Monday, December 31, 2001

The following is a message I got from one of our log readers. I wanted to share it with you all as it really tells it like it is not only in Armenia, but in the world today. I bolded the part that directly relates to Armenia, though in reality it all relates to Armenia, just the names in print are different.

Hi Ara,

I read Clinton�s speech. I think it was good speech, but hardly anything enlightening. I am very glad that such a high profile person made that speech, but many people have said these same things over the years. In fact, Chamski and others were saying this very loudly
while Clinton was so enthusiastically climbing the political ladder. Too bad he is not in power any longer. That is the problem, there is no one in power now that is saying the same things. Blair and Bush are only talking about �stamping out evil�. They do not have the courage to say the things that Clinton hinted at in his speech:

��if you don't want to live with barbed wire around your children and grandchildren for the next hundred years, then it's not enough to defeat the terrorist. We have to make a world where there are far fewer terrorists, where there are fewer potential terrorists and more partners. And that responsibility falls primarily upon the wealthy nations, to spread the benefits and shrink the burdens.�

That is the real problem: if they did say these things, they would not last too long. It is �big business� with its very shortsighted and self-absorbed objectives that decide the policies of the Western nations. Leaders such as Bush and Blair are �leaders� because of the support that they have received from the business world.

I liked Clinton�s closing remark.

�So that's what I want you to think about. It's great that your kids will live to be ninety years old but I don't want it to be behind barbed wire. It's great that we're gonna have all these benefits of the modern world, but I don't want you to feel like you're emotional prisoners. And I don't want you to look at people who look different from you and see a potential enemy instead of a fellow traveler. We can make the world of our dreams for our children, but since it's a world without walls, it will have to be a home for all our children.�

On another note, this AIDS thing in the FSU scares me.

�And lest you think it's an African problem, the fastest growing rates of AIDS are in the former Soviet Union, on Europe's backdoor.�

The problem is only just starting in Armenia. It is all linked to poverty, which forces women into prostitution. We have to do something about this or we will be in big trouble. We Armenians delude ourselves into believing that we are a saintly people. We can not fathom the fact that, yes, our girls are forced to prostitution and our men don�t have the moral fortitude to not take advantage of the situation.

I thought Clinton's comment about Iran was right on because the CIA destroyed democracy in Iran when it organized a coup and then supported the Shaw. This is well document and not even denied by the US.

�Same thing is true in Iran: the government's very anti-Western, but the people aren't, in part because they have real elections and real votes, and the only time that real democracy is thwarted is when their own people do it, so they don't blame us. So we should be
advancing democracy and human rights and once a country makes a decision to be more open and free, we should help them be more successful. Elections are only part of the job.�

Sunday, December 30, 2001

Well it appears that I�m quite the linguist and didn�t even realize it. Tonight I went to dinner at the Mayor�s house and following dinner, we sat and watched an annual Russian talent contest. As the contest was going, the Mayor�s daughter was asking me how much of the show I was understanding and then told me to name off all the words I knew in Russian. It started with colors and ended with auto parts and household appliances. I came up with 101 words in no time and could have come up with another 101 words with no problem. I gave her an assignment to remember all the words I called out, write them down and translate them into English. So it seems that I�ll be spending my New Years here in Martuni with the Mayor�s family. I�ll drop into a few places, but for the most part, I�ll have dinner at his house and be with his family to welcome in the New Year. I guess I�m now an intricate part of his family, as when I was trying to decide on if to go to Stepanagert this year or stay in Martuni, his mother was concerned as who was going to kill the turkey. She is too old to do it anymore and a couple of years ago taught me how to do it, as no one else in the family can get themselves up to doing it. So when it looked like I was going to maybe go to Stepanagert, she was trying to figure out who she could ask to kill it. Well thank goodness for her sake I will be here for New Years and tomorrow at 11 a.m., I have to go sharpen the ax and read old Tom his last rights.
Just a really quick posting. I was watching BBC World and they had a special presentation of a Richard Dimbleby Lecture called �The Struggle For the Soul of The 21st Century�. Former US President, Bill Clinton, presented the lecture in London on 14 December 2001. His speech considers what is happening in the war against terrorism, and calls for a long-term strategy to address underlying problems in the countries involved. During the lecture ex-President Clinton revisits the themes of his speech at Warwick University in December 2000. I highly recommend visiting Richard Dimbleby Lecture site and reading the transcript, as there was so much that he said which I believe applies to what Armenia and Artsakh need to consider as the direction to take in regards to social, economic and educational reforms and why.

Friday, December 28, 2001

I�ve been so busy these last few weeks that I really have not had time to write, though I have had so much to write about. I mean even now my time is limited, so I�ll be brief. December 25th, came and went. One little boy had seen on the news that the American�s were celebrating something on December 25th and asked me what that was all about? I told him and he said no, Christ was born on January 6th. I told him that he was probably right, but you know American�s, they sometimes get things backwards and this was one of those things I guess. So maybe I�ll get into the Christmas mood On the 6th. I�m expecting visitor�s around that time, so I would hope that will motivate me. As I�m always reporting on the weather, all I can say is that it�s been great. Warm enough that my laundry is still only taking a day to dry. I saw on the news about the snow they are getting in New York (burr). I guess I really have nothing to complain about. I�m doing some last minute things around my house before winter really sets in. I had almost a ton of cement left from summer and so it does not get ruined this winter from moisture (last year I lost 2 tons that way), I had concrete laid a couple of days ago in my garage area so that when it starts to rain and I park my car, I wont step in mud when getting out (should have done this last year). I�m also having a reinforced concrete belt installed on top of the walls of my new office and the second floor addition, so not only will it be seismically more stable, but so I can have prefabricated cement slabs installed on it as a roof and 3rd floor balcony. So the cement will be used and I�ll be ready for winter. I have so many offers for New Years, I�m still not sure where I�ll spend it. I know it wont be Yerevan. My choices are Mardakert, Martuni, Shushi and Stepanagert. I�ve made no commitments to anyone and maybe I should just stay home and do nothing but relax, I don�t know. Well if I happen not to post anything before New Years, I wish all our readers and the other loggers a very Happy New Year.

Monday, December 17, 2001

Not to bore anyone, but this mornings Khash was the best I have had. I learned so much about Khash today that I guess I could write a book about it (well maybe more like a pamphlet, but will spare you). Anyway I learned that Khash is not made just of cow feet, but can also have cow stomach, tail and whatever else you would care to toss in the pot. They also make Khash from pig. The grandfather of the house I went to is a veteran at eating Khash and was reminiscing how he use to leave the house a 6 a.m. to go to Aghdam for Khash. He said he use to live there for 5 years (late 30�s, early 40�s) and had lots of friends who would invite him. We ate with a spoon, but the grandfather ate with his hands. He told me that it tastes much better that way. I guess one advantage I see is that when you get Khash oil on your hands (which I do even when eating with a spoon), it�s like superglue. If your eating with your hands, you have an excuse to lick it off before it starts to stick. I guess next time he invites me for Khash, I�ll try it his way. I suspect that maybe this is more a Muslim way of eating Khash.
This morning I have a reason to get an early start. Just before sunrise, I have to go to a friend�s house for Khash (boiled cow feet soup). Now that the weather is starting to get cold (the morning low is 40.8f) and New Years is nearing (more cows will be slaughtered), Khash will be a weekly occurrence for me. Not to say that I�m a fan of Khash, but I�ve never turned down an invitation to join a bunch of guys sitting next to a wood stove on a cold winters morning, eating boiled cow feet soup and drinking vodka (can life get any better than this?). The breaking of bread and adding of flavors (fresh garlic, vinegar and salt) is an indescribable almost religious experience which I recommend everyone participates in at least once. I�m not much of a drinker, but when it comes to Khash, once my stomach is lined with a thick layer of cow feet oil, vodka is not that difficult to swallow. Tradition calls for drinking an odd number of glasses and my limit is 3 half shots (25 grams each). Not to upset anyone, but I�ve been led to believe that eating of Khash is a men only deal (this is what I�ve observed). Not to say that woman don't sneak a taste here or there, but I suspect the usual jealous comments they make like �how could you eat that stuff, YUK� would indicate that they are hoping we will eat a little less, leaving more for them to eat or maybe use to wax the floor with when we leave. Well I�ve got to get going so I wont be late. I�m not sure what happens if you eat Khash after the sun comes up and I�m sure not going to find out today.

Saturday, December 15, 2001

When Raffi M and Shoosh from our �Diaspora log� wrote about the Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Committee (TARC), I felt that what I have been keeping to myself should be finally said. I�ve never before in my life really had aspiration to get involved in politics until after I moved here. Even the politics I get involved with in the real world of politics could not really be considered much of anything. I guess being a student of �controversial� Armenian history and my direct way of thinking have always turned me off to the idea of standing up in public and sharing my ideas (Raffi had to pull teeth to get me to log light non-offensive stuff on Cilicia). I don�t belong or really support any Armenian political movements. I support the idea of a united Armenia and things that are good for the future of the Armenian nation. I guess the first real public political move I made, which still could not be considered anything close to real politics, has to be in connection with the TARC. Why I am telling you this now is that, though TARC has been disbanded, I think there are unresolved issues connected to that whole fiasco that really should be dealt with.

