Sunday, August 05, 2007 last

Ok, well let's see, it's now.. what is it? August 5th??? That makes it about 7 months since I have made a post. Let me run down a quick update of what I have been up to. First of all I want to apologize to a bunch of people for not keeping in touch: Eric B., Eric H., Justin L., Jeremy C., Jeremy C., Jennifer S., Onnik K., among many others. It's been a very busy year so far, and it's not even over yet.
So, let me give everyone that looks at this blog (is anyone still checking it???) a quick review of some of the highlights of these past 7 months.
  • Extending my service - I applied to extend my service back in January of this year. This means that instead of staying for 2 years which I originally signed up for, I will stay for a total of 3 years, or until September 2008. I did this for several reasons. Mainly because I have a lot of work to do here, and feel that 2 years have not been long enough to do all that I want to do. Honestly, I could probably be here for 10 years, and still be very busy. Also, I wanted to stay because I really enjoy it here and really love learning the language, the culture, meeting new people, and in general understanding this country that was for so long at odds with my own as a part of the Soviet Union. The more time I spend here, the more I notice that many things are very similar after you get over the cultural/language barrier.
  • Fish Farm Project - This is a project I am doing in one of the villages near Berd, Verin Karmir Aghbyur (Upper Red Spring). I am working with a great guy named Hunan Avetisian (Also the name of an Armenian hero of WW2 oddly enough) who came to me last year and expressed an interest in building a fish farm in the village. As of this writing we have received the necessary funds from the Peace Corps Partnership program and are acquiring materials in order to begin construction of the pools. My father and my Aunt were the main sponsors of this project. For this I am very thankful. This is one of the main reasons why I stayed for a third year.
  • Secondary Health Projects - In June? I believe, of this year I traveled to Yeghegnadzor, in the south of Armenia and helped with a Diabetes clinic in which I worked with several other volunteers to advise diabetics in that region about healthy living, and we also measured blood sugar and blood pressure levels and advised them on how to improve their health. I plan to work with another volunteer here in the Berd area to organize a similar clinic here in Berd with a local doctor at her NGO. In July of this year I also invited a volunteer from a different region of Armenia with experience in Physical Therapy to Berd to examine and advise a local boy with cerebal palsy. I hope it will help to improve his quality of life.
  • Computer Camp - This year I cooperated with an organization in Charentsavan which implemented computer camps for school children in grades 8-10 in various locations throughout Armenia. We had a total of 6? camps this year, including one in Berd. Each camp was 5 days in length and covered networking, hardware, web site development and general computer and Internet usage. Just this past week we finished the camp here in Berd and it was a great success, even though we did not have Internet during the camp. I plan on inviting the participants back soon when we have a reliable connection to show them basic usage.
Well, I guess that's about it for now. I also have another site which I have been updating more often which can be found here. I will be back in the US in September and hope to get in touch with many of my friends at that time.

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Me with a Donkey in Navur village

This is a picture of me trying to make friends with a donkey, taken in the summer of 2006, sometime in June I think. I'm the one on the right. ;-)

New Years/Christmas in Armenia

First of all I'd like to say to all my friends and family back home that I miss you all very much, especially this time of year since it's usually set aside to spend with friends and family. This is always the most difficult time of the year for me to be here.
That having been said the holidays here are very interesting because it's the biggest party of the year. All households in Armenia go through a lot of preparations for New Years and Christmas (Christmas being on January 6th here), cleaning their house as much as humanly possible and preparing all sorts of food to share with friends, family and their neighbors starting from New Year's day. The feast lasts for several days, depending on the traditions of the family. For instance, at my training village host family's house which I visited for New Year's 2006, they set up a very large table with seating for at least 8 people complete with dolma, blinchik, salads, fruit, vodka, wine, liquer and champagne. Dolma is made of ground beef and pork mixed with cooked rice and wrapped in cabbage leaves, and blinchik is ground beef wrapped in a small pancake similar to crepes, both very delicious. Many families even take out loans from the bank so that they can put on as impressive a feast as possible, as well as to buy gifts for family and friends. (Not entirely different from what we do in the states with many people paying off their credit card debt up until February or even later as a result of the holidays.) So New Year's here involves a lot of eating, a lot of drinking, and is always a fun time. I really enjoy it. Although I think I have probably gained 10 pounds in the time since January 1st of this year, certainly a good reason for me to start running again. :-)
It really is quite crazy at times though, with people staying up until 2am, 3am or even later on New Year's day, and then getting up early to entertain guests the next day. Armenia is known for it's hospitality, and it shows even more than usual at this time of the year.
Well, that's pretty much all I have to say at this point. Feel free to let me know of anything you would like me to talk about here, anything you are curious about, etc. Happy New Year to you all, and Tsavd Tanem(I carry your pain). :-)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Finally an update

