Tuesday, April 30, 2002

I just got back from a 3-day visit to Yerevan.

Well it looks like I got half the research done that I wrote about (Lena and Nune date).

On Saturday, after a nice spaghetti lunch at Madlene�s, I got an invitation to the really hot and really new Cabaret show. Yes they even have them here.

I arranged to meet up with Madlene that evening at the theater next to the manuscript library and when I arrived, who was there but none other than Nune!!! I figured it was the perfect moment to ask her out and went straight up to her, giving her a big hug, like a long lost friends. She was so accepting of my advances that I popped the question and she accepted!

So we went into the show and my ticket that Madlene gave me put me sitting next our very own Raffi K. and Zabel. I told them about my date and they would not believe me. I was a bit disturbed by their lack of belief and wanted to change seats with the people sitting next to Nune, so then I could wave to Raffi with my arm around her, but by this time the lights were dimmed and the show was about to start.

Someone from the staff got on stage and announced that that this show was being videotaped and asked us to be extra active with our laughs and clapping. It reminded me of my youth and going to a game show taping where we learned how to clap so it would sound like there were many more people in the audience then there actually was.

The show began and I have a feeling that it was funny, but I really could not find the humor in it. The guy sitting me my left and his girlfriend were into it, but Raffi, Zabel and I seemed to be forcing ourselves into being extra active.

At intermission, we got up to stretch and Nune walked up to me to comment on how much I seem to have been enjoying myself, being that I was clapping fast, hard and loud (something I learned at the taping of the game-show). I wanted to keep our relationship on an honest level so I confessed to her that I really was not getting the jokes and was just clapping to be supportive. She smiled and said that she too was not getting most of the jokes. Raffi, who I had to wake-up when intermission came told me that he and Zabel were going to leave and invited Nune and I to come along (I think he did this just to see if I was really going to date Nune). I�m not sure who Nune came with, but she didn�t give it a second thought and next thing I knew, we were off to have Punchig�s (cream filled doughnuts) and chocolate milk, at the Grand Candy store.

I have to tell you that Nune and I really hit it off. She is not at all conceded like I had picture her to be, but she really is very popular. At the Grand Candy store, everyone was staring at her. One woman had her son pose kind of next to Nune, and pretended to be taking his picture, but in fact had the camera pointed at Nune. She was not at all phased by this. I mean if it was me, I would have had my date confiscate the camera and try to sell smiley an signed publicity picture. Not Nune, she is just one of us.

From the Grand Candy store, we went to a middle-eastern restaurant, which I guess Nune is a regular, as they were very attentive to her every need. I asked where the restroom was, as I guess I had too much chocolate milk at the Grand Candy store and they told me that usually they don�t let the customers use it, but seeing who I came in with (Nune), I can use it all I want. Talk about celebrity power!

Nune�s friends showed up after the Cabaret and we sat around and had a great time. The only thing I did notice was that when she got talking to her friends, she kind of left me out of the conversation. During those times, Zabel made up for the shortfall and made it a point that Nune would notice. Irregardless, I was having a great time, just to be able to sit next to Nune.

I noticed that Nune�s attention span is somewhat short, as before her friends were done with their meal, she wanted to leave and invited me over to her place. I could not believe the offer and almost said no, but figured that the night was still young and it would give me something to write about.

We took a cab to Nune�s flat and for a celebrity I have to say that I was impressed with what a humble place she has. It�s right in the center of Yerevan and looks like a fancy Ikea showroom, but still reflected to me that this was one down to earth woman.

We sat to tea and talked a little about me and then about her. I learned that her up coming concert (the one with the $100 tickets) she has made changes so there will be no $150k outdoor theater built and it will now be held at the Hamaler (sports complex) and the tickets are now in the $20 range. I guess all the stuff we wrote about her on the log made sense to her.

Just as the night was starting to get interesting, there was a knock at the door. It was one of Nune�s friends Eric. He joined us and we all talked until I could see that there was no end to my visit, so at 1 AM, I gave Nune a big hug and thanked her for the evening. She told me that she had a good time too and wanted to see me the next day. She said that she was working on the Diaspora Conference committee and invited me to join her at 7 PM at the MFA. Of course I accepted.

The next day at 7 PM, I made my way to the MFA and Nune was outside waiting for me. We walked in together and she got me passed the metal detector, which I guess my belt-buckle or maybe my gun was setting off. Since I was with Nune, she vouched for me and I was in without a strip search.

I was introduced to all her friends and some of them already knew me from the logs. She told to sit at the head of the table. In walked the chair of the meeting and I guess I was in her spot, but instead of asking me to give up the chair to her (which is what I would have done and not in a very nice way), I guess she realized that I was Nune�s date and asked me in a very diplomatic way to share the head of the table with her. I remained seated and the chair stood the during the whole meeting. Looking back at it now, I guess I should have given her the chair. Sorry chairlady.

