Saturday, January 31, 2004

I'm back and it's hard to say how I feel about being here. Being in Toronto for those two short weeks was a blast! Now I'm back in Armenia and my feelings are a little scattered (sort of like what Alex is going through). I'll give it a few weeks and see where I stand.

I came back to Armenia with 3 friends, so I think I'll wait 'till they leave to write some more.

Yallah, bye.
arthur and i have a tradition. we wake up to the armenian radio and dance armenian while still lying down... and sing along and have fun until we get out of bed to embrace the day.

this morning it happened to be one of my favorite dance hits that woke us up (go go go harout)... and it was nice to start the day this way, especially because it is so grey, cold and... today's weather is for lack of a better word... kakaish.

i will be taking a little time to get away in a few weeks. i figure that it it time to get out for just a week. as long as every six months i get out for a week and see something new or different in this world... it is enough to keep me passionate about life... about armenia and about the world we live in. travelling is my favorite pasttime.

i am getting made fun of quite frequently for my passion about taking care of the street dogs in yerevan. i don't really mind. there are a lot of people doing great things here... a lot of people are passionate about children, orphans, womens issues, refugees, and elderly... and not as many are concerned about the thousands of street dogs we have in yerevan... so if i have to be the freak... then i will be. sticks and stones will break dog's bones but words will never hurt me.

one of my best friends who is farther away than I can handle is getting serious with her significant other. i am sad that i am not with her... and i am sad that i am too far away to see her smiling about it.

on the flip side... in armenia... there is a wedding every five minutes on the weekend. all you have to do is go to church on any given saturday or even sunday to witness one. i am happy to have the chance to see so many young couples taking the plunge. being a newlywed... i can say it is a great thing to do ... when the person and the timing is right.
Yekh, today is quite grey and cold. I can hardly see the building across the street. I would just stay home, but I think I am going to have to go out there. Either at home or not, I have lots of things to get done. I have been trying to think of how to somehow permanently shorten my todo list, but it seems neverending, even with my personal assistant - who, I am really happy with if I haven't mentioned it before.

I am still heating my place with electricity by the way, the gas pipes they installed have still not been hooked up to the gas supply. I think that is what all that digging is about in the middle of the street. In any case, it looks like it won't be in time for this winter at all. Oh well, next year. Hopefully :-)

Ah, the Milkshake song is on MTV now, enough to bring a smile to any face!

I have been using Dreamweaver at work to do their website, vs. notepad/html at home for cilicia.com, and I must say I am tempted to switch over at home as well. It still has some things that bug me of course, but a world apart from the first generation of web design software. On the other hand, I am thinking of porting cilicia.com into php, a very versatile and dynamic language. But if I was to do that I would have to find someone to work on the site full time first - no way I would tackle it myself.

Friday, January 30, 2004

Woohoo, Alex's new cell phone is ringing....

OK, I finally got in touch with him. They are issuing new mobile phone numbers, which is great in that people who want one can get one again, but the problem is the network is already heavily overloaded and it is often very hard to dial out using a mobile, or get a call for the same reason. ArmenTel is definitely a disaster.

The week was quite a heavy one, but I am off now to a wine tasting, and believe me I will be tasting quite a few :-) I wanted to write more but I am both running late and forget what else I was going to say!

Thursday, January 29, 2004

I want you to know that I'm merely responding to marching orders from my fearless leader, Raffi, and am logging. I don't know why, but I've had a real difficult time in feeling inspired about Armenia the last few weeks. The latter part of 2003, I travelled quite a bit for work outside of Armenia, and then left for a break over the holidays. Since coming back, I've really had to put in a lot of effort in getting motivated about things. I'd like to chalk it up to winter doldrums, some kind of seasonal mood disorder, but (un)fortunately you can only use these conditions in the west to justify being down in the dumps; here people don't take these issues too seriously.

In all seriousness, it's been hard to conjure up any kind of excitement about being in Armenia, and I've discussed it with friends, and I think I'm at the two-year point, where I have to reflect on the last two years, and make some professional decisions for the next two, and that's putting a lot of things under the bright lights of scrutiny.

