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.