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.

It's me!!

Hey everyone. I FINALLY found time to update this blog (Thanks Kelly for leaving your laptop in my room).

Believe it or not, it's something like day 11 of our trip and I just unpacked my suitcase. Today, the developer, George, gave most people the day off for some much needed rest. It's getting harder every day to wake up early and get to the site. Robert and Erik still went to work today (aren't they awesome?) and Kelly and Janette went shopping (again) with Mariana, a really sweet girl we met here through work. I think Matt went with them also.

I stayed behind at the hotel to clean up our room, unpack, get some more rest (I need my rest) and go to the worksite a little later. Barouir's dad, Mr. Yeretsian, will be coming by the site to check out the construction, and will then take us on a tour of the American University of Armenia (AUA). We'll be going with Point Loma and Baylor Univ. students.

I do have one complaint: My wonderful travelmates whom I love dearly, are all crazy. Even when we don't have to get up early for work, they wake up at 7 and start talking on the phone (very loudly). Then they start jumping on my bed trying to wake me up. So unnecessary....

On another note, I love Janette, Kelly, Robert, Matt, and Erik. It's been a great trip so far, and I think each of us has gained a lot from it in different ways. I wish I could stay another week with Erik, Robert, and Matt, but I am already starting my internship a week late and have to be there on Tuesday morning for my first day of work.

We've been learning a lot about ARDA's humanitarian projects in Armenia (the organization that has taken on this housing construction project) and have had a chance to see for ourselves the work ARDA has done for the people of Armenia. The leaders of ARDA, Steve and Stan Lazarian are two amazing men and I'm very happy that I've had the chance to meet them and spend time with them. The other day, the entire group (Point Loma, Baylor, USC, and leaders) went to visit a church in a nearby village where ARDA supports music classes for local kids. After that, everyone went to dinner except for me and Dena, a PLNU student. We went with Stan to visit a youth group and karate club that is led by a former Armenia karate champion. He holds the youth group and classes in his home, and Stan supports these activities financially. On other days, we also got to visit 2 kindergartens that are supported by ARDA.

These experiences were the highlight of my trip, because I got to see more closely how the Armenian people live their day-to-day lives in various villages throughout the country. It is my third time in Armenia, and I have seen the monuments and main sites of Armenia 3 times now. But traveling the cillages and visiting different people and schools was new to me, and something that I am very happy to have experienced.

I'm very happy to have had the chance to meet and work with the Lazarians, and am inspired by their work in improving the lives of the people here in Armenia.

I have to head to the construction site now to meet with Mr. Yeretsian. I will try to update the blog again if I find time, even though I will be leaving in two days with Kelly and Janette.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Yerevan Rotary Club

Today after work we went to a meeting of Yerevan's Rotary Club. I didn't even know Yerevan has it's own Rotary Club! Steve Lazarian and George Fermanian (the organizers of our trip and the housing project) gave a presentation to the club on the housing project and what we aim to do after it's done. The club had a small group of individuals who were skeptical but the majority seemed optimistic of what the project aims to do and the potential it carries.

Yesterday we went to dinner at a place called City Diner. It's an American theme restaurant and its owner is an Armenian from La Canada. She moved here to start this restaurant. It has only been open for about three weeks but business seems good already. It's so cool meeting people like her who have moved here from the states and other parts of the world to do business.

We're heading out now to celebrate our friend Andre's birthday. He's a really cool guy who knows a lot about construction and his only turning 18 today! New pictures coming soon.

See ya.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

My turn :)


My name is Kelly Moore, the younger of the two and I am updateing for Erik lol

Well the trip has been amazing so far and I really really love Armenia.

We get really tired because we work so hard but its all really good for us.
I am really happy with the house and the teams working on them.

Our group is wonderful regardless our differences

This has been a wonderful trip and I plan on coming back often.

I would update more but I am tired; I will repost later



Monday, May 21, 2007

More Photo's

I just uploaded the pics from Janette's camera. It took 17 minutes to upload 25 megs of em. I have to figure out a faster way to do this.