Part of the problem is that everytime I get out of Armenia, I see the possiblities of what Armenia could be--a country of law and order, functioning systems, and a healthy society. What Armenia is now is a country on its way to becoming one of law and order, a country that's taking a long, hard look at itself, and one that is trying to get some mental and physical exercise to get better, to improve its health. And this, my friends, is a long process, especially when one is socialized to expect instant gratification.

There are many positive things in Armenia--mostly aesthetics...but I'm looking real hard to find what's beneath the surface these days, to make sure that I don't get this urge to leave Armenia for a long time. My friends are great about reminding me about all that's wonderous about Armenia, and they're excellent about reminding me on the value of having good friends in one's life, and those are important right now.

OK, enough of philosophizing...

The winter has been mild--truly mild. In fact I missed the one big snow storm of the season, but I still don't think that it's "warm." I suppose you can take a person out of California, but you can't take California out of them.

The new session of parliament is opening next week. It should be exciting for all the political junkies out there. Check out the new parliament website at www.parliament.am, it's by far one of the most informative governmental sites in Armenia, and the English and Russian versions are coming along well.

Keep on keeping!

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Thank God for "Army Day" a new Holiday in Armenia. I have so much work to catch up on, some packing and shipping to do to my headquarters in the US as part of my closeout procedures. My new proposal is in, I now have to site back and wait.

The weather is incredible, since my arrival 3 years ago, this winter has been the mildest. The taxi driver told me yesterday that from Feb 15 the weather will get much warmer. The days are already getting longer I love it. More later.

Monday, January 26, 2004

we must do something about street dogs in yerevan. i know this is not a matter of importance for most people... and i know most people just look at them with disgust and ingore them... but something needs to be done.

yerevan needs a dog pound. if we can get the street dogs... off the street, sterilized and put into a shelter we will erradicate a huge problem. every civilized city has taken care of this problem. we have become too modern with too many establishments not to be able to handle this one problem... we need a dog shelter. if you have never been here or have not noticed... there are hundreds and thousands of street dogs... they travel in packs. when someone gets annoyed they call the city and tell on the dogs. that night they are shot to death. that is how we handle dogs here in yerevan. if anyone can help in anyway... please contact me, i am in the process of meeting with a few people... and perhaps together we can all make something happen.

well it seems like summer season is already heating up. i am not talking about the great weather we are having here in yerevan... i am talking about the emails from friends saying they are coming out for the summer... asking about renting apartments, asking for favors or just giving me dates of their arrival. i am very excited about upcoming visits but it is also nice now... when it is cold and when people do not visit armenia. this is the time when i get together with friends (i did this last night and we watched clueless) and this is the time when i really get to understand yerevan for all that it is. summer on the other hand, will be a blast.

i have been following the mars stuff (especially because arthur is a true space cadet and wakes up every morning with a different dream about space... and has a space music cd out, and often finds airplane pilots to ask them if they have ever seen anything weird in the friendly skies) and i am floored by how happy those astronauts are and how funny their press conferences are. i am also following the democrats and their attempt to pick and choose someone who will take on bush in 2004. it is interesting to watch it all from far away. sometimes you have to step away from the situation to see how funny it all looks. sometimes i feel like i am watching comedy central... at other times animal planet... but all in all... i am just watching the news... american style.

on an entirely different note, i am now eating narine, a type of yogurt which is supposed to be really good for you. i think it is yummy and plan to investigate what it is... and why it is good for you. i picked one up passing a pharmacy and found it to be soo yummy that i am attached... i will write more, when i get more information. hopefully this will end up being some kind of wonder yogurt. we'll see.

