Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Well, my car is not fixed yet and that motor washing caused some complications to some part of the electrical system. On top of that, my battery was very weak, so I wont know until tomorrow if the cleaning of some contacts which water caused excessive sparks resulting in carbon build-up was the only problem.

So being that I was home practically all day, I was able to catch up on my laundry and some house cleaning.

I have discovered that many of my pants have in some way worn out. If it�s not a hole or a frayed cuff, it�s animal blood or a grease stain that makes them unattractive to wear. Besides clothes being worn out, my shoes are a real mess. My extra heavy duty Asolo Globoline hiking boots look like hell after being over used for the last 5 years and my combat boots look really nice, but one of them the sole is cracked and lets water in. My tennis shoes are no longer white and clean looking.

I looked on the internet for a deal on hiking boots and man have they got expensive. I can�t see myself spending $300 on a pair of hiking boots, when you can buy a car for that much here. eBay had a few deals on Asolo boots, but nothing in my size (I highly recommend them to anyone who wants the ability to walk for hours in any terrain and not get sore feet). I guess I�ll just have to wait until something opens up and then bid on them.

I would purchase new clothes and shoes in Yerevan, but most of what is sold in Yerevan is of poor quality and would not last for long.

I guess I�ll have to put together a list of clothes and shoes to be sent from the states and send it off to Mama Manoogian so she can send with some friends that are coming for a visit in June.

The weather today was very nice and though it�s not warm, it�s not raining or snowing.

I'm really happy for our friends David and Lala who were recently engaged. They will make a really nice couple and their children will be very cute and smart.

In the morning my car battery will be delivered all charged up and I really hope that my car will start right up. If not, I�m going to have to have the car towed all the way to Stepanagert and if I have to do that, it�s going to spoil my mood big time.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Friday did not go as planned.

We worked all day to finish installing our stone cutting equipment and it really looked like production was going to start at the end of the day. When we turned on the main saw to see how well it would cut, we discovered that the saw-blade was bent.

It seems that the blade which we sent to Stepanagert to have to teeth changed, was heated to the point that the metal deformed and bent. On top of it being bent, when it cuts, because of it being heated and hardened, it sounds like a very loud bell, making it almost impossible to stand next to when it�s cutting.

I immediately called Yerevan to see about a replacement blade and learned that they had the teeth, but the disk itself they were out of and it will be 2 to 4 weeks until they get in a shipment from France of the disks.

So yet another delay in getting started.

My manager is going to be contacting the factory that changed the teeth on our saw-blade to see what they plan on doing to correct their error. I would be happy with an immediate replacement, but know that it will probably take an act God and decision from a legal proceeding to get them to compensate us. I�ve already talked to out legal consultant, who said we should have no problem in getting a favorable decision if they decide not to settle with us and we have to go to court.

On Friday night, I drove our engineer back to Stepanagert and as we were coming out of Aghdam, I smelled gasoline.

I pulled over and discovered under the hood that the upper shock-absorber rod had somehow slipped passed a washer that keeps it in place and when it did this, it hit the main gasoline hose and punctured a hole in it.

With what I had in the trunk, we attempted to make repairs, but we were unable to do so.

Within a couple of minutes, a car stops to ask if we need help.

Out of the back seat comes a man who was in military uniform and though I�m not really familiar with what the different ranks are based on the stars on ones shoulders, I could only figure that this guy was of a high rank (he had 2 large stars).

He instructed his driver what to do and in no time, he had our car patched up and running to the point that we would make it to Stepanagert.

He asked me if we were coming from Martuni and who we were visiting?

I told him and lived there and he asked me what my name was?

I told him and he said that he had heard of me and told me whose house I purchased and gave me names of people who know me. He said he is from Martuni, and from what I understood, works at military headquarters in Stepanagert or Yerevan.

I thanked him and we drove on to Stepanagert, checking the injured areas of the car in Askeran, just to make sure it was safe to drive.

