Thursday, January 31, 2002


Tonight I walked to a friend�s house for a visit and there was a woman there who was talking about her concerns as far as her economic situation. She has a government job that pays her 25,000 dram ($45) a month. Her husband is out of work and has been for many years. They have a son who is 8 years old and her husband�s mother and father live with them. The husband�s mother and father get a pension totaling 15,000 dram ($27) a month.

I asked her what type of salary would she need to receive so they could have a semi-normal life, $100 a month? She said no, that would not even cover food (official government estimate for minimal food per person is 25,000 to 30,000 dram a month). She was not really able to give me a figure, but what she did say, stuck in my head. She said that there are 5 people in their family. If she could secure all the basic necessities and have enough to have a birthday party for all 5 of them and money left to purchase for a few friends a gift on their birthdays, then life would not be so bad. The reason this comment stuck in my head is that so many people find this birthday party issue to be important.

In the U.S. and for me personally, a birthday is not that big a deal and really just another day. I guess when I think of birthdays, I think of an excuse for little kids getting together, eat cake and play games together. Maybe this is my capitalist way of thinking.

Well here, a birthday party is a big deal and an important celebration of life. When you have a birthday party for your child here, it�s not so much the child�s friends that attend, but the parent�s friends, relatives and acquaintances from work.

I once went to the birthday party of a little girl who turned 5 years old. Her dad is the head of the tax office in Martuni and not only were all the head people from the tax office from the entire Karabagh tax system there, but the head prosecutor and his staff, regional minister and former chief of police (who is now once again the chief of police). This all for a 5 year old girl.

When I went home from that party, there was another birthday party going on at my neighbor�s house. I was invited over to join that party. When I sat down, I had no idea who it was for, but in attendance was the chief of police, former regional minister and almost every military base commander. It turns out that the birthday was for a 7 year old girl, whose father is the commander of one of the bases in Martuni.

I guess when I think of the most basic human function, it�s not to work to get rich, but it�s to find a mate, have children and secure a job that will provide a source of income so you can live and celebrate life.

It would be safe to say that Armenians here understand this concept, more than those people living in the Diaspora. Maybe this is why so many well educated people continue to live here with the lack of opportunities to get rich and in our Diasporan eyes, just get by.

Today was quite an uneventful day. The weather was great, but this hot weather we are having is concerning me a bit. Like I said before, this heat could cause the trees to blossom like they did last year, thus the freeze we are bound to get and for sure at some point hail, will cause the beautiful little flowers to drop off, resulting in a reduced yield of fruit.

As part of my daily tasks, I read Groong, which today there was a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia, regarding the upcoming Diaspora conference. This is the second conference of its kind. I attended the first one in 1999 and for me it was quite interesting to see so many Armenians from different parts of the world in one place. At that time I got the feeling that most everyone in attendance was not sure what the goal was of that conference, other than maybe getting to know each other, get a feel for one another and maybe to better understand the present day Armenian situation (all very useful things I would think). Well from what I read in the press release today, this conference is going to be much more productive in some very important areas and I recommend those that can make time to be in Armenia on May 27-28, that you defiantly register and attend. I�ll be attending for sure and hope to see you there too.

Tuesday, January 29, 2002

Yesterday I got water, which meant a couple of loads of laundry and a nice LONG hot shower. The clothes dryer is working great!!! I don�t know how I lived without it for so long. What�s strange is that there are so many people here who really think that a clothes dryer is not healthy and to properly disinfect clothes, they must be showered with the suns rays. I�m not sure if this is true or not, but this advice comes from the same people that think that a baby must be wrapped up tight in a blanket for the first few months of their lives so that their legs, arms and head will be straight. All I can say is that I don�t get infections from my clothes, nor are my legs bowed.

On Sunday night when I was over at my neighbor�s house for dinner, I was told that the local chicken farm had slaughtered their last batch of chickens and by morning, they would be in the stores. This is the 3rd or 4th time that I have seen chickens come out of the chicken farm, since it was purchased by a Diaspora-Armenian in 1999. The chickens are 54 days old and on average 1 kilo (2.2 lbs.) in size and cost 800 dram per kilo (65 cents a pound). I�m told by people that work at the farm, that these are all natural chickens that are given a special feed which is brought in from Russia, that has special chicken vitamins mixed in (not hormones).

The following morning I went to the store and got a couple of chickens, which I dropped off at my neighbor�s house, who cooked them up for dinner. I have to tell you that in all of my life, I have never had such tender chicken. It may be wise that I invest in buying 10 more of these chickens and keeping them in the freezer, since it could be some time before we see some more chickens come from the farm.