The meeting was great and I want to really say that this is not going to be like the first Diaspora conference of 1999, but something very different (in a good way). I really get the feeling that this conference is going to be worth attending. Not because Nune and I are going to be there (though that wont hurt), but because we are going to address many of the problems that Armenia is facing, with a plan to have on going work to solve many of them. The chairlady, without a chair encourage us to invite as many people as we could so they would get on a plane and make their way out to Armenia to attend. I can say from a couple of message that I recently got, that some of our readers are attending because of all the bugging I�ve been doing. So here is another plug for the conference. Click on this link to go straight to the registration page of the Second Diaspora Conference (but do this after you read the rest of my log).

The meeting finished and after Nune was able to satisfy her adoring fans appetite for her attention, we jumped into a cab and were off to dinner.

She told the driver to take us to the Thai Kitchen on Grill Street. I could not believe my ears and remember Lena and how I told her that I would take her out for Thai food. So here is something that Nune and Lena certainly have in common.

Nune told me that her friend Eric was going to be joining us. I guess Eric is Nune�s bodyguard or something, as he always seems to show up. Nonetheless, he�s a really nice guy and besides I just wanted to get to know Nune for the study of what Lena and her have in common and Eric didn�t at all stand in our way of getting to know each other.

We had a wonderful dinner and because I was leaving early the next morning, I ended our date at the restaurant, thanking Nune for the wonderful two days of dating. I have to say that it was a very pleasant experience.

As for my date with Lena, that will have to wait until my next trip to Yerevan, which I guess will be around the time of the conference.

Friday, April 26, 2002

Life can�t be that uninteresting that none of the loggers have anything to say, can it? Well maybe so.

It�s been typical April weather here in Martuni. Rain one day, sun the next. They say this is good weather for the crops.

For those of you that read the disturbing article Raffi wrote about, I hope everyone writes a letter to the National Review Online (NRO) to protest what was stated.

I did a little research to find out more about the author of the article Barbara Lerner. It seems that she is not only a writer, but a psychologist and attorney in Chicago. She has quite a list of articles and accomplishments, which you can find on the internet via a Yahoo search �Barbra+Lerner+Chicago�.

One article that stuck out was one that was published on the NRO on January 30, 2002, entitled �Don't Call Them Arabs Ramadan in Istanbul.� Very pro-Turkish and very much resembles U.S./Israeli propaganda, which tries to make the Turks look like the most humane people in the whole region. It also gives a clue as to Jewish interests in Turkey, which might also explain why Israel is so against recognizing the Armenian genocide. I guess the restitution aspect of recognition could have a major economic impact on Turkish-Jews as well as Israel.

I get the feeling that Lerner is one of the newest hired �specialists�, who I�m not sure whose payroll she is on, but is clearly working hard to show Turkey�s "best" side.

I invite everyone to draw their own conclusions and if you find it appropriate, write a letter to the NRO to share your concerns.

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

In Martuni, as for all Armenians all over the world, we remembered the victims of the 1915 Armenian genocide. The people of Martuni have a memorial erected in their memory which also stands as a memorial to the most recent genocide of the Armenian population of Sumgait, which took place in 1988.

Wednesday, April 17, 2002

The Armenian Church - trapped between a rock and a holy place
By Gavin Rabinowitz

Ha'aretz, English Edition,
Tuesday, April 16, 2002

The standoff between the Israel Defense Forces and Palestinian gunmen holed up in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem is nearing the end of its second week. Gun battles between IDF forces surrounding the compound and Palestinians within are a daily occurrence. The Armenian Church, which has four priests and two monks trapped in their monastery adjacent to the church, feel it has become the unintended victim of a conflict in which it is not involved. The shooting of one of its priests Wednesday only reinforces these feelings.

"We are not part of this conflict," said Bishop Aris Shirvanian. "We have become involved against our will. We have become a kind of victim here," he said.

Despite these feelings, the Armenian priests remain in the monastery voluntarily, seeing it as a duty to protect one of Christianity's holiest sites. "We don't want them to leave or vacate the convent," said Shirvanian.

The Armenian Church, one of three custodians of the site of Christ's birth, together with the Greek Orthodox Church and the Franciscans, has given its priests and monks a real test of faith in ordering them to remain in the convent. Conditions in the compound are difficult. The priests are slowly running out of food, they have no bread and electricity has been cut off by the IDF since the beginning of the siege.

"Their condition is not good," said Shirvanian. "They are becoming depressed. It is not easy to be confined and to run out of basic needs. We have medication, but three out of the five priests are in ill health."

Yet Shirvanian admitted that the church has turned down IDF offers to supply the priests with food. "It is for their own safety. If they have food, and the Palestinian gunmen who have taken refuge in the basilica are not given food, then who knows what they will do? Nobody knows how a starving person will react."

The IDF has supplied the priests with water enriched with vitamins as well as medication. However, such an offer has been refused by the Franciscans, also for safety reasons, Shirvanian said.

It was during one of the medication deliveries that an Armenian priest, Deacon Armen Sinanian, 22, was shot and seriously wounded, apparently by an IDF sniper. "They were bringing in medication through the basement," Sinanian said. "The convent superior and another priest went down to receive it. I was upstairs with another priest. I looked out the window for a minute. As I was leaving it happened, I was hit," he said from his hospital bed in Hadassah University Hospital Ein Kerem in Jerusalem, where he is recuperating from a gunshot wound in the back.