Well, here it is November? I think my last update was in May? I don't even remember. I may have said before, but time here seems to go differently than it did in the States.
I have lots of news; so much I'm not sure where to start. My father got married recently, in October. He is very happy, and I am for him. Also, it's now getting very cold in Berd where I live, and I have some trouble heating my place, but I put plastic up on the windows, so hopefully I will be able to stay warm. Internet has come to Berd, with the use of a radio modem connection, I may even get a connection at my house soon. So, I will hopefully be able to keep you all better updated from now on.
Right now I am at an internet cafe in Yerevan, but unfortunately I don't feel so well. I will write more as soon as I can. Just wanted to get a quick update on the blog.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

A visitor to Berd

This post is a little late in coming, but I want to point out an important post on another blog which I try to make a point of keeping up on. It's run by a very successful British/Armenian journalist living here in Armenia. The post I mention can be found here. It was written by a very good friend of mine. Very few people come to Berd, so I want to point out one of the few (if any) written accounts of a visit to my site. It was written by an Armenian from Yerevan, the capital, which is very different from Berd.
The post includes a discussion in the comments section concerning the mission of the Peace Corps here in Armenia, with comments by Armenian citizens as well as former and current PCV's. Nessuna, thank you very much for your visit and post, and may peace be with you.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Wonder that is Armenia

Some very interesting things have been happening lately, so I thought I would make a blogpost. And since I have the chance to do I am.
I'd say the most interesting thing that happened this week was that I was interviewed by a reporter from "H1" one of the major TV stations here in Armenia. Her name is Maya, she is a host of the morning show called "Bari Luis Hayastan" or something like that. (For those of you who don't know Armenian, that means "Good Morning Armenia". ) Sounds similar to the morning show on CBS in the United States. I've never actually seen the show itself. The only things I see on TV here are the Brazilian Soap Operas. Which I hear are very good for learning Armenian, but I haven't used them for that, at least not yet. Excuse me, I think I'm rambling.
So, I did this interview with Maya the reporter which will from what I've been told be shown on this morning show sometime this week. What did we talk about? A few different things: My impressions of Armenia, what I have learned from Armenians, what I think of the language, the culture, what music I like, and.....oh yes, whether I will marry an Armenian or not. Hah, that's a good question. It better be good, I get asked it everytime I meet someone new in this country. So I told her, if I meet the right girl, who knows? I just might. If I meet the right girl, it doesn't matter if she's Armenian or not.
In other news, today on the bus to Yerevan there was a very interesting couple sitting in front of my counterpart and I. It was a guy and a girl, and they were hanging all over each other. This seemed very strange to me, since this is never seen in this country. I always thought it was shameful, but apparently it isn't. Maybe anyone else wouldn't be so surprised, but I sure was. Another interesting thing about them was that they both had cell phones!! Imagine that! Here I am, in Armenia, riding a bus that costs 2000 dram (approx. $4.30) and these two young people in front of me are looking at pictures, trading pictures, listening to music, and even taking photos of me, all with their camera!!! It's always a bit strange to me how staggered the development is in this country. Some people won't have jobs at all....others own hummers, cell phones, and vacation homes outside of Vanadzor. Some places have no cell phone coverage at all, and barely have a regular phone system, while others have wireless internet access points all over the city!!! I never cease to be amazed by this country.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006


(Insert Expletive here), I can't believe I haven't written anything since March 1st. Time flows differently here, and sometimes I feel that something that happened 3 months ago was yesterday, but other times it seems that time is slower than molasses in January.