Today is a little chilly. Right now the outside temperature is 16.4c (62F) and rising. I read Shooshig�s log and went to the weather site she linked and learned that where I lived in California, it�s now colder than it is here (high and low). I�m told by the local elders that we are maybe looking at another month of weather like this, with maybe snow in mid February. Then things should start to get hotter.

Well I�ve got to get going. I don�t know how many people use to watch The Andy Griffith Show. For those of you that know what I�m talking about, I kid you not, I�m living in the Armenian equivalent. Today I�ll go to the barbershop for a haircut and learn the latest gossip. I guess there are a few differences between Mayberry, R.F.D., and Martuni, NKR. One of the differences that come to mind is that they don�t play checkers at the barbershop. They play chess (you were expecting me to say backgammon, right?). Another fond observation is the telephone operators. Though none of them are named Sara, they do listen into your conversation and even one time when I was talking to some in Yerevan that spoke more Russian than Armenian, the operator cut in and translated something for me that I didn�t understand.

Sunday, January 27, 2002

Today was not my day of rest. I did house cleaning and would have done laundry, but it seems a fitting on my main water pipe broke again and I lost all my water. Will this water problem ever end? I went down to the general store and got what I needed to make the repairs. As I was fixing the pipe, a friend came over with a friend of hers that needed to e-mail off a couple of x-rays to a doctor in Russia. At first the friend was a bit reluctant to give me the x-rays and said something about it being a bit amot (rude). I didn�t have a clue what the x-ray was of and only after I realized the big thick white line in the middle was not a bone, but was what separated 2 pictures. Then it clicked and I realized that it was pictures of this woman�s breast we were scanning. I mean poor thing, I know with our culture how difficult it must have been to come and ask me (male and from America) to send the x-rays. So here is this woman that fears that she has cancer and now having to bring pictures of her breasts to Ara�s house, was just that much more to pile on top of her problems. She told me that she had gone to the Erebuni hospital in Armenia for a breast examination and the young girl that had just been trained the day before took a look at the x-ray and gave her a clean bill of health. She was not too happy with the diagnosis and wanted a second opinion, so she contacted a doctor friend in Russia to take a look at what we send her. Well the scanner didn�t do too well, so we resorted to the digital camera and a flashlight. I was not too happy with the quality, but we sent the pictures off anyway. I told her about the mammogram center that Madlene use to work at and how they have the latest methods to check. I was not sure if they charge for the examinations, but even if they do, I would think that if you suspect cancer, it would be worth the investment. On the other hand, this woman had already spent 7,600 dram at Erebuni hospital, which she didn�t have, not to mention the $26 round-trip ticket to get there and back. I guess money is always a problem here. We finished with sending the x-rays and I drove my guest home. On the way to their house, the woman with the x-rays asked me what is so good about this place that I would leave America for it? She said that many people don�t understand me and why I would leave such a wonderful life back in America for this life. I told her that for me it is a simple choice. This is our land, like it or not. It may not be the most ideal place in the world to live today, but one day, I think it�s going to get better than what it is today, and even if it�s not going to get better, it�s all we have left. So I dropped them off and went back home to finish my plumbing repairs. Tomorrow is water day, so maybe I will get enough so I can do a couple of loads of laundry. Well I have to get going. My neighbor just called me to come join them for dinner, so I've got to go.

Saturday, January 26, 2002

Though Sunday is to be a day of rest, for me it seems that Saturday has been my day of rest. I try to do things on Saturday that will not be too challenging. With the high today around 65f, I elected to take a nice long walk to air out my body and without thinking about it, I ended up walking 22 kilometers.

During my walk I was thinking about my life and the roads I�ve chosen. My being here and not in the U.S. was probably one of the best decisions I could have ever made. I can say that I have no regrets.

When I was in Yerevan, I was talking to the guy that Lena wrote about that sponsored her pizza dinner and he was telling me about his life in the U.S. and how he suffers from a condition where his jaw hurts all the time, which he recognizes as being caused by stress. He said that when he comes to Armenia, that condition goes away. It reminded me that when I go to the U.S. I get headaches and other stress related discomforts, that never seem to bother me when I�m here. I think it must have something to do with being at peace with myself.

I�m always asking myself about why in this world there are so many things that just don�t make sense? I mean here is Armenia, like I�ve said before, we really don�t have a logical reason to have so many people living in poverty. Well in my quest for answers to the burning question of poverty, I had the good fortune to come across a book while in Yerevan, written by Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer called �War Against the Poor�. The subject matter really hit home, as much of what it talks about, I see going on in Armenia today. Did it address the poverty question? You bet. The book is about Low-Intensity Conflict, which appears to be a technique the U.S. uses to fight to protect their national valuables against envious �have nots.� Ever wonder why such organizations as the World Bank, International Monetary Fund and USAID exist? Adding together what I�ve read in this book and personally seeing what they do and the end results, it now make more sense to me what their true fuction is. Do what they do contribute to our problems today? Well I�ll let you read the book and draw your own conclusions.

