Wednesday, July 31, 2002

We live in a world with unexpected twists and turns.

Within a couple of hours of my last post, I received an e-mail from one of our reader who said that he would like to help Rosa Myrig and her husband with money for decent food for a year, or at least a winter.

I�m now working on getting back to our reader by tomorrow with an idea of what it will cost to fulfill he generous offer.

So far I have two figures for him and the third will come directly from Rosa Myrig tomorrow afternoon, who thinks she is compiling the figures for me for an article, not knowing that she and her husband will soon be receiving a gift from one of our readers. I am so excited to see the look on their faces when they receive this generous gift.

A big thank you to our reader who said If I want, I can give credit to his church in San Francisco, St. John the Evangelist Armenian Apostolic Church, whose Der Hayr Fr. Sarkis Petoyan (who happens to be an old friend of mine) challenges them to find ways to keep Armenia in their hearts and prayers.

More to come in the days to follow.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

I received an e-mail today from a friend who serves in our monastery in Jerusalem, telling me that the Baron Der situation is not getting better. He told me to rally outside support so we can overcome this crisis. As alarming as this situation is, I'm more concerned about what the Israeli's will try next if they are not made to vacate that land?

I'm hoping that the MFA here in Armenia will go beyond making a strong statement in protest to the Israeli government and ask Israel's representative (if they still have one in Armenia after the genocide denial issue) to leave the country and suspend the operations of any organizations that are tied to Israel until this issues is resolved. Though this may seem like a very extreme measure, I think Armenia needs to take a very strong and non-tolerable stance on such issues so Israel understands that there is no compromise on issues of this kind now or in the future.

Effectively, Israel has invaded, captured and is now occupying Armenian land and that act of aggression with their desired end result is not too far from what the Turks had done when they began to drive the Armenians from their homes 100 years ago. Could this be the start of a campaign of Israel ridding itself of the Armenians and doing so in the name of "national security"? With everything I've read so far on this issue, Israel�s history and the current situation, I think it could be.

We all need to do everything we can to put pressure on Israel to vacate Baron Der and understand that we will not tolerate this and such acts in the future. Even though I�m sure we have the support of the greater international community, Israel is not going to back down without a fight, as they seem to be determined on accomplishing a specific goal that is not favorable to the Armenians.

Please take the time to make your voice heard by visiting Also forward this log to all the people you know to do the same.

Saturday, July 27, 2002

A couple of hours ago I received a convoluted reply to my second letter to the President of Karabagh in regards to my citizenship application. It came from the President�s advisor who had promised me that I would have my citizenship by May of this year. He had told me at that time if he can�t realize this work of making the May deadline, then he too has lied to me as many other government officials had in the past in regards to this issue. Could this letter just be another lie?

I�m really not sure what to make of this letter, as I asked the President to grant or deny my application so I would know if I should plant my roots here or not.

The following is a quick, but what I believe accurate translation of the letter. I�m kind of confused as to what it means and I hope that maybe someone out there can help me out with a translation of this translation.

If anything, this should make for interesting reading in my book.

N 1-01/190

25 July 2002

Esteemed Ara Khachiki,

Regarding the consideration of your application addressed to secure NKR state citizenship, I am informing you that, in connection with constitutional changes related to citizenship, the NKR President's committee for granting NKR citizenship has not reviewed similar issues since July 1999.

At present the NKR government is developing mechanisms for handing similar issues according to the NKR constitution presently in force.

For the record I am also informing you that the topics regarding granting you NKR citizenship have generally not been received by the above named committee.


Wednesday, July 24, 2002

Last night at dinner at my neighbor�s house (the contractor), his wife was telling us about a little boy who drowned in a water reserve pool.

It seems that Esh Albert�s son, Esh Edo, took his son (Esh Albert�s grandson) to work with him to pick potatoes. During lunch, Esh Edo took his son swimming in a 3 meter deep reserve pool used for irrigation. Esh Edo�s son, who was 12 years old, didn�t know how to swim, so he held on to his father as he swam. According to Esh Edo, his son must have swallowed some water and while he was choking, he tightened his hold around his father�s neck, who then started to choke himself and to save himself, released the boy into the water. I guess Esh Edo�s lack of ability to swim and the panic was a bad combination, as his son drowned and went to the bottom of the pool. Esh Edo called for help and the people that came couldn�t swim, so they drained the pool and after an hour were able to recover the body.

For those of you that don�t know what �Esh� means, it means �jackass� and is a name that Albert and Edo have somehow earned years ago here in Martuni. I always thought it was just the locals being mean, but I guess something must have happened years ago to start all that talk. Well this generation will continue the habit of calling them Esh, but sadly it will stop with Edo, as his only son is now dead.