"The window he was looking out from faces the Bethlehem municipal building, which is occupied by IDF troops. He could not have been shot by the Palestinians. The Israelis must have mistaken him for a Palestinian gunman," said Shirvanian.

Speaking with difficulty, his body constantly racked with coughs, Sinanian said he was not angry over the shooting, just thankful to God that he survived. His eyes filled with tears when Shirvanian showed him a letter from Armenia which said that his parents had met with the Supreme Patriarch of the Armenian Church in Holy Etchmiadzin and that a special prayer service had been held for him. "It is a great honor for his parents," said Shirvanian.

"We were not afraid," said Sinanian. "We never believed they would shoot at us. We believed we were safe."

When asked if he thought the priests should have left the convent when the siege started, Sinanian just shrugged and shook his head.

"He couldn't have left on his own even if he wanted to," said Shirvanian. "There is discipline and order in the patriarchy; it is like the army. There is strong discipline."

One thing that is certain - Sinanian does not want to return to Bethlehem in the near future.

Shirvanian, who is responsible for the church's external relations, said recent events highlight the need for international guarantees for the region's holy sites. "We are not looking for sovereignty over the holy places, just international guarantees. In a case like this, where there are no guarantees, the end result may be a disaster."

Shirvanian said it is necessary to safeguard all holy places - Jewish, Muslim and Christian. "It is not just for unique places like the Church of the Nativity, but all places of worship. A number of holy places have already been damaged in Ramallah and Bethlehem since the start of the incursion," said Shirvanian.

"The Christian churches in Jerusalem believe that there should be two states side by side. Israel and Palestine with the three religions co-existing together," said Shirvanian. "This is our guiding principle."

The Armenian Church maintains excellent relations with the government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority to underscore that claim.

The Armenian community in Israel, totaling 20,000-22,000 people, is centered around the Armenian Quarter in Jerusalem's Old City. Surrounded by their own walls within the city walls, the area is mostly closed to outsiders. "It is like a little Armenia," said Shirvanian. "We are not involved in the conflict, but our daily lives are affected just like the rest of the country. We are a closely knit community just trying to maintain our Christian faith and our Armenian culture."

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Last Sunday after getting back from a long walk and getting ready to go to the Mayor�s house for our weekend barbeque, some unexpected visitors arrived to my house. I knew they were from America, from the way they were dressed and the way one of them said �Parev�.

I invited them in and soon learned that they were K and D, that Nigol wrote about. I asked them if they were the ones that had some problems at the Artsakh representatives office? You should have seen the look on their drivers face. He asked how did I know? I told him that word travels fast around here and then admitted that Nigol had logged about it. We logged on and I showed them the log and comments. We had a good laugh over it.

I asked him about his telling the representative that he will take them where he chooses and he said no, he told the representative that it�s not up to K and D as to where they want to go, it�s up to him where he drives them and he knows better than to take them into restricted zones. I guess the log could read that way too.

So I called to the Mayor to tell him that we would be having 3 more people to our barbeque so he could prepare more.

We sat and talked and it�s interesting that not only were K and D interested in what I was saying, but they shared much of the same opinions that I had. We talked about many of the recent issues that I and others have been logging.

We went to the Mayor�s house and had a wonderful barbeque. Though I always have a good time on Sunday�s at the Mayor�s house, this one seemed even better. We talked and laughed so much. One thing the Mayor pointed out was that he sees that in America, when people tell a dry joke (one that could be taken seriously), they end it by saying �I�m just joking�, where here when people tell that kind of joke, they don�t say that. Here when people tell something serious, they say �I�m serious�. He concluded that more things in America must be serious than a joke, where here most everything is a joke and we have to remind people when we are serious about something.

Throughout our dinner, K and D were complimenting the Mayor and his family for everything and you could tell from their faces that their compliments were genuine. The Mayor told them at one point that he gets the feeling that America (referring to the government) like to pay many compliments to other countries but their actions reflect something other than their compliments. He added that he saw that the compliments that they were extending truly came from the heart. After that, D wanted to pay a compliment and first said I don�t want you to think that I�m just complimenting you because I�m an American, but� We all laughed.

K told the Mayor and his family how he really loved how people here are so friendly. He said that they are giving of themselves in this case of their meal. He said that finding this kind of thing in America is very rare. He also talked about how in America, people don�t have that much time for family and so on and how rich the people here are to have that, as it is a very important thing.

So I invited K, D and the driver to stay over, which they accepted.

On the way home, K told me that he had brought a bag of clothes and toys that he was having problems passing out this whole trip and said that he wanted that bag of stuff to go to the Mayor and is family and with what they didn�t need to make sure gets to those that could truly use them.

We went to my house at 9:30 and logged on to the chat. I got the beds ready, while they started to chat and then later I joined in.

In the morning, we got up early to drive back together to Shushi, where they had left their stuff at the hotel there and I was to pick of the bag of stuff for the Mayor.

We went in two cars and K rode with me. On the way we talked about various things and when the conversation of America and the IMF and so on came up, K made the comment about how he believes that many Americans believe that America is the center of the universe. I mentioned to him about someone responding to one of Raffi K�s logs, made that same comment.

