Thursday, June 27, 2002

Blue, Black or maybe Purple

Though summer is here, I�m in the middle of spring cleaning. Today I not only washed the floors with hot water a Barf, but I also did a couple loads of laundry with Barf and finished off with doing the dishes with Barf. If your wondering why Ara is so into using Barf to clean with, it�s because Barf is the name of an Iranian made soap. It means something like white snow.

As for the title of this log, the blue came from doing a load of laundry where I did the whites and towels (I always do my towels with the whites), but this time I put in a towel that Jack (one of the people who was on the visit with Raffi) left behind and I guess it was brand new and the blue from it turned all my whites a shade of blue, that could pass for maybe purple. I immediately put the whites in again with a dose of bleach that could take the tan right off of someone, but it did no good. Oh Zabel, I just want to let you know that I found the blue pair of socks you left behind. What do you mean they were white?

So when I finished my cleaning, I went in my yard to eat some really juicy black mulberries off my tree and I guess they were so juicy that I got a few drops on my shirt and pants. I rushed into the house and filled up the sink with some hot water and Barf and as I type they are soaking with the hopes that the Barf with save my clothes from being permanently stained with black marks.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

When Raffi and friends were visiting earlier this month, we went to visit an American working in the village of Ningi (in the Martuni region) on a project to revitalize the pottery industry. When we were leaving, he gave each of us a piece of Bazooka Bubble Gum. Since I�m not a chewer of bubble gum, I gave my piece to Zabel. While doing some cleaning today, I came across the comic-strip and fortune that was with that piece of gum and the fortune reads: �THIS ISN�T YOUR FORTUNE, YOU GOT SOMEONE ELSE�S GUM.� Zabel had pointed this out to me at the time and we all thought it was really spooky to know that there could be some accuracy to Bazooka Bubble Gum fortunes.
The Brazil vs. Turkey soccer match was interesting to watch at my neighbor�s house. Not only were the guys watching, but also a few wives, widows and daughters joined us. When Ronaldo scored the winning goal, the guys had the usual reaction that guys have when the team your rooting for scores, but the female viewers had a different type of joy when Brazil scored. I guess their bitter feeling towards Turks in general still remain strong and in many ways are fully justified.

I was noticing when the Turkish players would knock over a Brazilian player, how the Turks would check to see if the Brazilian was okay, rub their head, pat them on the back (even one time on the butt) and help them up as if they were sorry for what they had done. I pointed this out and one of the widows said that Turks are like that. They will lick your feet, smile at you, but if given the chance, they will cut off your head. The others agreed.

Anyway, the Brazil vs. Germany game should be really good.

Saturday, June 22, 2002

Yesterday my one-sided game of phone-tag with the President�s advisor who promised me to have my citizenship issue resolved by May, came to an end.

I called for the 9th time and spoke with his secretary Lucine. She told me that the advisor was busy with Presidential election work and in short would not have time to deal with my issue until the elections were over. I told Lucine to tell the advisor that this was not acceptable and I expect that he fulfill the promise before that time.

I mentioned the situation to some of the locals and they seemed quite bothered by the situation and behavior of the government.

One pointed out the following reasons why they should not question or delay granting me citizenship:

1. The NKR government is claiming that they want people to move here.
2. Though they claim to give a home and material aid to people that resettle here, I have not asked nor received anything from them and have built with my own money my home and life here.
3. I have left a more desirable and economically stable country for this country that has a questionable future.
4. I�m an Armenian and not a Turk.
5. I have created a number of stable jobs for people that live here, which has relived the government of the burden of finding those families a source of income.
6. Every month, I bring in fresh money to this country which I spend here and by doing so stimulate the economy.

Well it looks like I�m now going to have to write a second letter to the President, stating the above and asking him for his immediate attention, with an expectation of this process to be completed within 10 days, or to provide me with a letter rejecting of my citizenship request explaining the reasons.

Though I have a really good idea as to what the letter to the President will say, please feel free to make suggestions as what you think should be stated to the President.