Sunday, January 25, 2004

This maybe quite premature, but since it is still light at 6:20, and it felt like the warmest day this year, and sunny, and most of the snow laying around has melted, it really felt like winter is wrapping down. Okh, I can't wait for spring. All week I was adjusting to the time again, so I was always sleepy and work was very hectic. The weekend though has been just great. Much of the days have been spent wandering around the city with friends, and bumping into friends. Last night was "Burns Supper", a kind of memory to a rather colorful Scottish poet. It was a really big and fancy affair, and after somehow being dragged into some Scottish dance which was pretty fun (they were teaching you as you dance - about a hundred people must have been up there) somehow (a few servings of beer, wine and whiskey maybe?) I ended up dancing way more than I normally would. It is apparently an international event, and thousands of people around the world were doing the same things to raise funds for local causes. In this case a baby incubator in Agarak (near Meghri) and a van for handicapped kids in Yerevan to get to school.

Now I am off to try Mr. Toaster on Koryun near Grand Candy - the newest joint in town. It is an American style submarine sandwich place, something new for Yerevan. Tomorrow, back to work, but it is only a 4 day week... Wednesday is Armenian Army Day!

Now, where are the other loggers?!?!

Friday, January 23, 2004

TGIF... it's been one of those weeks that you wish would end... and Thank God it's over.
This week, I was out after work almost every evening with different friends who have moved here from different parts of the world. It's refreshing to speak and hear people that share a common goal but have a different ways of reaching them. Some are here to work- others to study. Some to discover and others to develop. Most are here because they choose to and ALL are here because they are driven by the thought of making Armenia a better place. I am here with all these people and I feel proud to know each one... personally!
Tomorrow I will be joining friends for a "barahantes" (ball) organized by the British Council (I think). There will be bag pipes and celtic dancing.


Tuesday, January 20, 2004

People often ask me about jobs in Armenia, and volunteer opportunities, and I try to keep track and email them around. I have thought for years about creating a website especially to put people together with these opportunities. Well luckily, I waited so long that someone else did it already! I am quite happy as now I can just refer people to Career Center. So if you are thinking about coming here to do some work (paid or not) here is the perfect place to look.
the sun is shining... and has been for a few days now.

another family has repatriated and yet another has started a business here. this place is on the rise.

as for me, they came to my house last night with a video camera and advertising products. its a show that barges in on celebrity homes (my husband being the celebrity) and tries to catch them in their lounging outfits... with the dishes undone. well... my hair was an afro very similar to the jackson 5 (all of them at once), we were watching tv and considering turning off the phone so we would not be bothered... and BAM, ding dong... candid celebrity homes.

they went in my bathroom, in my kitchen cabinets, in my bedroom... they asked questions, made comments and filmed all the cracks in my walls. we were very nice and responsive... because in armenia... you show respect to your guests... even if they have a camera strapped to their shoulder and two hours of tape to fill with your dirty dishes.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Back safe and sound. The trip was delayed a day due to fog, and the return trip was delayed two days due to mechanical problems. I don't remember ever having my flight actually cancelled, but this time it happened both ways. Anyway, it was a good trip, with lots of people turning up for the presentions and meetings. For the town hall meetings, which were held in Philadelphia, New Jersey and New York City, we showed a video giving a general overview of where US aid was spent, and then a new video of business and investment in Armenia. Hopefully we got some people thinking. Then the Ambassador and Director of USAID/Armenia answered peoples questions about the US-Armenia relationship and anything else that came to their mind. This is probably the last such trip for these guys since they will both be replaced sometime this summer it looks like - but maybe they will manage one more trip to the SouthEast. You have probably heard that it was extremely cold on the East Coast last week, making me wish I was in Yerevan. When I got on the plane in NY it was -15C (27 below freezing for farenheit), without windchill.

London was a very nice change, and I walked around the city for about 5 miles, kind of randomly. From Leicester Square Metro (nice) to Camden Town, which was a really interesting mix of Venice Beach (stalls selling hemp products, t-shirts, loads of weirdos around), Jerusalem (narrow alleys, stalls, bricks) and a tiny bit of Venice (some water, boats, bridge). From there I cut west towards a big park and then straight south towards Piccadilly Square (by then it was night, and the plentiful pedestrian only streets in the area were packed with people on a Saturday night). I headed back by metro as well. It is true I went pretty far by metro, but the round trip ticket cost a whopping $11, after a 25% weekend discount. That would make for an expensive daily commute. I don't think I'll go into any more detail on the trip, except to say internet opportunities were remarkably scarce for those without laptops, and seeing (+making) friends was quite nice. Oh, I must say thanks to Shant in Philadelphia who made it possible for me to realize my greatest aspiration on this trip - eating a delicious, authentic Philly Cheesesteak Sandwich. Okh, it was good.