Edit: also uploaded some photo's from Matt's camera.

Matt's Photos 5/21/07 10:40 AM

My Thoughts...

At Erik's request, i've sat down at the cubicle 3 seats down from him to "contribute" to the blog.

Happy Erik?

First off, the people i've met on this trip are just amazing and we are having such a great time. We decided to not go out tonight (for once) to see if we could finally catch up on some sleep. Yesterday the USC group (fight on!) visited Lake Sevan and the beautiful, foresty region of Dilidjian. Both places were breathtaking. We absolutely love our driver Azat. He says that we are his children and he his our father here in Yerevan--how sweet. He takes good care of us.

We're making amazing progress on the buildings.

Here are a few other things.
1. Either no one has taught Armenians how to fry french fries, or they cant get the cooking oil hot enough, but i've yet to come accross one crisp french fry.
2. Everything in Armenia is upside down. Instead of asking you why you smoke, the men ask you why you dont smoke. =)
3. We have learned that road signs and signals are merely suggestions, so we've learned to coesxist with the traffic.
4. There are lots of bars and cafes for us to keep busy at nights and enjoy Armenians greatest beer... Kotayk!
5. We have convinced ourselves that there is nothing better in the world than a LEMON Fanta in a GLASS bottle.

Thats all for now.


Fine. I'll post something

My name is Rob.  Barev.

Erik has been talking about this blog forever.  At first I thought he was going to post everything for us but now it seems like he actually wanted us to contribute too.  Charjer.

Anyway I like food and I like taking people to eat food.  So far we have gone to a bunch of places (mostly around our hotel the Ani Plaza Hotel) and we try and eat something different each night.

That map right there has most of the places that we have eaten so far...
When we got in late Sunday night (May 13th 2007) we were hungry. The Ani Plaza Hotel told us of a pizza place to eat on terian street inbetween Sayat Nova Street and Moskovian Street. If you can see the big red dot we walked northwest one block from our hotel and then turned right. It turns out that pizza place was closed and the only thing open on that block was "Omega" (it was 4am Yerevan Time).

So we turned around and walked southeast past our hotel on Sayat Nova until we found a place that was open at the corner of Sayat Nova and Moskovian... Dako. For our first experience of Armenian food it took like an hour for us to get our food (but we learned that french fries were called "Free"). We ate, and went to bed.

The next day we were looking for lunch so we stopped by a place called Bistro which we noticed was open the night before and was very clean, but had no guests... ever. Anyway we ordered kabob sandwiches with a side order of "free" which they decided to put into our sandwiches. It was really good, but when we asked for hummus they had never heard of it. No hummus in Armenia?!?!

Well I wanted to show my friends a place that I had gone to the last time I was in Yerevan so that night we went to Square One on Abovian Street. The restraunt has amazing shakes but no one liked the burgers but me. In any case they had very quick service and the pizza was good. As we were walking back we soon realized that Abovian street was much cooler than any other street we had been to before. It has been dubbed the "Hollywood Boulevard of Armenia".

So we wanted some nightlife (unfortunetaly we got in on a Sunday night and kept looking for happening spots on weekdays. But the locals told us to go to Cheers. We went there and were supposed to meet Erik there but there was barely anyone at all and the only person we met was a guy named Armen...

Anyway since I had picked a place the next night Aline decided we should go to a restraunt that she remembered to be shad lav across the street from Dako. Well it was remodeled into a place called the Aztec Cafe and we were very impressed with the staff, food, presentation, and high cost (the most expensive dinner yet). Just don't get the Banana Daqueri.

