Sunday, June 10, 2007

...leaving on a jet plane!

One month!!

It seems like yesterday that Aline and I were discussing our interest in the project here in Armenia. To tell you the truth, this last minute trip ended up being one of the most memorable experiences of my life. A two week construction project turned into a month full of everlasting memories.

Erik and I plan on producing a small picture/video montage of our experiences here in Armenia.

Tonight is our last night here in Yerevan. In one month I've met so many amazing people, tried so many new things, and shared so many memorable times. I want to thanks all the people I met on this trip including:
Erik, Robert, Kelly, Aline, and Jannette from USC
Point Loma Nazarene University
Baylor University
The Lazarians
The Fermanians
The Yeseyan family (for allowing me to stay in their wonderful home)
Vrejuhi, our mom here in Yerevan.
Vartan, our driver in Karapagh
Kima and Gor from Shoushi for letting us stay in their home.
Badal and his family for making me feel at home in Armenia.
Our friends at Ani Plaza Hotel
Our amazing driver Azat.
Musha, for showing us how the locals do things.
and anyone else that I forgot and will probably remember later.... 8 hours into the flight.

I want to give a special thanks to my family and friends back home. You guys have been so supportive of me and I am forever thankful. Without your support and encouragement I would not be who I am now. Every time you come to Armenia you change. It may not show on the outside, but there is just a different feeling about the country after you leave. I cannot wait to return. The future of our country is strong and those who think otherwise should not call themselves Armenian. It is our duty as diasporans to contribute to the development of our homeland because without the support of those who believe in its future, there would be no "Hayastan".

I love you all.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Back in Yerevan

We just got back to Yerevan from our little Karabagh trip. It was one of the most amazing trip ever. I will try to upload the pictures and more info on our trip within the next couple days. Our flight to LA is on Monday so we have a lot of last minute things to do before we leave.

We had such an incredible experience in Karabagh and I can't wait to share what we did with everyone back home. Hopefully the pics and journals we plan to upload later can give at least a glimmer of what it was like there.

Also, Ryan Richards, a student and friend of ours from Baylor University who worked with us on the homes uploaded all the pics on his website. Go check it out here.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Karabagh, We're Here

Matt and I arrived in Stepanakert today. I'm not impressed by the city at all. I can't wait to get out of here and visit Shushi and other sites tomorrow. We met up with a friend of mine, Vrejuhui, who is working at a medical clinic in Stepanakert. I worked with Vrej in 2005 in a small village by Lake Sevan. We were renovating a grade school through the Land and Culture organization. Vrej is a qualified nurse from Canada who has had extensive experience working at clinics around the world. She's been in Palestine helping orphans there, had her hand once shot by an Israeli bullet, cared for Iraqi refugees along the Jordan-Iraqi border, and also spends a lot of time in health clinics around Armenia. So it was really nice to have the chance to see her again.

We went to a nearby place for tea and khmoreren. But before we left the hotel, we met a very nice girl named Arina who was looking for tourists to interview for a film she's working on. Arina is from Stepanakert, who is studying film and computer programming in Yerevan. She and her family left Stepanakert during the Karabagh war in the early 90's. They settled somewhere in Russia and lived there for 7 years. A little after the cease fire, they came back to Karabagh and are currently living in a small village in the north. She doesn't get to visit her family much now because she is busy with her studies in Yerevan and Stepanakert.

She is one of five people chosen to make a documentary film on the Karabagh war. Their objective is to document a group of families that have been affected by the war and to see how they live now. I'm not exactly sure how the interviewing of the tourists fits with the whole film but I guess I'll find that out tomorrow when she comes to interview us.

Tomorrow we plan to visit a lot of sites around Shushi and also figure out a way to get to Aghdam. This is one of a handful of cities under Azerbajani territory that was liberated by Armenian forces around '93-94. We hear they don't allow tourists and especially journalists to enter Aghdam because they fear pictures and video footage of the town from being published. I guess it was heavily damaged during the war and has had little to no improvement since then. Hopefully we'll get to go there and see some other interesting sites tomorrow. I'm excited and can't wait to begin our Karabagh adventure tomorrow. We'll keep you posted.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

....and then there were two

Hello all.

As Erik mentioned above, we are the only ones left here in Armenia. Sunday night / Monday morning we saw off the group from Point Loma University. Their flight was at 4 or 5 in the morning so we stayed up with them until 2am at the hostel until they left for the airport.

Our last day of work was last Friday.... the houses look great. I'm glad I extended my stay to see the finished product in person. The Saturday afternoon khorovadz ordeal was more complicated than me and erk expected. Preparation actually started the night before and involved going to the meat market (a real meat market) and marinading the meat at our apt. Musha, our friend we met on the housing project (who is also a local) was a pro. Without him we really couldn't pull it off.

Armenian Lesson No. 238: Every transaction involves raising your voice, insulting the person in some way, apologizing, insulting them again, offering some words of endearment, then completing the transaction with a smile. Musha displayed this well at the meat market as well as our driver, Azat, a the vegetable market, "Shuka".

Saturday night was our farewell dinner. We all went to a restaurant, Old Yerevan, to have a final meal together and enjoy the entertainment there.

We've been having some really random spurts of rain here and there in Yerevan. Other than that, the weather is quite nice.

Me and Erik were supposed to leave for Karapagh today but we decided to postpone our trip by one day so we can get everything organized. We decided to skip the 80.000 AMD tour and just do as the locals do. A van/bus ride over there costs about 5000 dram. Once we get to Stepanakert we can take taxis from there to wherever we want to go.

