Sunday, June 29, 2003

Yesterday I participated in the march to the mayor of Yerevan�s office to protest the green areas of Yerevan being turned into cafes and so on.

We presented to the Mayor (who was said to be out of town) with a tree.

I felt a real sense of unity among the marchers, who when they gave me a green leaf to hang around my neck and hand full of fliers to hand out to the people we passed as we marched, reminded me of all those protest marches my parents use to take us on when we were kids.

The following is the Radio Liberty report on the march:

RFE/RL: Environmentalists Protest Shrinkage Of Green Areas In Yerevan

By Karine Kalantarian

Representatives of over a dozen non-governmental organizations staged on Saturday a protest outside the mayor�s office in Yerevan against the intensifying commercial use of the city�s green areas.

The environmentalists said municipal parks, which are now dotted with a myriad of private cafes and other entertainment places, have been steadily shrinking in recent years. According to one of them, former Environment Minister Karine Danielian, the process amounts to the city�s "desertification" and could have grave consequences for its environment.

The protesters demanded a meeting with Mayor Robert Nazarian, but were told that he is currently absent from the country. They were instead received by one of Nazarian�s deputies, chief Yerevan architect Narek Sargsian.

"They are cutting down trees to build villas and open cafes," the head of an Armenian animal protection group, told Sargsian. "Please do something about it."

"Tell Mr. Nazarian to think a little about our children," said another angry woman. "He doesn�t have to do everything his bosses tell him."

The mushrooming street cafes are increasingly popular with many city residents and have become a lucrative business that does not require substantial requirements. What their owners need most is a municipal license to use a plot of land. Most public parks are already heavily used for that purpose. Government connections are vital for obtain a license. Not surprisingly, many lucrative cafes are owned by high-ranking government officials.

In the words of Eduard Baghdasarian, chairman of the Armenian Union of Investigative Journalists and one of the organizers of the protest, among the owners of a cafes covering the largest park in the city center are four ministers, the head of the National Security Service (former KGB) and two generals. Baghdasarian said this fact makes the Yerevan municipality largely irrelevant to the land distribution. The government-appointed mayor is simply unwilling to challenge any powerful official, he added.

Sargsian effectively admitted that the city authorities have little say in the process. He said they do not even have any clear policy on commercial use of the parks.

Thursday, June 26, 2003

Three days and 2 nights at Yerevan Children's Hospital #3

A few days ago, Seta's (Monte Melkonian's widdow) son woke-up vomiting and was not able to keep down anything we gave him.

She called a friend that told her to take him to the hospital to have him checked just to be on the safe side.

We took him to children's hospital #3, which is a government run hospital.

They checked him and decided that his stomach should be flushed as he most probably had some kind of intestinal virus.

After flushing his stomach, they said that he had a high fever and we should stay overnight for them to monitor his condition.

Next thing I knew we were in a room with 2 beds and I was sent off to the pharmacy with a list of things needed.

I wont get into all the details of what Seta's son was sick from, as for this log it's not that important and will make this a very long log.

What I think is important is the room and the structure of the staff.

Like I said, the room had 2 beds, one being a child's bed and the other for the parent.

The walls were last painted I don't know when, were cracked, pealing and from the common bathroom (which I will spare those that eat while reading our logs) had caused one of the walls in our room a good deal of mold and moisture damage. The whole thing was very depressing.

The first night in the hospital was very difficult as her son was not use to having an IV in his arm and one of us had to stay awake so every time he moved, he did not pinch the IV tube.

I had the opportunity to talk to some of the staff and parents of the children being treated there about the hospital and their experience.

What I learned was that this hospital is on the list of hospitals to be privatized and it looks like the head doctor or manager is in the process of privatizing.

I learned that the staff has not been paid for years their salaries, though they sign as if they are receiving a sum from the government for their work, thus this was suppose to be a free to the public hospital. It seems that the head doctor and/or director has been getting the above mention money for himself and I would guess the minister of health also gets a cut of it (a whole other story).

The staff are paid by those in need of their services, kind of like a fancy restaurant that does not pay any salary and the waiting staff makes their money from tips only. Though you pay an admittance fee of $10, you also pay "gifts" to everyone from the cleaning staff on up.