I didn�t really hear about the formation of TARC until quite some time following its birth. As soon as I did learn about what TARC was supposedly going to attempt to do and after discussing it with my intellectual friends here (they knew more about TARC then I did), I decided to write a letter to Van Krikorian. I know Van through a friend of mine in Armenia and felt that maybe if I wrote a non-offensive letter to him, not only would he reply (everyone I knew at the time that wrote only got nasty responses), but he would take my suggestions into consideration. I was interested in answers to questions that the press was not providing, and I was genuinely concerned of the possible outcome not only to the Armenian cause, but also to AAA and Van himself. I guess my answer from him reflects that he understood what I was trying to say (at least I thought). I want to share with you my correspondences with Van, which I didn�t post on Groong or send off to any papers, as I didn�t want to give the Turks any insight as to what was shared with him so they could be ready to counter what I was saying (not that I was really saying anything special). I�ve taken the liberty of editing out irrelevant parts to make it easer for you to read.

August 20, 2001

Dear Van,

I'm writing you in regards to the Reconciliation Commission, as you're the only person I personally know involved and wanted to ask some questions and share with you some very real concerns.

Not to say that I would be any less concerned, but now that I live here, I, along with the other people who are here, are the ones at the greatest risk of coming under fire from Turkey and Azerbaijan, and I feel we have the most to lose if things went wrong with the Commission's efforts. I would expect with that understanding that our interests would come first from your side of the Reconciliation Commission. Everything I have read from both sides so far don't really indicate this. Maybe I have not read everything, so please enlighten me.

My questions are as follows (if you don't have time to answer them, I'm okay with anyone on your behalf to answer them):

1. Whose idea was this commission?

2. How was it determined who would serve on the commission?

3. Is the Armenian government involved in any way? I get the feeling from what I have read that the Turkish government determined who would represent their side, but Vartan Oskanian's statement implies that Armenia's MFA has nothing to do with the commission. Logic would say that if the MFA has nothing to do with it, then the government has nothing to do with it, right?

4. Who are the members from the Turkish side? I'm sure this information was published someplace, but for some reason I guess not in anything I have so far read, other than Greg Arzoomanian's letter, where he mentions that those representing Turkey's interests are people that are " participants of the Turkish government's campaign of denial of
the Armenian Genocide." So I guess with that said, what can we expect to accomplish? Volkan sounds like really bad news and a hired gun, don't you think?

5. What is the mission of the commission?

This commission in a way reminds me of a story by the writer and political activist Shahan Natalie about the ARF's 9th General Congress, which convened in Yerevan from September 27 to the end of October 1919. On the Congress agenda was placed the issue of retribution against those principally responsible for the Great Atrocity. Natalie experienced here the first serious embitterment of his political life, when some of the delegates deemed this policy wrong, rationalizing that the newly created Armenian Republic needed Turkey's friendship (such justifications have proliferated today also, within the new Armenian Republic). Natalie had added that one of the reasons many of the Bureau members, specifically Simon Vratsian, Ruben Ter Minasian, and Ruben Darbinian, were in favor of this policy and didn't quite understand his strong objections to such a friendship with Turkey, was that unlike Natalie, and one other member (I believe Grigor Merjanov), they had not experienced and witnessed first hand what the Turks had done in Western-Armenia and didn't understand to what extent they (the Turks) would go to accomplish their goal.

To have even a better understanding today who the Turks are and how the Armenian people feel towards them, I've done quite a bit of research here in Artsakh on that subject. I can so far conclude from what families I've spoken with, who have for generations lived with the Azerbajani's feel, that they (Turkic people) will never admit to the genocide and echo Natalie�s warnings, that you can never trust a Turk as one of their national desires is to rid the earth of all Armenians. More so, there are people that really feel Armenians who negotiate with Turks are even more dangerous than the Turks themselves, as there has to date never come anything good and usually something very bad from such negotiations (maybe this sounds hard-core, but so far history has not been able to disprove these statements).
I hope and pray that this commission is not another attempt from Turkey and the US to weaken or delay our efforts to finally ascertaining true recognition of the Armenian Genocide that we have been working towards for so many years and have never been so close to accomplish.

I look forward to your reply,

Ara Manoogian

On September 7, 2001 Joan Abblet of the Armenian Assembly forwarded me a letter from Van.

Dear Ara,

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, and I appreciate the personal nature of your letter.

I am recommending some background materials (see below) which will answer many of your questions and are on the Assembly's web site. Nobody is suggesting that our work is going to be easy or that there are any guarantees. But, all of our work toward international recognition of the Genocide is geared toward Turkey coming to terms with the Genocide and its consequences. If we did not think the Commission had a chance of helping to meet that goal, we wouldn't be there.

Best regards,

Van Krikorian

The following are available at:

I then replied to Joan Ablett (since it looked like she was the one doing all the writing for Van) on September 30, 2001:

Dear Mrs. Ablett,

I'm sorry to get back to you so late, but with the crisis in the US, my time has been occupied on my investments in the states. Now that they are somewhat under control, I've had time to visit your site and found that the available materials found there do not answer all my questions. Maybe you can find the time to sit down and answer them yourself.

1. Whose idea was this commission?

2. How was it determined who would serve on the commission?

3. Is the Armenian government involved in any way?

Ara Manoogian

I never received a reply from Joan or Van.

In closing what I would like to say echoes what Raffi Meneshian said in his log which is that Van and the others that were on the TARC need to give us some answers as to why they let this go as far as they did. I also feel that the lack of trust that people have towards their judgment makes them less effective than what is needed at the Assembly today. I personally feel that if those people who served on the TARC and are connected with the Assembly really are dedicated to the Armenian cause, then they would find it appropriate to take a vacation from their duties at the Assembly, and new people should be put in their place to aggressively get things back up to speed and on track. It would be unfair to say that the Assembly is responsible for the modifications made to 907, but it appears that they didn�t even try hard enough to prevent the changes that were made. If one day bullets, rockets and other American-provided projectiles rain down on us and threaten the lives of our people, you can be sure while were defending ourselves I�ll be cursing Van and the people at the Assembly for all their good intentions that went bad because they were misguided. I hope that this log didn�t offend anyone, but sometimes the truth does that.

Thursday, December 13, 2001

An economic opportunity was created in Artsakh thanks to a donor who I will not name by name, since I have not asked permission to make a public announcement about this. I will say that this is the donor that Madlene had mentioned in her log some time ago, that she was going to purchase beddings at the shooga in Yervan which would then be presented to the preschool in Shushi. She had decided that it would make more sense to have the beddings made here in Artsakh and asked me to investigate the possibilities. Well as you can imagine, that option was realized and now there are a few women who were sitting at home with nothing to do, now working away and having no time to watch Brazilian soap opera�s that are translated into Russian, which BTW not only give them a chance to escape from reality, but also yearn to have that same life (very sad). So with the lead seamstress, we took a trip to Stepanagert a couple of days ago to purchase the materials needed, all but the wool, which it looks like I have found in a neighboring village (this too is good for the village economy). So thanks to the donor and Madlene, the little kids of the Shushi preschool will have new beddings and a few families that found an economic opportunity will have a VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! I know the lead seamstress is having her teeth fixed with the money she earns, which is causing her much pain. The others will pay their debts to the stores they purchase their food from (everyone here has them and that will make the store owner happy) and maybe have enough left to get some gifts to give their children that winter Babig will leave for them on New Years. One other thing I want to mention is that we are paying them a little more than what they asked for so they will pay income tax, which will make the government happy too. What might seem like an insignificant gesture to some, has such huge effect on our peoples lives. I mean Madlene could have taken the easy road and just got the stuff in Yerevan, which would have helped Russian, Iranian or maybe even Turkish markets. Instead she took this opportunity to maximize the benefit this donor provided. A big THANK YOU to the donor and Madlene from all of us here in Artsakh!!!

Since it seems I have started the trend of reporting the weather, let me say that it�s been great!!! The low is around 50f and the high today was around 55f. From what I�ve been told, it should not start to cool down until after New Years. Now I need to think about some new trends to start. Any ideas?

Sunday, December 09, 2001

The weather has been great these last few days. I guess it can be said that Martuni is one of the hottest places in Artsakh. Our low has been around 47F. and the high has been in the upper 60�s. I wish I could say that I�m enjoying this weather, but being that I have had a light case of the flu for over a week, and today I�ve started to cough is not a good sign. I�ve been taking multivitamins for a couple of months and discovered today they have only 60mg of vitamin C. I went to the pharmacy to get some additional C. The pharmacist asked me if I would like that in a powder or injection form? I was thinking that if I inject, my arm was going to look like I was shooting up drugs, so I picked the powder. A 30-day supply cost me 600 drams (a little more than a $1). I�m also drinking hot tea with 100% pure honey for the cough. They say the honey I have, which is from Hadrout, is like an herbal medicine and should rid me of it. I hope they�re right. Last year I coughed from December to July. I know that couldn�t have been good for me, and I�m not going to have a repeat performance this year.

So you may ask what I have been up to these last weeks, being that I have not logged for a while? Last week I had an interesting encounter with a government investigator. I really should not talk about it, as the root of what he was investigating is kind of on the negative side of things. All us loggers have been trying not to over emphasize such things as there are so many people out there to do that already. What you read in the press about human rights violations every now and then are in many cases most likely true. Many of us who live here have one time or another witnessed them. Until now I myself have never written about any of them or reported them publicly, but as the others can verify, have in most cases intervened on behalf of the voiceless victims as the Armenian-American badge pinned on my chest gets results. In this particular case, if things work out as I would like to see, it could put our government and more so the President of Armenia, Robert Kocharyan in a very positive light. With that much said, I can�t leave you hanging there wondering what I could be talking about. Let me start by saying that this is a long story which I did my best to shorten, and for those of you that are bothered by the subject of child exploitation, you should read no further.