We still hadn't found a good place to get dessert but Erik walked us to the Cascades one night in search of something to do. There wasn't much there and the one cafe we tried was horrible so we left. After making fun of Erik for just trying to show off his knowledge of a random statue by the cascades we argued until we stopped at a place by the opera house called Jazzve. It was great. Good drinks, good desert, and a waiter who wasn't a jerk (although he gave back 10 dram even though the bill came to 15510)! Needless to say we came back again. We ended up bringing Andre - a cool guy who works for Steve Lazarian, Dani, Moses, and Greta who are all point loma students (except for moses) and are working on the Lazarian's project with us. Their hostel is really close so it was a convenient hangout spot.

Well the group that we are building this house with are very American. In fact, the leader "Robert" was almost considering only going to pizza places for the entire trip! We counseled him to go to Armenian places because he is in Armenia! In any case one of the pizza places that we went to was called Diamond Pizza. Diamond Pizza doesn't have Lemon Fanta, but the pizza was Ok. Every night a person in the group gets to pass around a trophy that was given to Steve Lazarian from the Mayor of Yerevan or something to the person they thought deserved it most. Troy passed it to Alex.

Erik's Dad is cool and he took us to breakfast. There is a place called Artbridge right around the corner of our hotel on Abovian street. We went there for dinner one night but it was no good. The breakfast on the other hand is great. Pancakes, "free", eggs, ham, orange juice - almost like you are in California. Thanks for brekfast Mr. Erik's Dad!

Everyone was complaining to me about wanting to go to only my places and that I was being an inconsiderate jerk for wanting to hang out with someone other than the SC group. So I hung low until we went to Cactus! Cactus is this awesome Mexican food place by the opera house that is really fun because you never know if you are getting something that tastes like mexican food, or the armenian equivalent. It is also really funny to see Armenians in sombreros and ponchos. Dina and Greta joined us again (but then got in trouble by Robert and Crystal) as well as Armen and his sister Sonya. Andre joined us (us by the way is Aline, Erik, Kelly, Janet, Matt, and I). It was sweet.

Tonight we went to Pizza Di Roma and had an assortment of salads and a platter with chicken, ground beef, fries, and stuff. It wasn't half bad but the gang dragged me from my conversation and then felt awkward about it.

Anyway I hope this gives you an idea of the places to eat around Yerevan. It has been fun going around Yerevan and eating with friends. Come join us!

- Robert Hudson Ashodian Moore

Sunday, May 20, 2007

An update finally...

I have a ton of pictures and videos I have to upload but I'm still having problems with the wireless internet at the hotel. We're also too busy touring around Armenia, working, and hanging out to make time for a trip to the internet cafe. I'm using Kelly's computer to type this since her wirless works for some reason.

Work began last Wednesday and there's already been a ton of progress. The first house has its walls up to 8ft and we're waiting for the second batch of concrete to be poured into the blocks on Monday. The second house had a lot of changes and it will now be used as a kitchen for the school thats near it. Its walls are up to 4ft. and it'll get its first batch of concrete on Monday. We got Saturday off because we worked late Friday to stack the walls up and tie all the rebar together. Actually, some of us didn't leave the work site until 8:30pm!! But it was a lot of fun and didn't feel like chore. Mostly everyone is highly motivated to work hard and do a good job on the project which keeps all our morale and spirits high.

Well... we're about to head out to a "mexican" restaurant called Cactus right now so hopefully I'll make some time to upload the vidoes and pics... and HOPEFULLY my other group members can do some of their own blogs!!!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

First day at work

I've been having some trouble with the internet at the hotel so haven't been able to post a lot of stuff. Here are some pics from our first day at work yesterday. The foam blocks in the pictures get staked on top of each other and concrete is poured into them to create the homes.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Monday, May 14, 2007

The adventure begins...

Internet Cafe

Aline, Matt, Janette, and I are at an internet cafe next door to our hotel (Ani Plaza). The place is small, no more than 300 sq. ft. and it has about 11 people cramped up using computers in it. And the worst part about it is the two guys sitting in the corner smoking cigarettes. This is pretty common everywhere we go in Armenia. I smell like I've smoked a pack of cigarettes at the end of each day.