Urish? Yerevan seems as I left it. Some snow on the ground that is melting away very slowly. I am planning this years garden and planting some seeds already. Now that I have access to some land it will be great. BYW - If anyone wants to grow some sweet potatoes, I can share some with you. Also if anyone will be coming in Feb/March and wants to bring a small plant I want to mail order, let me know please!

Aside from that I seem to have lots to do and very litte time to do it. Friday I think I leave again for Budapest - again for work. So I have to be very productive before I go. I worry that I will never have the time to reprint Rediscovering Armenia.

Saturday, January 17, 2004

I am somewhere on Charing Cross Road in London - near a lot of the theatres I would guess, judging from all the ticket sales windows. This was a completely unplanned event... my connection was missed and I ended up with 2 days in London which I had not planned... I am making the most of it, since I have never been here, except maybe when I was 2yo. I will share notes about the trip to the US, and the crazy flight story when I return to Yerevan (Sunday night).

Friday, January 16, 2004

I have been quite lazy in writing. I actually have a log from a few days ago, I am still debating if I should post.
Anyhow, we are back, Back into the routine and the beautiful Canada-like weather. I am always happy when I see snow. I don't know if I will still like it in February, we'll see.
New Year's in Lebanon was nice... there was no snow.
I am working hard on a few things at work which are keeping me on my feet. The new LCO website is on line for those who'd like to check it out and tell me what they think.
OK, I have to say that the Hrabarag has to be my favorite part of Yerevan these days. They have lit up all the buildings. It looks AMAZING! I have been there every evening since I got back. The tree, the lights, the people, the atmosphere. It's just a nice feeling to see Armenia in that light.
Welcome back all who had gone for the holidays and goodbye to Rhoda who'll be leaving tomorrow. I know she'll be back. She'll be back more prepared with her PhD. Good luck Rhoda.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

My friend Nyree's family just recently moved to Armenia (more expats from Toronto). She came to Armenia for a few days to visit them as well as me of course. I decided to return with her to Toronto after a year and three months. I didn't tell my family I was going to visit, but they were thrilled to see me. My dad was practically crying while hugging me. The flight was a mess though and after 3 days of being here my luggage has not yet arrived.

I cannot lie it is great being back here. I was born in Toronto and I grew up here all my life. All the things I love about Canada I'm remembering now. The temperature is suicide though ... -30C and -40C winds. If I don't miss Armenia soon I'm going to scare myself.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

It's snowing rather heavily in Yerevan and they tell me it's because it's the old new year today. Even though everything looks pretty, I can't say at this stage that it feels good to be back. I'm sure I'll change my mind in a couple of days. I need to do some catching up at work and some serious thoughts on a new proposal since our contract ends on January 31, 2004.

On another note our Rhoda is leaving this Saturday to go back to school in England, don't know what to say.
It is Armenian new year. We woke up to snow. If that is not a good indication that 2004 will be brisk, clean and fun... I don't know what is.

Last night Arthur and my friend Teni splurged and got massages. I do not like to be massaged and so I opted to stay away from the Massage Party. Instead I splurged and ate ice cream, junk food and was glued to the tube.

I do not know if I have mentioned this but a Bulgarian Armenian has started a restaurant called City Bar and Grill. This is really a great place to eat. The food is great, the service is great and the people are nice. I do not know why it is not as busy as it should be so I thought that I would give their website a plug, www.city-restaurant.am , I also invite Harout there for dinner with us one night this week... because in a way, he has become our logging food critic :o) and we miss him.