Last week I received a call from the Mayor of Martuni to tell me that the following day a government investigator was coming from Stepanagert to see me, and that I was to come to the main government building in Martuni in the morning. He was not sure what it was concerning, but said that he was also to meet with the head of the bank and the assistant to the regional minister, and the name of someone that we had tried to have prosecuted for child exploitation had come up. I could not imagine why they would want to see me, but knew that I had done nothing wrong other than help the police collect evidence last year, and this October tried to help them bring the case to some conclusion.

The next morning I went to the Mayor�s office and waited to be called on. At about 11 a.m. we got a call from the assistant of the regional minister to come to his office. The Mayor joined me. We walked in and were introduced to the government investigator, who told me that he had been sent to investigate a complaint that was sent to the president of Armenia about us. The 4-page complaint drew a very dark picture of me. The Mayor read the letter out loud, and the flavor of the letter was quite flattering but only half true. The fact that I was being accused of calling the shots of how this case was to be handled was true. Their fear that I wanted to kidnap their adopted daughter and use her for my personal pleasures or for prostitution didn�t correspond with the evidence we had already collected. As the mayor continued to read, the investigator looked uncomfortable looking at me, as it appeared he was believing what was being said. It�s strange when you only hear one side of the story, an inaccurate one at that and how you must feel, I told him.

I took out of my pocket a copy of our video evidence, which I had gathered in February of 2000, after being tipped off by the Mayor that the girl in question who was born with a deformed hand, had been sent off by her adopted father to Yerevan to beg in the shooga. She had been adopted from an orphanage in Gumri by a family who already had two biological sons, and after interviewing merchants at the shooga, it became quite clear why she had been adopted. She had spent over 4 years with her adopted grandmother, showing off her hand to people and asking for money. The grandmother was known to the shooga and was a veteran to begging there for over 10 years. According to the person who had reported to the Mayor what was going on (the family�s neighbor), the adopted father was heard screaming at his mother that she has been a whore her whole life , that she needs to take the child back to Yerevan and do what she does best, and send $300 a month to him or else.

So to make this long story shorter, I was not only able to collect video evidence of them begging and the grandmother acting abusive towards the girl and others around her, but I was able to sit them both in a car without any legal authority and bring them back to Martuni to face the chief of police. The evening when we got back to Martuni, I had a professional cameraman waiting, who documented the chief of police and me questioning everyone. I left for the US a few days later, as I had already delayed my trip by a week because of this case and made it clear that we must enforce Article 225: Occupying oneself with wandering or begging, or leading a life of waywardness is punishable by imprisonment for a term of one up to two years, or by corrective (rehabilitative) labor, for the same period of time. and Article 231: Involving minors in criminal acts, drunkenness, and waywardness, as well as abusing minors with the purpose of leading a parasitic life, are punishable by imprisonment of up to five years and by expulsion for a term from one to five years, or without expulsion. The chief agreed.

Now I will take a huge chunk of the story out (not only is it upsetting, but very long) and say that by October of 2001, thanks to incompetence and corruption, the family had somehow evaded prosecution and were somewhere in Armenia. The big dilemma of what to do with the child when the court found the parents unfit was resolved thanks to a Srpazan who is running an Armenian boarding school in India, which is managed by the church and would take the child. Though I hated the idea of sending the child out of the country for any reason, the future of an orphan girl, let alone one that has a deformed hand and is used to exploiting her physical being is not promising. At least in India, she will get an excellent Armenian education and also thanks to a huge amount of money that the Indian government allocates for Armenians (which has to be spent there), she would also get her hand reconstructed, an opportunity to go to a good university, and a chance at a normal life. Maybe she would even one day return to Armenia.

So at that point I was given a deadline of October 15th to have her ready to go. I had the challenge to find the family, somehow get them back to Martuni and due to the deadline, with the help of the new police chief (the old one was removed, maybe because I met with the Prime Minister about this case and told him about how the old chief was not doing his job and need to be removed) and prosecutor, we would negotiate with the adoptive parents to voluntarily relinquish custody of the child to the church, and we wouldn�t press charges. I drove to Yerevan and within a couple of hours of my arrival I had found where they were living and called Martuni to send a policeman to bring them in.

The next morning a couple of policemen arrived and we went to look for the house, but due to poor street signage, we ended up going to the school the children were attending. The Principal called the oldest boy, who went with us and showed us the house. What�s interesting is that there is a short road from the school to the house, but the child only knew the longer road that went through the shooga, where I would speculate they beg after school. The adoptive father was not happy to see us, but after an hour of talking, he and his wife came with us. That evening we arrived in Martuni and unfortunately everyone was not ready to do their job. We led them to believe that the reason they had been called in was for an outstanding loan they had and the police chief told them to leave their passports so they would not leave Martuni until we resolved things.

The next day I met with the prosecutor, who agreed to our plan, but when we called for them to come to see us to talk, they had already left town. I contacted Srpazan, who told me not to worry, even though the girl is now 11 years old and that is the age limit to be admitted, for this case he will make an exception and take her next year, giving us time to do what we have to. At that point I figured I had a year and would continue this work after the New Year. Well, now that the adoptive father went off and wrote a letter to Kocharyan to complain, I guess I�ll get Kocharyan�s office to make Article 225 and Article 231 work. The investigator said that Kocharyan�s office was concerned about the letter, being that this family is from Armenia and is claiming to be harassed by the Karabagh government and Ara. Kocharyan has to take such claims very seriously as if the claim is true, and if Kocharyan does nothing, the adoptive father could take it to Kocharyan�s opposition and make him look bad. But now he has put in a position that he has to pursue the case to its conclusion, as now with Kocharyan having all the evidence in hand, if he does nothing about it and his opposition found out, it would be much worse.

The investigator told me after treating all of us to a very nice lunch and he was getting into his car to leave was that he came with 3 question that had to be answered, the 3rd one being who is Ara? He said with a firm handshake and smile on his face that they will be sure to know who Ara really is.

Let�s hope that the next time you hear about this subject, it will be me writing how I was at the airport sending off the little girl to a new and promising life

Saturday, December 01, 2001

Tonight I went to a friend�s birthday party in Spitagashen (White Village). The usual story of me and my family history came up and with it the story of my great-great-grandfather Kevork. At the table was a middle-aged man who turned out to also be a Manoogian and told me that in all of Artsakh, there were only two Manoogian families at the turn of the 19th century. He said that from the date of 1850, that would put him in the same generation of his great-grandfather who was from a family of 9 brothers. He said from what he knows, 3 of the bothers went to Armenia, 2 stayed in Artsakh and the other 4 he is not sure about. He said his older cousin knows their whole family history and can give a better idea as to the details, which was told to him by their great-grandfather who was 100 years old at the time of telling it (died when he was 104) and he was just a boy. Well my great-great-grandfather Kevork was from a family of 9 brothers, and depending on what information we get from their family history, DNA testing will be the final step to tell us if we finally found this branch of our family.

Sunday, November 25, 2001

The weather is great! For the last few days it has been in the upper 60�s f. Today, all of Artsakh has observed and celebrated the birthday of its most respected and loved hero, Monte �Avo� Melkonian. This year, the morning gathering of people in Martuni was larger than I�ve ever seen in the last 4 years. I can�t say it was the weather, because in the last 4 years, the weather has been warmer then it was today. As we were standing around talking, one person noticed the large turnout and said that it seems that over time, people have become even more acceptant of Monte, as his picture which hangs on many walls is still up, as appose to those �hero�s� that have been uncovered for who they really are and no longer have a place on our walls. Everyone seemed to agree. The usual government officials came from Stepanagert to participate in the laying of flowers at Monte�s statue. Children from the Monte Melkonian pre-school recited and sang about Monte. A musical ensemble preformed traditional Armenian music. In the evening as we do every year, the children of the house where I use to stay when my house was being constructed, came by and made dinner, baked a b-day cake and we celebrated Monte�s 44th birthday.

Saturday, November 24, 2001

This woodstove is great! I don�t have it completely figured out yet, but I�m getting the hang of it. At one point last night, my room was 92f and this morning when I woke it was down to 69f. It�s another warm day. Outside, 62.3f is the high so far and it's going up. It�s not mini-summer, but it�s a heck of a lot better then maxi-winter. The jeep is coming along and I guess it should be ready in a couple of days if the weather holds out.

Friday, November 23, 2001

I finally got settled into my �winter� room. Yesterday I ordered from Uncle Vasken, a veteran tinsmith, a new woodstove, which cost me less than $10 including all the pipes. I picked it up and my neighbor came by a little while ago and installed it for me. I guess tonight I�ll try it out if it gets cold. Today the sun was out and the same neighbor and I worked on fixing up my jeep, which I burned out the motor on it last year. Last weekend while making my way to Stepanagert and almost not getting there, I decided that I can�t live without a jeep and need to get it in working order. If the whole week has weather like we did today, by the middle of next week, my jeep should be ready and I�ll really be set for winter.

