Monday, August 28, 2006

Pictures!!!

OK, again there isn't too much that's coming to mind to write about, and since they say a picture is worth a thousand words, and I've been pretty good about posting photos regularly on my flickr page, I'll say go there and see some of the pics... http://www.flickr.com/photos/raffikojian/

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Akh Ararat Dagh

I tried uploading these yesterday but had some problems. I know photos of Mt. Ararat are as common as hot dog stands in New York City, but if you can believe, in the 12 years I have been coming and going, I have never caught Ararat on a clear day with camera in hand. So I present to you (drum roll please).......... my first decent photo of Ararat!!!!!!



It still knocks me off my feet every time, I'm not gonna pretend it doesn't. :) Of course I have to appologize to my sister for leaving out Poker Masis since this really was a nice photo in itself. She has taken on the cause of gaining attention for the little guy since he gets so neglected all the time... like in this photo. :)

And just another one for kicks, here's a photo of the Ghazanchetzotz Cathedral in my favorite corner of the world... Shushi:



It was a beautiful moonlit night. As I make time to edit my photos more, I'll try to keep sharing. I'm sure the winter time will allow for MUUUUCH more of this.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Back to Life, Back to Reality

The sister, brother in law and friends are gone, the interns are gone, a few other good friends are gone, and my roommate is coming back from the Middle East. Seems like I can move on with life on a sort of routine. I have been at work for 13 hours today. Exciting.

Seriously though, I feel like I'm back in focus, and there's plenty of work to do. Photo editing, office stuff, design projects, office stuff, clean the apartment, office stuff, It's 9:30 pm and I'm still in the office. I haven't had a day like this since long ago. Kinda feels good, but the caffeine kick earlier had me wiggin' out.

Yerevan is a bit more relaxing these days. All of the sudden once my group left, there was an eeeerie quiet. There's still tourists, but not so much hustle and bustle, not so much nightlife tashkhala. It's kinda nice. When my sister left, I had a hard time saying bye because it was the first time in a while that I got to be with her without outside stress... I remembered what it's like to have a real sister (I haven't lived near her in YEARS). We had an awesome time and it was nice to have that here. I remembered what it was like enjoying the company of family. The possibility of bringing her and her husband here, along with possibly others... it really is hard to not get my hopes up. It would be amazing to have family around. Well, time will tell.

I do have to say that regardless of the "things lacking" in Armenia, I still walk down the streets with an overwhelming sense of contentment in life. People are meant to be in certain places in the world and when they are not, they seem strange, out of place, conflicted with their surroundings. This was my problem in the US. When people ask me why I came here (diasporans), it's hard to convey that, but that is a major part of the reason. I may go crazy in Yerevan sometimes, I might struggle with the behaviors and social standards around me, but there is no perfect place in the world, just ones we relate to. For me, this is right. The details of reality are just life to be confronted anywhere in the world. People say after a few months, everyone deals with regret and depression over moving here. I think I already experienced that the first time around. I'm fine just where I am.

I do confess that my English has become a joke. Thank God I can still spit out a blog here and there. More photos coming soon... goooood stuff!

Gamats gamats

That's the answer to the question how am I these days. Nothing too exciting to report, but since it's been a while I thought I'd check in. I've been going out of town for work on a weekly basis, and it's been a hot, sticky, tiring process (the cars never have A/C). It is still very hot, but the wilting heatwave is over. There are loads and loads of visitors in town, and I don't know how many people I'm meeting who are planning to move here, but it's a lot.

I finally got out of town for fun this weekend, and it was a great time for sure. The temptation of a place in the coutryside once again grew on me - simply by breathing fresh, clean air, and having some peace and quiet. Overall, the center of Yerevan is a noisy, dusty place - the dust will be around till all this construction ends, which looks to take another 5 years at least. I have also been for some reason noticing cigarette smoke in my face a lot more these days, and it is becoming infuriating. I am really sick of the smell following me virtually everywhere - even on sidewalks as there always seems to be a guy smoking in front of me. The AUA Business Center cafeteria (on Alex Manoogian) is a nice respite I must say. Smoking is so ingrained here that even a cab driver would virtually never ask if you mind if you smoke. One almost had a heart attack when I told him not to smoke on a 1.5 hour drive. Four times he tried to smoke anyways.