Recently the Armenian Music Awards, Arthur's new movie, A game show we were in, and Arthur's two new music videos aired on TV. He is painfully modest. I would be star spangled at this point, taping myself and watching myself over and over... but Arthur, he takes it all in stride. I guess he is used to it. I myself am lobbying to make it into his new album. So far, no hope. Sometimes I get confused and think I am living an episode of I Love Lucy. My musician foreign husband with the accent, cultural differences, me... always wanting to cut into the entertainment industry... and of course my curls... they just need to be red and we are set.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

I am starting to feel the jet lag again. Getting here was delayed due to my original flight being cancelled due to fog. The second flight went off without a hitch, and I got to know some interesting folks on the way. It is just as cold here as it was in Yerevan, which is a bit of consolation for this Californian. Well, my brain is shutting down, so I think that's all...

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

It's a happy happy new year
2004 will be great
Republic Square is full of cheer
and everyone i know has gained some weight

A whole seven days of this year has passed
But celebrations continue
We have eaten, laughed, and to music danced
At nearly every venue

I see my friends with smiles on their face
And hope that 2004 wil be a healthy and happy year
To pick up their dreams and run at fast pace
And lets our remember what is most dear

Let Armenia prosper, let this country glow
Let this place be bright as the morning snow

For only in this country will our culture thrive and grow
For it is in this country where God his rainbow did show


Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Merry Armenian Christmas! Of course, it is not Armenian Christmas here, it is regular Christmas. Well we are solidly into 2004 now. It snowed yesterday, and is snowing lightly this morning. In all it is maybe half an inch (1.3cm?), but still enough to maintain a white blanket that was beginning to disappear from the first snow. Nothing too exciting to report. The second half of my time off flew by, and yesterday was a work day - although today again is a holidy. Yesterday I saw someone from the first Diaspora tour I met in San Francisco, who I had actually been trying to contact - unsuccessfully. Luckily I didn't take yesterday off, and he had my work number. He is part of a group that has computerized virtually every school in Karabakh already, and when that is finished will begin Armenia soon. I remember meeting him and had a request from Ashot, the dynamic painter in Sisian for some computers for the school he has there, and now can put them in touch properly. As Madlene has mentioned, not all such computer labs end up going to good use, but I know this one would. It is a great organization actually, that brings donated computers that still have a long life left, and sets them up in schools here on a super tight budget, with donated time. So in the longer run, that might turn out to be a good Christmas gift for the kids in Sisian.

So today I will be packing and preparing for my trip to the US. Yes, the Ambassador is doing another Diaspora tour - so I may get to meet some of you who live on the mid-Atlantic coast. I am going to be weighed down with a ton of videos and brochures, and I suspect it will still not be nearly enough, but I can only take so many. Because it will be winter there as well, I am not looking forward to that too much, but it will be interesting to compare the winters back to back like this. A friend from Boston was telling me that it is actually milder here, because although the temprature is about the same, the snowfall is much less, there is no wind, and no humidity. Ah yes, and I am looking forward to eating my first real Philly cheesesteak sandwich. I have had good ones, that I have been told are pretty authentic, but somehow it doesn't seem like the real thing unless you have it there. That is the one town that I have never been to that I am looking forward to seeing at all. Of course, with 2 days maximum stay per place, I won't be seeing a great deal.

Also, if you want to give me a Christmas gift, give me the gift of a link! :-) Seriously, because my site is named Cilicia, and not something with Armenia in it, I get penalized in search rankings, and a lot of sites that link to me just say "Cilicia.com", which tells people nothing. So write to people at other Armenian sites (and non-Armenian!) with "links" pages and ask them to add Cilicia.com to their links and give it a fair description... Pleaaaase!