Thursday, November 22, 2001

Well the winds are starting to kick up again and the month of planning to go to Yerevan for Thanksgiving dinner has been canceled. I was going to leave two days ago, but the road between Goris and Sisian was closed due to high winds. Big trucks were being tossed around like toys. The road opened up last night around 8p, but has to be closed again if Yerevan got snow. I�m moving into the other room today and installing the woodstove (white walls or not) so when the power goes out (which it will) I can keep warm. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Monday, November 19, 2001

Last night I was talking with Madlene on Instant Messenger when I noticed that my indoor/outdoor thermometer was acting a little strange. The temperature was dropping at a rapid rate. Then it started to rain and very heavy gusts of wind followed. As I was telling Madlene about these acts of nature, the power went out. I told Madlene I was going to have to log off soon, as the battery on my laptop had not yet charged from the night before when we had a blackout. I went to my guest room and got the comforter off the bed, as I knew if tonight was going to be anything like the night before, I was going to need the extra warmth. So I got in bed and waited for the power to come back on. At some point I fell asleep and woke around 7 o�clock the next morning to find that it was not only 35f outside and there was snow on the ground, but it was 52f in my room and the power had still not come back on. I picked up the phone to call a friend in another neighborhood to see if they had power, but the line was dead. My Stepanagert line was working, so I called the switchboard operator to ask if they had power, figuring that maybe it was all of Artsakh. She said no, only yesterday around 6p did they loose power for about 15 minutes. I decided that it was too early to get up, being that it was Sunday and the only thing I had to do was go to Stepanagert with my neighbor at noon and got back into my warm bed. At 11a, I woke again, still no power. I was not about to take a shower, as it was way too cold, but I did wash my hair, being that the bathroom was considerably warmer than my room. I dressed really warm and headed out. Now there are two roads that lead to Stepanagert from Martuni. The shorter of the two is a mountain road and being that a friend of mine was also to come with us to Stepanagert and he lives in a village in the direction of that mountain road, my neighbor was confident that even if there was snow on the road, my car should be able to pass. To shorten that part of the story, I will say that we just barely made it over the pass and God bless that person that invented chains! It appears that all of Artsakh got snow. Babik and Dadik each got a little white cap of snow.

We returned to Martuni via Aghdam, as it was dark when we left Stepanagert and knew that the mountain road would be ice by the time we got to the pass. I had to drive my friend back to his village and on the way back to Martuni, I guess I drove through one big puddle too many, and my engine must have sucked into the carburetor water and died. It�s happened before and after sitting in the dark for about a half hour to let things dry, the engine started and I made my way home. They tell me the power came back on around 6p and the temperature in my room is rising. I think winter has really come this time, though someone in my friends village told me that it really not winter yet, it�s just nature warning us to get ready for what�s to come soon. White walls or not, it looks like I�m going to have to put in a woodstove in my room for those days that we have blackouts.

Friday, November 16, 2001

My family history on my father's side appears to be filled with lots of movement. From what I can figure in what recorded history I have, it started out with my great-great-grandfather Kevork, who as a boy of 11 or 12 years old left his native home in Artsakh after having an argument with his eldest of 9 bothers and ended up settling in Dilijan, Armenia in the 1850's. Of his grandchildren, my grandfather Ivan (Vahan was his real name, but the Russians knew him as Ivan), against his stepfather's wishes, left Diljan in 1915 as an officer in the Czar's army, to defend the Armenians of Erzrum, and later Van. Though he never talked about his past life, it appears that he was a member of a Tashnag organized cavalry, who had planned in Dilijan for my grandfather to go with the Russian army to Erzrum, desert and regroup with his fellow Armenian horsemen. Out of circumstance and the price put on his head by the Bolsheviks if he happened to return to Armenia (most of his comrades who returned were executed), he ended up settling in Baghdad, Iraq where he raised his family. Though he always referred to Dilijan when talking of things of beauty, he never told his children about his life there. In 1946, a friend of my grandfather's who had been in Iran on business, brought him a letter given to him by a General from the Soviet Red army. It seems that this General had gone to the Armenian Church in Tehran and was asking about my grandfather. When his friend overheard the conversation, he stepped forward to help. My father recalls that my grandfather was very shaken by this news and tried to communicate with the General, but by the time he managed to get a message to Tehran, the Red army had pulled out. It turned out that the General was my Grandfather's first-cousin, Minas Manoogian. From there on, our branch of the family seemed to go further and further from our homeland, settling in various parts of the world, most of them eventually in the United States. The first exploration to find our roots was initiated in 1962 by my uncle, a Bishop in the Armenian church, who with the help of His Holiness Vasken I's driver, found his way to Dilijan to look for our family. It seemed to be an impossible task, as everyone whom this very clever driver asked had no idea who Ivan Manoogian was. As they were just about to give up their search, my uncle spotted an old man sitting under a tree and instructed the driver to puller over and ask him. This man was very old, hard of hearing, visually impaired, and perhaps forgetful. So in a loud voice the driver asked if he had ever heard of Ivan Manoogian. The old man in a very concise and methodical tone told them, ah, yes, he left long ago and left his bride waiting. Then he said Jeloyents. The driver was confused, as it seemed the old man was talking nonsense. But my uncle continued the conversation and the old man instructed them as to where to find the family. Word spread quickly about the arrival of the Bishop son of one of Dilijan's fedayee warriors who had left and never returned. My uncle was whisked away to a house where a huge crowd of people had gathered. At this point my uncle was very concerned -- if this were not the right family, what was he going to do? His fears were soon allayed when an old woman walked into the room. She was the spitting image of my grandfather. It was my grandfather's sister. With her was my grandfather's first love and fianc�e, whom he had left back in 1915 to go off to war, still wearing the ring he gave her, although she had later married someone else after giving up hope that he would return, she still was considered a member of the family. It turned out that the name Jeloyents was given to the family, as they were landowners who hired Jelos, Assyrian migrant workers, to cultivate their fields. This would distinguish them from Manoogians, who had other epithets describing their trades. So now we take a leap forward to 1989 and my first trip to Armenia. Armenia was facing a fuel shortage and one of my desired was to visit my relatives in Dilijan as my parents had on their first trip to Armenia in 1985. My cousin on my mother's side who lives in Yerevan along with her husband saw that meeting with government officials was getting very boring for me and they invited me to go fishing at Lake Sevan. I knew that Sevan was on the road to Dilijan and asked would it be too much to go to Dilijan instead? They told me that, due to the fuel shortage, they only had enough to get to Sevan and back, but if for some reason we found fuel in Sevan, we could go all the way there. I told my mom the great news and asked her for an address. She said that I was dreaming if I thought I would get all the way to Dilijan. That morning we headed to Sevan to fish. My cousin's husband, who also happens to be a Manoogian, but is not related to me, grew up in Sevan and knew it like the back of his hand. He first took us to a restaurant that overlooks the lake for fish (the famous ishkhan dzuk) and all the fixings. Then it was time to go fishing, but before we made our way down to the lakeshore, we drove by a place that might have fuel. We arrived at a gas station that had a very long line of cars and better than that, fuel. We waited in line for our turn. While we were waiting, I pulled out my video camera and got out of the car to take some pictures. I guess the camera, my short pants and New Balance tennis shoes got the attention of the other people waiting, thus the questioning. After the word of America, I�m not interested in selling my shoes and we were going to Dilijan got around, our car was magically whisked to the front of the line and the tank and two canisters were filled up. My cousin later told me that one thing that probably contributed to the fast service was the video camera and the gas station operator not wanting me to record him selling black-market fuel. So we were now on our way to Dilijan. Though we didn't have the address, I knew we would find the family. I mean I was armed with the information of Jeloyents and a famous Red army General, not to mention that there were no less than 300 Manoogians who were related to me living there. Surely everyone had to have heard the story and would point us in the right direction. So after the windy mountain road and an episode of motion sickness, leaving lunch on the side of the road, we arrived in Dilijan. We first went to the post office to ask where we could find Manoogian/Jeloyents. The workers there didn't seem to have a clue. We made our way to the center of town and I told my cousin to look for an old man, he is bound to know. We found an old man, who also was of no use. But standing near by and listening to the conversation was a young woman who asked if the Bishop were here. She poked her head into the car to find me and said, "I know where your family lives." This woman was a little girl and remembered when my uncle had come in 1962 and as she showed us the road to one of the Manoogian houses, she recalled her observations. We arrived to a house on a hillside and the woman walked ahead of us, telling the people inside of my arrival. I was greeted by an old woman of 75, who led me to a room where I found an old man sleeping. She called out to him to get up, as the Bishop's brother's son had come. As the man got out of bed, I saw he was wearing a military uniform and could only figure it had to be the General. Age 94 or not, he stood up tall. As I approached him, he got upset and said "It's not possible that the bishop has a son!" I was somewhat taken back by his comment, but his wife said in a louder voice, "No, it's not his son, it's his brother's son." The General took one step forward and embraced me with tears in his eyes and began to kiss me. We sat down and with my cousin video taping, he told me the story of my grandfather and what had happened. He gifted me a book that was written about him following an award he received from Mikhail Gorbachev for his many years of military service to the Soviet army. Following that visit, I was driven down the street to one of his sons' houses, where they slaughtered a pig, set out a table and the General's family gathered to welcome me home. I've been back to Dilijan a number of times since and met the entire Manoogian family one time, which is now well over 300 strong. Next thing I need to do is find the family here is Artsakh, which I will one day do, thus ending this journey which started 150 years ago.

