Friday, November 29, 2002

Yesterday was Thanksgiving and I turned down an invitation to dinner in Yerevan at Raffi and Zabel�s house.

I did take the invitation to a friend�s house in Stepanagert for Turkey and other yummy things.

On the way to my friends house, I went on a hunt for some pies and cakes, driving all over Stepanagert to find a bakery. I finally was directed to go to the main shooga where there is shop in that area that deals in fresh cakes.

I parked my car and on foot made my way up the street, finding the bakery/store, but my hopes to find a pumpkin pie was not realized.

The girls at the bakery were enjoying my visit and making recommendations of what to buy and not to buy. One of the cakes I wanted, the girl told me she would not recommend and in fact would not sell it to me because it�s so bad.

As they were adding up everything, I went to bring my car closer to load my big box of cake and a couple bottles of wine. When I walked back in, one of the girls said to the girl adding the damage, �Oh, your man is back�. She said, �My man, no, I don�t have a man yet�.

I thanked the girls for their help and drove to my friends house.

So here were the only 2 Armenians from America, his wife, child and a couple of local guests (his wife�s father and cousin) of his sitting and eating what I would guess was a 6 pound turkey which in my opinion was so much tastier than any turkey I�ve had in America.

My friend was educating his local guests on some of the thanksgiving customs and I was saying the toast of thanks.

I think the local guest got a kick out of the whole thing and will say that they were really impressed with my friend telling how big the turkeys are in America.

We had with our meal 60 proof mulberry vodka (which I usually don�t drink) and homemade really good, I mean really good red wine. To say the least, I got a bit intoxicated.

Our meal was finished with homemade pumpkin preserves topped with crushed walnuts, the cakes I brought and tea.

Though I had already decided this year that thanksgiving was not a big deal and I would do without it, I would like to thank my friend for calling me and inviting me to his family thanksgiving dinner. It was a good chance for me to reflect on life and all the things we have to be thankful for. I really enjoyed myself.

Thursday, November 28, 2002

In an attempt to write something positive about life here Artsakh, I want to draw your attention to this website dedicated to our good friend and supporter of Artsakh freedom uncle Heydar Aliyev. This is a man that President Goulkasyan should give one of those gold metals (or a few, since there seems to be a surplus of them) that he passes out like raisins a few times a year. Uncle Heydar had been working overtime to destabilize Azerbaijan since he has been in power and from what his fan club site states, he�s been doing a fantastic job at it.For those of you who wish that Artsakh have a better chance to truly become a recognized country independent of Azerbaijan, please send your kind words of support and lots of money to uncle Heydar and his son Ilham so they continue their benevolent work for the betterment of our country.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

The other night I was chatting with Shooshig and being the straight shooter she is, she came out and said that my logs have been very negative these last few weeks and there is a good chance that I'm giving people the wrong impression of life here.

She added that knowing me, life is not all that bad here as my logs seem to reflect, or else I would not be living here.

Well Shooshig, your right, life here is not all that bad when comparing it with life in America.

So to help illustrate for you how good things are here, I've come up with a comparison chart if things that are important to me so you can see how good things really are here.

1. Pollution:
Los Angeles: Very bad
Martuni: None
2. Safe drinking water:
Los Angeles: Bottled and expensive
Martuni: Spring water from the faucet
3. Security
Los Angeles: Keep your doors locked at all times and keep a loaded gun under your poillow
Martuni: Door locks, what's that?
4. Time for friends and family:
Los Angeles: Whenever your not working or sleeping (which is very rare)
Martuni: Whenever you feel like it and even when you don't feel like it
5. Food:
Los Angeles: Tainted with preservatives.
Martuni: All natural (since we can't afford preservatives)
6. Life expectancy:
Los Angeles: If you survive drive-by shootings, muggings and terrorist attacks, 20 years less than what you could expect to live if you were living in Martuni.
Martuni: Old.

In short, life is really good here for all the right reasons and once we get over the minor issue that we face today, life here will be great!!!

Monday, November 25, 2002

Saturday, November 23, 2002

Last night I give news to our latest aid recipient of his receiving aid. Vagif was born normal, but during his childhood was sick and was medicated incorrectly in his spine, which destroyed his nervous system and he is now bound to a wagon (since they can't afford a wheelchair).

His sister, who is his primary caregiver, never married because of the burden of having to care for her brother. She was relived and said that though it will not cure him, the money is welcomed relief.

After I got off the phone with the sister, I got a call from someone reporting a person in a very desperate situation. I agreed to meet with that person today, and just finished my interview with them a few minutes ago.

This person is our even more recent aid recipient, who I�m covering with my own money her aid until I can find her a permanent sponsor.