Plans for returning are as follows:

We leave Yerevan 11:25AM on Monday, June 11. Robert has the same flight as us going back to LAX so we will meet up with him at our short layover at London-Heathrow. We should arrive at LAX the same day at 6:35PM.

I miss everyone so much. The home-sickness is starting to kick in. Our departure from Mother Armenia will be bitter-sweet.

Monday, June 4, 2007

We're Finally Done!

Well, we completed work on both homes last Friday. Everything is done except the painting and installation of cabinets in the interior of the homes. We had khorovats at Lake Sevan on Saturday to celebrate. The lake was beautiful but we were the only ones there since this isn't the time yet for people to do khorovats there.

The Pointloma group and Robert Moore left Armenia early this morning. That leaves just Matt and myself in Yerevan now. Matt and I leave for Kharabagh tomorrow. We're going to ride in one of those vans that's usually packed with a ton of people. The drive there is about 8 hours, so we'll leave around 8am and get there around 4pm. We're excited but also anxious because we don't know what to expect. We'll update the blog as soon as we find internet there.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

More pics

We completed painting the exterior of the first house today. All we have left now is to install the drywalls and paint the second house and install the all the doors. That will all be done tomorrow, our last day. I'll have pictures of the completed homes soon after. We'll be going to lake Sevan on Saturday for lunch/picnic and to celebrate our completion before the Point Loma group depart on Monday. Matt and I will goto Karabagh on Tuesday. More on that later.

Enjoy these pics until the next update.

Working Photos

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Hye Everyone =)

Hello fellow bloggers, it's me, Matt again!

It's been a few days since we've updated anything so let me give you a taste of what's happening here in Yerevan.

First of all, if our girls from USC (that includes you too Kelly.... i mean Karine) are reading, we're glad you made it back, and we all miss you already. Kelly, I saw a sign for a pet shop a few minutes ago and thought of you. Shall we bring you a dog back?

For everyone else, as you just read, our three girls from USC left us Monday morning, the 28th. That same day Erik, Robert, and myself moved into Erik's flat by the Cascade. The area is beautiful, it's like the Beverly Hills section of Yerevan. The outside of the building is not that great like all the other buildings in Yerevan, but the inside is absolutely gorgeous--very modern.

Going back a little to Saturday night, Erik, Robert, and myself went to an amazing restaurant below the street called Mer Gyoogh (Our Vilalge). They had authentic Armenian food such as harisa and other good eats. There was live music that we didnt have to pay extra for too. I definately recommend it. Thanks to my sister, Christine, for the great tip!! Cheers!

Sunday night we spent with our girls because it was their last night in Yerevan. We were excited because they had nergileh there so we sat down for a few hours, had a smoke and talked about the past two weeks.

Moving forward to today, Tuesday, we went to Gyumri to see a few schools and a free medical clinic that Steve Lazarian has sponsored. The clinic was very clean and modern, everything was shipped over from the US. The kids at the schools were so sweet. One group even gave us a small performance that I got on tape.

The houses should be finished by the end of this week. We're trying to take as many pictures as possible and we'll be compiling a timeline when we return. I was originally supposed to return with the girls on Monday, but Erik did a good job of convincing me to stay here in Mother Armenia an extra 10 or so days so we could experience Artsakh/Karapakh together. We are currently looking into 3 to 4 day tours of the region. I'm excited.

Well it looks like we are leaving for dinner so we'll try to update you soon when we get the chance. I love everyone from home and miss you all.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Visual Timeline of our Work

I made a "picture timeline" of the work done thus far on the first house. The following three images are a glimpse of it, for the full thing go here. It's only taken about a week to get from foundation to where we are now!

Saturday, May 26, 2007


Ok so i finally had the time to actually sit down and write something....even tho i leave in like 2 days....its my first time in Armenia and I totally love it!!!...the people are awesome, the food is great, and Mt Ararat is beautiful.....Aline and i have a perfect view of it from our hotel room!...

Im so glad i came on this trip....not only was i able to help build 2 houses here....but i was also able o bond with 5 other awesome people!!! the expereinces that i had here, i would have never gotten anywhere else...

The highlights of this trip were : getting my hair blow dried for only $5!!!! shopping, shopping, and more shopping....visiting the beautiful churches....waking Aline up every morning bright and early at 7am :)....going out every night for food or coffee or just to hang out....having the sun set at 10pm!...and just being with people that i can relate to

Yesterday night was by far the best night was graduation for all the kids we went to the opera for a concert and when we came out there were thousands of people of all ages and parents and grandparents were all having an awesome time! we all joined in and had a blast!...there was a dj and live performances followed by fires on stage and fireworks...

oooooo the only thing that did kinda bother me on the trip was the random visits by my family to my hotel....i would just be walking out of the hotel to go eat with all of us...and they would be standing there waiting for not kewl!!!

Even tho this trip is coming to an end...even tho i dont want it to...i wanna thank Aline, Kelly, Erik, Robert and Matt for letting me experience Armenia to the fullest with them!

- Love Janette -

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Matt's Foam Video

I haven't been feeling too well the last two days so I decided not to go to work today and just rest. I got bored sitting around the hotel though, so I walked over to an internet cafe to upload the blog. We made a video last week and been meaning to upload it for some time. I finally managed to do it now. It's Matt trying to break scraps of foam with his head. This was done while we were on our break and we didn't stop work to do it! Enjoy.