I would recommend you get a copy of the book since it�s only 100 pages long, but it appears that does not list it and knows about it, but does not stock it, nor does their used book service have any copies available. For that reason, I went ahead and scanned and tuned it into text. For those of you that are interested in reading it (it�s 290k in size), write to me and I�ll send you a free copy.

I guess the next logical step would be that we as a nation have to figure out what we can do in order to be a little less effected by this Low-Intensity Conflict that it seems we are facing today.

Thursday, January 24, 2002

I�m back from my �Vacation�. As you may have read, from Lena and Madlene�s log, I went to Yerevan. I guess I�ve been trying to do this for a few weeks now, but road conditions have not been favorable for making it a safe trip. So with a break in the weather, I purchased a roundtrip ticket, which left downtown Martuni, got me delivered to Hotel Madlene and then back home. Good investment and only cost me $26.

Madlene was the perfect hostess and her house was quite impressive. Though there was a water issue, as she said in her log, we resolved it. The thick walls and well sealed double windows allowed the house to heat to a comfortable temperature and never once did I get even a bit uncomfortable.

The first night was dinner and dancing with everyone (those that are braving the Yerevan winter). The middle of my visit was with friends and relatives. My last night was a dinner that Madlene put on where we had her Iranian rice. Let me tell you, the whole trip was worth it just for that rice. Madlene didn�t think there was enough garlic, but I thought it was fabulous. Madlene, don�t let it get to your head, but it really was good and you know it. The people that you invited were also quite pleasant and the conversation was great!!!

While I was in Yerevan, I added a piece of modern technology to my arsenal of things needed for convenient living, thanks to Madlene. Madlene knows someone that has a wholesale outlet of various imported products, including household appliances. From there she had purchased all of her appliances, including a German or Italian made Whirlpool clothes dryer. Now for someone living in America, this would not be a big deal, but here, clothes dryers are almost non-existent. I mean my washing machine has a built in dryer, but according to the instructions, you can only put in 2 pounds of clothes for it to work and even then, it takes forever to almost dry. Well I decided that a clothes dryer was a must for me and the price was unbeatable at $150. Yes, brand new, just not showroom saleable due to a ding or scratch (I�m still trying to figure out which one mine has), which brought it back to the warehouse to be sold below wholesale. It fit in the back of the van and is now set-up next to my washer, ready to dry the next load of laundry, which is washing right now. You can�t imagine what a chore it use to be to dry laundry in the winter.

Now for the weather report. I have no idea what is going on here, but for some reason it got up to 60f today. There really is no evidence of winter here. I mean there are a few spots of snow where the sun does not shine, but other than that, you would think it is Spring or something. I�ve got the front door of my house open right now to air out things. One thing I fear is it may warm up and the trees will blossom and then we get a cold snap and the flowers will drop off, thus resulting in no fruit again. This happened last year and as a result, this winter people do not have much in their food reserve as far as jams, jellies and preserves.

Well I hope everyone is doing well and you didn�t miss me too much.

Saturday, January 19, 2002

Time for a break from logging. I decided that the next week will be "vacation" and R&R. I'll be back on next week to let you know how I spent my week.

Wednesday, January 16, 2002

Though I do my best to keep out of the local press (since they rarely get the story right), it�s not always possible. I guess this one I could have stopped, but the people who asked my permission to have it published, needed it in order for their wounds to heal. Following the story, I will give you a little more insight as to how all this came about.

Shnorhagalootyoon (Thank You)
By Garine Dadamyan

Amaras (Martuni�s government weekly newspaper)
January 12, 2002

�A Remembrance from Mr. Manoogian� is written on the headstone of Geghanik Muradian, that�s Geghanik, who died in 2001 by electrocution.

Grief-stricken for days, with tears in her eyes, Geghankik�s mother came to the editorial office. She did not come to protest, as so many are doing these days, but by means of the newspaper to express her thanks to that man, who extended a helping hand when her family found itself in the direst social and spiritual situation. The comment refers to Ara Manoogian, the American Ara. During our interview, Mother Sveta told me that Ara was keeping their family within his attention perhaps during the past years. Last New Year�s night, the Muradians received a parcel from Father Winter. After some time passed, it became evident that Father Winter was Ara himself, who, being familiar with the family�s situation, decided to make them happy.

With the Artsakh movement, the Muradians moved to Martuni from Baku. And as many have testified, together with Mother Sveta, from the very first day, Genadik, as we liked to call him, endured the slings and arrows of war until the end, the Day of Victory. He participated in many battles, in which he was conspicuous as an excellent soldier, a loyal friend, and a reliable man. �Artsakh was not my son�s homeland,� says his mother. �It is mine, but my Baku born son fought like a true patriot until the end.�

And after so much, at the most difficult moment for the family, the outsider, Ara, extended his hand. �During the funeral he gave $100, for the 40-day requiem he gave $50, and until now he is helping, he comes, he is interested,� says Genadik�s mother.