Victoria Myrig is quite old (late 70�s). She was widowed in 1972 and had 2 sons. She came from Baku is 1988.

Victoria Myrig�s youngest son Valaric, a few years after his fathers death was attacked by some Turks and sustained trauma, which until his death 10 days ago, had him in and out of mental hospitals.

Victoria Myrig�s son did not die from his mental condition, but is believed to have died from a beating and starvation while in the care of the Stepanagert mental hospital, as his body was covered in bruises and he was abnormally thin. Victoria Myrig told me that her son had in the past escaped from the hospital and made his way home, reporting to her of his mistreatment in the hospital.

Victoria Myrig�s eldest son Vladic was a professional tank operator and at the start of the liberation movement, freed his brother from the mental hospital in Baku and made his way to Artsakh.

He was one of the early volunteers in the Artsakh army and as of 2 years ago was serving in the army. He was wounded 4 times during the war.

Two years ago, Vladic went to Jardar to visit a commander who just returned from Yerevan where he had an eye removed. At the table the drinks were flowing as they usually do and Vladic and the others got quite drunk.

Vladic returned to Martuni where from his drinking so much and it being a hot day wanted to drink water.

He went to the main government building where there are drinking fountains to find that they were turned off. He asked the guard for some water and the guard refused the drunk, who after a few choice words, the guard called the police who hauled off Vladic to jail.

In jail, Vladic was beaten severely, resulting in him having to be hospitalized due to damage he sustained to his lower organs. One of his organs had to be removed.

I remember when this incident happened, as it was quite a stink at the time and the chief of police was quite concerned as to what was going to happen to him, but later things died down and I didn�t hear anything else about it.

Because of his injuries, Vladic was no longer able to perform his duties and was effectively fired. He receives no pension from the Army or any government assistance and is unable to work.

For the last 2 years, Victoria Myrig and Vladic have been living off of Victoria Myrig�s 5,600 monthly pension.

Victoria Myrig will be going to the bank on Tuesday to receive her first $50 and then on the 10th of each month thereafter, as the rest of our aid recipients do.

She told me that this $50 and the next will go to help pay for the 40th day of her son Valaric�s passing.

She is going to instruct Vladic to write a request to our NGO which deals with social issues to see if we can at very least resolve the issue of Vladic�s pension from the army for his years of service.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

I returned to Artsakh yesterday and pulled into Stepanagert around 4 PM.

After taking care of some business and eating dinner at a friends house, I headed to Marturni.

As I was not 5 kilometers out of Aghdam, I noticed my oil-pressure gage doing some funny things. I kept watching it go up and down and then it went to zero.

I immediately stopped the car and checked under the hood to see oil everywhere. I looked under the car to see that I must have hit the bottom of the car and damaged the oil-pan, which oil was running from.

It was dark, and the closest sign of life was to my left, where there is an Azeri village.

The Azeri village was really not an option, since between us was a land-mine field. I waited and in about 3 minutes, I saw a car coming from the direction of Martuni.

I signaled to the car with my flashlight and it stopped. It was a cop car on its way to Stepanagert.

They radioed to Martuni:

Cop: Martuni, can you hear me?
Martuni: I can hear you.
Cop: Call Tompates (that�s my neighbor�s nickname) and tell him that Ara�s Mercedes is broken down 3 kilometers from the Bertashen crossroad in the direction of Aghdam and needs a be towed.
Martuni: Will do.

I thanked the cops and they continued on.

A couple of people stopped to see if they could help and told me that they would drive to my neighbor�s house just in case the police could not get in touch with them and let him know I am waiting for him.

In about a half-hour, Vitalic showed up with tow strap. It took us about an hour to tow the car, which we took to the body shop where in the morning, they will fix the oil-pan and also make a skid-plate, so next time the oil-pan will have a fighting change against the occasional pothole I encounter.
Police story #288

I got pulled over for no apparent reason again.

Ara: What seems to be the problem?
Cop: Office bla bla blaian, may I see your documents?
Ara: Here you go.
Cop: Your drivers license is expired.
Ara: I know, but they allow me to drive with it anyway.
Cop: No, you can only drive with it after 1 year of it being issued.
Ara: I know, but here they let me drive with it. If you want, call your chief and ask him.
Cop: Step out of the car and let�s go call him together and ask.
Ara: (gets out of the car) Okay.
Cop: (as the two of them walk to cop car) What will the chief say?
Ara: He will tell you that it�s okay for me to drive and to let me go.
Cop: You look like an honest person (hands back Ara his documents), have a nice day.
It�s been 10 days since we have had internet service in Artsakh and according to the announcement below, I guess it had something to do with Azerbaijan.