Well I said there isn't too much to report, so that's it for now...

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Summer has come and passed... the world's still in chaos

Kojian, don’t hate. I’m back from hiding. Well, it’s been a loaded summer as usual. What’s new in Yerevan, right? Since my last posting, I’ve just been simply working and greeting visitors. My sister is now in town with her husband and 4 friends and finally I have had a chance to share this experience with someone in the family so that they understand the things I talk about when I call or email home. That’s a nice change of pace.

Otherwise, I’m melting. Yerevan has reached a scorching 47°C (about 116°F) this week and has averaged out to 42°C (108°F) according to my sources. Though I lack AC at home, I’ve been blessed with a Western standard AC office. ☺

There seems to be a “goodbye” party for people left and right these days. Lots of volunteers are leaving this month, lots of people in general are leaving. My interns start leaving tonight. However, where the void of new and old friends grows, Homenetmen apparently fills in. All 800 of them scattered throughout the city over the last couple days again, boy do they make their presence known. I had a lovely evening with a few of them from Toronto last night until 4am. I leave for Karabagh tomorrow where some have apparently branched off to book out Shushi Hotel leaving us to rough it in Nairi Hotel in Stepanaker… okay, not really roughing it, but I was really looking forward to Shushi Hotel.

On other fronts, I finally had a chance to catch a clip from the ANCA telethon at:

http://youtube.com/watch?v=yeMZfeq3ZS4&search=telethon

But just as incredible to watch is what one individual had the chance to say what was on so many of our minds. Watch George Calloway speak the truth about the Isreal invasion of Lebanon:

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=9071731896689197790

And last but not least, this chilling clip woke me up the other day as I started my day in my cozy office without being bombed…

http://electronicintifada.net/v2/article5407.shtml

Now, you all knew I couldn't post without a comment on this one... Terrorist plot foiled in London, eh? What perfect timing for the US/UK/Isreal to have such a situation come about when Isreal steps up their invasion of Lebanon. Listen, I was in Boston during September 11, I remember the first attempt, I understand the need to go after terrorism (though those who meet that definition these days seem skewed), but isn't this questionable to anyone else? My understanding is the plot was to blow up three aircrafts in the middle of their trip to the US over the Atlantic, which one reporter claimed to be so horrific. My question is this... does that sound right to you? It isn't mass destruction. It doesn't achieve anything other than killing people on 3 planes. That aside, they aren't even talking about the actual plot, rather than using this whole thing to talk about Al Qaeda and that they spread into Pakistan. Oh yeah, and just in case you forgot, all Muslims and Arabs are terrorists, so I guess it's really not such a bad thing for Isreal to bomb the ever living crap out of Lebanon, is it? They're all the same, right? Hezbollah, Al Qaeda, Islam... I'm sorry, the situation is getting so disgusting it's unbearable. A friend left for the US the other day with her money and feminine products in a clear plastic bag to take on a plane because you aren't allowed any carry-ons anymore. Look what we have come to!!!! If we stopped terrorizing the world, maybe they would stop being such a threat. Seriously I've had enough. I only hope the masses are able to see the truth through all the BS.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The Yerevan Screen Scene & The Restaurant With 3 Things To Eat

I am a big fan of the Yerevan Metro. It's safe, clean, fast and cool (literally; most certainly NOT figuratively). Of course, it only covers part of the city, so I'm fortunate in that I live near one. And, yes, one is disallowed from taking photos or video in there. The way I figure it, only Yerevan has a subway system, and it's this big state secret, vital to our national security, so I guess that's why. I'd heard that just about every capital in Europe, and all big cities in the Americas and Asia also have metros, but that's probably just a nasty rumour, started by some jealous Turk, am I right ? However - if I may emphasise this - when the famous "H.A.Y.Q." shot part of their famous "Kami Pchi" video in the metro, with cameras, to boot, I expect they had little obstacles to overcome. But that's another story...