Wednesday, November 14, 2001

Tree Planting Day

Today was tree planting day in Artsakh. In the city of Martuni, where I live, 200 trees were planted. This afternoon people came out in force with shovels, brooms and buckets, not only plant trees, but to also clean the streets. In general, our streets are kept rather clean, but today after the people passed through, pulling weeds and clearing anything that really didn't belong, things looked rather nice. I had lunch at the mayor's house and he commented on how well things were going and said that as a rule, a man in his lifetime needs to build one house, have and educate one child to the age of 18 and plant one tree. He said that he has planted one tree today (and in his lifetime has planted dozens of others), is educating his children and is only left with the task of one day building a house. He told me that all that's left for me is to have and educate a child and is confident I will do that one day.

Saturday, November 10, 2001

Well the weather is starting to warm up again. Could this be mini-summer running on Armenian time? All I can say is that if it is, bring it on. I was able to get out and wash my car today. Since my return from Yerevan a couple of weeks ago, I have not had the time, nor has the weather permitted me to do so. It has almost become embarrassing to drive around, thus making a walk the better mode of transportation. Much of my time these days has been devoted to writing. I decided that this winter (which I was convinced had already come) would be the time to sit down extract from my journals the modern Armenian history I have witnessed for the last 12 years. I�m not sure if this is material that will ever be published, but for the possible benefit of Armenians who may never have the chance to see this place for themselves, it could give a different perspective of life in Armenia and Artsakh that they would never know otherwise. I don�t want to claim to be a writer and will say that I have no formal training what so ever in writing. If one day I actually attempt to get this work published, you can be sure a professional writer will iron out all the kinks and enforce the rules of writing for me. So keeping that in mind, the following is another shortened log version of one of those stories.

After the earthquake of 1988 that killed tens of thousands of Armenians and left many more than that homeless, I was given the opportunity to come to Armenia on a fact finding mission with my parents. They were working with the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church to investigate the building of a library in Stepanavan, Armenia. I went along to video tape everything and also get a chance to see Armenia for the first time. What I saw of Armenia as a guest of the government was quite impressive. What I saw when everyone else was drinking at dinner and I would go out for fresh air and invite myself into government officials' neighbors houses was quite a different picture. I guess we have to remember that this was the tail end of the Soviet Union, and it did collapse the following year. One night we had dinner at the home of the Sardarabad museum's curator. The ride back that followed was quite interesting. It seems that everyone that night had too much to drink (all but me). My parents got a ride back to hotel Armenia with the director of the National Library, Henrik Liloyan. I rode in the InTourist van that was assigned to us while we were there, with a bunch of librarians. Our driver, Benik, had been sitting next to Liloyan at dinner and apparently, Liloyan was filling the driver's glass for him to drink as well. All I can say is that the screams from the librarians when Benik was driving like a drunken madman, coming very close to hitting the cars in front of us, as he would swerve around them with horn blaring, was quite frightening even for me. I was in the back of the van and could see that this joy ride could end in our becoming a statistic. So I stood up and called out to Benik, �You know, I�ve come all the way from America and have really wanted to drive in Armenia, so why don�t you give me a chance to do that now?� Benik pulled over the van and I made my way to the front. Now mind you, this was a Soviet-made van with no power anything, and the car I was driving in the States was fully loaded. So I sat behind the wheel, and Benik gave me some pointers on the brakes and so on. We got started and Benik, still in a playful mood, was pushing on my knee to give more gas, so we would go faster. Well, little did he know that in the states, I was the king of comedy traffic school, thanks to my annual speeding tickets that I would get for breaking the speed of sound (the sound of a CHP siren). So I played along and drove just like he was, in the middle of the road, not between the lines, but on the line (government vehicles have always done that and do even to this day), honking the horn as I was getting right up behind cars before swerving around them. Well, the librarians seemed a little at ease. We soon found our way to the hotel, and I pulled up in front. I guess Liloyan�s driver had taken a shortcut, as they were out front of the hotel waiting. So when I got out of the driver's door, Liloyan thought that it was another van. He looked a bit confused and upset when I walked passed him as we made out way into the hotel. The next day he told my father that this was the first time in InTourist history that a tourist had driven one of their vehicles and if something had happened with me behind the wheel, he would have had some real problems. I wonder what would have happened if Benik had crashed and it came out that Liloyan was the one filling his glass? Anyway, nothing happened. Our trip concluded with Benik dropping us off at the airport a couple of days later. Well, years passed and I always wondered what became of Benik. In 1994, while getting into a mashroot (a privately owned van which move on a fixed route, taking on passengers), someone in front of the van called out my name. It was Benik�s son, who was with us back in 1989, when Benik was our driver. And who was at the wheel of the van itself? Benik. Yes, still driving, not for the government, but for himself now. He told me that after that trip, because of that driving adventure we had, he almost got himself shipped off to Siberia, no joke. Fortunately, some relative of his had connections and resources to pay a bribe to get Liloyan to forget the whole thing ever happened and let Benik off the hook. So Benik gave me his phone number so we could get together and reminisce. God, if I were him, I would just want to forget the whole thing, but I guess we did have some good times on that visit together.

Friday, November 09, 2001

Hi everyone. I just wanted to post this little note about Raffi and Risk. There is nothing lucky about that game and what cards he gets dealt (he always says that to try to make the looser feel better). It�s all skill. I�ve played Risk with him before and well I guess there is really no way to say this nicely, but Raffi is a total American when it comes to that game. Take no prisoners and before you get �demolished�, he acts like he�s your best friend so you wont attack him. Well I guess it's the object of the game and there really is nothing nice about war. I feel sorry for Viken and can�t imagine how Zabel keeps falling into that trap. I guess she likes it when he acts ruff and the smile on his face when wiping you out is kind of cute (I can hear her saying that). All I can say is that if our war was being fought on the Risk game board and Raffi was our commander, we would be soaking up some sun right now on the Caspian. Now Monopoly is a different story. I�ve never played Raffi and I have never felt defeated at that game ever, even when I loose. Just like in real life, when the game is over, you can't take the money with you.
The first opportunity I had to visit Artsakh was in the first week of June, 1993. It was a long waited discovery trip, which I had tried to do the previous October with no success due to a lack of transportation. Going to Artsakh was intended to give me a better understanding of what was really going on and to see firsthand what could be so special about this land that people were willing to die for it. Not only did most of my questions get answered on that trip, but what I saw and experienced changed my life forever. Though I could write volumes about that trip and plan to do so one day, the story I will share with you today took place on the last day of that first trip, where I found myself in the village of Vaghuhas in the Mardakert region. This was a village that during the war, changed hands a couple of times and the last time the Azeris took it, they burned down every house and almost every barn there. We had stayed the night before in one of the barns that were still intact. So that morning the people in our group were being offered a tour of the destruction and to visit the last outpost the Azeris had on a hilltop in the village which still had the remains of the invaders littered there. I passed on the offer and stayed behind to slaughter lambs so we could take them with us to Yerevan, as at that time there was a meat shortage in Armenia and Artsakh has a surplus. So almost everyone went off and left me, our driver Vartan and some of the villagers behind. I had brought with me from America a duffel bag full of new baby clothes to pass out to the villagers and had sent out word about the baby clothes before going off to a yard where hundreds of lambs awaited my arrival. With me I had my mother's new Swiss Army knife, which she lent to me just before I left for Artsakh (she could not come along, as she was conducting a workshop in Yerevan). So with this new razor sharp knife, I slaughtered and skinned 3 lambs. Then the experienced villager who had slaughtered, skinned and cleaned 2 other lambs, came over and cleaned out the guts of the 3 lambs I had left hanging. We chopped up the meat and hauled it back to the barn where we later loaded it into our jeep. Being it was my first time to slaughter a lamb and my lack of experience, I was covered from head to toe with blood and was in need of a bath. I got my towel and shampoo and began to head to the stream. The woman in whose barn we were staying told me that the stream was cold and I would get sick. I told her that I was going to also be washing my hair and it would be better if I went to the stream. She insisted that this would not be a good idea and ordered a couple of boys to go to the stream to bring water which she would heat for me. I could not argue and the boys soon returned with the water, which she heated. She then put out a large pan on the ground in the yard, next to the barn door. I was not sure what to make of this, but figured that if these people have no problem with taking a bath in the yard, then I better get over any shame of my body I may have and take a bath. Besides, there really was no one around other than this village woman, who had probably seen everything and a couple of friends of mine (one of them was her brother), so what�s the big deal. I took off my clothes and stood in the pan and she proceeded to pour water over my head. I lathered up. As she was rinsing me off and I could open my eyes, what do I see, but the village women with their children, who had gathered at a table near us where we had put out the baby clothes. They didn�t seem disturbed at the scene so I just played it cool like business as usual and lathered up again (I always soap up twice). While I was lathering, I hear the sounds of an approaching group. It was the explorers returning from their hike. With them was this village woman�s husband. He asked her what was going on? She told him in a very normal tone that she was giving me a bath. He said, okay, just asking. So I rinsed, dried off and got dressed. No big deal. No one really talked about it, it was not a big deal. I thought to myself that I had just experienced real Armenian village life. One big family looking out for each other. The following year when I came for a visit, the village had changed quite a bit. There were now houses. The village woman was now a widow, as her husband had been killed in a battle a couple of months following my last trip there. The bond that I had with his family had effectively made me the 5th child of the family and talking openly was not a big deal. So as we were all sitting around that night, reminiscing of the days of my first visit, the question came up about the bath. She confessed it was the first time that anything like that had happened in the village, but thought that in the US that�s the way we must do things, and she didn�t want to make me uncomfortable by saying anything. I was still a little confused and only figured out how the whole thing happened, but not until the next morning, when I decided to wash my hair, shave and nothing more. The water was heated this time by her daughter and the same pan was brought out for me to hold my head over while washing my hair. It seems at that first time when I told her I was going to also wash my hair, she had understood I was interested in only washing my hair and not take a bath. So when she put the pan out in the yard, she had never expected that I would get undressed and stand in it. I mean maybe only in some third world country they do that, but not here or in the US. Live and learn, and boy did they learn a lot about me. I�m sure that I was the talk of the village for quite some time after that. I mean how often is it that you get some Armenian from America coming to a remote village for a visit, let alone one that takes a public bath? Well it sure is a good argument for not immigrating to America. And if that much good came out of it, then it was well worth it. One thing I will say is that after that experience, I got over any shame I may have of my body and my level of self-confidence is much higher too (not that it was ever low). Oh, and for those of you that are wondering if I had enough sense to keep on my underwear (because every time I tell this story I get that question), the answer is no, because you can never get really clean wearing dirty underwear when taking a bath.