My contactor�s wife was really upset about this whole thing and said the boy was with his father to work to help out with the families living expenses. My contactor added that the boy was probably making 200 dram (less than 40 cents) a day. The wife said that 12 years ago, all children of that age were off on vacation this time of year and this would have never happened. I guess if the father had a decent paying job, maybe the need for that extra 200 dram a day would not have existed and the boy would be alive today. I guess these things do happen and we all have to go sometime. It�s just that this way is very hard to deal with.

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

I just got in from being in Yerevan for a few days.

I went for a few reasons, but most importantly to send off Shooshig�s group back to the states. They were really lots of fun to be around and I�m happy to report that none of them wanted to go. They said that if they could have changed their ticket and had a little more money, they would for sure stay as long as they could. I think we may at some point get a few of them back for good.

The night of the 21st, we had a goodbye dinner for Jack and Raffi�s dad at Poplavok. It was great!!! I had sushi, which was really not all that bad. I know I made a pig of myself, but figured since I don�t get to Yerevan every week, I better make the most of it. At the end of our meal, our tradition of everyone paying their share of the bill was broken for the second time. Before I knew it, Raffi�s dad had paid the check and there was nothing we could do about it. Zabel tried really had, but he would not budge. The last time this happened was when we went to dinner with Raffi�s dad when he first got here. I send a big thank you out to Bedros Kojian for 2 very lovely dinners. It brought back memories of my dad, who is known for going as far as twisting someone�s arm behind their back until they cry like a little girl and let loose of the check so he can pay.

As we were leaving for the airport, it started to rain really hard. It went on for 2 hours and the road to the airport had a few cars broken down as a result to driving through the lake that had formed (it was that hard). So we got to the airport and after checking in 26 pieces of luggage, we made our way to customs. One of the last students that went through customs was stopped as she had some paintings that there were no papers for. Fortunately, her relatives were there and one of them was the artist that had painted the paintings. I asked him if he had dated them so they would not question them of being old. He said no. They took her into the interrogation room, closed the door and with the blinds open, you could see them looking over the paintings. Then the artist went in for a few minutes and came out. He said something to his wife and they walked to one side and started to go through her purse. At this point it was clear what was about to take place. So next thing I see is the artist�s father or uncle (I�m not sure who he was, only much older than the artist) goes into the interrogation room and the blinds are closed. He comes out in a few minutes, followed by the customs officer who had a smile on his face. The student goes passed customs with all the paintings. I asked the father or uncle did they shake him down for much? He didn�t look happy and said to me that it was okay. Well I can tell you this much, if there is no evidence of the actual bride being paid, I can say that a rule must have been broken, being that 2 non-ticketed passengers passed into an area for ticked passengers only.

As Lena said, we came back into the city together. Our taxi driver seemed educated so I asked him if he was and what was his education? He told me that he was a music critic and was teaching at the music institute as a piano teacher. He said that he use to do this, but since they can�t pay a living wage, he has to drive a taxi, as that pays better. It�s so bazaar for me to think that this guy is potentially very talented, but because things are so backwards here, his talents are wasted. As one of the non-logging Diaspora Armenians that lives here said best, this place does not provide an incentive to get a higher education. As sad as it may seem, it appears in too many cases that in order to get a good paying government job, one has to NOT have a good education and have been a taxi or truck driver.

Yesterday, I was watching the sidewalk and road work continue. Yes, it�s going at full power and even the 2 hours of hard rain was not going to stop them. Did it matter to the construction people if the holes they were filling with hot asphalt were still soaking wet? Heck no, it�s better that way. This way, when it does dry up, the asphalt will sink in, forming one of those potholes that Armenia is so well known for and then the same construction company can come out and fix it again next year.

The trip back to Martuni was really quite nice and fast. I�ll have a couple of days to rest before I get a couple of guest.

Thursday, July 18, 2002

Tonight at dinner, I got inebriated. Not to say I�ve never been intoxicated before, but it seems that in the last 2 years, I�ve got smashed more times in a month here, then I have in America for the entire time I�ve lived there. Though there has always been large quantities of alcohol consumed here, it seems to be that drinking has become THE national pastime here in Armenia and Artsakh.

What�s sad is that when I came here, I didn�t drink at all. I mean an occasional beer or sip of wine was my limit. Now, I drink everything. Though I could give up drinking at anytime, I have to say that the luxury I have of being able to do that would be quite hard for most locals.

