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.

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