The homeland soldier�s three children find themselves today in extremely serious condition. However, they are always under the watchful eye of Ara, under the sponsorship of the one who extended a timely hand.

We join Genadik Muratian�s mother, Sveta Muradian, in expressing thanks to the benevolent Ara, who found the possibility of giving hope and faith to one family and to extend a saving hand to three orphaned children.


As proud as I should feel for such stories to be printed, I feel more fear as to the many phone calls and visits I can expect asking me to be Father Winter to other equally needy families. When I offered to pay for Genadik�s grave stone, my objections to having my name put on it too were not culturally cohesive. After giving into the name on the gravestone, it was not too difficult to agree on the article. Though I really had no idea as to what was going to be in the article (I was expecting worse), I had asked that something be included to establish that Geno (which is what his friends use to call him, which I happen to be one of), was just that, a friend of mine. Not to say that I haven�t helped other people in their time of need, but Geno was someone I knew when he was alive and to me, he was a really nice guy that I had respect for. You remember a couple of logs ago when I wrote about me fighting with my logical, resourceful and reasonable side? Well the part when I answer to God, is what I imagine Geno said. That�s the kind of guy he was in my eyes (for those of you that know me, you know I don�t classify too many people this way). I know other people that have died, leaving their family in a similar situation, but not to be disrespectful to the dead, they could never in my eyes come close to having been like Geno was. I mean at a funeral when people are talking about the person that died and they are only saying good things, and to yourself your wondering if you came to the right funeral, because the person you knew and the one people are talking about are not the same? Well at Geno�s funeral people were talking about him and no one had to spice things up to make him sound like when he was alive that he was a nice guy, cause he really was. Taking all I�ve said into consideration and then adding the way Geno died, would motivate anyone of you to mortgage your house if need be and help Geno�s family out. I won�t get into the details right now and will save the Geno story for the first anniversary of when he was killed, which was February 14, 2001. In the meantime, consult with your bank, as I guarantee you, you really are going to want to help them out. They certainly are deserving and raising 3 children on an almost non-existent pension is very difficult and Father Winter can only do so much.
What a discovery!!! Today after long and intensive scientific research on the effects of cold weather to the human body (I was the main lab monkey), I have come to some not so scientific conclusions. If I didn�t mention it before, from November or December of 2000, until June of 2001, I had a chronic cough. I had in past years (1997 to 1999) this same problem and in those years when I was unable to rid myself of this cough and it would become to painful for me, I would have to be airlifted out of Armenia and back to a recovery center in California (Mom and Dad�s house) to dry out. Never would the California winter and my parents well heated house fail to rid me of my condition within days. I�ve concluded the cause of this condition has to be due to a combination of cold temperatures, high humidity levels and in the past, my lack of resources to properly heat my living area. I also knew that it was not a contagious condition, as from May to June of 2001, I was helping to care for new-born baby, who never got sick of constantly being coughed on and only became desensitized to loud sudden noises (classical music and random coughing makes for a very well tempered baby). Many years before, when Armenia was suffering its worse energy crisis, I had a cousin in Yerevan, who every year would get a chronic cough that would last him the whole winter and appeared to make him more vulnerable to getting flu�s too. Now why do I feel more confident that my observations have merit? Well, these last couple of weeks, the temperature has dropped and the average temperature has been around 0c. I keep my living space, where I spend most of my time from 20c to 30c. Only when I go outside, to some ones house that is not well heated, or if I forget to put some wood in the woodstove and the temperature in my room drops below 16c for more than a half hour, the same cough return. When I return to an area that is above 20c, the cough goes away within an hour. I went to dinner last night at a friend�s house and was talking about this cough problem and it was agreed that it was not only me, but most people here have the same problem. There are so many people that suffer from this and it is only due to our lack of resources to properly heat our homes. During Soviet times, this was really not an issue. A year before the war broke out, the city of Martuni had piped in natural gas, which was used not only to cook, but to heat. Prior to that, it was heating oil and diesel. Today, heating oil and diesel, based on the income of most is too expensive to heat with. Wood is the way most people seem to go, but the increase in need I would bet is causing our lush green forests to wane. In the last couple of years, piped in natural gas has retuned to Stepanagert and other areas of Artsakh, with work moving forward to eventually cover the entire country (Martuni is said to have gas by the end of this year). Though this should resolve the issues I have addressed in this log, the cost of heating with natural gas in a way far exceeds the cost of wood. This is only a true statement as the cost of wood for many is the cost to rent and fuel a truck (maybe $20). The rest is you and your friends going out with axes, other cutting instruments and a couple of bottles of Vodka. Now mind you if people had jobs that provided a reasonable income to pay for the gas they use to heat their houses with, they would not have the time to go out and chop down a few trees each year. The general opinion is people would elect to heat with gas if it was a true and affordable option. Even people here know that a live tree is worth much more than a dead one. Hey, I wonder if we could get the tree people to help us? They could run some campaign to save the Artsakh forests by promoting people to invest in the economy here. Something like, create a job, save a tree. Hey, maybe the Diaspora could bypass the tree people and do it themselves. Interesting idea, I wonder if anyone other than me is thinking on this level?