If this does not work, I think an open letter to the people here will be in order. If that happens, I�ll be sure to post the English version of it.

Thursday, June 20, 2002

Tonight I was looking for a floppy-disk that I could put some files on and came across a disk with pictures I took of the baby my cousin and his wife adopted last year. I was not really going to tell this story, as it boarders on the very personal side of my life, which could violate my policy of sharing such things on the internet to strangers. None the less, I did mention it in a recent log and got quite a few private messages about it from people interested in adopting a child from here. With that said, here is the story of one of the memorable �adventures� I have had here that I know for sure I would have never experienced in America and would not trade it for anything in the world:

When I was 7 years old, a mother brought in her infant son to my elementary school and gave us a lesson on how to care for a baby. Though I was really not interested, I participated in changing, feeding and bathing this baby.

In all my years I have never babysat nor cared for any small children, all until last year.

As I mentioned, last year, my cousin decided to adopt a child from the Artsakh. They did all the papers in the US and all that was left was to find a child for them.

A friend of mine located an unwed mother, who had just given birth to a baby girl and had no intentions of keeping her.

I made arrangements for a nurse to care for the child until my cousin could come 3 weeks later and was all set to receive this new born bundle of joy.

Culturally, my having the nurse come stay at my house, being that I am a single male, did not go over too well with the Nurse�s husband and at the last minute she bailed out on me.

I did all I could to find someone else and the best I could do was to get my neighbor (my contractor�s wife) to take care of the baby during the day. Night duty would be my job.

Everyone thought I was crazy to take responsibility of caring for a newborn baby, but I knew that I really didn�t have any choice. So at 3 days old, I to custody of this baby.

Not to say that it is easy to care for a newborn, but I guess the 7 year old Ara was paying more attention then he remembers, because once we got use to the every 2 or so hour feedings (I let her decide when she wanted to be fed), it was not that hard and everything came naturally.

I gave her, her first bath (and almost every bath or shower for the following 2 months). I was the one that mixed up all her formula. I determined what diapers worked for her. From day one, I knew from her cry when she was wet or when she was hungry. I knew how to burp her better than the lady that helped in the day and she had 3 kids of her own. When someone unfamiliar would pick her up and she would cry, it only took the sound of my voice to comfort her. As my cousin said after getting here 2 months later (due to bureaucratic red-tape), for that little girl, the sun rose and set on me. I was mom and dad for 2 months. Many people commented that I took better care of that baby, than some people take care of their own biological children.

Though I have not seen that baby since they took her to the states last August, I get regular installments of pictures and reports of what a well balanced, well tempered and confident child she is turning into. My cousin's wife attributes this to the care she received in the first couple months of her life (maybe she just says this to make me feel proud).

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

The other day I paid my cellular phone bill which was a whopping $23.40. Though that may not seem like much, for someone with an average government salary, that�s a little more than half of their monthly income.

I was expecting it to me more as I made a number of international phone calls, but when closely examining the bill only 3 of the approximately 10 calls appeared. So yesterday while in Stepanagert to pay the bill for my internet phone line, I enquired about my bill and its lack of billing. The conversation went something like this:

Ara: I�m sorry to bother you, but there seems an error on my cellular phone bill. It seems that I was not charged for some international calls I made.

Worker at Karabagh Telecom: (With a big smile on her face) Is that a problem for you?

Ara: Well I made quite a few calls and maybe they didn�t last more than a minute, but they do add up.

Worker at Karabagh Telecom: Well I wouldn�t worry about it.

Ara: Well I just don�t want them to later surprise me with a bill for them and I really don�t have a problem paying for them now.

Worker at Karabagh Telecom: (With an even bigger smile on her face) I�ll talk to my supervisor about it and we will take care of it.

Ara: Do you need my phone number?

Worker at Karabagh Telecom: No, that�s okay.