As for those in need of medical care, many of them seem to come only after their children have been sick for some time with something minor, since they could not afford to have them treated at that time, are now left with no choice but bring their child in when their child's life is in danger and then they really pay.

As for the condition of the rooms and facility, all I can say is that if it was in the West, the health department would close it down and toss the administrative staff in jail (which come to think of it may be an appropriate punishment in this case too).

The staff that come in and out of the room, many times come in without washing their hands, thus risk transferring illness from one room to another. The water situation is not all that good either, so this does not help matters much.

We had figured that we would only stay for the night and then the following afternoon, check out.

The following afternoon, Seta's son seemed to be worse and also looked somewhat depressed. I would guess this was from the condition of the room and the crying children we had to listen to all night long (the walls are paper thin), not to mention one of the nurses that really should not be allowed to deal with children, but would guess that she paid some big bribe to get her job or knows someone in the administration.

By the time we figured out that Seta's son was not getting better, we started to call around to find out who could provide us with home-care or some other option.

Unfortunately, we were not able to find anyone that night to help us out and felt that since the fever was still high, we should stay one more night, but said that irregardless of what happens tomorrow, we are not staying another day in this hospital.

The night did not go all that smooth and after forcing liquids and bringing down the fever, Seta decided that she had had enough and we would leave that morning.

She spoke with the doctor and told her that we would leave that day and when I went into the doctor's room to get yogurt from the refrigerator, the doctor and a few staff members told me that I should talk Seta into staying longer as they were just getting control of the virus.

I'm sure they were expecting me to tell them they were right and I would talk to her, but instead I guess I too had had enough and laid into to them about the deplorable condition of the rooms and how the walls were a breeding-ground for infection and could never be cleaned. I said I feel very sorry for the people who have children that get sick and make the mistake of coming to this kind of hospital.

One of the nurses looked to me and said that it was bad and they needed a sponsor to fix it up.

I turned to her and told her that there should be no need for a sponsor since the head doctor is in the process of privatizing the hospital and this is good as then he can fix it up and really make it the business he has always been dreaming of. As I was saying this, the lead doctor of that department walked in and everyone got very quiet.

I returned to the room and was followed in by the doctor treating Seta's son who said that there is a deluxe room that had just been vacated and took us to see it, telling us that she can have the cleaning staff come in and sanitize it.

It did look quite nice and had a very clean bathroom, but the decision had been made and later that afternoon we checked out and took her son home.

So how is he doing? Well he is doing great and as soon as we got home, he wanted to eat. It seems that in the hospital he lost his appetite and all those very foreign sounds were just too much for him. He has no fever and seems much more happy now.

As for the hospital goes and hospitals in general here in Armenia and probably in the former USSR, they themselves are in critical condition.

Oh and the "gifts" I wont even get into right now as I'm now working on my next investigation which will be on the medical industry in Armenia and the good and bad side of it.

It's been a very long 3 days and 2 night and I think it's now time to get some sleep.

Monday, June 23, 2003

Rights And Wrongs Of Child Adoption In Armenia

By Emil Danielyan

Little residents of this secluded compound on a hillside overlooking downtown Yerevan are learning the first lessons of their life. Sitting on tiny chairs, a group of children aged between two and three are taught to count red cubes laid out on the table by their nurse. A middle-aged woman who is supposed to substitute for parental care and love they were unjustly denied upon their birth.

Some of these children at the orphanage in the city�s Nork-Marash district will eventually feel the irreplaceable warmth of a family thousands of miles away from their country. For some adults in Armenia, that will translate into something very material: money. A lot of money.

Armenia has become one of the focal points of the worldwide practice of cross-border adoptions in recent years. Government data show that at least 57 Armenian children, or roughly 10 percent of its orphan population, were adopted by foreign, mainly U.S. and French nationals in 2002 and about 30 of them in the first half of this year. The country is now on the radar screens of several U.S. adoption agencies. There is even a special discussion group on the Internet bringing together childless couples interested in Armenia.

The reason why they are interested was summed up by a U.S. couple that adopted an Armenian toddler last year. They said they picked remote Armenia because they had to travel there once and spend there only two weeks, and because �the children are beautiful.�

The official view of the Armenian government, which has the exclusive authority to sanction foreign adoptions, is that a child can be happy only when living in a family. Officials also stress that most of the foreign adoptive parents are of ethnic Armenian origin.