Tuesday, January 15, 2002

My sleep habits have been a supper roller coaster ride. With winter, I seem to be getting to bed earlier then usual and this resulting in getting up earlier. Since I�m on no fixed schedule for writing, I guess the ride will go on, not knowing what twist or turn it will take next. So I�ve been plugging away at this writing thing and the more I do it, the more I get into it. Some of the things I'm writing makes me tired and almost depressed. Other things excite me so much that I sit for hours and even if I was tired, can't sleep. What I�ve come to realize is what keeps me here other than this being my historic homeland, is what I see on a daily basis in real life, I didn't see in America. I mean what I�ve seen, I would guess someone would have seen in America 200 years ago. Or as some people here have told me, Armenia has gone back in time. We are living back in 1918. What was once an asphalt road in some places, nature has reclaimed and it is again the same road our ancestors traveled on and in many cases with the same means (donkey cart or foot). On the one hand I feel privileged to be seeing this with my own eyes so I will appreciate what I do have, but on the other hand, it can be pure torment. I guess for me what is most difficult is that it really does not have to be this way. I know it and so do the people here. In fact so many people know this, that my the logical part of me is saying, �Ara, this is totally wrong and your letting it happen!!!� Then the resource side of me says, �Ara, you can only do so much, so don�t let it get to you because�� Then the logical side which is now starting to raise it�s voice says, �Ara, you know people, you have connection, call on them to make that change!!!� Then the emotional side jumps in and says, �Ara, don�t you remember the last time you sent out a letter to a bunch of people that you know and you got so many telling you �well what can I do, I don�t have time to get involved right now�� and you felt betrayed.� Then comes the voice of reason and in all these arguments, the voice of reason has the final word and it says, �Ara, I�m really proud of you. You have done what very few have done. You have done things that few dare to try. You have tried your best to be true to those that have put their trust in you. You have done your best and made it a priority to retain a dignified level of purity in how you live your life, not only for your own self, but to be an example to those around you as well. In the face of challenge, you have stood your ground and been strong, knowing that in our world, there is much evil, suffering and pain that we all face. Your willingness to befriend all those you meet, even the foe and the friendless, has given you a better understanding and tolerance of people. Humility is not your middle name, but you have been willing to face the many mistakes you have made or that have been made on your behalf, and done what you could to do in your power to correct them. You have followed your dreams and have done something that gives you satisfaction, knowing you are part of the solution and not the problem. You know that when that day comes that you have to answer to your maker as to what you did during your stay in our living world, you can hold your head up high and with confidence say �I feel that I have done what I was meant to do in this world. I don�t feel that I have taken what was not mine and shared with others what you have blessed me with. If I have judged anyone or have caused harm to those not worthy or deserving of such action by me, please forgive me. I have lived a fulfilling life and I am ready to continue to serve you in anyway you find fitting.� In short Ara, your only human, so don�t be so hard on yourself. Keep doing what your doing, because you know it�s the right thing for you.� Well to some this may seem like Ara has had too much sleep, or not enough sleep. Maybe what I have shared with you today is one of my deep emotional feelings that comes out when I�ve got too much time on my hands. I would hope that by sharing this with you, it will give you, the reader, a better understanding of who I am and why I�m here today.

Sunday, January 13, 2002

After reading Lena�s log, I froze. Minus 15c? Well today in Martuni it got up to 9c (plus) and I took advantage of the nice weather and insolated my exposed water pipes. I had picked up a roll of insulation in Stepanagert yesterday. I felt really bad that it was Turkish, but what could I do? My pipes this year have froze twice and since I don�t drink coffee (poison) to wake up in the mornings, it�s that nice hot shower that gets my eyes open. So my neighbor helped me wrap up the pipes, which we used 2 meters of the insulation for. We cut another 2 meter piece for my jeep to put between the roof and inner lining so it will not get so cold. The remaining 6 meters I�ll take to Garen�s hardware store and let him sell it to those people that are in need of running water this winter. Sorry to tell you this Lena, this cold is only getting started and will get even colder next month (burr). Well I�ve got to head out now. I�m going over to my neighbor�s house for dinner. We have started on eating the pig�s head.