We talked about why is America looked on as so great and concluded that maybe it�s not so great and maybe America has figured out a way to convince people that it is greater than what it actually is by setting the standard of what greatness is measured by. If greatness is measured by how much time you have for your family and friends, I fear that America could come in last place.

We arrived in Shushi and said our goodbyes.

Last night, I went to the Mayor�s house, where I took them the bag of stuff. It was like Christmas all over again. The Mayor allowed his family to only take a few items and we decided who was in most need of the remaining stuff, which will be discreetly given to them later by the Mayor�s wife. I also took from the bag some toys, which I passed out to the kids in my neighborhood. That was a big hit!!!

Friday, April 12, 2002

Well I made the ArmeniaDiaspora.com chat tonight. It was with Judge Alvina Gyulumyan, Member of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Armenia President of the Armenian Judges� Association.

I even made it home in time to take a shower and get in my comfy chat pajama�s!!!

I have to say that overall, it was the second most interesting chat on ArmeniaDiaspora.com that I have attended.

The main topics of discussion that interested me the most were citizenship and how much judges make?

As for dual-citizenship, she answered: �Generally, dual citizenship is regulated by bilateral agreements between the countries of which the dual citizen is a national. Dual citizenship generally presupposes both responsibilities and commensurate rights.�

As for the question of house much do Judges make and is it enough to live off of (which was one of my questions), she answered: �All levels of judges receive at least $300 per month, which is by Armenian standards, a living wage. For many judges, doubling or tripling their salaries would reduce outside pressures. Nevertheless, in the end, this is a matter of personal integrity. In comparison with other countries in the region, Armenia pays its judges better, even more than Georgia.�

Well I guess they do, as in Artsakh (which is another country in the region), the regional judge here in Martuni was making 82,000 dram (about $142). Thanks to the pension her children receive for their father being a martyred solider and my material and financial help whenever needed (I�m also her Godfather), she is just barley able to cover her most basic expenses. The lowest pay for judges here in Artsakh is 54,000 dram (about $94) a month.

I followed up my question with asking: �Are Judges subject to having their assets investigated?�

She answered: �Yes, we are subject to the same disclosure requirements as other public citizens.�

Then I guess there were too many questions being asked so a few that I and others asked didn�t get an answer (or maybe they did get answered but the chat room stopped working during the last 10 minutes of the hour on my computer) and they where:

1. (one of my questions) Have there yet been any cases where a Judge or for that matter other government officials found to have assets that they could not show where the money came to purchase?

2. How is the Democratic process working for the ordinary citizen in Armenia?

3. How many judges have been disbarred or prosecuted because of bribery?

4. Your Honor, how do you personally see the problem of corruption being addressed? What do you personally think are necessary steps that need to be taken by the government?

5. (After I asked this question, my computer stopped working. I guess it was even too hard a question for my poor computer) I live in Artsakh and see that people here don�t seem to trust the legal system. What do you think needs to be done so they will believe that the system will work for them?

Well maybe all these questions got answered after my computer stopped working and if they did, I�m sure we will find those answers in the session transcript.
Life in Artsakh is changing for better and worst for me.

When I came here, I had decided that I would be an anti-technologist and avoid getting all the big-boy toys I had in the states, leaving me more room to appreciate the simpler things in life.

That didn�t last long at all and changed 2 years ago, when after the content and peaceful life I lived for a year without a television set, was disrupted by my own stupidity and the acquisition of a television, VCR and satellite dish. Of course my life changed in a not so good way as the news from outside came into my home and my simple, carefree, uninformed life was filled with scary pictures and stories of the real world.

As soon as I learned to avoid turning on the television, I acquired an appetite for the internet and last year arranged to have a line installed in my bedroom so I could be connected to the world-wide-web at will, without even having to get out of bed, thus complicating my simple semi-carefree and lightly informed life with interactive scary pictures and stories of the real world.

My latest modern conveyance I acquired was a cellular phone. Yes, Artsakh now has a cellular phone system and stupidity won again and now I�m the not so proud owner of a state-of-the-art cellular phone which I can call anyplace in the connected world and people can call me. Will life ever be the same? Will I ever be carefree and uninformed again? At this rate, I fear not.

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

If your following the Diaspora log, you will know that the subject of Nune Yesayan and her Yerevan concert with the average ticket of $100 is roaring like an out of control fire.

I made a comment about how I thought that our very own Lena looks like Nune and Lena answered back that she didn�t think so.

Well Lena, since you have given me permission to post your picture, I think we need to settle this matter of opinions once and and for all and let the readers vote on if Nune looks like you or not.

If we decide that the two of them look similar, we should also find out if they think and act the same.

For the sake of our readers appetite of wanting to know, I am willing to sacrifice my vow of celibacy and take Lena out on a date (she has already accepted) the next time I�m in Yerevan and arrange to do the same with Nune. This all in the name of science. If and when the two dates are completed, I will present on this log a report as to my findings. ;o)
Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate

* * * C O M M U N I Q U � * * *

Latest News From Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem:

Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, wishes to update the public about the situation surrounding the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

The Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem has confirmed that an Armenian sub-deacon (not a priest or monk, as has been reported elsewhere) has been shot. He was taken to Jerusalem�s Hadassah Hospital, where he underwent surgery to stop excessive bleeding. He is currently in the hospital�s intensive care unit. There is no official word on his prognosis, but the Patriarchate asks for everyone�s prayers.