It was obvious that she didn�t care and I guess though it was probably cute that someone would come and want to pay for something that the company she works for overlooked. Obviously she wont be talking to her supervisor to resolve this issue, so maybe I should.

Since I�m on the subject of telecommunications, I have to tell you about these regular phones that don�t seem to be working well. I mean I can call America quicker on my cell phone than I can call my neighbor on my regular phone. In many cases, I end up calling my neighbor on my cell phone when I get frustrated trying to call on the regular phone.

The other night I needed to call the village of Jardar and to do so, you have to call 107 and the operator connects you. I tried for 45 minutes to all 107 with no luck at all. I finally got so frustrated that I got in my car and drove down to the phone center to make my call.

While waiting for them to put my call through (which they had to do twice, as the first time they dialed the wrong number), I talked with an old man who also got frustrated after trying for 15 minutes to call 107 and at midnight, walked 1 kilometer to the phone center to put in his call to his daughter who lives in Russia. He told me that ever since the Arab�s took over the phone system, it has been impossible to make a phone call. He said that he had to walk down not only to make the call, but to calm his nerves.

Well, I hope that the Arab�s that now control our phone system will spend the next $12 million on updating the regular phone system so the greater population will benefit from their acquisition of our system, as appose to the first $12 million they claim to have spent on our cellular phone system that the people that don�t have the money to subscribe to don�t benefit from.

Saturday, June 15, 2002

I came across this article on Groong and it reminded me of a by chance encounter I had with Jirair Libaridian three years ago, all the stories I heard from the people here of Libaridian and the advice he would give to the President.

I�ll let you read the article and then my comments.


13 June 2002


Pres.Ter-Petrossyan's Foreign Policy Advisor Zhirayr Liparityan has been to Baku for nearly a week. A U.S. citizen and professor of Harvard, Liparityan is reported to have been collecting materials for his book on the Karabakh conflict. According to the Baku media, Liparityan has met with Azeri experts, political figures and diplomats. He discussed with them if it is possible to resume peace talks on the Karabakh conflict. One of the participants in the meeting said later that Liparityan's visit gave occasion to many to think that Armenia was interested in the early settlement of the conflict. He also said that many political forces in Armenia may have been looking for ways to hasten the negotiating process. To recap, Liparityan has already visited Baku once. It was three years ago and he was received by Pres.Aliev then.


Here is what seems to represent Yerevan's view on who Libaridian is on an official level.

Yerevan Denies Involvement In Former Karabakh Envoy's Visit To Azerbaijan

RFE/RL Armenian Service

Thursday 11 March 1999

The Armenian authorities on Thursday distanced themselves from a planned visit to Baku by Jirair Libaridian, Armenia's former chief negotiator on Nagorno-Karabakh, saying that he will be traveling on his own.

The Azerbaijani news agency Turan said on Wednesday that Libaridian will arrive in Baku from Paris on Friday as a "private guest" of President Heydar Aliev's chief foreign policy aide. It quoted Vafa Guluzade as saying that Libaridian will be visiting Azerbaijan "on his own initiative" to "see Baku" and discuss the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

"Libaridian is not authorized to speak on behalf of Armenia," a spokesman for the Armenian foreign ministry told RFE/RL. A US citizen of Armenian origin, Libaridian in 1993-97 was former president Levon Ter-Petrossian's top envoy in internationally mediated talks on Karabakh. He and Guluzade also met several times to discuss the long-running Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict face to face.

Armenian Foreign Ministry Spokesman Ara Papian said the former diplomat flew to Paris on Thursday from Yerevan where he had arrived last week to take part in a conference organized by the US East-West Institute. "Libaridian didn't hold meetings with any of Armenian officials while in Yerevan. As a US citizen, he is free to travel to any country," Papian said. But he warned that "psychological difficulties" may arise if Libaridian "tries, in his present status, to discuss issues [in Baku] he is not in a position to deal with."

Libaridian was a key supporter of Ter-Petrossian's foreign policy that would offer more concessions to Azerbaijan to end the Karabakh conflict.