Friday, January 11, 2002

Today the snow started to melt and I would guess by tomorrow being that there is not a cloud in the sky, the sun will come out and melt what is left. I kept busy today doing laundry and writing. I was going through my notes while writing a story for my book, and every time I do this, I wonder how I keep my sanity after witnessing as much as I have over the last 12 years. I really don�t remember 10% of the stuff and I guess when one writes it down, one can put it out of ones mind, thus saving ones sanity. Armenia and Artsakh in some ways has gone from bad to worse to even worse and in some ways has gone from worse to bad to good. I guess it comes down to what is important to an individual. I mean for me it has helped that I have experienced different life challenges in different parts of the world, so at least that gives me something to compare. On the other hand, making comparisons is really not the right thing to do. What I mean is that Armenia is not America and it never will be. Armenia is Armenia and what I have concluded is that Armenia today does have the immediate potential to really be much better than what it is today (not like America, but like Armenia can and should be). There really is no reason why people have to live the way they do. Our problem is a few rotten apples that should have been tossed out long ago, put on a nice coat of wax and were put on the top of the pile. By the time the sun came out and melted off the shiny coat of wax, the worms which where in them had spread to the rest of the apples. What took the very powerful Soviet Union decades to build, only took a couple of years to destroy. I hope I don�t sound like I�m complaining, but this is a fact. Now of course we can�t go and bring back the factories that were sold off for pennies, disassembled and sold off for a huge profit, but we certainly can prevent it from continuing today. And when we talk about this crime that took and is taking place, I have to ask why did and does it happen? Do our Armenian leaders then and today hate our nation so much that they would take all the wrong steps to destroy it? Could there be some outside power that has influence over them? Could it be that same power is the same that has weakened our educational and healthcare system, which has also led to a major increase of sexually transmitted diseases. I�m not sure, but it certainly is something we should all be asking, as it is one of the major contributing factors to the poverty and migration we are facing today. If you are interested in knowing more of who I think one of these powers are, visit this website and see for yourself and then ask yourself what you can do to make a difference.

Wednesday, January 09, 2002

Since the CNN weather forecast does not cover Armenia, then I'm sure it does not cover Artsakh. With that said, I would like to report the weather here is Artsakh. Today we had SNOW!!! Just as Lena reported in Yerevan, in Martuni right now we have a very delicate and constant fall of snowflakes. It really is beautiful to watch. I have to get outside and clean the snow off the satellite dish, as it interferes with the reception and causes snow in my T.V. too. On days like this I usually confine myself to my home and T.V., reading, writing and the internet are the pastimes of choice. Tonight I�ll be going over to my neighbor�s house, where the other day when I was passing through Stepanagert, I picked up a cow's and pig's head that I dropped of at his house to be cleaned, cooked and bottled. Last year his family and I and a couple of other neighbor�s were able to make 3 cows heads and 1 pigs heads provide us with some good eating for a month. It looks like the trip I was going to take to Yerevan tomorrow for some Iranian rice at Madlene�s house is going to be delayed. I know it may seem like a silly reason to drive 400 kilometers for some rice, but Madlene has bragged so much as to how good she makes it that maybe the drive would be worth it.

Tuesday, January 08, 2002

What an incredible and yes Lena, warm and fuzzy feeling I got from being a part of the Shushi preschool project. Madlene and the donor made it to Shushi on Sunday and she called me here in Martuni to tell me to come with the beddings. I called for the van which was going to bring the stuff on Friday, but the driver had gone to a village and his wife was not sure when he would be back. I went to the center of town and hired a taxi, which along with my car, we were able to load up all the beddings. The taxi had to drive slower than me, as the roof-rack was loaded really high with mattress-pads.

I drove ahead and made my way to Shushi in about an hour. Madlene, the donor and Madlene�s soon to be Godson�s father, who drove them to Artsakh in his car were waiting for me at Der Antrias�s house. Der Hyr was not home, but his Yeretzgin, really cute and very smart children and mother-in-law were there to entertain us and serve us hot tea and sweats as we waited for the taxi to come. Just before the taxi arrived, someone was called to bring over a key to let us into the preschool so we could deliver the beddings, which would be presented in the morning. Two women arrived from the preschool and we drove over. The taxi and my car were unloaded. Madlene, the donor, Madlene�s soon to be Godson�s father and I drove to Stepanagert, where we had a pizza dinner. At dinner we discussed the donor�s project and the donor told me that thanks to Madlene and her generosity of letting him stay at Hotel Madlene, he has more money left that he was going to spend on this trip (hotel, food and other thing) and wanted to do more for the preschool. What the donor had so far provided was 30 complete sets of bedding and the need the preschool has is for 49 beds, meaning 19 more sets. Though the money he had left would not cover 19 more sets, it should be enough for at least half that.

