Monday, May 12, 2003

I got back to Artsakh on the 7th and since my return, I�ve had no internet connection. Yes, technical complications at the phone company continues, but since this log is now posted, it�s obvious that it is a resolvable issue (though it�s still not working 100%). If anyone out there is waiting for an e-mail from me, hang in there, I�m told the connection should be normal soon.

Anyway, a report from my trip to Yerevan.

1. I was able at the last minute to find a saw to replace the saw for my stone factory that was damaged. This means that we should soon be cutting stone.

2. Serge was checked by a doctor and unfortunately for now, the technology in Armenia does not exist to restore his vision. I will be contacting a doctor in America to see if we can maybe send Serge to America for surgery, if such technology exists there.

3. Discovered that there really was nothing at all wrong with my car, and the problem was the gasoline they are selling in Artsakh. Will deal with this issue in a legal manor so that in the future I and my fellow residence can get a decent tank of gas and the people selling gasoline will understand their responsibility when selling gas (later in this log you can read about a conversation I had with one of the sellers and also a real business opportunity here in Artsakh).

So my return to Artsakh was really quite nice and took only four and a half hours, though it should have only taken three and a half hours, but we encountered snow in Saravan, Sisiyan and Goris. Yes, on May 7th, were still getting snow!!!

On May 8th, I returned to Martuni to learn from my operations director that one of my guards and fisherman who works on my lake where we are farming fish, had been caught removing fish and selling it on the side.

My operation director told me that the supervisor for the lake will go and forcefully confiscate the fisherman�s personal nets and then when he pays 100,000 dram to me in compensation, he will return the nets. As for the guard, we will not pay him and fire him since he admitted to selling fish that exceeded his salary. They were not interested in any harsher punishment because they felt sorry for him since he has 5 children.

I could not believe that my operations director would even suggest such solutions and told her that first of all, by confiscating the nets and then demanding a ransom is illegal and would make us no better than the corrupt system we are trying to change. As for the guard that needs to be punished, by letting him off the hook for theft, we send out a message to people that it�s okay to take advantage of me.

I called my legal advisor who quickly brought us up to speed on the law and later this week, I�ll be filing charges with the prosecutor�s office that when we prevail, the government will confiscate the fisherman�s nets and fine him something like 500 Rubles (I�m not sure how much this is in Drams, but would image not much). As for the guard, he has already been fired and is now facing theft charges, which I�m just going to let the legal system work and then react accordingly.

May 9th was victory day here in Artsakh (the equivalent to July 4th in America) and I made my way back to Stepanagert that night to be present at the celebrations.

We attended a concert which was held in front of the building the President works out of.

I ran into quite a few people including Jeff Ryan, a potter from America who is running, managing and teaching his trade to the people of Ningi (a village in the Martuni region).

So while Jeff and I were talking, a couple of Australian-Armenians walk up to us since they could hear us speaking English.

We talked to them for a while and the older of the two of them told us that they were not expecting Karabagh to be so non-militant and so open, free and joyful. I guess the younger of the two was into Armenian politics (he eluted to being a member of the Dashnag party and Lena later told me that many of the active Australian-Armenians are Dashnag�s), as he began to ask me political questions about the present day government.

I guess what I had to say was too much for him to digest and after my �democracy does not work in America, so how do you expect it to work here� sermon, the two of them excused themselves.

Besides the presents of the president and prime minister of Artsakh, we had to honor of the President of Armenia Robert Kocharian, who was accompanied by his minister of foreign affairs Vartan Oskanian. Vartan looked to be having fun as he appeared to be signing autographs.

When the fireworks started at 10 PM, and I turned to see if the government officials were enjoying the pyrotechnic display and found the podium they were standing on was abandoned.

The locals who were watching the officials when the fireworks started, told me that Goulkasian was the first to panic and started to run for cover in his building, followed close behind by Kocharian and the rest. I don�t know, but will say that Goulkasian made the right move, as there were so many people in the crowd commenting on how this would be an ideal time for someone to assassinate someone with all the fireworks going and it would be hard to determine where the shot came from. So if Goulkasian really ran for his building like a scared rabbit (as the people watching him says he did) and was thinking on the same level as the locals, then in my opinion, his actions were fully justified and understandable.

The celebration ended with Jeff and a few of my friends going off to have pizza and drinks.

Now for the conversation with the owner of the gas station.

So on the 8th, after returning to Stapanagert without really do anything to my car other than filling it up with real gasoline, I had a need for some more gas. I knew where not to go, but the big question was where can I go to find gasoline that was really gasoline?

I went to one of the places that I had not been to, but had heard that their gasoline was also bad, but figured that there really was no other option.

I pulled into the gas station and asked the attendant if their super gas was really super or not (like I was expecting him to tell me no, it was not, right?). So he said it was good and I told him to fill 40 liters.

I drove not 1 kilometer and it was clear that this gas was also no good.

I called the owner of the gas station on his cell phone and in a very nice way told him of this problem, which instead of him being understanding, he became very defensive.

He told me that he had no blame, as he purchases his gas from Stepanagert. I told him I didn�t know where he purchased his gas and all I knew was that I purchased my gas from him and since he sold me �super� gasoline, that�s what I expected.

He told me if I don�t like his gasoline, then I should not purchase it in the future.

You should also know that this person who owns the gas station in question is also the director and President of Agro-Bank here in Karabagh. He is also an owner in many of the wine factories in Artsakh.

Anyway, I told him in a not so nice tone of voice thank you and please don�t be angry at me for what I am going to do.

And what am I going to do? Well when I went to Yerevan, I took the liberty to collect gasoline samples from all the major gas stations in Stepanagert which I have sent off to have analyzed and at which time I will be contacting the owners of the gas stations individually when I get the results.

On top of this, I�m seriously considering opening up a gas station that sells only high quality gasoline. By doing this, the gas stations that sell non-burning gasoline will be forced to bring in real gas or loose business.

So here is your business investment opportunity. If you are interested in investing in a gas station in Artsakh, please e-mail me. I�m only looking for people who are interested in making money and expecting a return for their investment. I guarantee you there is a big market and this is one investment and business you can really be proud of. Also understand that were not talking about very much money, so small investors are encouraged to inquire (this means even people who have less than $100 to invest).

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