Since this past Friday, I have been in Yerevan. Over the weekend, I spent some time with other PCVs, celebrating all the birthdays in March. It was a good time, and it's always nice to catch up with other volunteers who I've gotten to know since arriving in the country. This week I have been visiting different international organizations to find out how my organization and/or I can work with them. I feel it's been a very productive week in all, having met with two different organizations that work in Agriculture, as well as different opportunities available from the Peace Corps itself.

On a sad note, I've learned of a fellow volunteer that is being medically separated from the Peace Corps. He had to have an emergency operation here in Yerevan, and will not be able to continue to serve because of his condition. Richard, I wish you all the best in the future, and may the hair on your toes grow ever longer.

The one thing that stands out the most about this trip to Yerevan is the exhaustion. This may partially be my fault because I don't yet know the Marshutney system which could take me around the center of the city for only 100 dram. But also, I was speaking with a fellow volunteer who was saying that most likely this city is so tiring for us because when we are at our sites we have pretty much seen everything by now, and there isnt' much to look at, but Yerevan is a very busy city, with lots going on, and plenty to keep you busy. Whatever the reason is, I look forward to a good long sleep when I get back to Berd.

Even though Yerevan can be tiring, I must say I do enjoy being here. Not only to get away from site for a while and take a break, but also to catch up with friends here which I have made in Yerevan. And of course it is always nice to take a nice hot shower in which you dont' have to wash with one hand and pour with the other. And yes, for those who don't believe me, I do take a one-handed shower about every other day in Berd. We do have a bathouse there, but it can be hard to find time to go.

The Business Center that I work with has been quite busy lately, writing business plans and holding trainings in Accounting and Marketing among other things. However, we are always looking for ways to improve, and I hope that this trip to Yerevan will help to coordinate some new activities there. Also, my good friend and language tutor Svetlana has been trying to start a language center in Berd for the last two years, and is finally having a trial run consisting of a few courses which could lead to more classes in the future. She is working with another PCV, Warren, who is a TEFL (Teach English as a Foreign Language) volunteer who is also based in Berd. I wish them the best of luck, and hope that this turns out to be a valuable and sustainable activity.

I want to apologize to my readers who may have been looking forward to another picture taken here in Armenia, but unfortunately I am in Yerevan now without access to my pictures, and simply wanted to make another post to keep you all updated. I wish all my friends back home good health, luck, and happiness. (Which just so happens to be a pretty good toast in Armenian ;-) )

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

My Berd host family

This picture is of my host family in Berd, taken in July of last year. That was for my visit to Berd in which I got acquainted with who I would be working with, and living with. The woman at the back is Lusineh, my host sister. She is married and lives in Berd with her husband and son. The girl to her left is my host father's granddaughter, or my "host neice" if you will, her name is Anna. She is 15? I believe and studying English in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. She comes up to Berd in the summers and winters to visit her grandparents. The little boy in the front is Lusineh's son, who is 4 years old. His name is Vahey. The man in the front is Garikine, my host father. He is 71 I believe, and makes very good vodka and wine. Believe me, I know. And of course, that's me on the right. As you may notice, I'm wearing the same shirt that I was wearing in the first picture. This is not a coincidence. Anyone who wants to send me some more short sleeve dress shirts, feel free ;-) . I didn't bring many clothes with me, and honestly this is a good thing, since people here don't have a lot of clothes either and wearing the same thing everyday is normal.
As for where I'm from and what I do here, I don't want to give too much information away on this site since this is a public forum, but suffice it so say I come from upstate NY, near Syracuse, and here I work at an NGO and it's related business center helping them with IT projects, like teaching them new programs so they can offer new courses, as well as helping them acquire an internet connection in order to open an internet center. I also help them with written English, making it readable for English speakers. Finally, I help other volunteers with different projects in the community, English clubs and other software trainings. Needless to say I keep pretty busy. Peace ;-)