Announcement # 12/02

Dear Valued Subscriber,

At last we are up and operating the Internet service.

We finally managed to overcome the intentional and deliberate obstacles imposed on us, and we have started again delivering the quality Internet that you have got used to.

Karabakh Telecom sincerely thanks you for your patience that has proved to be a great support to us during this temporary ordeal.

We are proud to have you among the list of our esteemed subscribers.

Best regards,

Saturday, November 16, 2002

Well, I find myself in Yerevan.

Today was Patrick�s 7th day of his passing and I attended a memorial service at Saghmosavank.

It was well attended and being there finally made this whole thing real. I guess until then, I had not really accepted Patrick�s death. It also provided some closure of many those who attended.

One thing I want to say about Patrick and I felt that in terms of Armenians who do things for the betterment of the Armenian nation, Patrick was like the equivalent of 1,000 people in the effect that Patrick�s work has had.

In short and not to belittle my own work here, Patrick and his work up until now has had a much broader effect on Armenia than most of ours. If this helps you to get a better idea one of the major things that Patrick was doing, he was THE EU�s representative at the Ministry of Agriculture of which many of the Agricultural projects and developments in Armenia were funded. He also helped start ACBA, which is a very successful agricultural collective bank that has helped thousands of farmers here in Armenia.

Patrick will be missed and well remembered by the people who his life�s work effected. I also hope that people who knew him or know of him, will not only remember him, but follow his example of what one person can do to be part of the solution of the global challenges that we all our facing. Patrick certainly did his share and then some.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Internet hell continues!!!!

This log is coming to you thanks to my back-up relay to blogger.

Anyway, it may be a couple of days before I have a connection or should I say that all of Artsakh has a connection again. This also means that I don�t have access to e-mail, so for anyone that is waiting for a reply from me, I�ll get something off to you when I have a connection again.

My information is a little iffy right now, but word has it that thanks to Azerbaijan and their complaints to Moscow, our satellite connection has been cut off.

Raffi called me tonight to tell me about Patrick�s death. I won�t say that I didn�t believe him, but I guess I didn�t want to believe him. I guess shock is just the only way to describe the way I am feeling.

I told Raffi that I would bring all the digital pictures I have of Patrick to Yerevan when I come. I hope they will help us heal and remember all the good times we had with him.

I will say that Patrick and I were not really close, not because we were not close, but Patrick and my schedules were not quite in sync, so we saw very little of each-other.

One thing I will miss from Patrick is many of the times we would talk, the attention he would give me when I would answer his question of which government officials have I made uncomfortable since the last time we met.

I in turn was always happy to hear about his very noble and very very useful work he was doing in Armenia that has had a major impact on the lives of so many people here.

I guess it�s been a couple of hours since the news of his passing and all I can say is Patrick, what you have done in your life will never be forgotten. You will always be someone that I will remember and admire.

Let it be know that from this point forward, when I deal with the issues I deal with here and make some official uncomfortable, I will remember that little smirk you use to get on your face.

I�ll miss you a bunch and I hope that we will see the day that we all get to hang out together again and reminisce of the old day.

Sunday, November 10, 2002

Today was a really productive day.

Work on automation changes at the factory are in full swing. We should be done with the main saw on Monday.

Yesterday we replaced the railroad track that the main table moves on which was crooked and today we finished all the welding work on the main saw.

Tomorrow we will lay a new cement floor and in the next couple of days the new waste-water recovery pool will be done, which means that we will be reusing the water for cutting and also be able to recover all the nice green granite sand, which will be sold by the kilo.

I got word today that my request for my 1.1 hector (2+ acres) 25 year land lease was approved. This means my industrial park project will start right away (before the weather changes) and the first phase will be the main building for granite production which will house all of the new equipment which is being built, with the first piece due to be delivered in 2 months.

There is enough room at this location to house all project I start. The location is also great as it is only 500 meters from my house, which will allow me to run cables for telephones and surveillance equipment right to my home-office, which means in the winter, I can literally roll out of bed or better yet, stay in bed and work. Can life get any better?

There is so much work to do and so many jobs should be created as a result of this latest development. I already have people coming to me to give them a job.

I guess this also means that my logging and internet time will be cut into big time :(

I also want to thank one of our reader from the Eastern US for offering to help someone in need here in Martuni with a $50 a month donation. Now that the season of giving is near, I hope that other people will be infected with such ideas.

Friday, November 08, 2002

It seems that my connection problems for basic internet are solved.

As for my phone connection problems being solved, that�s a totally different story.

