mouse") that appeared on July 28, 2003 on RFE/RL is true, you really have to start to wonder who the Prime Minister is and if he's really qualified to run this country, as this is not the way one should run a country. First it's selling orphans to foreigners and now this. What will be next?