Moments like this make you feel very safe to know that when your in a fix, people do stop to help, even though it seems that fewer and fewer people are willing to stop to help then before.

The next morning, I went to drop off a couple of parts to the machine shop and next to the machine shop was a body shop that had a welding machine.

I asked the man there if he could weld the shock-absorber back into place and he said he was out of gas and said that there is another garage close by that could make the repair and took me to a garage just below the main bazaar.

When we entered the yard of the garage, I knew from the look on the owners face that this guy was ready to take advantage of me.

He looked at the work and said that it was no problem, he could make all the repairs. He said I needed would need to leave the car for a couple of hours since he was very busy.

I agreed and asked him how much it would cost?

He told me 5,000 dram.

I looked to him and told me no thank you, it was something that was not all that dangerous and I would wait until I get back to Martuni, as it would not cost me more than 2,000 dram there.

His smile immediately vanished and he told me I can do as please.

I drove to my mechanic, who worked on the engine to see what he thought we should do?

He looked at the car, listened to my story of the 5,000 dram repair, jacked up my car and without any difficulty, welded the rod that slipped passed the washer that keeps it in place and in 10 minutes and 500 dram later, my car was repaired.

I have to tell you that though it�s no fun trying to be taken advantage of, if you see it coming, you can just brush it off.

Oh, on Friday afternoon, I got a call from the mayor of Stepanagert to tell me that he had a meeting with his entire staff about them giving the donor of the building I mentioned in my last log to people as the donor deciding who will get a house and said that nothing like that has or will happen. He said that we tell people that the donor has given us a gift and we should be appreciative. He again asked that I call the donor and tell the donor that what was alleged, never happened. I guess I�ll think about it, but don�t really see a need to call, as the donor should be coming to Stepanagert soon and I can tell said donor at that time, if I really feel that the mayor was being completely honest with me, which at this point I didn�t get the feeling he was.

And to make this log even longer than it is, let me tell you about my return to Martuni today.

While in Stepanagert, I got the engine in my car washed.

I guess I should not have, as it seems, an electrical box that gives spark to the sparkplugs was soaked and when I was 8 kilometers from Martuni, my car died.

Yes, it�s car hell and I hope it will soon end, but just maybe all these car problems are acts of God so I can give people opportunities to help each other (in this case me).

So while I was trying to start the car, the battery started to die and it was clear that with a lack of energy, even if the car was in a condition to start, it was not going to.

The next car that approached, I waved down.

The car looked as if it was not going to stop and after passing, it stopped and backed up.

The passenger in the front seat smiled to me and asked me how I was and what the problem was?

I told him and he asked me if I didn�t remember him? I told him no.

He told me the last time he saw me was 3 years ago when we were sending off a mutual friend to America. When he told me this, it all came back to me.

It turns out that he is from Artsakh and is the founder of the Monte Melkonian military academy in Yerevan. He no longer runs the academy and is now one of the minister of defense�s assistances in Armenia. He said that if there is anything I need in connection with the Armenian minister of defense, to call him and he would make sure it was addressed. I�m sure this connection will come in handy one day. Thank you God for allowing my car to break down.

So he and is friends worked on my car a bit to try to start it with the help of jumper-cables and unfortunately were not able to get the car started.

It started to rain and everyone was getting drenched, but even after telling them to leave and I would stop a car to send help, they waited for me until a car going in the direction of Martuni stopped, took my passengers and agreed to send a car to tow me.

The rain stops and I sit in my car to keep warm.

Not 20 seconds pass and I look outside my window to see this boy with a hand full of wild asparagus and walking stick, standing and looking into my car.

I roll down my window and ask him what I can do for him?

He asks me for a cigarette, which I tell him I don�t smoke.

I was in no mood to talk, so I rolled my window back up so the boy would go away, but the boy continues to stand and stare at me.

So now I�m thinking that just maybe this boy is another one of those acts of destiny and God wants for me to talk to him.