Anyway, anyway, it has been a while now since the metro started to feature big, flat-panel screens at their stations. Not kidding. They're like the ones one would have as part of a mid-range home theatre system, and I say that because they're of some company called "Nash", of which I haven't really heard. They're just hanging around there, biding their time peacefully, two or three per station, one at each platform, plus another at the corridor, if necessary...

Until today.

Yes, sir, I actually saw a couple of them working at Yeritasardakan this morning, playing scenes from nature. Flowers. Trees. Breezy, light music to go with it. Very classy, and extremely out of place.

So, what is it with this screen fad ? I'd noticed the trend at two high-end supermarkets, where, again, random images would flash by. You'd see a cow grazing peacefully, and then you're supposed to go over to the butcher's section without a twinge in your heart ? "Yes, I'd like to purchase rumps from one of those darling pigs I just saw over on that fancy 'Nash' TV. Two please." :-P

Oh, and another one of those supermarkets would play this looong advertisement for... Aerolíneas Argentinas. Again, not kidding. It's sub-titled in English, and it's actually a very nice commercial, but, until we have a direct Buenos Aires-Yerevan flight, I really fail to see the point of being subjected to that...

Right...

Moving along... So, I get a tip-off (from none other than the blogmaster himself, Raffi K.) that there's a good khinkali joint in town. This is a Georgian kind of food, a meat dumpling, sort of like a large ravioli or manti. Anyway, I had the opportunity today to go and check it out with a couple of friends. So, in we go, down we are seated, and the guy comes over and says, "Whad'll ya have ?". Hmm... Something isn't quite right, here. There seems to be a step missing... Oh yeah, the menu! "Whaddaya have ?", says I. "Khinkali, mushroom soup and crêpes."


Hmm...


Khinkali, mushroom soup and crêpes.

Is that all ? That is indeed all. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we have a highly specialised restaurant in the centre of town, that offers less items on its menu than the letters in the word "menu"... Quite frankly, they had two kinds of khinkali, and three kinds of crêpes, so, perhaps, technically, they can go beyond three. Oh, and there were drinks, too, of course. And sour cream.

Plus - and here's where it gets even more intriguing - besides the box of tissues and the ash tray, each table featured a little bowl of croutons and one of chickpeas. Again - NOT kidding. :-) The croutons are understandable. After all, they go along with one-third of what's on the menu, and so, chances are, one out of every three customers might order it, and there are four chairs to a table. So, by the laws of probability, the croutons are okay. The chickpeas, however, escape me.

The khinkalis were tasty, though, and not too expensive, so, at the end of the day, I'm not complaining. On my way back home, however, the screens at the metro were off once again. Dark as night, awaiting the dawn of a new Yerevan day...

Women of Easy Virtue....

I found this article quite humorous - the choice of words is hilarious, and even the typos are classic (low-enforcement rather than law-enforcement).

MORE THAN 1000 WOMEN OF EASY VIRTUE REGISTERED ON BOOKS OF RA POLICE

YEREVAN, August 8. /ARKA/. Vice-Chief of the RA Police Hovhannes Unanyan told journalists that 1050 women of easy virtue are on the books of the RA Police.

“Sixty of them turned to be ill with different venereal diseases”, he emphasized.
Unanyan said that low-enforcement agencies have some difficulties in struggle against representatives of the oldest profession; the most important of them is the imperfection of the legislative framework regulating system of penalties and punishments.

“The RA legislation envisages AMD 500-1000 fine for prostitution and for the second arrest – AMD 2000”, he said.

