Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Cafesjian Museum of Modern Art

This evening was the groundbreaking for a huge new art museum in Armenia, at the top of the Cascade steps. The museum will house a cool and ecclectic collection of art from around the world - including some of the best glass art around. Here are a couple of the statues that were unveiled this evening.

The first one (by Botero) is probably going to cause the most excitement, since this "Gladiator" has his bulbulag showing :-)



The next two I am posting are of rabbits. The lone rabbit spins on it's base which is cool, but I think I like the other one best... I forget who was the sculptor of these.



There were a few other unveilings, but these were my favorites.

Madlene did a great job organizing this huge event, which was attended by Cafesjian, Kocharian, Oskanian, Demirchian, Ambassadors, a US Senator and many others...

Monday, May 30, 2005

HOT!

Vay, mama jan, it has gotten rather toasty. Despite a quick rain once in a while, it is mostly clear skies and... hot. Last night it was light out till almost 10pm, it was perfect cafe weather. Of course, the number of tourists/visitors is mushrooming day by day as well.

I was in Karabakh last week when the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline was opened. It was strange to be there and see the footage on TV there. The years have flown by, I must say. I really thought a peace deal would be reached by the time oil began to flow. I also assumed that Armenians would make it as hard for oil to flow out of Baku, as Azeris have made it hard for natural gas and everything else to flow to Armenia. Either Armenians are just nicer than the Azeris, or the security on the pipe is much more serious. Either way, the amount of cash that will flow into Azerbaijan is mind boggling. It is also almost humorous to hear Azerbaijan whining about the smaller aid package it gets from the USA and Section 907 when they have so many billions of dollars in oil. Anyway, despite the fact that the amount of money available to them for arms purposes has mushroomed, I also hope that same money flow convinces them that risking it in battle is the last thing they want to do.

Friday, May 27, 2005

On the road again...

Got back from a looong road trip last night. It was great to be back out in the countryside, and it's great to be back in the comfort of home again. We went to all kinds of places off the beaten track (read terrible roads, or no roads at all), including a few places I had only been to once, many years ago. We never got our hands on a 4x4, so we had to pass on the Kelbajar leg of the trip, unfortunately. This greatly increased the distance we had to travel, mostly backtracking.

The countryside was green everywhere, and the visibility was often perfect, with views of Ararat from as far as the gates of Zangezur. The weather was also excellent, with little rain - which had been my #1 concern. The camping at Satanayi Kamurj was ideal (well, except for all the litter).

I must say I had really forgotten how much I like Karabakh, and Stepanakert. Such a pleasure to be there, so nice and clean, such nice people, so green, so much potential. The number of projects in Shushi was amazing. There seem to be a million projects going to turn it into a center for art and culture. A huge new hotel is nearing completion. Some of the terrible roads are being repaired.... if a bit more effort was focused on jobs, I think we'd have something there...

Unfortunately couldn't see any new stuff, since this trip was all about highlights for my sister's visit, but it was the long needed trip into the countryside. She's off tomorrow on the BA flight, at the humane hour of 9:50am. Why can't all the flights be at that time??

Thursday, May 26, 2005

the best restaurant in Armenia?

Phoenicia... gotta love them. Located in the lovely Cascade Park, this restaurant is one of the few upper scale (yes meaning expensive) restaurants here in Armenia. I've been there a few times and just recently decided to dine there with a friend one evening. It started out amazingly - the service, the atmostphere, the everything. As we looked over the menu we both made up our minds. I had opted for a salad and chicken dish while my friend decided on the Filet Mignon and wine.

I can't complain too much about my meal. It was good - though I can't say worth every penny. My friend's meal, however, was a total disaster. The filet mignon (ordered medium) they brought out was not the most tender piece of beef out there and it was way over cooked. (The potatoes were good though!). We sent back the dish and though he offered to make us a new one, we said no. The wine (costing 3250 dram/glass for a bottle that costs less than in it's entirety) was good. No complaints there... until we saw a FLY swimming around. So we sent that back.