Wednesday, November 07, 2001

Bad News

Bad news is always so difficult to report. I called to my house my neighbor who has lots of experience with livestock to look at Shakar, as she had not been eating on her own and what she was being force-fed, she was not holding down. He told me that she appeared to be ill with a cold or flu and was taken off mothers milk too soon so her immune system could develop to protect her from getting sick. The illness and a lack of nourishment was a bad combination for her. He said that she was too small to medicate with anything he had (he deals with cows, pigs and livestock of that nature). He said that her chances of survival were not promising and to wait and see what happens. I checked on her every hour and tried to feed her, but she was still not keeping anything down. That evening, I went to my neighbors house for dinner and when I returned, I found she was very weak. An hour later, she passed away. My neighbor came over and helped me put her to her final place of rest in my back yard. I called Madlene who was saddened, but was more concerned with how I was doing. She told me that we need to remember Shakar as the puppy that brought us joy, as Shakar would have wanted it that way. Shakar will be missed and remembered.

Monday, November 05, 2001

Shakar has been a joy and a pain to have around. The joy part is her companionship and playfulness. The pain part is her seeming to not want to eat on her own. I always leave out a bowl of water and food for her, but in the end it seems that she has to be hand fed. I know Madlene was having a similar problem and maybe it has to do with her only being 40 days old. I hope that�s all it is. I was advised to show her the bowl and when she gets good and hungry, she will figure it out. I tried that yesterday and all that did was make her very weak and those puppy-dog-eyes that much more painful for me too look into (I�m a pushover for that kind of stuff). So I�m looking for any suggestion of what to do. The weather has been great these last few days. No rain and the sun has been out. I put Shakar out in the sun as much as I can and she seems to like that allot. I�ve been taking advantage of this weather to get in some nice long hikes to the neighboring villages to visit friends. It never fails that people will ask me if my car is broken when they see me on foot. I tell them that my car will get plenty of use when it starts to rain and worse than that, snow. Well not much more going on right now that�s worth reporting.

Thursday, November 01, 2001

Last night I returned from a trip to Yerevan. It was a blast, but very tiring for me since I was constantly on the run seeing people. With me I brought the daughters of a close friend of mine who were on a three day vacation. We stayed at Madlene's house and she was the perfect hostess and the girls fell in love with her. I would guess that they could have got on her nerves a bit, since one of the girls never leaves home without a videotape of her favorite music videos which has to be going all the time and has to be loud. Madlene did comment to me that she is 16 years old again, which I'm not sure if that means she was enjoying herself with the wildness of youth again or not. One night we went to a Karaoke bar and another night to a disco. I never really did any of that stuff in the US, most probably because I never had the time, but here, life is different. So my family has grown a little bit. When I was in Yerevan, I adopted a dog. She is so cute. Her Mom and I felt that it would be better that she grew up in the country and what better place then in Artsakh. It was a good deal for all of us, since I was in need of a dog and she was in need of a home with a yard. So I went with her Mom to the pet store to get some supplies. We got puppy kibbles and a basket to take her to Artsakh in. Her Mom got her a going away present of some rawhide bone things. Oh, and if you have not figured it out, the puppy is Shakar, Madlene�s dog. Well I wish I had more time to write, but Shakar is doing what she use to do to Madlene, sitting on my lap giving me the look and nudges of how can that stupid computer be more important than me, so I have to get going.

Tuesday, October 23, 2001

Today was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and I took a long walk. Tonight the stars were out as was a real bright half-moon.

I received a few very interesting answer to my question about the dream and the following couple of sentences echo�s what the majority had written (I just picked at random one of the answers, as they were well written).

Regarding the experience in the Republic Square: Religion and spirituality express themselves in grand dreams. The message is often imparted through dream revelations that suddenly throw a clear light upon the past or illuminate the dreamer's way ahead. The dreaming mind may encounter the "Wise Old Man", or other archetypal figures of wisdom, who reveal their truths and teachings. Other archetypes may take the form of symbols or religious icons. Transcendental experiences may occur, leaving the dreamer with profound feeling of exaltation and inner peace. Dreams involving priests and other religious officials may represent the authority of the established church, while Old Testament prophets, Christian saints, Hindu avatars or Buddhist boddhisattvas may symbolize aspects of the dreamer's spiritual identity or aspirations.

As for the public nudity dream: To dream of being naked in a public place, among other people who are unconcerned about the fact, or oblivious to it, usually indicates that you should discard as groundless any fears that you will be rejected if your real self is revealed. Nudity can represent the dreamer's spiritual nature, or the authentic self. It can also mean a desire to shed defenses, a freedom from shame and love of truth.

I�d like to thank everyone who wrote to me and as some of you requested, will get to work on the real story (not a dream) of being in a village in the Mardakert region and shall we say, was caught with my pants down and no one seamed to be bothered by it.
Last night I had a dream that I was in Yerevan attending a victory march of all the people that had come from different parts of the world to live in Armenia. They were not just recent arrivals, but also people that came in mass in 1946. In attendance were the Presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and Vehapar -- not our present day Vehapar, but Vazken I of blessed memory. Tens of thousands marched through the streets of Yerevan together, with our final destination being the Hurabarag (Republic Square). In front of the cross that was erected for the 1700th anniversary of Christianity in Armenia, His Holiness, with me standing by his side addressed the crowd. He told us how we, the descendants of Armenians who were driven from our native lands and who had settled all over the world, have now returned home are the true victors. By coming home, we have foiled our enemies' sinister plan to eradicate us. He said that we have many enemies and we have each personally in our souls defeated them all by returning to our homeland. He continued to say that they planned to empty Armenia of all Armenians and have failed to do this because of people like us. Our enemies may hate us, but they also respect us for our drive and will to survive which is in each of us. He said that we have each returned much stronger and smarter than anyone could have expected and for this we can only give thanks to God and our enemy for showing us our weaknesses. He said that those of you who have returned are no longer victims of the crimes that were committed against our nation over hundreds of years, but are the people that are truly in control of your destiny and the destiny of our nation. He closed by saying that Armenians all over the world must hear his words and understand that victory is not measured in how much land you have, but the peace you have each found by coming home. He then made the sign of the cross and wished upon us God�s protection, guidance and love. Then he leaned over to whisper in my ear that he needed to talk to me in private about an urgent matter and to come see him when the crowd goes. The dream ended right at that moment with the phone ringing. I tried to fall back to sleep, but was not successful. I wonder what Vehapar needed to tell me? I also wonder why he was in my dream and not our present day Vehapar? Well I'll spare you a commentary on this dream, as by itself is a very strong message. If there is anyone that professionally understands dreams, please write me to let me know what it means. Also maybe you can tell me about some of the other dreams that I have. Like what does it mean when I�m standing naked in a crowd of clothed people and am not at all uncomfortable? Actually, that really did happen to me here one time, but I�ll save that story for a rainy day when I really have nothing to write about and share with you some of my fond memories of life in Artsakh.

Sunday, October 21, 2001

Today was really quite a nice day. I�m not sure if this is mini-summer revisiting us for the second time, but there was no rain and the sun was out. I�d been waiting for a break in the weather so construction on my house could continue. I know what you�re saying. I haven�t logged anything about house construction and what does he mean continue? I just didn�t want to bore you with another construction story, or else �Life in Armenia� was going to have to be renamed to �This Old House in Armenia�. So I won�t talk too much about my construction, other than before winter sets in, I have to use up a couple of tons of cement I have so it won�t go bad. This means that every chance I get, I have to figure what else I can do to my house. I will say one other thing. This construction has been going on for almost 3 years. You may ask why it�s taking so long? Well for a couple of reasons. First of all, I have no plans to go by (don�t want any) and am doing it all freestyle. This means that I tell the construction crew where to put up walls, windows, doors and so on as I go. The second reason and biggest disadvantage to not having plans is that there really seems to be no end to what I add. I mean last year I started to have an indoor swimming pool and Jacuzzi built. It�s not done yet because I realized my office was more important, so they started that and it�s almost finished now. During construction of the office I was having problems finding farm-fresh chickens and decided to build a place to keep chickens and turkeys. I had a place built in the corner of the front yard so I could keep cats and dogs away and when they finished building this 180 square foot henhouse, which took 3 days to do, it was so cute and built in the same style and quality of the rest of the house that I decided that it would serve better as a place to cook the hens, and well, it�s now the future location of the kitchen. And the space between the kitchen and the house, which is about 30 feet, is where the formal dining room will be. So you see, things never end, because there is no end. I also found out today that the house next to me on the side I don�t own is for sale. So I�m thinking about buying it so I can enlarge my front yard. One thing that I will say with buying all theses houses is that they are a good investment for my family�s future. You see I come from a family where children are usually male. And here they have a custom of the parents of the male children giving their sons each a house (to reduce the hardship and stress of starting out I guess), all but the eldest (poor thing), who usually gets the family house and is required to take care of the parents. As for the female children, they hopefully are married off and go live with their husband�s family. So since there is a good chance that I�ll have more boys than girls, I�m buying up the houses around me so all my children can be near by to help out with taking care of me and my wife when we get old and ornery. I figure that as much mischief as I get myself into now, when I get older, it will only be amplified and it�s going to take more that one son, bride and grandchildren to keep me entertained, so I better set things up so they have some backup support. I guess getting married would also help to make this equation work too.