As one of methods of extermination of prostitution, Unanyan mentioned increasing the amount of the fine up to AMD 5000. He said the RA Police was already working out a corresponding proposal to the legislative body of the republic.

Investigations show that the overwhelming majority of love priestesses come to the capital from regions of Armenia.

According to data of international and Armenian NGO’s there are about 8000 prostitutes in Armenia. S.P.--0—

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Armenia...

Okay - Raffi's post has affected me. I will try and be a better blogger...

Yesterday we had a kef with some of the other bloggers and it was nice to meet those whose stories I've been reading for years now. And then Armen and I went to see Pirates of the Caribbean II at Kino Yerevan. Strangely I enjoyed the movie. Why strangely, you ask? Well because I don't speak Russian and it was completely dubbed. The movie theater is much nicer than I remember but movie goers are still super obnoxious with their cell phones (people actually carry out 5 minute conversations and don't even bother whispering). Does this happen in the US??

And has anyone noticed what is happening to the dram? I actually saw 395 dram when I was walking to work this morning. Each day the currency will strengthen by a few drams... that can't be normal. There's a lot of speculation and in a recent press conference an economic analyst said that the U.S. Dollar is depreciating due to artificial means. A newspaper cited him as saying “This is a common robbery” and that the depreciation of the Dollar is connected with the "appetite" of men who are preparing for the elections.

Finally - with the opening of Mango and Benetton this past year many wealthy Armenians are investing in franchising actual clothing stores. Terranova and Stefanel - both Italian - will open their doors in Armenia sometime this year and are building HUGE stores on Abovian and Nalbandian. I'm sure Raffi will blog pictures for you all.

All for now. Oh - last issue... has anyone else noticed how close Armenia's buildings are being constructed to each other? Next to my building there are two buildings built close enough so that there is only room for a car, if that... that can't be safe.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Living off-the-grid

Well not quite off-the-grid, but all of Armenia was without internet for most of the weekend. From 2pm on Friday when it disappeared, to basically Monday morning. It started to come back on Sunday afternoon, meaning you could sloooooowly connect to certain pages, download a couple of emails, but it was really not worth the effort.

The weekend was a scorcher... you just had to get out of town (which is what most ppl did), or stay out from under the sun - which is what I tried to do. Saturday the city was overrun by the scouts, they were everywhere!

The other bloggers have been quiet for a while now... maybe they'll have a reason to blog tomorrow? ;-)

Friday, August 04, 2006

Noah's Arc replica in Armenia?

I'll believe it when I see it, but it is a great idea...

http://www.panorama.am/uploads/7190/e.asp

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Getting a job in Armenia...

I get asked about jobs in Armenia - something I don't follow, I just randomly sometimes hear of jobs. However I have created a good list of online resources to go to in order to find most of the job listings. If you are interested in getting a good expat job (or any job at all) in Armenia, it is a difficult endeavor. The number of good jobs is small, so matching up a good job to the skills you have and the requirements they have can be quite difficult. Most of the jobs are funded by USAID in one way or another, and are therefore easier to get by Americans than by others. There have been a number of cases also where Diasporans are turned away for their ethnicity - as if there can be some clash of loyalty when it comes to spending US money on helping Armenia. That practice seems to have subsided (as my stint at USAID itself, where I was also joined by other Armenians from the US, illustrates). But in general, there is a "development" crowd, a pack of consultants that know each other, and go from country to country doing the same things... this makes it harder to break into the market.

So now, after much discouragement, here is a tool for those of you interested in this sort of thing. I've got a list of job sites on Armeniapedia. Go to the list, and start looking at the job postings. For the fancy USAID funded jobs, go to DevNetJobs, they have a free mailing list (if you ignore all the for money lists) which is supposed to be quite handy for this sort of thing. And as a final encouragement, if in doubt, APPLY! You never know who else is applying and what on your resume will appeal to the selection committees!