Saturday, January 03, 2004

Beiruth is very beautiful!
I have been here for a week and was able to do lots more than I thought. Lara's family owns a lodge near the sea front, and guess who they gave an appartment to. The last day of 2003, the weather was SUPERB! I mean sunny and warm. 20*C. Very hot for New Year's. This was the first time that Santa came to our house when there was no snow outside.
I miss Armenia. I miss home. But don't get me wrong, I am having fun. Last night I went out Bar hoping with Sam. The night seen is one of the things I miss from Montreal.
This was also the first year that I spent Christmas and New Years away from my family. It was awkward. I miss them a lot.
Today we went into some caves and then visited a wax museum where the characters like Clinton were talking and moving. Clinton was saying " I didn't do it... I didn't touch Monika Lwinski." Now, I finaly have access to internet at Lara's cousin's house. Internet is VERY SLOW in Lebanon. I checked e-mail and logged. This will be the only time I do this here.
Hapy New Year all.
The last couple of days have been incredible. After a fantastic New Year’s Eve, my sister had a surprise birthday party for me on the rooftop of her apartment on the 27th floor. The view was of the city, the northern beaches and all the way to the Blue Mountains. After stuffing our faces in with the whole family including my cake, the family game me a birthday gift for 2 to climb the Harbour Bridge!! This was totally unexpected since each ticket costs $175 and before you say anything Raffi, the little Aussie battler is over 75 cents now and going up, good old Johnnie Howard.

I’ve also been to the beach the last couple of days, one cannot stay longer than 1 hour at a time, the sun is very strong here. I’m now off to a seafood BBQ at a friend’s now followed by a night club with my niece and her friends and my sister. Tomorrow another seafood BBQ at another friend’s for a get together from a friend up the coast Emily and her family.

The day before I leave I will do the bridge climb. After that I will go back to the place where I spent NYE and take day time pictures of the 7.5 million dollar views. Then a farewell dinner for me with my family and another nightclub with my niece.

I am running out of time and still have not seen half of the friends I was supposed to. I wanted to go to Canberra and to my favourite place on earth down the coast to Jervis Bay. Oh well there is always a next time.

Friday, January 02, 2004

A DAY IN PICTURES



I had an action packed day, in the countryside, and in the city. Here it is in pictures...


Garni Temple



Church in Garni Village



Geghard Ceiling - carved from solid mountain



Geghard passage - carved from solid mountain



Republic Square



The cat at the foot of the Cascades- with a Santa hat



A boy graffitis on the Cascades



What snow man? This is Armenia. I spotted this snow church on Baghramyan St.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

HAPPY NEW YEAR TO EVERYONE!

Diaspora logger Shooshig and I joined other expatriate loggers Nigol and Zabelle as well as Baron Haig (a 91 year old expatriate from Canada) and attended a couple of celebrations. We spent the countdown at an expatriate family's home along with many more expatriates from Canada, USA, Iran, Syria and Lebanon. It was funny watching the president give his annual speech before midnight, but midnight had already past by a few minutes.

I was supposed to head down to Dubai for New Year's Eve with my relatives, but I backed out a day before.

As soon as everyone I know found out about my cancellation, I received invitations after invitations to spend it with them. I kept telling everyone "New Year's Eve is just another day for me, I don't care much for the celebrations". (Actually, the "It's a new beginning" excuse is what I will never understand.) Neverthelss, I just love to see people happy for a change.

So news is that Atom Egoyan's Ararat film will be released in Turkey. Unfortunately my good friend Linda's scene where she is being raped, as well as my other friends who are set on fire while dancing, will be cut out because the Culture Minister of Turkey does not like it. Just imagine if Atom had included more of the brutal stories in the movie that we Armenians have all heard from our grandparents. The movie would be edited to nothing for the Turks.

Anyway, enough serious talk.

HAPPY NEW YEAR AGAIN TO EVERYONE!
May 2004 be a super progressive year in every aspect for our country.
Unrivalled. Spectacular fireworks for 1 million people on the streets of Sydney with no hitches. I had front row seat on the 44th floor of a penthouse with magnificent views of the whole city in front, in fact I was towering over the Harbour Bridge, best NYE yet!!!
Happy New Year / Sh'norhavor Nor Dari!!!! (almost) live from Yerevan - the Republic Square Celebrations....