My local line is still not working and it seems the only way I can call my neighbor is on my cell phone which cost me 1 dram per second. Just last month alone, I spent somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000 dram on local calls that my 840 dram a month local phone should have taken care of.

It seems that the US and Russian governments have conformed to Azeribaijan demands to block calls to 3747 which is our country code.

I found this out the hard way when my internet connection was down and I had to talk to Mama Manoogian.

I called her and told her to call me back. I did this as it costs me to call the US somewhere in the neighborhood of 98 cents to $1.28 per minute, while calling here from the US is as low as 18 cents per minute.

After waiting for an hour, I called her back and learned that she had called 10 times and kept getting a busy signal on all my phones.

It was good to hear her voice, but at $1+ per minute the conversation only lasted 5 minutes :(

I e-mailed a couple of friends to try to call me and they too had the same experience. One mentioned that Azeribaijan had made demands to cut off our code and I guess America did just that.

I guess this one is not in my power to change on a local level, but hope that our people in America will deal with it so we can get our code back up and running.

One thing I will say is in our hands is this new Arab provider who will now profit from our code from being blocked has blocked most internet access to chat and services that allows one to talk on the internet for free. Netscape IM is not working (this was my live link to my family and friends in the world), nor does Yahoo games, which was a place I use to spend time playing backgammon with Turkish students from Turkey while chatting with them about their culture so I could better understand who our neighbors are.

I guess it�s our Arab providers hope that people will resort to making phone calls and paying their high prices for telecommunications that they have blocked services on the internet. Well no sir, I�m not going to put an extra dram in your Arab pocket. I�m going back to my old ways when I didn�t have any phone or T.V. and just spend more relaxing time to myself reading (via the internet). You may think you have found a loophole to create a monopoly on telecommunication, but if there is a way if ridding us of your presents from our country, you can be sure I will find it. I will also do my best not to make calls on my cell phone that can be avoided by just walking to my neighbor�s house and talking to them face to face. I would rather catch a cold doing that than giving you any extra money that you don�t deserve. Okay, maybe a little extra money from me would be worth not catching a cold, but let it be known I�m paying it in protest!!!!

Thursday, November 07, 2002

I thought that Artsakh was exempt to this, but for the last 4 days I�ve been going through internet hell!!!

It seems that in order to upgrade and improve their service, my provider KTSurf has added modems which are of higher speed but require a clean phone line. The problem comes from my Stepanagert phone line which is basically a 40 kilometer long extension cord which results in a not so great line every now and then.

For the last 4 or 5 days I�ve been calling my provider and the cable people to see what is going to be done to improve the line quality (which only recently got worse due to the last rain storm).

I�ve talked to every one that works in the cable department and all have told me that they are working on it and the problem should be resolved by today (this was in reference to 3 days ago and then 2 days ago and also today), but no improvement was made. There was even one person that told me they have done everything they can and basically I will just have to live with it.

Since you are reading this it�s obvious that I have been able to log on and this thanks to Naira in the cable department, who was the first voice I heard over a clear line. She asked me if I could hear her and I was so wooed by her sweat CLEAR voice that my bad mood improved and I thanked her over and over again as if she had just saved my life.

Naira told me that if I have any problems to call her. I�ll have to send her flowers and a thank you card so the others in her office, especially the person who told me to live with the connection, can see that when you provide good service, people do appreciate it.

Saturday, November 02, 2002

I got a new Jhuka garbage disposal unit a couple of weeks ago and it really works great!!! It�s Armenian made and was a gift from a friend of mine, who had three of them and the Jhuka model being the smallest, was almost disposed by the other two models, which are many times larger.

Jhuka is 6 years old and for his size, he is said to have a life expectancy of 12 to 15 years, so I�ll get lots of use out of him. I feel really good about this new addition to my household, as no longer do any leftovers go in the trash after they turn green in my refrigerator, by which time even chickens wont touch them.

Jhuka is also very intelligent. He really can tell the difference between someone nice and someone with evil tendencies. So far he has not missed the mark and has barked at one of my neighbors who is a cop.

If you haven�t figured it out yet, Jhuka is a dog.

The reason I was given Jhuka was that his owner acquired some �Aluby� fighting Shepard dogs. These are very big and very jealous dogs that didn�t like it when Jhuka would eat and on a couple of occasions, Jhuka had to be saved from death by these dogs that are trained to kill. For that reason, his owner felt it best that Jhuka move to Martuni, before he became a meal.

Though Jhuka is Russian understanding, he seems to understand what I�m saying in Armenian, especially when I call him to a meal.

Jhuka loves to dance around, bark and most of all, belch. I sometimes get concerned, as he eats so fast, he starts to choke, belches and then seems to be fine again.