I roll my window back down and ask the boy where he is from, what is his name and a whole bunch of question.

He in turn asks me a bunch of questions about my car, but has a very difficult time doing so, as it appears he has a speech impediment that is caused by a nervous disorder.

So the boys name is Ruben Sarkissyan. He is 14 years old and is from the Askeran region. He has a brother who is 12 years old and 2 sisters who are 2 years old and the other who is a few months old.

Ruben was kicked out of school for some reason that I could not really understand. He would like to go to school, but now that they have moved to the middle of nowhere, will probably never see that desire realized.

His father is working for someone named Mourat, who owns livestock and his father and Ruben are the hired Shepard�s.

Oh, Ruben�s younger brother lives with his uncle and goes to school.

Ruben was in Stepanagert during the war and I would guess he is one of our children that was mental dramatized due to the bombing they were subjected to.

So I asked Ruben what he plans on doing when he grows up and he said for sure he didn�t want to be a Shepard, but did want to be a mason.

I asked him if he has done any masonry and he said yes.

I asked him if he could count and was good at math and he said no. I told him if he was not good at math, how was he going to count how many square meters of wall he has built to get paid?

I then gave him a math quiz, which he really had problems counting and figuring out simple equations.

One thing Rubin was good at was to tell me from the sound of a car, what make it is.

A jeep arrived from Martuni and I said goodbye to Ruben and was towed to Martuni.

I know we can�t help everyone, but as a rule, anyone that I happen to talk to, I feel I need to help in some way. I�ll have to think about what I can do to help Ruben and just maybe what he needs is someone to talk to the school director in Askeran to see if we can pay someone to give Ruben individual tutoring and maybe also some professional help for his nervous disorder.

I called Stepanagert to have a friend send me an electrical box so I can fix my car. I also put the battery to charge so once I replace the electrical box, the car will start.

Right now it is snowing outside. I really don�t get this weather at all.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Forgive me for this long log, but since Raffi has not yet provided me with some place to park my log logs, this is the only place I can put them for now.

Today I went to Stepanagert since the parts for my car arrived and I was also invited to attend a civil wedding.

While I was in Stepanagert, I also called the mayor there to meet with him in regards to a somewhat serious social matter.

There is a building in Stepanagert that during Soviet times was being built to be a very large hotel. That hotel is now being completed by a wealthy Diaspora-Armenian and gifted to families who are in need of housing and have been on waiting lists for years.

Though the project is being somewhat coordinated by the President�s office, the list of eligible recipients is found at the mayor�s office.

One family in particular qualifies to be on multiple lists, but is only found on one list and had originally been placed on the general list back in 1974.

For years they have been visiting the various mayor�s and government officials to find out when their turn will be and their most recent visit to the mayor and one of his staff members to see if they had a chance to be awarded a house in the above mentioned project, got them an answer from both the mayor and staff member that the Diaspora-Armenian who is financing the project would be deciding who will be receiving the housing.

The family learned that I know the Diaspora-Armenian who is financing the project and according to the mayor and staff would be deciding who will get the housing and asked if I could forward a copy of a letter they wrote to the President so the donor would at very least be able to check to see if they were even on the list that would be presented to the donor.

On April 16th I wrote to the donor the following letter:

Hi (name omitted),

Someone asked me if I could pass the attached letter on to you.

In short, it�s a letter that they sent to the president of Artsakh in regards to receiving a residence and were not sure if they made the list of eligible families to receive a house in your new building. They were told that you personally would be determining who would receive houses in said building.

One thing they have told me is that technically they should have been on the list of family with injured soldier, officer serving in the army, family with many children, family with twin boys, and the general list. They were told by the mayor�s office that they could only be on one of the lists, but a phone call from the president�s office to the mayor�s office revealed that in fact they could be on multiple lists.

I have taken the time to do a very rough translation of their letter so you can understand their request.