We finished and headed off to Karendag, which is a village under Shushi, where Madlene and the donor have friends who we would spend the night with. After driving around Karendag in the dark, we found one of their friend�s houses, but he as not home. We drove over to another friend (who the donor had called before us coming) were we sat for tea and the donor and Madlene reminisced of visits they had years before. The other friend that we had gone to see heard of our arrival and came over. He took Madlene and I to his house, where we stayed the night.

We sat and talked for hours about all sorts of different thing. By the time we went to bed, Madlene had already laid down and fell asleep where I guess they had planned for me to sleep and gave me Madlene�s room. Lights went out and before I could fall to sleep, Madlene�s friend begins to snore. Now this is something new for me. I�ve been living alone for a few years now so I�m not really use to noises like that when I sleep. I could not close the room door as the woodstove was in the other room and I would freeze. Maybe if it was light snoring, I could deal with it, but this guy was chopping down an entire forest. I mean if you could capture the energy he was putting out, you could power a small city or something. On top of that, every now and then someone and I wont name names, starts to talk in their sleep. After 5 hours of listening to all this, I fell asleep. Two hours later it was time to get up. So we got up and had breakfast. I had fresh hot milk with honey and bread.

We went back over to the other friend�s house, where my car was and loaded up and head to the Shushi preschool. The director of the school greeted us. She was very happy with the donation. The donor had also brought with him some toys that the Disney Company had given him for the preschool. As we took a tour of the preschool, the beds were made with the new beddings and the toys were put under the Christmas tree for the kids. As the donor was dealing with paperwork with the director of the preschool, Madlene and I visited with the kids. They were so cute and very talkative. After a few songs and poems, the beddings were all ready. We took a few pictures of the kids next to their new beds and then made our way to the Christmas tree, where the kids danced and sang in a circle around the tree. When they were giving the green-light to pick gift, they were so well behaved. I was really impressed with this, as I�ve been involved with gift distribution in the past and it was never this calm. No mad rush, just walked over and took a toy. We finished with a group picture and the kids thanks us and went back to their classroom. Madlene and the donor had to go back to Yerevan so we left each other�s company.

I headed home and got here about 1 p.m. I knew that as tired as I was, if I slept right then, I would wake up at midnight and not be able to go to sleep. So I got on-line and talked with ShooshiG for a bit, telling her about my day. As sleepy as I was, I needed to stay awake. As we were chatting, I got a call from a friend that I was planning on seeing in Stepanagert, but since I was so tired, I had come home without stopping in at his work. It turns out that he was on vacation and had come home to Martuni. I invited him over and let ShooshiG off the hook for having to keep me awake. My friend came over and we talked for a couple of hours. He left and now my body was reminding me that I needed to sleep. It was 5 p.m. and still too early. So I got back on-line and read the news posted on Groong.

At 6 p.m. and just as I was ready to pass out, my neighbor comes over to tell me that my neighbor who lives across the street from me that is the commander of one of our bases here in Martuni is celebrating his birthday and I�m invited. Oh great, here I am ready to pass out and now I have to go to a birthday party. Well I could not say no, so I got dressed up and went over. I have to admit we had a great time. The food was great, the toasts were great and the best part was the live music, which was accordion and drum. They drank a toast to the neighbors and me and one of my neighbor�s (the one that came over to invite me) told me to say something (kind of an addition to the toast). So when I stood up to talk, the room got dead silent. I mean you could hear a pin drop, I kid you not. So I said what Raffi M had talked about as far as me being here is not that big a sacrifice and that in the time I have been here, as bad as things may have gotten, I also see and believe that we are going in a direction that there will one day be a stable environment created, where the little kids in the room (who now that I think of it were also sitting quite and listening) will not see what we have seen in the last 10 years. We clinked glasses, drank and the music continued. At 9 p.m. I excused myself, went home, lit a fire in my woodstove and passed out.

I got up a couple of times to drink some water and add a log to the fire. When I woke this morning at 9 a.m. it was snowing. As Lena said, it was so beautiful and I too took a bunch of pictures. Maybe it was a couple days late, but it did get me into the Christmas mood.

Saturday, January 05, 2002

Yesterday was the first time we hit 0c (freezing) this year. It�s cold, but burning wood works really well for me. I�ve got the hang of not only lighting the stove, but I know how different wood burns to get just the right temperature in my room. The guests I was expecting didn�t come yet due to the road between Artsakh and Armenia being closed. I hope it opens soon, as I�m looking forward to going to Shushi to present the beddings that were being made for the preschool there. They are ready and as soon as the donor gets here, we deliver the donor�s gift. Well let�s see if the road opens soon.