Sources say the sub-deacon was shot while standing with others inside Bethlehem�s Armenian monastery, which is adjacent to the Church of the Nativity. An explosion-like noise was heard outside, after which the young sub-deacon, who was standing with his back to a window, received a gunshot wound below his right shoulder.

Wire services have reported that at that time, outside the monastic complex, food was being delivered by Israeli troops to the people in the
Church of the Nativity. There is no other confirmed word on the circumstances of the shooting.

As reported in a prior communiqu�, seven Armenians have been confined in Bethlehem�s Armenian monastery since the standoff at the Church of the Nativity began last week. These include three vartabeds--the dean, Fr. Razmig; the assistant to the dean, Fr. Khat; and the elderly Fr. Nerses--as well as a kahana, Fr. Nerses, and three lay brothers from Armenia. The wounded sub-deacon is one of the latter lay brothers, all of whom hail from Armenia.

The Patriarchate stressed that their confinement is not forced but is a precautionary measure. The Armenian monastery has an iron door opening onto Manger Square, giving it access to the outside world, but the brothers have kept it shut as a precaution.

Archbishop Torkom Manoogian, the Armenian Patriarch of Jerusalem, has designated Bishop Aris Shirvanian as the Patriarchate�s spokesman to news agencies. The Patriarchate plans to release an official statement later today, which the Eastern Diocese will forward.

The Eastern Diocese will continue to provide updates on this matter. As always, we convey our appreciation to the faithful for their concern, and request their continued prayers for peace and for the health of the young wounded man.

April 10, 2002 (12:30 p.m. EST)


Let us all pray for our brother Armen, that he quickly recovers from his injuries and will be back to perform his duties faithfully serving our church.

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

Tonight my contactor and I went to our truck driver�s house to discuss work and some minor repairs that need to be done to the dump truck.

My truck driver lives in a private 2 story house with part of the upstairs fixed up. He has a wife, 2 sons and a sister-in-law living with there.

The sister-in-law is 28 years old and widowed. Her husband was killed in battle on April 10th, 1994. Her 2 children live in Russia with relatives, as she was psychologically unfit to care for them after the death of her husband. She was also injured prior to his death when a bomb fell near their house. From 1994 until last year, or the year before, as a widow of a martyred solider, she is entitled to medical treatment each year in the sum of some $200, which paid for the medicine to control her condition and I guess was doing a fine job. Recently her entitlement was reduced to $100 and the treatment was changed to some new medicine, which cost less and is suppose to be more helpful. In the years following her husbands death, she never left the house. Now with the new medication, she goes out and wanders the streets, walking up to people she does not know and just laughs for no reason. I noticed her last Saturday walking back and forth in the parking lot of the main government building and in her arms she had her sweater bundled up, holding it in her arms and talking to it. I happened to bring the subject up to a friend of mine yesterday as to what I had seen and he said that she does that to compensate her being separated from her children, acting as if she is holding her baby (who I�m sure is now grown up and too big to hold that way). So my driver asked me if it would be difficult to find a sponsor to cure her? I asked what it would take and he said in Stepanagert they have an acupuncture clinic that they say can heal her once and for all for a total cost of 150,000 drams (about $260). He said that they were told to find a sponsor in America or some other place that could pay for it and they would heal her. I asked about any entitlement that she gets for being a widow of a martyred solider? He said that he knows she should be entitled to this, but after getting the runaround, this is what they were told to do. So tomorrow, I�m going to call my buddy the Minister of Social Services to see what we are going to do about this? If I don�t get the answer I�m looking for, I�ll give the President�s office a call and see if he is in need of another good deed (it�s an election year you know).

As we were talking, I could hear their youngest son in the other room doing his homework of reciting patriotic Armenian writings. I�m not sure whose writings they were, but I could hear all his energy going into it. I was listening to this little boy and thinking that in America our Armenian children that go to public school (and maybe even private school) are not enriched with such nationalistic materials. To me it was such a beautiful sound to hear and just one more reason for me to raise my family here.

When his youngest son finished, he joined us and I asked him the standard question of how old he was and what grade he is in school and so on. He is almost 8 years old and in the 1st grade (they start school when they are 7 years old). It turns out that his name is Avo, being named after our beloved Monte �Avo� Melkonian. Avo�s brother is named Antranig, who is 10 years old and in the 3rd grade. I asked him if he was baptized and his mother said yes, he was baptized on June 12th, 2000, on the 7th anniversary of Monte martyrdom. I turned to Avo and asked him who his godfather is? With a timid smile on his face, he said �you�. So now I�ve found two of the 7 children that were baptized that year (his brother Antranig was also baptized that year).

I�ll tell the godfather/baptism story some other time.
The other day I went to the wine factory to check on my equipment and see how they are working. I must say that I am quite impressed with the speed in which they are working. Within a couple of months, the factory should be ready and 80 new jobs will be created.