Saturday, October 20, 2001

Today the sun came out around noon and with it a lunch invitation to the Mayor's house. That may sound more impressive that it is, as the Mayor is one of my closest friends and was so, long before he became Mayor. At 1 p.m. I drove to City Hall and from there together we drove to his house. His mother, whom, indecently, I also call Mom (I have a few mothers who have adopted me as their own, but this is the only one I actually call Mom), had lunch ready for us. We ate and talked over the usual topics, which included what we need to do to stimulate the economy and make this place more attractive in terms of business opportunities for native and Diaspora investors. I won�t get into details on the web as to what was said, since the conversation I would categorize as confidential, right up there with military strategic planning and how much our reserve of mulberry vodka is. All should be treated as topics of national security. So after lunch, we returned to City Hall where we continued our discussion. At 5 p.m. we were invited to a lecture being presented by a man named Artyom Sarkis Sarkisyan. Mr. Sarkisyan was born in the village of Jardar (the largest village in the Martuni region) in 1926 and after attending the institute in Baku, he worked to become an Academic in the field of Oceanography. He started out his lecture in Karabaghian-Armenian, giving us some general background information about himself. He then went on to tell us about how five years ago he was lecturing in someplace to some Armenians in Russian and at the end of his lecture, a man walked up to him to tell him how much he enjoyed the lecture, but since he didn�t understand Russian, he didn�t understand a thing he was saying. All the people in the room laughed. Then he said that he knows that the Armenians of Karabagh are educated and understand Russian. He then proceeded to talk in Russian. Well, I admit I�m educated and know some Russian, but only words that relate to car parts, road directions and the more practical things like underwear and socks. So here I was sitting in this room with Academic Sarkisyan talking up a storm. To make the most of it, I decided to see how much I could understand and you know, I actually understood about 10 words, which was 10 words more than I was expecting to understand, but that was because I thought I heard some car part names (maybe he was talking about parts on a boat?). So when the lecture ended, I wanted to go up to him and tell him how much I enjoyed his lecture and didn�t understand a thing, but thought that maybe he would feel bad for making the same assumption twice (it�s like not learning from your mistake the first time, which I personally hate to do). I did ask the Mayor to fill me in on what was said, and when he did, I then kinda wished that the lecture had been in Armenian. For those of you that want to be impressed, check this out. Academic Sarkisyan was able to locate and document where in the Atlantic Ocean water flows in two directions. Yea, you heard me right, he found a place the current breaks one of the laws of physics!!! People knew this could exist, but didn�t quite understand how to prove it. This means that the surface water goes in the direction of the wind and about 50 meters below, the water flows in the opposite direction. For those of you that don�t understand what I�m trying to say, let me put it in terms that some of you should relate with. It�s kind of like if you flush a toilet in the Northern hemisphere and it swirls clockwise. In the Southern hemisphere, it swirls counter-clockwise. But if the toilet were in the middle of the Atlantic at that spot, Academic Sarkisyan found, after swirling clockwise for 50 meters down into the ocean, it would change direction. Well, maybe that�s not a good comparison, but it�s one of those puzzles of physics that even I don�t understand. Please don�t make me try to explain how you would get out there to flush it to see for yourself, let alone install it way out there. Oh, and for that discovery, he got some big prize of money (Armenians love to talk about money, and I would guess that got the attention of those people sitting there in the room dozing off and also thinking about how they were going to stay warm this winter). The other thing Academic Sarkisyan was known for was for disproving some hypothesis, which he really didn�t give details on, but said that he almost ended up in Siberia over. It had something to do with challenging three leading American and one leading Russian scientists who didn�t want to admit to their mistake. Well those were the highlights of my day. Let�s see what tomorrow has to offer.

Friday, October 19, 2001

I remember when I lived in the US and it would rain on Sunday, I would stay in bed, watch T.V. and read the newspaper. Well when I woke this morning to find it was raining, I decided to pretended I was back in the US and it was Sunday. I turned on the T.V. and all that I could get a decent signal from was BBC news. It was so depressing to watch, that I turned it off and logged on to read the LA Times. Well that was a mistake. So I decided that today was going to be movie day!!! With that said, I made some popcorn, got in bed and did a marathon quadruple-feature. The Green Mile, The Sixth Sense, The Beach and Saving Private Ryan. While that noise was going on in the background (I've only seen them at least 5 times), I surfed the web looking for alternative ways to heat my house. I found that the US Patent and Trademarks Office not only has the abstracts of patents online, but they also now have the drawings and detailed descriptions. Did I hit pay-dirt or what? So I downloaded a few patents of boilers, burners and multi-fuel stoves that I'll mix and match to maybe have something built here that will not only heat my house, but also heat the water for my bath, swimming pool, Jacuzzi and maybe I can even design it so I can built a Sauna right on top of it and heat that too!!! As you can imagine, today was really boring.

Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Today it rained all day so I stayed inside and turned my electric heater all the way up. I worked on an assignment from a good friend who has a daughter that got married and moved to Brussels, Belgium. She calls once a week, but the connection is really horrible and I'm sure costing someone a small fortune. They want for her to send letters via e-mail, but she has no idea where the internet cafes to do this are. Unfortunately I'm not there to hold her hand and get her set-up so I need to find someone there that can help me out to do this. I got on the internet to find someone and did a search for an Armenian organization or anything Armenian there, but came up with nothing useful. So if there's anyone out there that can help me or you know someone there with e-mail that you think would be willing to make a phone call and maybe even a new friend from Artsakh, please contact me so I can get you in contact with her. Thanks in advance.

Tuesday, October 16, 2001

Not to scare Lena, but I was over at my neighbor's house this morning for breakfast. This is the same neighbor that told me about mini-summer. I asked his wife when will mini-summer come? She gave me this look and said mini-summer has come and gone. I asked her if I missed it and she said that it was an extra-mini one this year. Great, does that mean winter is here? Let's hope she's wrong. Just in case, I better get the long underwear out and charge up the batteries for my electric socks. Today it was overcast and right now it's raining. The outside temperature all day has been 12.3c (54f) and is starting to drop. I hope my sneezing is because I have dust in my house.

Sunday, October 14, 2001

In front of my house is where the neighborhood kids gather at night. I guess since we don't have street lighting in our neighborhood and I have a motion light, that makes my place the hotspot. I sometimes get calls from parents telling me to send their kids home when it gets late. Like tonight I got a call from Ashot's mother telling me that he has to do his homework and to please send him home. So I went out to find Ashot sitting in front of my house talking with his friends, eating a pomegranate. I told him that his Mom wants him to come home. He thanked me and went running off. The kids range in age of 2 to 16 years old. It's not uncommon for a mob of over 20 kids to gather in the summer. Sometimes it gets a little loud out there, but I've never seen things get out of hand. They all know me and call me by my first name. The little ones are the cutest and always ask me how I'm doing? Hide and Seek, Tag, Statue/Free (same as Red-light/Green-light) and War seams to be their favorite games. I remember when I was a kid we use to play the same games all the time, but when it got dark, we had to come in and make sure the front door was locked. Well I guess that rule does not apply here. On non-school nights these kids stay out until midnight or even later. I mean this last summer I don't think they slept at all. I would sometimes come home at 2 or 3 a.m. and find some of the older kids still up and talking. One thing I can say with confidence is that we don't have the same predators Western countries have. When my very protective cousin, wife and 7 year old son came for a visit this summer, they very quickly got use to the idea of letting him join the other kids without a worry in the world. I guess life here is different in that way. So tonight after sending Ashot home, I decided to walk down to Arthur's store to get some munchies. I walked in the store and this little boy of probably 3 years old looks up at me with amazement and says "Aran neh", meaning "it's Ara". I said hello to him and pat him on the head. As I'm waiting my turn, he stares at me with his big brown eyes watching every move I make. I take a piece of gum off the counter and give it to him. He smiles and runs to his mother. While leaning up against her hip and still staring at me, he says in a soft, secretive voice, "keedes, Aran neh". She smiles and the lady working behind the counter comments on how important I am to the children here. I ask him his name and he does not seam to know what to say, so his mother answers "Aram", like your name, only with an "m". They finish their purchase and Aram and his Mom walk out with Aram tightly clinching the gum I gave him.