�I think that children will feel better in a family than in the best and most modern orphanage,� says Aram Karapetian, the secretary of a special government commission regulating the process.

The problem is that this highly delicate sphere does not appear free of corruption that has engulfed so many aspects of life in Armenia. Documents obtained by RFE/RL suggest that the government-administered adoption process involves thousands of dollars in informal expenditures, apparently bribes paid by adoptive parents and their agents.

The scale of the practice is revealed by an online investigation conducted by Ara Manoogian, an Armenian-American charity worker living in Nagorno-Karabakh. Disguised under the pseudonym �Jennifer Smith,� Manoogian has extensively communicated by e-mail with Americans knowledgeable about the process. Posing as a Texan woman seeking to adopt two Armenian babies, he has extracted valuable insights into the dark sides of the foreign adoptions in Armenia.

It emerged that the whole process is handled by local government-connected �facilitators� who are either linked to a Western adoption agency or operate independently. Various sources put the amount of hefty fees charged by them at between $9,000 and $13,000 per child. Most of the money is said to be spent on �gifts� to relevant government officials.

Two such Yerevan-based facilitators, a man and a woman called Gagik and Hasmik, strongly denied engaging in such activities when contacted by this correspondent last week. They claimed that they have arranged only one adoption on solely humanitarian grounds, without earning a penny.

But what Gagik and Hasmik told �Jennifer� in a series of e-mails was just the opposite. �We can be your authorized persons and facilitators for the adoption process. Our services are to be paid,� they wrote in December before specifying the cost of their services: at least $9,000.

The facilitators were recommended to �Jennifer� by Jan Bartlett, an Iowa State University professor who adopted a 6-year-old girl from an orphanage in Gyumri earlier this month. The fees, Bartlett explained, include financial �gifts of gratitude� to Armenian officials. �G & H will let you know how much each official received,� she said.

Similar sums were cited by other Americans who had worked with different agents. Dana Nyholm, the adoptive mother of a 3-year-old Armenian boy she and her husband named Sam, wrote last February: �When we arrived, we gave our facilitator about $12,000. I know her fee was about $1,500; about $1,000 went into housing; probably $500 for food; and I don�t know much for transportation and gifts.�

A U.S. lawyer of Armenian descent who inquired about the costs involved likewise informed a friend: �Estimated expenses are $15,000, which include $2,500 for Armenian representatives who will run all this process. Remaining will go�you know where.�

Karapetian, however, vehemently denies that any government official may be taking bribes in return for approving an adoption and says the government is not responsible for the fees collected by private intermediaries. �If someone comes up to you and says, �I can arrange things for you, give me 20,000 [dollars]� and you give it, that has nothing to do with any [state] bureaucrat,� he says, adding that the entire paperwork inside Armenia should not cost over $100.

The existing procedure for foreign adoptions, set by the Armenian government in February 2002, leaves a broad circle of government bodies and officials who are in a position to approve, accelerate or block adoptions. The most important of them is Karapetian�s commission. It is headed by Justice Minister David Harutiunian and comprises high-ranking officials, including the ministers of education, health and social security.

The entire process takes several months and requires a chain of positive decisions not only by the commission but also the Foreign Ministry, the police and even the local community where a particular orphanage is located. The final clearance is given by the full cabinet of ministers headed by Prime Minister Andranik Markarian.

As recently on June 18, it authorized the adoption of three children by citizens of the U.S., France and Turkey, the latter being ethnic Armenians. Incidentally, such decisions have never been made public by Markarian�s office.

Foreign adoptions are widely practiced around the world, mainly involving the transfer of orphans from impoverished countries of Asia, Latin America and East Europe to the affluent West. The practice has some elements of transnational commerce, with various categories of children having their own market value. Newborn healthy infants are in greatest demand.

One California-based agency, for example, has a detailed pricelist of children on its web site along with the number and cost of trips prospective U.S. parents have to take to a particular country. Armenia requires only a single trip for one of the adoptive parents. They can select a child through a facilitator. Furthermore, they are not even personally interviewed by the Armenian adoption commission. The main requirement to them is a guaranteed annual income of at least $24,000 per person. Also important, though not mandatory, is to have ethnic Armenian roots.