Over lunch, I was talking with the administrators of the factory about what they will be producing and of which markets they will sell their goods to. They told me that they were not sure, but knew that the owners must have that part figured out, as they are spending quite a bit on money on renovating the factory.

I commented on the quality of wine and told them that the wine I have seen come out of their factory in my opinion is not the kind of wine that can compete in Western markets. I told them about a friend of mine that grows grapes and produces a wonderful wine that I�m told has made it to Western markets at $20 a bottle. Not that I believe that any wine could sell for $20 a bottle (though they do), this wine my friend produces is black in color (you don�t want to spill on yourself) and the kind that is very easy to drink. They knew about my friend and his wine and said they will be producing better wine than his.

According to the general director of the factory, during Soviet times, there were two kinds of wine produced in Karabagh. One kind was made for the Soviet market and the other was made for home consumption. Both came from the same grapes, but the one for the Soviet market was intentionally made to not taste good because if it did taste good, it would all be given away to ministers and people with powerful ties. The wine that was made for home consumption, like the kind my friend makes, tasted good and was not really talked about to the people in power, as they would want it for themselves.

Well now that there is no longer the Soviet Union and now that the factory is privately owned, they are going to only be producing only good sellable wines.

After lunch I drove the general director of the factory to his house to pick something up and on the way back, the head of the traffic police waved us down to ask the director if there they had any of that good wine or where could he find some? The director told him that he would not find any of it anyplace and he would have to wait for October until such wine was available. As we drove off, he told me �somethings never change�. I could tell from the look on the face of the cop (and also by personally knowing him) he was expecting the wine for free.

Sunday, April 07, 2002

I�m waiting for the transcript to come out on the April 5th chat I missed and checked the ArmeniaDiaspora.com site a couple of times to see if it was posted yet. Well it�s coming soon. One thing I did notice was the PR pictures of Vartan with his laptop on his lap and a couple of other people posing with him. I�m not convinced that these pictures were taken during the chat, as Vartan does not seem the type to wear a tie and a Mr. Roger�s sweater during a chat when no one can see him (maybe I�m wrong). I mean if you really want to be able to think clearly, you have to at least loosen the tie so you can get some blood circulating to your brain. My mother made the chat and said that it was quite free flowing, thus my feeling that these PR pictures were taken later. If the hidden web-cam was going at the time, I bet we would have seen a different picture. Maybe Vartan at home in his underwear, hair messed up with a 5 o�clock shadow and every now and then adjusting himself when someone asks a difficult question. Gosh, what a frightening picture I just painted. I take back what I said. PR pictures or not, there good and very appropriate in this case.
Day before yesterday, my dump truck went to deliver some building materials for the Martuni wine factory, which is being remodeled and updated. On the last run, the slip-disk between the motor and transmission wore out. We knew this was going to go out at some point, but didn�t know when.

So yesterday my driver and a couple of mechanic�s worked on taking out the worn parts so I could go to Stepanagert to get replacement parts. They finished up with dropping the transmission at 6 PM and I called the auto parts store where I got the new tires from to see if they had what I needed. They told me yes. I asked what time they close and they said 7 PM. I told them I would be late and the guy there gave me his home phone number and told me to call when I get to the store.

I got to Stepanagert at 8 PM and went to look for a phone to call the guy. I went into a store across the street from the auto parts store and asked if I could use their phone? The woman was busy serving paying customers and ignored me. I waited until she was done and asked again. She said in a rude tone that she could not let me use the phone. I guess I took it the wrong way and told her in a semi-rude tone that she could have told me that when I first asked so I didn�t have to wait so long. I walked up the street asking in small shops, but none had a phone. The last shop I asked, a very nice and helpful woman pointed me to the corner where there was a payphone. I walked over, purchased a phone token (30 dram) and called the auto parts store guy.

Within 3 or 4 minutes he arrived and opened the store for me, apologizing for being late. I told him that I was the one who came late. He gave me the parts I needed, but didn�t have axel oil that I needed and didn�t have any idea as to where I could find it in Stepanagert at that hour, but said that I could find it in Askeran, which is on the way back to Martuni. I thanked him and left.

I went to fill my gas tank and canisters up at the usual place where they sell super gasoline, as all the other gasoline has 20%+ diesel mixed in it when it comes from Armenia and who knows how much more they add when it get here. This gas is not good for the motor or carburetor, thus I spend a few extra dram to get real gasoline. I asked the gas station attendant if they had the oil I needed and he said they use to, but recently ran out. He told me that he had seen it in Askeran and I could get it there. I thanked him and left.

I drove to a gas station near Askeran and asked about the oil. No, they didn�t have it, but said that they have it at the auto parts store at the edge of town, before you get to Aghdam, but it would be closed at this hour. I thanked them and left.

Fortunately, I know Garen, the owner of the auto parts store, as he is from Martuni and two years ago, was the only one in Askeran that I could find to fix my car at a late hour when the water-pump went out.

