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.

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