(Hrach Melkumian)


For those of you who don�t know who Libaridian is, I�ll tell you in short who the Libaridian is that I met three years ago. In fact, I met or saw Libaridian a couple times before that encounter.

The first time I met Libaridian was at his house in the presidential compound with some friends that know him. The only impression I had of him at that time was that he drinks too much, talks too much and was only interested in what he had to say.

The second time I saw him was on an airplane from Armenia to Paris and he was in the back of the plane smoking and standing while the plane landed, ignoring the �fasten your seatbelt� and �no smoking� signs.

The encounter three years ago in a Yerevan restaurant was the most I interacted with him and though he was doing most of the talking, I did get to ask him a couple of questions.

One of my questions was if we were going to see a peace settlement in Artsakh and he said that he had come up with a favorable deal that the Azeri�s agreed to (the one that LTP entered into and then later had to resign for entering into) and the chances of them entering in to the same deal today was slim, but for us would be a good idea to enter into it if given the chance.

The second question was when are people from the Diaspora going to move here? He told me not to wait for people from the Diaspora to move here as everyone is where they want to be and no one is going to move here. Obviously he was wrong, as not only am I here, but there are many more that have moved here and are planning to move here.

There are many Libaridian stories to tell, but one that tells me who Libaritian is in regards to Artsakh would have to be the story of Lachin and Libaridian�s desire to give it to the Azeri�s.

On a visit to the Armenian 5th century monastery of Tsitsernavank, I noticed that bridges that connected Lachin with Goris had all been blown up. I asked the government official that was with me if they had been destroyed during the war? He said no, when we liberated this land the bridges were fine. He went on to tell of how in May of 1993, Libaridian had decided that in order to make peace with the Azeri�s, we would give back Lachin and before offering it to them, all the bridges between Armenia and Lachin were blown up. When the offer was made to the Azeri�s, they were suspicious of our motives and in the end, the powers to be did not allow the deal that would have again cut Artsakh off from Armenia and probably an end to the conflict and the Armenian people that live here.

Maybe from this, one can understand how Libaridian is a welcomed guest to Azerbaijan and it makes me wonder whose interests he is working for? I should add that Libaridian at the time of my encounter mentioned that he was to soon be working as the advisor on Caspian issues for IREX (this is a US government sponsored organization which I understand he later worked for).

As for the comment in the above article of ��Liparityan's visit gave occasion to many to think that Armenia was interested in the early settlement�� can only be a reflection of Libaridian�s distorted views.

Yes we do want a peaceful settlement, but only one that provides safety, security and a promising future for us. From the deal that Libaridian came up with that LTP had to resign for signing into, from what I understand, the basic conditions that I have stated above were not guaranteed.

As far as I�m concerned, the �ADVISOR OF EX PRESIDENT OF ARMENIA� is certainly not the one that can represent us, or find the best settlement that we can agree on if his former and present view of reality is being applied.

Friday, June 14, 2002

Living here in Artsakh most of the time is very rewarding, but from time to time as in any place one may live can be a little frustrating.

Almost 2 years ago, I applied for citizenship here in Artsakh. Though I never really saw a need for doing this, being I have the 10 year visa, I did it only because the Prime Minister encouraged me to do so with the promise that he would do everything to make sure that it would be a smooth process and he would personally make sure no one caused me problems along the way.

At that time I went to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and picked up an application. I asked the person working their how long the process would take and she told me that it takes from 3 to 6 months, this all depending on how helpful I have been to the country. From the descriptions of helpfulness, I thought I fell in the 3 month category.

After completing the form and providing all the necessary documentation, I waited and waited and waited�

I called the MFA the first time after the 6 months had passed and was told that they were waiting for the papers to come back from the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA). I called the MIA a few times and was told that they were waiting for some papers to complete my application. This sounded like a reasonable answer so I waited again.