In the dark I surprised myself and found Garen�s house. I knocked on the door, but there was no answer. I knocked on the neighbor�s door and asked if they knew where Garen was? The woman didn�t know and asked her 6 year old son Samuel if he knew? He said that they went to their cousin�s house. The mother sent me off with Samuel to the cousin�s house, which was at the next entry of their building. We found Garen�s wife and kids, but Garen had gone off to Martuni. I had not met her before and didn�t tell her who I was, so to her I was just a stranger in need of some auto parts. She walked back over to her house and got on the phone and made a couple of calls. She told me to go to the store and someone would meet me there. I thanked her and headed to the store.

I got to the store and in a couple of minutes a car pulled up. A man got out and opened the store. He asked me what I needed and I told him. He said that it would be better if we got the oil from the gas station down the street, which belonged to him. I told him that I needed 10 liters of the oil, but I had no bottles or canisters to put it in. He said that this would be difficult and got on his cell phone and called the gas station to ask if they had any canisters, or would we need to get them elsewhere? He finished his call and said they are waiting for me and would loan me a couple of 5 liter canisters if I promised to return them the next time I pass by. I agreed, thanked him and headed to the gas station.

I pulled up to the gas station and outside was waiting the attendant with canisters in hand. We went over to an area of their yard where there were oil barrels. I helped him fill a pail with the oil and then held the funnel while he filled the canisters. I paid him and thanked him for the use of the canisters and promised to return them the next time I go to Stepanagert. He thanked me and said that if there was anything I needed in the future, to just ask.

I got back to Martuni at 10 PM with everything I needed. To say the least, I was very happy.

It�s kind of strange and at the same time a welcome sight to notice a this change in people these last couple of months. They seem to be changing back to the way they use to be a few years ago when I first moved here. Some people are still rude and dishonest, but so many have in a way learned to be more accommodating and trusting to others (they use to be like this before and then some changed, not trusting and acting unjustifiably rude). I guess the �me first and the hell with everyone else" was getting to people in a way that they understood that it was not good. On the other hand, maybe these are just people that I never encountered before and they have always been this way? I can�t say they were being so nice to me because they detected that I was not from here, as I�ve learned how to talk like them and in some ways move and dress like them. Maybe it was because I was polite to them and they felt the need to reciprocate? I�m not sure, but I like what I�ve been seeing lately.

Saturday, April 06, 2002

I guess the clock on blog (which is who provides the text for this log) is off by an hour. I got a message from one of our readers, who pointed this out. Just so you know, my posting yesterday was done at 9:48 PM.

Friday, April 05, 2002

For some reason, I thought today was Thursday and missed the on-line chat that I told you so much about. No big deal, I�ll just read the transcript and see what Vartan O had to say.

Today I went to the village of Spitagashen and picked up the twin beds and a really nice table that I ordered. It�s really nice and now all that is left is to have to mattresses brought from Yerevan. By the time the conference rolls around, I should be able to accommodate 10 to 12 people in real beds and an unlimited amount on the floor. I say this as I have already made promises to a few people to bring them on a tour of Artsakh following the conference. I�m sure by that time we will have a mini van full.

Tomorrow is Saturday and if the weather is good, the concrete slab roof is going to be installed on my office and part of the upstairs living room. I can finally see progress in construction on my house.

Thursday, April 04, 2002

This morning, my driver and I, with our big dump truck, went to Stepanagert to pick-up new tires and a load of marble/granite gravel for my floors.

We arrived in Stepanagert at about 10:30, after a slow drive via Aghdam.

First person we encounter was a traffic cop, who was looking for a bribe. I got out of the truck with my driver and walked up to him handing him the trucks documents and asked him what seems to be the problem? He just looked at me with a blank look, as if I was invisible. I then asked him if he knows me? Same blank look. I asked him if he was new? He said yes. I said in a kind of rude tone �you won�t last long in this job�. He asked me where I was from and I said Martuni, but added that his friend standing on the other side of the road could tell him better (pointing to the other cop that was with him). He didn�t know what to say and handed me back the documents without even looking at them. I told him that he better tell his buddies that this is my truck and they need not stop it in the future. As I walked back to the truck, I could hear him quietly asking my driver who I am. My driver told him that it was better if he didn�t ask that question and got back in the truck. We drove on and when we were out of earshot, we both started to laugh.

We picked up the tires and took them to a service depot, where we had them mounted. This took a very long time, as it�s all done by hand. The service people also took a look at the clutch and some other areas needing attention. They finished around 3:30 p.m.

We headed to the gravel pit, which is underneath Sushi and on the way we were stopped again by a couple of cops. This time I knew them and shook their hand, gave them the documents, introduced my driver (who they knew from shaking him down for bribes in the past) and without looking at the documents again, gave them back and sent us on our way.

We made it to the gravel pit at 4 p.m. where we found the workers in their lunchroom playing backgammon. I asked them if they had time to fill out truck with gravel and they told me yes and took the money for the gravel and excavator service (total 20,500 dram). The excavator operator got in his excavator to move it and discovered that he could not lift the stabilization feet. No less than a half-dozen people tried different things, finally giving up at 5 p.m. when he ran out of fuel. They sent someone off to get a smaller excavator to load our truck.