At the end of the meal... no apologies, no nothing. I would have walked out okay without an apology. But when we saw that they had included both the wine and the meal on the bill... well let's just say I won't be visiting them again any time soon.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Boo!

No, you are not seeing a ghost. It in fact is me writing... again.

I just spent the past week in Marbella, Spain with my parents and it was an amazing experience. For five entire days I slept, sat under the sun, and ate. Now some might find that to be the most boring experience ever, but it was just what I needed.

My flight back to Armenia was quite interesting. I flew through London and had to switch from Gatwick to Heathrow. I had forgotten how beautiful London can be. The flight from London -Yerevan was PACKED. Literally, there was not one seat available. I've heard that BA is actually opening up three additional flights for a total of six per week. When we landed in Armenia it was truly funny to watch the flight attendants try and man the Armenians who often refuse to adhere to the "fasten seat belt" rule. After a standing ovation (somewhat of an exaggeration) all the Armenians decided to stand up and run after their baggage. Too bad it took another 20 minutes to get the doors open.

After arriving, I went to the baggage claim to pick up my one "chamadan". (This after boasting to some new diasporans about how amazing Armenia's airport services had become). Well what do you know Arina's baggage did not come through. I stayed for one WHOLE hour and a half and in the end my army green bag did not come through. Of course I freak out (I also did some shopping in Spain) and talk to BA who says maybe my luggage went to Tashkent. I then call today and they tell me I did not see my baggage and it had been there the WHOLE time. I have no further explanation....

The summer is going by so quickly. So many foreigners and locals crowd the cafes and the streets. The city is super lively and it's great to be here. I specifically have a few friends in town and a few weeks ago we had a nice evening out at a lounge here in Yerevan. We met one of the "wealthier" Armenians from Yerevan who had an interesting outlook on the future of Armenia. He (who also happens to be high in the government surprise surprise) predicts that Armenia will begin seeing drastic improvements in six months and that the next president will be Levon Ter Petrosyan. My impression that LTP could not be pres again, but then again I don't know what he knows... time will tell!

My final story of the day - about a month ago I went to a lecture on the new (to be adopted) labor code. In discussing the new law on vacations, Armenians will not be guaranteed 24 working days of vacation (28 calendar days). However, the new labor code does not allow them to take a few days at a time, but instead forces them to take a minimum of 14 days each time (meaning an Armenian can either take 14 days twice or the entire 28 days in one go). The moderator is asked... "well what if someone wants to take one or two days off?". Response - "who would want to take just one or two days off. When you take a vacation it should be a minimum of two weeks". It will be funny, yet sad, if they set this rule in stone.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Lori

The good thing about visiting Armenia in May is it is at it's most beautiful (in my opinion). Lush green, flowers, blue skies then clouds... the bad thing is that it can rain and the fruits are not ripe yet.

Lori was a great three days, with a lot of... what else? Monasteries. Drove to a bunch and hiked to a bunch. Stayed at a dive one night and a luxury hotel the next...

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Spring color...

About a year ago, Madlene made fun of my garden as being rather pathetic. I had just planted a bunch of perrenials, which I had sprouted from seed, or planted bare root plants... but I had a vision of what they'd look like. As you can see, they are filling in quite nicely :-) Most of the color comes from the columbines. I am also quite excited to see some of the Boston Ivy seeds I collected in Croatia last year have sprouted. There are a lot of buildings in this country that could stand to be covered in that vine - they'll go from ugly to picturesque in no time at all! If anyone wants some, let me know.

Meanwhile, the internet and cell phones were not working well at all for me today. Could I dislike ArmenTel any more than I already do? Can they disappoint more than they already have? Will the government ever care about the welfare of the people?

I spent a lot of time this week on Rediscovering Armenia. Getting it printed is taking a lot longer than I'd hoped. Plus I am preparing for my sisters first visit to Armenia. She arrives this weekend and I'm giving her the royal tour. It's going to be great! I haven't had a chance to do an Armenia trip like this in so long... I just hope it's not too rainy, but either way it will be quite green...

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Come oooon Arsineh's magic powers...