Esteemed Mr. President,

This request comes from a mother of a large Artsakh family who has lost all hope and request to you personally for help.

My family consists of 10 persons who live in (address omitted) a residence that consists of 1 room without any conveyances.

We have been waiting since 1974 our allocation of a larger residence. And as a mother of twin boys, we have been waiting since 1980.

My husband is a injured veteran from the Artsakh war and is categorized as a 2 level disabled.

From the latest list of waiting people we are the first on that list to receive a residence as a family with twin boys.

After my husband was injured in the Artsakh war, he was placed on the list of persons eligible to receive a residence. We later learned that after the building which was intended for injured veterans was divided, we learned that the mayor�s office had removed my husband�s name from the list of eligible individuals. It has been made clear to us that we are not on the list of persons who were injured in the war that are
eligible for a residence.

Esteemed Arkardee Arshaveeree, I have 6 children who are grown up. Of my twin boys, on of them serves as a officer in the Artsakh army and is based on the Mardakert front line and one month ago was married. My daughter is a single mother of a 4 year old boy. Effectively in our one room house lives 3 families.

With this question for receiving a residence, we have made request to the mayor�s office and have never received a concrete answer.

I am raising 3 soldiers for the Artsakh army. My husband has fought for the liberation of Artsakh. During the war we have never left our homeland. But during this recent times of our greatest potential, our family has been left out of the governments attention.

You are our last hope and we ask that you personal follow this issue to resolve our residence issue.

With great respect,

Larisa Hayrapetyan

27 March 2003

The donor wrote back to me on April 17th:

Dear Ara,

I am sorry I cannot be of assistance. I am only the donor for the renovation. I have no role in selecting the occupants.

Best wishes,
(name omitted)

Well for those of you who know me, learning that the mayor and his staff were using the donor�s name and giving our already very disappointed population the runaround, did not make me happy at all.

I called Mrs. Hayrapetyan to tell her what I had learned and asked her if she was absolutely sure the mayor and his staff gave the donor�s name in regards to who would be selecting the occupants and she said yes, and it was not only said to her, but also to her daughter.

So today I called the mayor�s office and though Friday�s are the days that he meets with the citizens, being that today I identified myself as Ara Manoogian from America, got me a very warm invitation to meet with him at 5 PM. I didn�t tell him why I wanted to meet with him, but would guess that he was thinking America+Manoogian, could only mean some wealthy donor with pockets full of cash.

Well at 5 PM with Mrs. Hayrarpetyan and her daughter, we made our way to the mayor�s office. I was the first to walk in and greeted by a very warm smile, which very quickly vanished when Mrs. Hayrarpetyan and her daughter entered the room.

We sat down and I introduced myself and explained to the mayor that my organization deals with social and economic issues. He asked me if that was in Martuni? I knew he had obviously seen me on television when we had the opening of the salon, as I had never mentioned Martuni. I told him no, we deal with issues anyplace in Artsakh and this is why I wanted to meet with him.

I explained to him that Mrs. Hayrapetyan had requested from our organization to help her resolve a very old housing issue and while doing so, we learned that someone in his office gave the name of the donor as being the person who would determine who would receive housing.

The mayor said that this was ridiculous and how could the donor know who was really in need? I agreed with him and told him that I found it ridiculous, but said that with my personal experiences with government officials, including the president and prime minister, it seems to be a very believable accusation.

The mayor by this point appeared to be very uncomfortable and at some point started to accuse Mrs. Hayrapetyan and her daughter of trying to blackmail him. I didn�t get his logic of how he could even think the conversation we were having could even imply any form of blackmail. It was clear that he was feeling very threatened.

Then there was mention of why they were not on multiple lists, since they obviously qualified for them and according to the President�s office, they have the right to be on multiple lists. The mayor got upset about this and implied that no one could have said this to Mrs. Hayrapetyan. The mayor then went on to say that it was ridiculous that anyone should be on multiple lists and he had recently argued this with the President�s office. This indicated to me that Mrs. Hayrapetyan had in fact been given such a suggestion by the President�s office and was not making such things up as the mayor was trying to make me believe.