After a few more calls to the MIA and no results, I took the opportunity during a meeting with the Prime Minister to tell him about my experience with the citizenship process and how it was not going as we had anticipated. I asked him if he could please intervene and see what we could collectively do to finally get the process completed? He agreed and made some notation.

A couple of months passed and I got an e-mail from my mother telling me that a friend at the Armenian Consulate Generals office in Los Angeles contacted her to ask if she could give a name of someone that is not a family member, but knows me and can give some kind of letter of recommendation, as the MFA has requested information about me and my background from them. From that e-mail, I knew that the Prime Minister was on the job and the process would surly be completed soon.

In June, my cousin and his wife had completed the process of qualifying to adopt a child from Armenia or Artsakh and asked that I help them out with finding a child and be their �agent� to deal with the red-tape they had heard about of from others that had adopted from Armenia. Being that I know the Prime Minister and practically everyone else in government here in Artsakh, it was only natural to choose Artsakh over Armenia for attempting to adopt a child.

My cousin and his wife arrived in mid-July and during the adoption process, the committee that was to determine if my cousin and his wife were fit to adopt, made some mention of my citizenship and in a way as if they were congratulating me on receiving it.

I was a bit puzzled and asked them what they had to do with it? They told me that they were the committee that reviewed and approved my citizenship and sent it off to the President for a signature 6 months earlier. Well this was certainly news to me and something worth looking into.

When my cousin and his wife completed the adoption process 12 days after we applied to the Artsakh Government and they were back in the states a week later and that baby received its American citizenship 24 hours after landing on American soil, I was on the phone to the President�s office looking for my papers that should have been ready and signed.

After a couple of weeks of phone calls and no results, I contacted the Prime Minister�s representative, who was on the committee that approved me for citizenship and told me about them sending the papers for signature. He told me he would look into it and get back to me.

Months passed with me making many phone calls and visits to various people.

I finally located my papers at the MIA. I asked in the most civil way I could as to what the problem was and why they have my papers and not the President so he could sign it? They told me that they were waiting for one paper from the MFA. A letter of approval.

I immediately got on the phone to the MFA to talk to the minister herself, but was told that she was out of the country. I spoke to her deputy and asked him what was needed from me so we could get a letter of approval so we could finish this process by New Years? He told me he would take care of it in the next few days and not to worry. I thanked him and waited.

I called the MIA a few time before New Years and was told they are still waiting for the letter of approval from the MFA.

I called the MFA and talked to the deputy and he told me that they were waiting for a letter from the KGB so they could send the letter of approval. Boy was I getting the run around or what?

I called the KGB to see if they were up to speed with this letter that the MFA needed from them so they could send their letter of approval off to the MIA? When I finally talked to the head of the KGB, he gave me the impression that he just got the request and said that they need time to do this and are waiting for some information from the Armenian Embassy in the US. I asked if that could be something like the letter that was requested back in June? He said yes and as soon as he gets that, he would effectively be done with what he needed so he could give his report to the MFA.

I called the MFA and talked to the deputy telling him that the KGB needs the letter they got from the US. He said he would look into it.

I didn�t wait a minute and e-mailed my mother to contact the embassy and find out if and when they sent the letter.

She got back to me the next day and said it was sent in June and they were going to send it again to the MFA just in case they lost it.

I called the MFA the next day and before I could say anything, the deputy told me that he had the letter and was getting it off to the KGB. He added that nothing gets lost at the MFA and if for some reason I think I�m getting the run around, the MFA is the one place in government that does not give anyone the run around, you can be sure of this.

I waited again and decided that this time I was going to give everyone a month to get things in order, figuring that they had everything they needed and this hellish process would be done and over with soon.

Well a month passed and since I didn�t hear from anyone to tell me that I was a citizen, I knew the run around was still going strong.

I wrote a letter to the President to tell him what had transpired and to ask for his help. I explained to him in the letter that I not only called or visited different people over 80 times, but on 6 different occasions I was promised that the process was effectively done.