There are five state-run orphanages across Armenia housing about 600 children -- a relatively low figure for a country of 3 million that has gone through dramatic political and social upheavals since the Soviet collapse. Officials attribute it to traditional family values still espoused the vast majority of Armenians.

The Nork-Marash orphanage currently has 77 children all over the country aged up to six, making it the main target of people planning an adoption in Armenia. A dozen kids have already been taken abroad this year.

According to the orphanage director, Liana Karapetian, many of her children were temporarily placed there by their parents, mostly single mothers who claim to be too poor to feed and raise them. She says only a small part of them will be sent to other orphanages once they reach schooling age.

What they will do after coming of age is much less certain. The economic situation in Armenia hardly augurs well for their future. It is not uncommon for orphan grown-ups to stay in their orphanages because they have neither homes nor jobs.

�Our top priority is to return children to families. They thus get serious guarantees for leading a normal life,� says Lena Hayrapetian, a Social Security Ministry official in charge of children�s affairs.

Hayrapetian and other officials say foreigners are generally allowed to adopt those children for whom the authorities have failed to find new Armenian parents. According to them, although Armenians adopted twice as many orphans as foreigners last year, they are less likely to accept kids with mental or physical disabilities.

The latter make up at least half of the overall orphan population. As things stand now, finding new parents in the West may be their only chance for a decent life.


One thing I would like to add that didn't make the story was that there are many families here in Armenia that are interested in adopting children, but due to the re-dtape and bribes many times are unable to or don't even want to risk being turned down because they can't afford to purchase a child to start their family.

Of course there is much more to this story that could not be included and for those interested, I will be posting on a page of its own the "Jennifer Shaffer Smith" letters in full so you can see for yourself what people who in many cases would never qualify in the West to adopt even a puppy from the pound are willing to pay to PURCHASE an Armenian child from our "leaders" who are entrusted to protect our orphan children. Shame on all of them, the people paying and the people taking...God will punish you (if I don't get to you first)!!!

Saturday, June 21, 2003

Well it looks like once again Armenia's infrastructure is being destroyed by its "elected" officials!!!

The picture you are viewing is of Bagramyan Street, were as you read this they are ripping up the trolley rails and taking down the cable that provided electricity to the trolley cars.

As I mentioned in my last log, the smog here in Yerevan is really bad and my eyes and lungs are crying out for clean air, but there is none to be found.

So what is all this demolition to the electrical transportation system all about?

Well they say that the electrical transportation system is loosing money and people are not interested in sitting on an old trolley car.

So instead of promoting electrical transportation and bringing in some newer trolleys from Germany, it is more profitable to rip up the rail, sell it to the Iranian's and make people depended on petroleum based fuel.

And why is all this more profitable? Well, since the Minister of Defense, Serg Sarkissian and the President Robert Kocharian and their friends monopolize such fuel in this country, then it's clearly the most profitable for THEM.

So what effect does all this have on the rest of us? Well you can start by visiting the following sites to read about the effect of smog:

If you noticed the mention of Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) you should understand that thanks to the fuel Mafia's attempt to boost the octane in their fuel, which "regular" gasoline is regular gasoline mixed with 20% diesel fuel, the additive they are using increases the output of poisonous NOx gas into the environment that we are all ingesting. Thanks Serg, Robert and friends!!!

So for those that are living in Yerevan and wondering what the unexplainable headaches and so on is all about, now you know.

What can we do about this? Well I think that the environmental activism group that Madlene started should take the bull(s) by the horns and get the people to protest this real injustice that is being perpetrated against all of us.

How about a stay home and/or don't use transportation that uses non-Eco-friendly fuel week in Armenia? That would really get the fuel Mafia's attention and maybe international attention.

I would like to add that Serg and Robert as the "leaders" of Armenia today are making some very big mistakes and only thinking about their personal wealth. If they don't watch out, they are going to get themselves on someone's bad side and when that happens, then we all are going to feel some very negative effects which will have a ripple-down effect to all Armenians around the world.

And I would also like to share with you this message from the President of Azerbaijan to Robert and Serg that the KGB intercepted last week:

Dear Comrades:

Keep up the good work in continuing what our country started and was unable to complete. Your national hero metals await you when you come to visit with me next time in Washington.