He showed me the list of eligible people for housing and said that Mrs. Hayrapetyan was the first of those with twin boys.

He went on to tell me that he was present when the donor and the President met about what kind of people would be eligible for housing and that was families of martyred soldiers, injured soldiers and large families.

I asked if Mrs. Hayrapetyan is only on the list of twin boys, then what are her chances of getting a house? The mayor said that everyone on the twin boys category are also considered large families, so they should be covered under this project.

I turned to Mrs. Hayrapetyan and told her that if what the mayor says is true, then you should be receiving a house from this project. If you don�t, then you can make a big stink about it and I will help you then.

I then turned to the mayor and said that we still have one issue that concerns me very much. Your office using the donor�s name to not give the people a concrete answer. The mayor said that there is no way that anyone in his office has done such a thing. I said that I find it hard to believe, since I know Mrs. Hayrapetyan and her family quite well and they have no reason to have to lie to me about such things and like I said before, government officials at a much higher level then are found in his office have done similar things to me personally. I suggested that he talk to his staff about not continuing such a practice, as it is dishonest and damaging to out people.

I then went on to give him my sermon about the surplus of opportunist in his city and though I know he had only been working as mayor for less than 2 years, in my opinion, it is people in such positions of power who are responsible for this very damaging condition our people are suffering from today.

He told me that I should believe him that he came into this position to uphold the law and a man of his age would not do what those that were in his job before did, which according to his words was �work for themselves�, meaning shake the people down for a much as they could get and use their position to benefit financially.

I told him that if he is really as honest as he claims to be, then he has a very difficult job ahead of him.

The meeting ended with us exchanging cell phone numbers and my asking him to please keep me informed of how they determine the selection process, as he said that still had not been determined and he could not tell me who was going to determine it.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Acts of God or just good luck?

My stay in Stepanagert was just way too long and at times, I just had to get in my car at night and drive home (to Marutni) so I could shower, sleep in my own bed and then drive back to Stepanagert the next morning.

Last week, on just such a trip, my car broke down. I was only 5 kilometers outside of Stepanagert. The time was 7:50 PM and there was still sunlight.

I popped open the hood and checked the obvious things that would prevent the engine from starting. The sound that was coming from the engine when I tried to start it was not normal and I figured that the timing chain must have broke, as the starter was not laboring when trying to start the engine.

I called on my cellular phone a friend and since I didn�t have the phone number to my Stepanagert mechanic, to go to his house and tell me I was broke down and to please come quickly.

With me was the niece of the mayor of Martuni whose house I stay at when in Stepanagert and who had recently married to a army officer who is based on the front line and since he was not due back until the weekend, she wanted to visit her sister in Martuni.

So the two of us waited and waited and waited. I decided that I better call my friend again to see if he was able to find my mechanic and when I tried to call, the call would not go. I tried a few other numbers and the same thing happened. The mayor�s niece who was waiting for us in Martuni called me to ask where we were and I gave her the bad news that the car broke down and we would probably not be coming.

I have become a person that really believes in faith and destiny and decided that there must be some reason that my car broke down and maybe God didn�t want me to go home that day.

A call came from my friend who said he saw my mechanic, who said he lent his car to someone and I need to bring my car to him as it was already dark and there was nothing he could do for me where I was.

I told my friend to find a truck that could tow us to my mechanic�s and we continued to wait.

The mayor�s niece became very sad that she would not be going to visit her sister and turned away from me to look out the window and I could see tears running from her eyes. I tried to cheer her up, but I could see that she missed Martuni even more than I did and after living in Stepanagert for as long as I have (which is much less than she has) I really understood her sorrow.

I told her that maybe someone would who was going to Martuni would come across us and stop to ask if they could help and I would ask them to take her with them. She smiled and as the cars passed and no one stopped, she started to get sad again. I finally said that in the worst case, I will put her in a taxi and send her. She got very excited and insisted on kissing me on the cheek.