Woohooo! I'm sitting here reading these posts about System of a Down, and wishing I could hear their new album, and whaddaya know? Their new song B.Y.O.B. (bring your own bomb) comes in on EuroMTVs top 10 countdown at number 7. And I like it :-) "Why do they always send in the poor" to war, indeed? I thought one of the best scenes in Fahrenheit 9/11 was when Moore tried to get congressmen in D.C. to actually send their own kids to Iraq.

Oh, and can I say, these guys really need to stick Yerevan on their tour!!! (what the hell, wishing out loud worked for Arsineh - maybe they'll play here next Tuesday - I already got the video when I wished I could hear them :-)
-So SOAD performs on Saturday Night Live, and one of the few censored "F" words accidentally didn't get censored, and now all sorts of papers in the US are writing about this tragedy. Typical American.

-Bush is in Georgia, and some girl is holding up a sign that reads, "Only Bush can save Georgia." GIVE ME A BREAK!

-My dad arrived here on Sunday. Today we were out for a walk, and one of the first things he said, “Are all these guys mourning?” “Do they wear anything other than black?” LOL!

Monday, May 09, 2005

Happy Victory Day...

Friday, May 06, 2005

Karun Karun Karun e...

In the ongoing debate over whether it is more beautiful in Armenia in the Spring or in the Fall, I have to vote for spring. There are some nice displays of leaves changing and great weather and lots of good fruit in the fall, but for me, the green grasses, fresh leaves, and loads of wildflowers outweigh all that in favor of Spring. This wild Iris I saw yesterday is a perfect example. It was during this ongoing hunt for a bit of land, which is a difficult thing to search for, since so few places are actually listed with brokers. People almost prefer to rely on word of mouth.

I saw a place yesterday in the paper and called the guy, since there was no price. It is absolutely ridiculous how many places listed for sale in the paper do not have a price. So I asked yesterday finally what the reason was. As usual, that illogical explanation boggled my mind. According to the "logic", if you put a price in the paper, it is not accurate if you are willing to come down a few thousand dollars, so why put a price at all? And also, if you are willing to come down on your price, and someone sees the price you put in the paper, and assumes you won't come down on price, then they'll never call. Huh? It is also hard to get other exact details, such as how far from a good road, etc. So many people seem to feel like buyers have all the time in the world to just call every ad that sounds half-way interesting to find out the price, and even when you call they are very reluctant to tell you price, instead trying to get you to "just look at the land", then talk. Does this tactic actually work?? I just don't get it. I told him it was just ridiculous not to put the price, and that I rarely ever even bother call a number to find out the price. I assume if you don't put the price, you're asking too much.

On Tuesday, this old guy driving the truck I was in asked if I minded if he smokes. I said yes. He had quite the tizzy fit, it was actually somewhat amusing. He said he was tired, stressed, needed a cigarette. He also informed me that a girl passenger last week didn't mind that he smoked. I asked why he bothered ask if I minded if he was going to act that way if I did... then I said smoking is poisonous, and asked why this country had embraced this poison so thoroughly. He of course has to (as if I didn't know) inform me that it comes from "my country". So I asked, of all the good things they could have adopted - which they haven't, why did they choose this one...? In the end he said he was going to keep a cigarette in his mouth without lighting it to make himself feel better.

Anyway, today is the official ribbon cutting for the new US Embassy. I'm going to head over for some paperwork in the morning, then maybe stick around for that...

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Cinco de Mayo

Yesterday was my last day of work - I'm independent :-) I must say the timing is quite perfect, what with the weather in Spring here being so great, and it being a perfect time to do some serious travel and exploration. My sister comes in 10 days on her first trip to Armenia, so it will be cool to show her around the country. Then some more explorations in the region, which I have neglected to some extent, and some more efforts on my own projects. A reprint of the Rediscovering Armenia Guidebook should be out this month, I'll be starting a new apartment renovation once I get some paperwork approved (which is really not a fun process), a couple of little projects, and then some more effort on my favorite new baby, Armeniapedia.org...