Gratefully yours,


Friday, June 20, 2003

The following log I tried to log this morning at 8:10 AM but thanks to Armentel, I had no connection. Anyway, here it is.

I just woke up to go outside to enjoy the morning sun and as I stepped out on the balcony, rain started to pour down. Right now the sun is out and it's pouring.

I've noticed that these last few days, my lungs and eyes have been burning and think it has to do with pollution in the air. When we dove in on the 13th, I could smell the difference as we entered Yerevan.

I would attribute this pollution to the lack of electric transportation, an excessive amount of unregulated (in terms of omission) automobiles and probably factories and trash burning (which you can smell going on all the time, including right now under my window). We are now seeing one of the many effects of a mismanaged and improperly regulated country.

Yesterday was the 10th anniversary of Monte Melkonian's funeral and the final day of memorial gatherings.

In the morning, we went to Yeraplur, which is a cemetery where those who lost their lives in the war in Artsakh have been laid to rest.

At 7 PM we attended an event at Kino Moscow, which was sponsored by the defense ministry to honor Monte's life. It was followed by a stand-up banquette, that like the last banquette I attended given by a defense minister, I lost my appetite (and I was hungry).

One thing I noticed was the defense ministers body-guards and in particular this one that looked like this character who I think was called "Buford" from Mel Brooks movie "Blazing Saddles". I'm not short, but next to this guy I felt really small. Fortunately for me the look on his face which was the "I kill people" look, really didn't scare me as all I could think of was Buford eating beans in the movie and passing gas and I think he was actually smiling at me in a friendly way.

Anyway, we didn't stay until the banquette was over as I get the feeling that the Defense Minister's smile and bad teeth were frightening Seta's son, who kept telling me he wanted to go home and began to cry. It was okay with me as I was starving and want to go so I could get some non-offensive food in my stomach.

I got a call from my friend at the KGB yesterday with the information I requested about the car that ran us off the road on the 13th.

The car is registered to the mayor of Kapan (a city in Southern-Armenia). The address connected to the car is 5 Alec Manoogian Street and though the car was a purple Mitsubishi jeep, it's registered as being black (the first technical violation I can come up with).

I guess this is finally my opportunity to visit Kapan (which I've only done once and that was almost 10 years ago), at which time I'll do some sightseeing and pay a visit to the Mayor.

Thursday, June 19, 2003

I was reading tonight about �Bush Will Not Tolerate Iran Nuclear Arms�.

"Iran would be dangerous if it had a nuclear weapon," Bush stated.

Well it seems that we should be thinking more about America as it is kind of dangerous to the stability of the entire world. America�s history seems to tell me that the entire world should demand from America to dissolve its weapons of mass destruction. These weapons include such things as the IMF and World Bank.

For those of you that don�t agree with what I�ve stated above, maybe it�s time that you reevaluate your life and whose misfortune your good-fortune was built on, as one day the time will come where all debts and loans must be paid up with interest.

As for life in Armenia, the weather is a little hot in the day and really pleasant at night.

I guess I�ll be in Yerevan for a few more days and then it back home to my air-conditioned house, a place I can escape the real heat that is on its way.

Oh a big-old shout-out to our reader at the US Department of Justice!!! I�ve got a few questions about US justice that maybe you can answer for me, though I�m not sure which section you work in so why don�t you write to me with your e-mail address and then I can forward you my questions.

Sunday, June 15, 2003

I'm on a break from the Monte Melkonian memorial events, so I'll give you all a little update on what's been going on the last few days.

On the 11th of June, I went to greet my guests who I have not seen since my last trip in the states almost 3 years ago. It was as if we had not been away from each other for more than a week, the only difference was that there were some new babies to add to our group.

That night we ate and drank and talked until the very early hours of the morning and after 17 shots of vodka, which for some reason had no effect on me, Hagop and I drove back to Martuni.

On the morning of the 12th, we joined our friends at a gathering in the governemt square of Matruni to commemorate the 10th year of the passing of Monte "Avo" Melkonian's death.

We had lunch at the school auditorium, went to Avo's spring (a spring named after Monte) and then after a quick potty stop at my house, we drove to Stepanagert.