The truck showed up and as we were hooking up the car to it, I got a call from a friend in France, who had been trying to e-mail me and his messages kept getting kicked back. I told me that my mailbox was most probably full and to wait a few days and send it again. I told me what had happened and he wished me luck.

We arrived in Stepanagert and made our way to my mechanic�s garage (which is just below his house).

He checked the car and said there was no compression, which means that it is probably the timing chain, but since the cylinders are moving and there is spark to the plugs, it could be something else. All I�m thinking now is Mercedes plus unknown problem can only mean big bucks and a long wait for parts to be sent from Yerevan.

He took off the top of the engine to find that the timing chain had not broke completely and a wheel which the timing chain passes over was half warn down as the chain had stretched and was not fully engaging into it. The wheel was what controlled the intake values and since the chain was not fully engaging, it had slipped out to time, thus no compression and thus the engine would not start.

We called a mechanic friend in Yerevan to arrange to have a timing chain and the wheel which was warn sent.

My mechanic told me that I was very lucky that the chain had not broken, as when a timing chain breaks, it usually causes extensive damage to the engine.

The mayor�s niece and I walked to the bus station and got in a cab to take us to Martuni.

We got to Martuni at 11:55 PM and both of us were starving. I went home to take a quick shower and raid my refrigerator of whatever is edible and went to the join the mayor�s nieces for a late night dinner.

I arrived to their house at 12:20 AM and they began to cook.

As the first course of the meal was ready and we were starving, instead of bringing the food into the living room, which was nice and warm, I went to the kitchen, which is somewhat detached from the rest of the house, as is the bathroom (though they are under the same roof, you have to go outside to get to them).

As I was stuffing my face and the niece was cooking up the second course, sparks began to fly out of an electrical junction box near the ceiling. It seems that the electric hotplate which for at least the last 5 years we have been using in that kitchen unattended, was just too much for the thin wires that are buried under the plaster in the walls. The niece panicked and ran out of the kitchen. I got up and took the cover off the junction box and with a pair of insulated pliers tried to disconnect the wires which by this time were burning quite nicely. The light in the kitchen was flickering in the same way that they did in the move Titanic, when the ship was sinking. As they flickered, I went to cabinet and got out a box of salt and no sooner did I get the box in hand, did the light go out.

So now the junction box, which is made of plastic is now starting to burn. A couple of handfuls of salt extinguishes the fire.

If we had been in the house when the fire started, we are convinced that the whole house would have gone up in flames, as the fire was close to the ceiling and the only things that really burn in our houses here and the floors and ceilings. Everything else is stone, steel and cement.

On top of this, if we had not gone or even if we had arrived to Martuni when we had originally planned, there is a good chance that we would not have been sitting in the kitchen and again, the whole house would have gone up in flames.

On Sunday, when I returned to Martuni, the niece's mother, came with me and since she was not home when this incident happened (she is a legal expert that works in Stepanagert) only learned Sunday morning what had happened. When at the Askeran church, she lit a fist full of candles and said that we have to do a Madakh and thank God for watching over us and not allowing their house to burn down.

And since I am talking about fires, the day before the above mentioned fire, the mayor himself experienced a fire in his house.

It seems that his elderly ill mother had the night before the fire, put a pan full of ashes in the entry area of their house, as she was too sick to take them outside as it was too cold. It seems that there was an ember that somehow caused the wood floor to smolder.

A laptop computer that I gave the mayor a couple years back, the hard-drive died on and he was sending it to Stepanagert to have repaired, was on the floor right next to where a fire started.

The computer began to burn and the high quality Japanese plastic let out a very strong smell, which woke the mayor (it was 3 AM), who was able to extinguish the fire before it engulfed the entire house.

He said that if it had not been for the computer, he believes that he would not have woken and the entire house would have gone up in flames.