Armeniapedia.org is my new website, which is in a really cool new "wiki" format, which means that anyone can click on an "edit" tab on almost every page, and edit the page, as well as add new pages and pictures. This means that anyone in the world can contribute to the website - and yes, anyone in the world can vandalize it too. (I review all the changes and can reverse any vandalism with one click). It has already become a massive site, with about 1,500 articles, including almost all of the content from Cilicia.com. It's quite easy to get the hang of adding/editing, so I recommend you give it a shot. Working on it can become addictive, it's so easy. There are others doing some good work on it already, and I hope that as others discover it, they will begin to contribute their knowlege, research new additions, etc. The name, Armeniapedia is a combination of Armenia (obviously), and Encyclopedia, since that is the closest resource it resembles. If you want to give editing/adding an article a shot, why don't you write an article on the subject you are the world's foremost expert on - yourself. There is a page with a list of any and all Armenians in the world. Add your name to the list, save the list, and when the page reloads your name will be in red. Click on it, and the new page will allow you to type whatever you like about yourself. You can also upload a small picture. And of course, tell your friends about the site!!

Cilicia will have a facelift, as much of the old content is permanently moved to Armeniapedia. I have just added free classifieds and personals to Cilicia.com, as I am changing the focus of this site to an interactive meeting place. Blogs, chat, message boards, personals... Then I'll also give a facelift to my third Armenian site. Phew!

Anyway, it feels good to finish my (2 year) contract, which I decided not to extend, since I will finally will have a lot more free time - something I've missed. It's funny that USAID moved to the new US Embassy on Tuesday, and yesterday was my last day there. Perfect timing, considering one of the things that's so great about Yerevan is I can walk everywhere. The new embassy is not in the center, unfortunately. It is a pretty standard American office building on the outside, but the inside, which has a big atrium is done quite nicely, with a lot of good art, American and Armenian. The big opening ceremony will be tomorrow. And no, it is NOT the biggest embassy in the world. Not by a long shot. It is the biggest piece of LAND for an American Embassy. Not building. Big difference.
I followed a System of a Down ad link in my email account, and eventually got to the Yahoo! Shopping page for buying the upcoming album.

There were a bunch of reviews, so I was checking them out. I found this amusing one...

Pros: Mezmerize
Cons: .

This album.. very very good music... Hard, fear, dark,
angry... I'm Turk, but I love System of a Down...



So I'm sure most of you guys know how much I like to talk about the lack of customer service in Armenia...

I dropped by Giordano clothing store with my aunt a couple of days ago. She wanted to buy a pair of pants she had seen earlier. So she tried them on, came out of the dressing room, and stood in front of the mirror. The pants looked great, but they were too long on her. So usually, in a country where employees know what customer service is all about, employees dive to the ground, turn the bottom of those pants inside, and usually pin them up so you could see how great they look on you. But of course ... not in Armenia.

There were 2 girls (employees) standing there staring at my aunt from a few meters away. My aunt asked them in Armenian, “Could one of you guys help me turn inside the bottom of my pants so I can see how it will look?”. One girl kept quiet (as if she was mute), the other one simply said, "No, I can’t." HUH? So I got down on the ground and turned the bottom of her pants inside. The girls stared at me cause men do not usually do this sort of thing in Armenia. So my aunt asked them for pins, and they said they didn’t have any, so I made a comment, “I guess next time I’ll bring some with me."

SHEESH!

Off topic, a few months ago I had my skates shipped here from Canada. Everyone who saw them at my place kept asking, "So where the heck are you going to skate?". A couple of days ago the mayor announced that they will be spending a lot of money this year to transform the Swan Lake pond by the Opera into a skating rink in the winters. HAHA! Question is, who do I skate with? I'm guessing they will have rentals. (I’m going to sound too Canadian if I hope for hot chocolate too, ay?)

Sunday, May 01, 2005

burning horse

This metal horse, by Ara Alekian, stood in front of the lake by Poplavok for the past few years. It has been purchased, and will be moved, so they covered it in newspaper and lit it on fire tonight. Everyone loves a good fire... so anyway, here's a picture of the horse's head, and one of it burning...