I didn�t hear back from the President�s office, so I called a couple of times and finally was put in contact with one of his advisers. I set up an appointment to see what we could do to get the problem solved.

I met with the adviser and he explained to me that 6 months after I applied for citizenship, the law changed and as of the date of our meeting, there was no working law in place for granting citizenship. Whatever the MFA, MIA and KGB told me were effectively lies and nothing more then a big waste of my time. The adviser was not happy at all and said he would call each one of them to I guess yell at them and relay my dissatisfaction with each one of them.

He went on to say that there will be no problem with me getting my citizenship and the new law was going to be heard and adopted my Parliament soon and I should be a citizen by April or May at the latest. I told him I would wait and would contact him at the end of May to see what happened.

Well, it�s now June 14th and my attempt to call the adviser has produced no results. When I called him around 11AM, he was in but busy and I was told to call back after 5PM. My call at 5:50PM went unanswered, but you can be sure I�ll be calling on him until I get some answer or idea as to what is going on.

I know for sure that Parliament has not yet heard my citizenship issue, as yesterday at lunch one of Parliamentarians was sitting across from me and I asked him. He did say, as so many before him, that it will not be a problem. He did add that Parliament is going to be meeting some time from the 15th to the 20th of this month, so maybe they will be talking about the citizenship issue.

One thing that I find very disturbing is that there are so many people that just want to pack up and leave this place and here I am, trying to replant my roots here. It took only 12 days for an Artsakh citizen to get approval to leave and become an American citizen, but for me to come here and become a citizen, it looks like it�s going to take more than 2 years.

Is there something wrong with this picture, or what?

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

Guests, guests and more guests!!!

I have been so busy, that I have had no time to log or tend to my other everyday life.

I could write a big long log and tell you all about what I�ve been up to for the last few weeks, but I�ll spare you the details and not bore you with all the fun I�ve been having.

Raffi wrote quite a bit about the great adventure we had and did a good job of covering it.

I guess I got a head cold and fever from that trip, which I�m hoping will pass soon, as I have more guests due to come.

Today was the 9th anniversary marking a dark day in Armenian history. The 12th of June, 1993 was the day Monte Melkonian was killed in battle while defending our people from the Azeri-Turks. Like every year since that day, the people of Martuni, friends of Monte�s and government officials paid their respects to Monte.

They finished the day with a lunch at Monte�s spring. Many toast were said and I was given the opportunity to say a toast which I did, following the toast that the Martuni Prosecutor said about our future and how he hopes it will be a promising one.

It�s funny, but it seems whenever I say a toast, everyone gets really quiet and listens closely to what I have to say. In retrospect, it never fails that many times when someone else is saying a toast, there is always someone talking and making comments or just ignoring the person who is saying the toast.

My toast went something like this: �I would like to continue the Prosecutor�s toast of a promising future and add that though everyone sitting at this table thinks about our future and the well being of our people, may everyone here work 1% harder and elect the road and work which will be most beneficial to realizing our dream of a promising future. In the 4 years I have lived here, I�ve noticed that as hard as we have been trying to move forward, we seem to be slipping back. May Monte�s life and the others who spilled their blood and gave their lives so we can have a chance at a normal and more promising future not be a waste and unnecessary loss. For those who are servants to the people (referring to almost everyone at the table), if it be the person who cleans the street or our own regional minister, I wish that they do their job in a way that is most beneficial to us all. And to those that are the keepers of the law (the head of the Martuni KGB and chief of police where also at the table) to do their job to make sure that the law works. For those that find that they are not qualified to do what is expected of them, they should do our people a bigger service and tell us that they can�t do it and step down to let someone who is better qualified to do it. All this is my wish and I believe that this is what needs to be done so that we truly can have a more promising future.� We drank and the Prosecutor continued to talk about how I am right and how there are people that are more interested in the chair they occupy and this hinders our moving forward in the way we need for a promising future.

Well I need to get going and I�m hoping by morning this fever will be over with. Thank goodness my mother left me a bottle of Advil when she was here last week.