In Stepanagert, they had a photo exhibition and a cultural performance in Monte�s honor.

In attendance was the President of Parliament and the Prime Minister, who were sitting directly in front of me. The Prime minister left early, as I guess he had something more important to do. I didn't have a problem with this, since at least he came. Now where the President was this whole time, I'm not sure, but during their whole visit, he made no attempt to see them, which was okay by all of us.

After this above mentioned gathering, we were invited to a dinner which was given by the Minister of Defense. A nice gathering, but it seems that anytime I'm in the presence of the Minister of Defense, I loose my appetite and as hungry as I was, this time was no exception. I ate a meal later that night at the house we stayed at.

As we were finishing the dinner, I got a call asking me if I could take Monte�s brother Markar down to the radio station to give an interview. Markar agreed to this and with a couple of visiting friends we headed to the station.

The interview that was to be only 15 minutes, lasted almost 2 hours. It was fun and very very informal. We laughed a lot.

On the morning of the 13th, we all headed towards Yerevan and stopped in to see a village in Lachin that the Monte Melkonian Fund is helping with a cultural center, school and economic farming aid.

It was a nice visit, but Monte�s widow Seta and her son were not feeling well, so we left before the lunch, so we would arrive early to Yerevan so they could rest.

In our car was Hagop B, Seta and her son and one of Seta�s and my Godchildren Roman, who lives in the village we were visiting and was going to Yerevan to spend the summer with his grandfather.

Roman was struck by motion sickness and barfed all over the backseat and Seta's bag, but avoided getting my suit soiled.

Hagop and I worked away at freshening up the car and I have to tell you that Hagop had everything to really get the job done, including air-freshener. To say the least, I was very impressed with him not getting grossed out and just doing the job that had to be done. A real trooper and a great catch to that lucky girl that he marries, not to mention for me and our nation building work.

As we were coming in to the city of Vike, there was a fancy jeep that decided to pass a truck without waiting for the road to be free and was coming right at me in the opposite direction.

I flashed my lights at him as I really didn't have anyplace to go to avoid a head-on collision. Lights or collision, this guy thought he owned the road and just before having to hit him, there was a little stretch of extra road I was able to move over on to avoid an accident. An act of God or just good luck?

As the jeep ran me off the road, all I could see was its license plate which was 002 LL 02, a number which belongs to someone in government and I would guess connected to the Prime Minister�s office.

I've already put a request in for more information to a friend at the Armenian KGB of who that license belongs to. You can be sure when I find out who it belongs to, I will be getting in touch with them to make sure that at very least apologize to Seta, her son, our Godson and especially Hagop (who saw for the first time in his life, death flash before his eyes). After that, I'm going to make the driver's life hell (my specialty) and do what I can in my power to have him loose his job in hopes that he understands that he does not own the road and that there are others living in this country other than him and his clan.

It looks like I'll be in Yerevan for a few more day enjoying the company of my friends and then back to my home and work in Artsakh.

Well I'm off to a BBQ with my friends, so I have to get going.
I'm in Yerevan.

On June 11th I met up with a bunch of friends in Stepanagert, who came from California to be present at the commemoration of the 10th anniversary of Monte Melkonian's death.

For those of you who don't know who Monte was, he was the central-California born Armenian who participated in the defense and liberation for Artsakh and is said to have palyed a huge role in Artsakh still being populated by Armenians.

Anyway, everything went well and we are now in Yerevan to participate in events here, so I have to get going now, as there is a line to use this computer as everyone is in need to check their e-mail after being in Artsakh for so long.

If I'm late on answering you messages, hang in there.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Well the pictures just got back from the �lab� of the trip Hagop and I took out to my lake on Sunday.

Hagop agreed that one could go to this place and forget all of ones troubles.

We walked around the whole lake and talked about life here.

One of my guards Grisha joined us and talked with Hagop about fishing and how he�s not allowed to let people fish until September 1st. Hagop was obviously disappointed, but I think understood the importance of a balanced eco system.

The fish are now multiplying and the baby fish are covering the entire surface of the lake, that is resulting in this incredible show of life which is reflecting the suns rays.

We went to my half built datcha, sat and just took in the nature that was all around us.

Though we didn�t want to leave, the sun was coming down.