In the US, all my family dogs understood only Armenian and I remember my dad telling me once the neighbor had asked him to teach him dog language, thinking that Armenian was some special language for dogs. I was thinking that maybe I should teach Jhuka English as it really is what could be classified as dog language and this way the locals would not know what I am telling Jhuka to do.

The wall is done for the most part. It really looks good and all that�s left to do is the street in front of the new wall needs to be widened and my driveway needs to be redone so when winter sets in, we wont have a repeat of what this last storm did. That should be done in a week (I hope).

Friday, November 01, 2002

These kind of stories I don�t like reporting, but to better give you an understanding of our social condition so you can understand the challenges we face and maybe find a way to be part of the solution, here goes.

It seems that a group of boy from the 8th grade were dragged into police headquarters and disciplined for paying for sexual services from one of their female classmates.

It seems that the girl had written a note to the boys in her class, offering her services for 500 dram (about 87 cents) and in her letter stating that she knows how to do everything and will teach them. She also told her neighbor that she knows he is poor, so for him there would be no charge.

The money she collected, somehow got to her I believe, older sister (here that could also apply to any female blood relative) who I�m told was very uncomfortable with what the girl had done and told the girl�s father.

The girl�s father learned who the boys were and confronted them and began to beat them.

It�s still a little sketchy, but it seems that he was dragged into police headquarters for his action and I�m guessing here, the police chief or his assistant learned what had happened and gathered up the boys and put them in jail (this information is pieced together from what I heard from different sources, but the final outcome was the boys too ended up in jail).

According to a witness who was standing outside the Prosecutor�s office, the boys were very sternly lectured (and loud so it could be heard on the street by the witness) by the chief of police for what they had done and too tell you the truth, at this point the final outcome is not important to my story so I wont get into what he said.

What is important to my story are two things.

First of all. Where did this 13 or 14 year old girl get the idea to prostitute herself to her classmates? I was told that her family is somewhat poor and she was doing it so she could get a new pair of winter shoes, but even then, I�m kind of having a hard time to understand why she would do this and where did she learn such things. Maybe all those Brazilian soaps that are being pumped into our homes? I don�t know.

The second thing that bothers me even more is that of the boys that were dragged into jail, 3 boys were never charged and their name was taken off the list of offenders.

The first one was a boy who I know his grandmother as working in a store as a clerk and from what I�m told, his parents are really nothing special. Maybe he has a relative who is connected, but again, I don�t know.

The second one is the son of the deputy chief of police. This bothers me, as what if the deputy�s son had done something worse (not that this is not bad)? And what does his son learn from breaking the law and then getting off? He learns at this young age, the law does not apply to him and others who know about this (which is most of the population in the Martuni region and now our readers) learn that if you have connections, you can do anything you want and get off (in more ways then one).

The third of the boys is none other than the chief of police�s son. The same person who was lecturing the boys of how wrong this is. The person who witnessed him lecturing the boys, commented on he should not be talking or if he insists on talking, he should have brought his son with him to the lecture.

I mean even in America, President Bush's daughter was caught purchasing beer with fake ID and had to face the music.

I guess this kind of thing should not shock me, as I�ve been here for so long and have documented so many cases like this, but something about this still really bugs the holly heck out of me.

Well all I will do at this point is add this to my very very long list of things that have happened here and in Armenia, where justice should have been served but was not. One day, hopefully sooner rather than later, this list of cases that are well documented will be concluded and justice will prevail and people can finally put closure to this very ugly time we are living in our history.
Tomorrow, the construction of my wall should be finished. When all is done, we will have replaced 90+ feet of wall that is 12 feet high and now has a 3 foot wide foundation. Nothing should be able to topple over this wall and I mean nothing. This new wall is of Armenian design, meaning that the top of the wall has upside down arches lining it. I�m also going to put lights at the peek of every other arch, which should really look nice.

The weather is really nice in the day and somewhat cold at night. My electric heater is working well, but by next month I really need to resolve my wood issue. My contactor tells me that I have enough wood to last me a month, which means next week my truck will roll to the forest and a few trees will give their live for the sake of me keeping warm this winter.

My small factory is still not quite finished with automation, but should be by next week (I hope). Not to put the cart ahead of the horse (or jackass in our case), but I�m already working on the layout of my new much larger factory, as one of the pieces of equipment that is being made, will not fit anywhere at my present factory and it's not worth investing in more building at that present location. This issue needs to be resolved within the next month, as winter is closing in on us and cement work will be impossible to do once the weather changes.

No new police stories. In fact, I didn�t see any police hanging out in the center today.