Saturday, October 13, 2001

Well the weather is starting to change and it looks like winter is coming. Everyone tells me that we will have a mini-summer, which I guess comes in November and then winter will sets in. Regardless, it made me think of how I'm going to stay warm this winter and heat my house. I mean coming from Southern California it's not something that I've ever really had to think about too much before moving here. My house there had a central heating system and all I had to do if and when it got cold was turn it on. But here it's a bit different. Right now you can hear the sound of saws and axes cutting and splitting wood, as people get ready for winter. Last year I hired a crew to go and chop down a forest of trees for hardwood flooring and to burn. Part of the burning wood I donated to the two preschools we have here in Martuni and also gave some to my close friends (I still have enough to last me a couple of winters). In my house I had a wood stove and an electric heater going and that seamed to do the job. I only had the problem of remembering to dress warm (something I'm not use to doing) and got sick twice. Well this summer I decided to complicate things and had the ceilings in my house painted and the walls whitened. So if I put the wood stove in this year, everything will blacken for sure. I have radiators in my house, but since we don't have natural gas yet, it's a real chore feeding the boiler with wood all night and day (I tried it for about a week the year I had the system installed, but it was too much work). I'm told that I can add a 250 gallon tank and some drip system so it will work on diesel, but considering that diesel is now $1.45 per gallon (last year I think it was less than half that) and its average use is 2 gallons a day, were talking something like $85 a month, which is way more than what I spend on electricity during the winter months. I saw in Yerevan electric blankets, but being that they were Turkish, it was not an option. So after thinking about it long and hard, I decided that I'm going to spend the winter in Costa Rica!!! Just kidding. I guess I'll move into one of my smaller rooms and just crank up the electric heater and hope that we don't have many power outages. The locals tell me that I can solve all my problem by getting married. I don't know how they figure that's the solution. Maybe they figure my wife will make her way through the snow to keep feeding wood into the boiler? I would never allow that!!! Just kidding, I would. I mean NO, it's wrong for them to think that way!!! How dare they!!! Let's just hope we have a short and mild winter.

Thursday, October 11, 2001

I'm so pooped out with all the weddings and birthdays parties I've been going to. I mean it's a good sign to see so much activity here, but with two a week, it's just too much for me to deal with. What I've noticed is that Armenian's love to entertain and when they invite people over for a celebration, they don't skimp on anything (though most don't have it, they find it someplace). The typical party here is done at ones house and I've never been to a gathering with less than 100 people. I mean if you're going to party, you have to invite everyone. They set out these long tables and barrow dishes, cups and utensils from their neighbors and relatives. Part of the talent of giving a good party is to not only prepare as many different tasty dishes as possible, but to stack them as high as you can. Though there are always these great salads and cooked dishes, my favorite has to be the 100% pure honey with butter, on home-baked bread, yum!!! Besides the food, drinking is a big deal here, though it can be very dangerous. No one drinks alone and those that don�t drink are looked upon a little strangely. I'm not a drinker and fortunately people are now use to me not drinking too much and are okay with me just lifting my glass for a toast. Beer is not considered a real drink, but is very strong (11 to 12.5% alcohol) and the wine is usually so good that you think your drinking grape juice and don�t know that your drunk until it�s too late (it's happened to me a couple of times). Then there�s the vodka (a man�s drink!!!), which in most cases is made of white mulberries and is way too potent for me (up to 70% alcohol and not only a drink, but a medicine that cures just about anything that could ail you when taken with fresh garlic). Next month the high season for weddings will end and winter will set in. The layer of fat that I�ve acquired will burn off by the end of winter when I finish hibernating and it will start all over again next year.

Wednesday, September 12, 2001

Since everyone is posting about America under attack or as BBC is reporting it as "America Under Siege", here is what happend in Karabagh. I received Jeff K, his Dad, David and Lala as guest and while they were resting from their long drive, my neighbor called over to me to turn on the T.V., as the Pentagon had been bombed. I rushed inside and turned on BBC World. There was the World Trade Center on fire. We all sat and watched in shock. Lala was really upset and wanted to call the US, but settled to send an e-mail to a friend in New York who goes to the WTC a couple times a week. She got an instant response that he was okay, but was left shook-up and I guess I could not blame her. I started to get calls from people here in Martuni to ask me if my family was safe? I only could think of my aunt that was going to be coming to visit my family in California from Boston and she always flies American Airlines, but remembered that this is not to happen until next week. We went to my friend the mayor or Martuni's house for dinner and talked about what had happened the whole night. The first toast of the evening was to remember the victims and their families.

Tuesday, August 14, 2001

I have to apologize to the readers and Raffi for not being so active in posting, but as I said in my very first post, I will be posting every now and then when something noteworthy happens. I have been working on a few interesting things to share with you, one of which is with my July 14th posting when I asked the readers what are the pros and cons of living outside Armenia, as many people here think that things are much greener on the outside (feel free to continue commenting on this if you wish). I have had the letters I�ve received from you on that subject translated and am getting response letters from the locals. The results my be quite enlightening and should give most a better grasp on reality. I�ll have to ask Raffi if it�s okay to post my findings here, as it�s going to be very long and for some it may be too much to read. We'll see.

So here is the next assignment for those that are interested. I�m not going to share my opinion on this right now, as I don�t want to put any ideas in your head. What I am asking you as someone living outside of Armenia and Artsakh is what you think the pros and cons of combating "the traditional stereotype of women..." which it appears that the UN thinks is a problem (see snippet of article below). I�ll be asking the same question to the local population on a more formal level, as in the past this issue has come up quite a bit, being male, doing my own laundry, cleaning, cooking and other domestic chores (you can only imagine those conversations, which I will add to my overall findings when I report them to you). I guess I will be asking locals if there was a change, what they would like that change to be and the end result. How it will affect children, the family and things of that nature. Maybe those who were around before the women's rights movement in the US and other parts of the world really kicked in, what life was like then and what it has become now. Was it what you expected? You can write to me at:

Calgary Herald
August 11, 2001

The UN quietly wages war on religion: Does this respected body
suppress monotheism in order to regulate global values?

BY: Joe Woodard

{parts omitted]

The Czech Republic has been criticized for "over-protective attitudes
toward pregnancy and motherhood," and Armenia has been told to use
its schools and media to combat "the traditional stereotype of women
'in the noble role of mother'."

Tuesday, August 07, 2001

Yesterday in Martuni I attended the quarterly meeting where our elected Member of Parliament (MP) has to report what he is doing for the people who put him in power. It started out with him informing us of the new laws that have been adopted, complaints that he has addressed on behalf of the people and then on to questions and answers. The hot topic was pensions. The biggest complaint was that there are many people who receive a pension of 6,000 dram (about $11), and on the other end of the pension scale, a few who receive 46,000 dram (about $83). The official government figure for cost of minimal food per month to provide a balanced diet is between 25,000 dram and 30,000 dram (about $55). So how do these people with the less than 25,000 dram pensions survive? According to some of the people in the hall, they really don't. Many become a burden on their families. Those who don't have families, in some cases live on bread and water only. So what is going to be done about this? According to the MP, he is going to bring up the subject in Parliament for discussion. However, he did add that today's government is very poor and may not have the resources to pay more. The other hot topic was the lack of jobs, especially for young people. As a result, many people are looking to seasonal work in Russia, which in the end could result in permanent relocation. The MP was really unable to give any answer to this question and said that he would have to refer it to the Minister of Economy. So that night I was pondering these questions, to see what we, the Armenians of the Diaspora could do to help. As for the pension question, what is needed for these people is money. For a self-sustaining nation, there needs to be a tax base to provide financial resources. With the present lack of jobs, there is little tax revenue. This situation is really a losing combination where everyone is affected, young and old. I would say that we should start a pension fund in the Diaspora to temporarily address this problem, but from my past experiences with trying to raise funds in America for educational projects here and the lack of interest, we would get no place and it would just be a waste of time. The real answer is stimulating the economy. A friend of mine is bringing a group of serious business people to Armenia and Artsakh in October/November to investigate investing in the economy. Perhaps we can get some electronics' assembly factory or some other business going here in Martuni to employ some people. For those who are in business and interested in investing in the economy in Armenia and/or Artsakh or know someone who is, I encourage you to e-mail my friend Harout Bronozian at: to get involved. For those interested in donating to a supplemental pension fund for the city of Martuni, you can contact me. Yes, those residing in America can even deduct it from their taxes, as it would go through a California 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization, which is also registered here in Artsakh for just such things.

Friday, July 27, 2001

Though I really have nothing special to report as far as my life here in Artsakh, I wanted to tell you what a joy it is for me to read about our up and coming new arrivals to Armenia from the Diaspora. You can be sure that I will personally greet each one of them and welcome them home. This is the best decision anyone can make and though the lifestyle change is a big one, it's worth it. I can only speak for myself, but know that what I say applies to most of us in regards to what our being here means. Not only does it give us the good feeling to know that by us being here, we are doing our share to keep this land, but most of us come with financial resources, which in it self is a big economic stimulator. I'm not sure of the others spending habits, but I know that I personally support at very least 10 families with the money I spend each month. So just coming here and doing nothing other than living is really a big help. I mean regardless of where I live I have to spend money each month to survive, so why not here? I encourage anyone that can come here to do so as not only is the air clean and the water sweat, but it really is the right thing to do. Get that one-way ticket and come on over so I can welcome you home too.

Saturday, July 21, 2001

As many who read "Armenian Life" know, we receive questions and comments to our postings. One in particular I got a bunch of questions was to my posting about James Tufenkian's new hotel. The biggest question I got about it was where can people get more information? Well at the time I should have posted their web-site, but didn't have it. So here it is: The site is as classy as the hotel (Raffi prepared it) and I encourage everyone to check it out as it not only covers the Nork hotel, but future hotels that James is planning on opening all over Armenia.