The other day when Arsineh and her interns were here for a visit, one of them got quite drunk and had a conversation with the Mayor about Eastern-Armenians and their drinking habits and Western-Armenians and their drinking habits. He pointed out that in his whole life, he had never seen his parents or grandparents drunk. He was raised to understand that drinking has its limit and it comes well before one looses control over their physical and emotional being. I have to say that I too have never seen my parents nor any of my relatives that live in the West in an inebriated state. I think it would be fair to say that my family has always promoted that being drunk in front of ones children was something you don't do. Here, it�s a different story and in fact, I�ve seen mature adults encourage small boys to drink until they are drunk. At the time, the Mayor really didn�t comment much on that not so pleasant subject, so tonight at dinner with my neighbor, I revisited the subject as we sat and drank ourselves drunk.

My neighbor told me that in the old days, there were very strict rules to when someone was allowed to drink. He said that during working hours, drinking was prohibited and was well regulated by frequent checks.

Today, drinking is on the rise and even I�ve seen that in the last two years there has been an increase in the number of drunk people that I�ve run into during daylight hours. My neighbor believes that all this drinking is due to the lack of work and a promising future. He said that people drink to forget and relax. There is nothing better than getting drunk so you can loose your worries just long enough to fall asleep. He believes that when things get back on track and the economic situation gets better, at that time we will see a dramatic decrease in the sale of alcohol.

Sunday, July 14, 2002

I went to a wedding yesterday and boy was it hot!!!

This was the first wedding I have been to where the family is well off, but they were very conservative as to what they served the guest. Not to say that they are rich or cheap, but they seem to have a good understanding that in times when money is hard to come by, there is no reason to show off. I guess being that it was a hot day people where more than happy to not have too much food on the table. One thing that was nice and I�ve never seen at a wedding here was ice-cream.

So I sat at the table that had the Groom�s coworkers from the tax office. Across from me sat the head of the tax office. I asked him how work was and he said that as usual, it�s hard to collect taxes. He did say that this last harvest we had looked very promising and if things continue as they have, those that planted wheat, will be able to pay their property tax, thus filling the government fund. He said that the average harvest this year was over 2 tons a hector, which the break-even point is 1 ton a hector. I�m not sure if this is a government figure to instill hope in the people or if this is an accurate figure. I did hear from another source that some of the more favorable land that is held by people in power had a yield of up to 9 tons a hector. If this is true, then the average 2 ton figure could be accurate, but also a bit misleading. I guess I�ll know better after the harvest is over.

Saturday, July 13, 2002

This is the third day in a row that the temperature hit a high of 40c (104f). I guess summer is really here. Thank goodness my air conditioner is working and able to keep the indoor temperature at a livable 27c (80f).

Yesterday I forgot to mention an encounter that Lena shared with me. It seems that Mrs. Lena was at the Ani Plaza Hotel and ran into none other than Nune. She said that she immediately thought of me and if memory serves me correctly, she added that Nune is not all that beautiful. I guess it�s a matter of taste. She said she had her camera with her but didn�t take a picture.

What Lena didn�t know when she told me this was that my last trip to Yerevan included a date with Nune. Yes, you heard it right. I finally got a date with Nune and it was great!!! I�ve been planning this date for months and was just waiting for Nune to get back in town. She is such a simple woman. Nothing complicated about her. We just hung out together and talked over tuna-melt sandwiches and chips. Though it was a short date, it was wonderful and one of those memories I�ll probably cherish for the rest of my life. One thing that seemed to get in the way of her and I really opening up was her bodyguard Hagop. This is one bad looking guy with a really nice smile, but you can tell by looking at him that he could turn you into dolma filling with his bare hands.

Well now that I�ve got the two dates out of the way, I�ll have to work on a comparative report which I think is going to conclude that I�m right and Nune and Lena are not all that different.
Tonight I went to dinner at Rosa Myrig�s house. She called me this afternoon, telling me about her sister that lives in Russia who has fallen on hard times. She asked if she could barrow $50 so she could send it to her. I agreed.

Rosa Myrig and her husband Hurant are known in Artsakh to be the only family that fled Baku with their 3 sons and during the war, all 3 sons were killed. I won�t get into details as to how it happened, but will say that from what my neighbors tell me, when they came, Rosa Myrig was a very young, educated, dignified and modern woman. After her sons were killed, she became old and gray in a very short period of time.

I met Rosa Myrig and Hurant in 1998, when I purchased their son Arthur�s house from them. As a result, we have become close and though I�m usually busy, I try to make it a point to visit them at least once a month to see how they are doing.

I noticed on this visit that they were not all that well. I have learned from what they serve at dinner how they are doing. Tonight we had soup, bread, tomatoes, eggplant and yogurt. Everything but the bread was given to them from various neighbors and relatives.