A couple of days ago, I was at his house for dinner and he told me that he was tired, as he had not been sleeping well at night as he is now afraid that a fire could break out when he is sleeping and the next time he will not be so lucky. I told him it was understandable and told him I forgot something at home and will be back in 10 minutes.

I rushed home and went to my storage room and dug out a smoke detector, which I had brought from the states to put in my house when I finish it. I returned and presented it to the mayor and told him that he should let the smoke detector loose sleep at night instead of him.

At dinner we drank a toast to life and that during times like this, one understands how sweat life really is. I added that he should not see this as a loss, but should understand that they were very lucky that no one was injured or killed.

His house was blackened from the burning plastic and for the last 4 days, they have been cleaning. Since I have a washing machine, I�m washing the beddings (4 loads) and the niece who lives here Martuni is ironing them.

As for my car, my mechanic was able to do a temporary fix, as the wheel that was worn, is the same as another wheel that the timing chain practically blankets, so he switched the two of them and shortened the chain. The parts for the final repairs should arrive in Stepanagert today at a total cost of $100 (this also includes 2 wheel bearings, which have worn out due to our very bad roads).

Oh, and if you remember I made some mention of my cell phone not working? Well it seems that since I have not had internet access and not being in Marutni for almost a month, I had talked more than the allowed time (more than my 30,000 dram deposit) and at 8 PM, the phone was turned off to outgoing calls. If the car broke down any later, I would have been in real trouble with no phone and probably in the middle of Aghdam. If that�s not an act of God, I don�t know what is?

Monday, April 21, 2003

Happy Easter everyone

On Sunday, I finally headed home (to Martuni), after a very long stay in Stepanagert.

On the way to Martuni, I stopped into the church in Askeran for Easter Sunday service. It was well attended and I was very pleased with the majority for the congregation being young people.

So I returned to Martuni with all my new stone cutting equipment, which today the welder came and built tables for all the new equipment.

I get this really warm feeling that by Friday, we will be cutting stone. When that happens, I will feel very accomplished and will have completed the first phase of a soon to be very large industry in Martuni.

My Yahoo e-mail account is overloaded, so I better move on to clearing it out and answering my e-mail of the last week and then some. For those of you who have written me and have not gotten an answer, bare with me. For those that have sent a message and it got kicked back, send it again.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

For those that were wondering, I have not fallen off the face of the Earth yet, I�ve just been very busy with lots of work.

Our equipment is almost done and we should soon be cutting stone (I hope).

Well, I have to get to checking my e-mail and then getting some sleep.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Yesterday I went to Stepanagert with the expectation that all my stone cutting equipment would be ready. Well I guess my expectations were just a little too high, as what I thought would be done was not.

On top of this my alternator died on me on my way to Stepanagert. Yes, a 15 year old car has a tendency of such problems I guess and a quick stop to see Sasoon, the automobile electrician took care of the problem. If you don�t remember who Sasoon is, he is the auto-electric who at the age of 12 had to take over his father�s business while his father went to Russia to work.

Luck would have it that Sasoon was able to take out the alternator, take it completely apart, discover that he had replacement bearings (one is the same that is found on Fiat�s and the other from a customer who had their Mercedes alternator rebuilt a year ago and had new bearings put in, even though there was nothing wrong with the old bearings).

The brushes (these are the things that conduct electricity) were also worn out and it just so happens that they are the same exact size at the ones that go in Fiat�s, so my purchase from a nearby auto parts store of said bushes (for less than $1) took care of the final touches.

Sasoon also found a short in the main coil and after some scraping, soldering and a little bit of paint to insulate the coil where the short was, he put the alternator back in the car and presto, it was like new. It only took an hour and I gave his 5,000 dram, which he said his charges were only 3,000 dram (about $5). I told him to keep it to cover next time.

As for machinist hell and my stone cutting equipment, I won�t bore you and will just say that after a day and a half of working and running around, we are in the home stretch of finishing. Maybe even will finish tomorrow.