Friday, January 04, 2002

Wow, did I open a can of worms or what? In my last log, I got a few really nice pats on the back and also a couple of not so agreeable messages. Though everyone agrees that we must all work towards that common goal to strengthen our nation, a couple of people read into my message that I was suggesting a worldwide socialist system. I guess in a way it looks that way, but really that�s not what I meant. I guess what I was trying to say is that in our world (Earth) as a whole, our natural resources can only sustain a given number of living creatures. This number I would suspect we may have surpassed long ago, but I also believe that we can level that imbalance out with the use of modern technological processes that reduce wastefulness and increase yield. Currently, when someone has accumulated excessive wealth, this meaning more than life sustaining food, clothing, shelter and other mandatory needs, someone, someplace in the world is going to have to live below the minimal standards of living. Living below the minimal standard is known as �Poverty� and effects more than half the world�s population. Without exaggerating, when following the international definition of poverty, the greater population of Armenia and Artsakh are part of that less fortunate half. Now that class of people that fall under the category of living with excess resources, I certainly fall under and I am not ashamed or proud of being a part of. For me it was a choice. I had the opportunity to excel in business and was fortunate to accumulate excess resources. I never really gave much thought what effect my good fortune would have on others. I guess I never really had a reason to consider others when it came to my personal life. I mean I worked long, hard and in the most efficient manor I knew how and by doing so I found the formula that worked, thus creating the magnet needed to pull towards me that monetary reward I was taught to go after (the American dream) and rightfully deserved. Did I know that thousands of people had to live in poverty so I could be well off? I guess I did, but also knew that if it was not me on the receiving end, then I would be one of those thousands of people that would always be living hand to mouth. Only was it when I came to live here, did I really see firsthand the effects of what hording monetary resources does. I guess Armenia and more so Artsakh does that, being it�s a country in itself and being so small, you see everything. Now don�t get me wrong, I don�t object to or regret what I have done in the past and what I continue to do today. What I have effectively become in a way, is the person put in charge of the bank account that belongs to a whole lot of people. And since I had the ability to collect a bunch of peoples resources in one place, I also feel that I have been given the responsibility to redistribute those resources in such a way that it will enrich the lives of the greatest number of people so they no longer have to live in poverty, but must do it in a way that does not turn them into beggars. This to me is a bigger challenge and a more difficult task than the effort to accumulate that wealth in the first place. Though I�ve been successful in helping a few people this way, real success to me will be when those same people will follow my lead, surpassing their minimal needs and helping others that find themselves in the situation they use to be in. I know this may sound to some like an unrealistic desire, but to me it�s a goal I have been working towards for quite a few years and I�m sure I will continue to do so for the rest of my life. Don�t get me wrong, I not suggesting that we stamp out poverty all over the world, because I know that will not happen in our lifetime. What I am thinking is that a realistic goal is to drastically reduce if not entirely eliminating poverty in Armenia and Artsakh. That really is something we have the resources to accomplish and all that is stopping us is the willingness to make the effort and sacrifice needed to do it once and for all. If there is anyone interested in joining in, there is nothing at all standing in your way to do so.

Tuesday, January 01, 2002

Well 2001 is gone and 2002 is here. I�m still not really in a celebrating mood, and this feeling I see is a reflection of many people here. I guess simple math would tell you that lack of work and economic opportunities mean a celebration that reflects that reality. I noticed that some working people I know who had money last year and had a party to reflect their prosperity, this year really didn�t do much of anything due to the present day economic climate. I guess times are changing again, and none of us are really sure if it�s for the better or worse. The important thing today is that the majority of the population is somehow securing the food needed to stay alive and that in itself is a reason to be happy. I would hope as I do every year that this year will be a year of change towards the better. My wish for 2002 is that all Armenians will clue into the fact that our nation is in the Caucasus, our present day resources are limited and living here means to do so in such a way that those resources will sustain the entire population and not just a select few. This means that if we can somehow better manage what we have and those who have the ability to narrow the deficit which may exist after this adjustment, this would stabilize our nation in a big way, thus life for all Armenians everywhere should be a little more bearable. The saying �proud to be Armenian� would taken on a greater meaning and national pride would get a huge boost. After reading Clinton�s lecture, what I�ve come to realize is that being wealthy can not just be a pleasure, but it�s a very serious responsibility. The wealthy are those that have chosen to taken upon themselves to �care� for the more common creatures of the world. This responsibility appears to no longer be an option, but a duty. If they misuse this �gift� and �privilege� they have ascertained through whatever means, in some ways they are subject to an even more difficult, fearful and uncertain life themselves than those common creatures who they have neglected. I hope that those who have these resources, have or will come to realize this and do what they need to as their part of this delicate balance we call life. Well again, Happy New Year to all. May 2002 be the beginning of this new way of thinking, acting and living.