On February 23rd of this year, the President presented Rosa Myrig and other families that lost more than one member of their family in the war with a metal. At that time, Rosa Myrig told the President how difficult life has been and how there are times that there is little or no food in the house. The President said that he would help her out and thing would be okay. I asked Rosa Myrig tonight what the President has sent her and she said until now he sent her nothing. She added that last year she wrote to the government to help them out with firewood and their request was denied. Hurant said that maybe if the President gets reelected, he will fulfill his promises. I certainly hope so.

Friday, July 12, 2002

I feel like I�ve been neglecting all of you and want to start out by apologizing to everyone that have been waiting for me to log something for the last couple of weeks. For those of you that were not waiting for me to apologize, I apologize for unnecessarily apologizing to you and you can disregard the above. Okay, now that I�ve got that out of the way, let�s move on.

The last couple of weeks have been quite busy. I don�t even know where to start, so I�ll just post a few of my quick notes that I write down as things happen so you can get an idea as to what I�ve been up to.

July 4th: Take mini-van to Yerevan. Meet Raffi and friends and Arsineh�s and her interns at Chinese restaurant for dinner and a celebration of our independence from America.

July 5th: Met up with Raffi to go look at a house my cousin is selling. With Raffi went to visit Aram Hajian and had lunch at his office.

July 7th (Vartavar): Brunch with Raffi, Zabel, Lena and Jack at Artbridge. Had to avoid Pagan demon children and their buckets of water. Kept dry by waiting for them to attack an innocent passerby and after doing so, quickly passed as they were refilling. Listened to Zabel�s horror story of how she was attacked by said demons on her way to brunch. Went to Lena�s house to watch and make copy of video of our big Artsakh adventure that Jack shot. Very entertaining and reminded me of the old Bob Hope road-trip movies, including the music. Raffi, Zabel and I excused ourselves and went to their house to watch tennis separate from Lena and Jack in fear of violent out lashes against us from the fanatical Aussies. During the game we were in phone contact. Lena let me in on a secret that when Hewitt puts his fist up in the air and says �COME ON!!!� then he really starts to play. When he did this, Lena called us to tell us that it had happened but the strange thing was that he started to loose. So next call we got, Raffi asked her if he does that �COME ON!!!� thing more than once, because it didn�t seem to be working. After the game, watched a couple of American sit-coms. I realized that I was not missing much of anything. Went home in the dark and didn�t encounter any water on the way.

July 9th: Met Shooshig�s fellow students in front of the university dorms to take them on a tour of Artsakh. Very nice group and their leader Digin M, I knew from the states. First stop was Noravank, followed by a number of sites on the way to Shushi. Stayed at the Shushi hotel.

July 10th: After breakfast, walked to the church and there ran into one of my favorite Der Hyer�s who lead us in a prayer for Shooshig. Digin M told me that she was very happy that we started the day with a prayer. Drove to Ganzasar and enjoyed a smooth ride on part of the new North/South road. I can�t wait for Martuni to one day have a nice road like that. Back to Stepanagert for a pizza lunch. Ran into Arsineh and the interns and invited them to join us at the disco tonight. Back to the hotel for dinner. Those that were interested joined us at the disco. A few of Arsineh�s interns came by the disco and invited us to the house they were renting. We dove up and hung out a bit and planned the following day we would spend together as one big group. Back to the hotel.

July 11th: Drive to Martuni via Ningi. Very beautiful and still very green. Arrived at my house and while we were waiting for Arsineh and her interns to show up, our bus was taken to a local mechanic for repairs on the front leaf-springs which had broken on our bad road. Fortunately, my neighbor had replacement springs, so it only cost 4,000 dram (about $8) for the repairs. Arsineh and interns showed up and we sent their van off to get a Ram, which we sacrificed. While dinner was being prepared, we went touring. Avo (Monte Melkonian) spring for a light lunch of bread and cheese. Amaras Vank, the place that the first Armenian school was formed and Gregory the Illuminator�s grandson�s grave is. Visit to Avo�s statue in the center of Martuni. Back to my place for a feast at my neighbor�s house (the contactor). Not that money should be important, but for those of you looking for a deal, it cost a total of $150 for our feast that fed 40+ people. Ate, drank, danced, listened to one of Arsineh�s interns sing Gomidas, one of Digin M�s students (Areni) recite, another of Arsineh�s male interns help clear the table and wash dishes to the disapproval of the local women, who later told us that if only their men were that helpful, life would be much better. They added that Adam could get married if he wanted and I think they were considering their daughter Anoush as a possible candidate. Arsineh�s group headed back to Stepanagert and Shooshig�s group occupied every single sleeping space in my house with the overflow sleeping at my neighbor�s house.

July 12th: Sent off Shooshig�s group to Yerevan at 7:30 AM. Light house cleaning (will finish later with the real dirt). Slept for a couple of hours. Checked e-mail. Wrote this log.