Today in our quest of looking for an air-compressor, we went to the Max-Wood factory which manufactures rifle butts.

As we were waiting for them to fire up their compressor, I asked of all the Walnut tress they cut, how many percent is actually used for the rifle-butts? I was told as little at 15% and as much at 50%. The rest of the wood they cut up for other uses.

One thing I was thinking about is that this small factory had thousands of rifle-butts in their warehouse and could only think that each one will go on a new rifle. Thousands of new guns to add to this already overly armed world.

Right now we are in the middle of a lightning and wind storm with heavy rain coming down in spurts. I would guess that at some point, the lights will go out from the winds. I�m a little concerned for the Apricot trees, which have bloomed. If we have hail, we may not have Apricots this year again.

Monday, April 07, 2003

HAPPY WOMAN�S DAY TO ALL (that this applies to)!!!!

Yes, today was woman�s day in Artsakh and the Sylva beauty salon was really hopping.

I guess Armenians like to celebrate beauty, as if memory serves me correctly, we did the opening on some other woman�s day?

Anyway, the flower sales were hopping today and I presented all my female workers with flowers.

I also had the misfortune to fire one of my guards who was absent from his post for close to an hour, at which time I removed anything of value from the office he was suppose to be guarding and placed it in a large storage box, just in case he decided not to show up at all.

When he arrived, he apologized and told me it was the first and last time this would happen. I told him he was right, it would be the last time and told me when his shift is over tomorrow, to report to my manager, who I had already talked to about finding a replacement and also since she hired him, she should fire him, which she will do in the morning.

Saturday, April 05, 2003

I really should avoid reading news about the coalition invasion of Iraq, but curiosity and the need to know got the best of me.

On the BBC Reports� log I�ve read for the second time since the invasion started a descriptive of ��and the Marines have been cheering and punching the air - there's real joy.� This in response to the successful operation of rescuing Jessica Lynch, the teen solider that was captured on the 23rd of March.

Mind you, I�m happy that Jessica was saved, but at the same time, she left America to invade Iraq and if she was captured and maybe even killed, I would have no sympathy for her or her family, since in the end it was her choice to join the army.

But getting back to that joy the Marines had, it was that same kind of joy they has when the invasion started.

To American army personal is this the same as game of football? I guess since in America, no one is forced to join the army, this would indicate that in the army there are some sick blood thirsty animals and for that reason, I can share no sadness when such people are killed.

Now on the other hand, I�m saddened by the loss of civilian lives due to the actions of the coalition forces. For example:

Baghdad :: Paul Wood :: 1025GMT

We're in a Shiite house in Baghdad; it's just been bombed. Doors are blown off their hinges, there's blood on the floor, broken glass is everywhere.

The family matriarch has been killed, leaving behind twenty children. But one of her daughters tells us "we don't care this has happened to us, we care only for the life of our president".

What does this invasion of Iraq have to do with life in Armenia and Artsakh?

Well I fear that if America is successful in capturing and controlling Iraq, as it did Afghanistan, then I get the feeling that its next target will be Iran, which will automatically increase our dependency on America and threaten our own stability.

On top of this, the day may come when America will start to make its way up towards Russia (this after it takes control of Iran) and guess who will be in the middle of it and Russia?

All I can say is mark my words, nothing good will come from this war and I really get the feeling that this could be the start or maybe we can even call it the continuation of World War III.

Friday, April 04, 2003

I think I now know what it�s like to be on the dark side of the moon and out of radio contact.

I�ve been away from home for almost a week and it�s a real joy to be home.

I was in Stepanagert, torturing myself with my trying to motivate people to work on getting the balance of my stone cutting equipment finished. I�m almost there.

For those of you that have e-mailed me and I have not responded, please hang in there, I�ll get something off to you in the next couple of days, if not sooner.

Well it�s time for a nice hot shower and some sleep.