After a half-hour wait, the excavator showed up and loaded our truck to maximum capacity. We headed back towards Martuni at a turtles pace, being that we loaded 30 tons of gravel on a truck rated for 16 tons (he can handle this load if you don�t drive it fast).

We passed the cop who stopped us this morning. He still had the same blank look on his face.

As we were nearing Askeran, a police car coming in the opposite direction gave us a signal to stop. We did and I told my driver to not get out and let them come to the cab, which is how the law reads they must do. We waited a bit and when the cop neared the cap, he noticed me and smiled, as I signaled him to come over. He climbed up and shook my hand to say hello. I handed him the documents, but he said that it would not be necessary. I introduced him to my new driver and he told us to have a nice day and sent us on our way.

I guess it�s going to take the cops a bit to get use to our truck, but once they do, it will be exempt from being stopped for a bribe.

After a long drive, we made it to Aghdam at about 6:30. As we were making our way through, I told my driver how strange it feels to be in a place that use to have so many people living in it and is now nothing more than ghost-town today.

He began to tell how when he was a kid, he use to come with his father to Aghdam and remembers it being a place where you could purchase anything. He said he remembers that you could purchase a pistol with bullets for 50 rubles. He said that the code name for it was �a hen with chicks�. He said it was a place one could easily get robbed also. His uncle once came with a back pocket full of money and when he reached in it to pay for something, all he found was a hole in the bottom.

We stopped to give the truck a rest at a �restaurant� located next to a stream. The restaurant is run by this character named Ernist (almost a Boss Hog type from the old t.v. show �The Dukes of Hazard� but unshaved or bathed. The woman that works at the restaurant, who I think is Ernist�s wife was cleaning cabbage. I went to look in their yard and asked them where their garden was and how much the cabbage costs. She said they don�t have a garden and the cabbage was from Yerevan and costs 50 dram a kilo. She had three of four sacks full of cabbage and I knew right away that the Army bases in Martuni must have got their shipment of cabbage today. I�ve seen this kind of thing at that same spot happen a couple years ago, where I personally watched as Ernist and the driver of an army supply truck off loaded in to the back of Ernist�s car potatoes. I guess the crackdown on this kind of stuff has not yet come into effect with Ernist. As we drove off, I pointed out my observations to my driver and he said yes, Ernist is quite a sneaky person that you can�t trust.

Well we made it to Martuni at 10 p.m. and as we tried to dump the gravel in front of my house, but the truck didn�t seem to have the power to lift the bed in the air. I guess the rating of 16 tons is not for how much to you can transport, but is for how much power the hydraulic piston has to lift. Well they are going to shovel out part of the gravel in the morning and then dump the rest when the load is a little lighter.

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

It was a rainy day today and I had so much running around to do.

Our new driver started to work today and I had the task of getting all his papers in order so he could drive our truck.

This morning my contractor�s daughter who got married last summer, gave birth to a healthy baby boy. He was born at 5:30 a.m. and was 3.3 kilos (7.26lb). My contactor was very happy and tonight invited me over for dinner. He slaughtered a lamb and we celebrated his first grandchild�s birth and his 25th wedding anniversary (which was also today).

Well I know now what to expect next year as far as birthdays and an anniversary. Five birthdays and one anniversary, all in a period of 6 days (I didn�t mention my contactor�s brother wife gave birth to a baby boy on Thursday). I feel really sorry for my poor stomach and liver, not to mention my lungs for all the second hand smoke they will get to filter. But really, it�s not that bad and in fact for me it�s a great joy to be included in such happy celebrations.

Being that this log is very powerful when it comes to fulfilling request, this bit of news should not surprise you. We found an excavator operator today. We came across him in the same way as we did our new truck driver (looking for work at the wine factory). It's only a temporary thing, as he works for someone else whose excavator is out of service right now.

A little bit of information for those interested. On Friday, 5 April at 8:00pm Armenia time, Vartan Oskanian, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the ROA will be on line, answering questions regarding the Diaspora Conference. To participate in the live chat, please direct your browser to http://web.archive.org/web/20050209130515/http://www.armeniadiaspora.com/chat. I would think this one will be popular. They have a 50 participant limit in the chat room, so don�t be late.

Monday, April 01, 2002

I am so pooped out over going to birthday parties. The one that I went to on Saturday continued on Sunday. Then today, my good friend the Mayor�s daughter turned 12 years old. It was a very small party. Really no guests other than me and a couple family members. The big problem I have is all the food and having no room for it. It�s strange, but the food on the table is less these days and the space is my stomach is also less. I get stuffed so quick.

I�m in need of a truck driver for my dump truck and have been looking for the last few days. Not to say that there is not a surplus of drivers, but honest ones are hard to find. I�ve approached 4 people that came highly recommended and every one of them have just started or just committed to working for someone else before I got to them. I guess the good honest ones are in demand.

My contactor tells me that if we are really desperate, we can find someone tomorrow, but we can be sure that they rob us of fuel, do work on the side with our truck without telling us or if they disagree with us and we somehow upset them, they could intentionally damage the truck. I�ve already gone through a couple like that and would rather not have to deal with such people.