Hagop decided that this little bit of paradise that is off the beaten path, I should not horde myself and suggested that I build a resort around the lake for those people who are sick of the hustle and bustle of the Western lifestyle in need of a

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Yesterday afternoon Hagop and I went to Stepanagert to take care of some work for the stone factory.

While there, we stopped into Vesta Electronics to pick up an electric teapot.

Hagop was looking at the satellite receivers and asking the salesman if their system would work in the United States?

Behind us was standing a man who almost looked like he was ease-dropping on our conversation and looked very western (meaning the way he was dressed and acted).

The salesman answered all of Hagop�s question as best as he could and said that the man standing behind us had a similar system and maybe he could add something that would help Hagop better understand how the system worked.

It was clear that this man had been in the US and later in the conversation we learned that he was the head architect on the new building that is being paid for by an Armenian-American donor. He introduced himself as Garen Hagopyan.

When I learned he was the architect, I began to ask him question about the building of every kind. He was receptive and answered them, volunteering additional information.

The building is 11 stories tall and has 50 units in all. They brought from Yerevan 4 new elevators. It has a central furnace for heating the building (though the radiators in the rooms are clearly old salvaged units).

Being in the stone business and having experience in construction, one of my biggest eyesores was the stairwells and hallways which instead of marble molding around the base of the wall to match the marble floors, they had put cement made molding that was already cracking and painted a very ugly shade of gray.

Garen told us that they were on a tight deadline and all winter they worked, ignoring the rain and cold. This was obvious since most of the outside walls had surface cracks and the paint was clearly applied when the walls were still moist and I�m sure once things heat up, it will start to peal. Garen said that when it peals, they will apply another coat.

Every unit has a kitchen with a small cheap sink. The bathroom looked nice with the cheapest $5 a square meter floor tile that I am sure will crack from it being installed using a lot of sand and the least amount of cement possible.

Every time I would point things out to Garen, he would tell me that I have to understand that this is much better than anything they have in Artsakh today and there are even government officials that would like to receive a house in this building.

The tin roof on this 11 story building is pitched instead of flat as you would expect, not to blind drivers when it reflects the sun or to allow the snow to slide off, but it seems that someone in Yerevan (not Garen) did this as there are two building side by side, one being smaller and the two roofs are suppose to look like mount Ararat. Very creative and very ugly if you ask me.

Anyway, why is Ara being so critical of this project? I mean is it not great that 50 new homes have been built for our people who are in desperate need of homes?

Well yes, it�s true that this is a fantastic project, but not for $650k from the donor and an additional who knows how much more money the government is claiming to have also contributed from the national budget (though I suspect their contribution when directly to their collective pockets).

If you do the math and if we just assume that only $650k was spent on this project to build 50 homes, that comes out to $13k per house. Also keep in mind that the average size was maybe 80 square meters (700 square feet). Another thing to keep in mind is that my house (which is 500 square meters) when finished will have cost me in all with furniture, swimming pool, Jacuzzi and huge enclosed yards with lots of trees, a whopping $30k!!!

I told Garen that it would have been better if they had built a small community of houses as I felt from my past experience in construction and costs of things here that they could have easily built 200+ house with roads and everything needed. He didn�t argue and just kept telling me that he is just the architect and it�s the President and the donor that are calling the shots on this project (though knowing the donor, I would guess it�s the President calling all the shots).

He also could not give me a solid cost of what this project is costing (though this is the architects job to know) as there were still things that were not decided and said that THEY keep telling him changes and the way THEY want things done. I asked who THEY are and he said the President. I asked him what the President knows about construction and he just said that he (Garen) is just a worker and takes orders.

I asked him about the division of the houses and the mayor�s involvement and he said that the mayor has nothing to do with this project and it will be the President and the donor who will divide the building. He added that the mayor with a party of 28 people came for the first time to see the building a week ago at the request of the President and did nothing but left the place a mess (I guess they had a party there or something).

One other thing he said as we left the building was that this building is only for the families of persons who were killed during the war and not all the people from the list the mayor has in his office.

So it seems that the building will be done in a month, at which time the President and donor will determine who will be among the lucky ones to get a place in the �Projects� (as Hagop referred to this eyesore of a building).

Sunday, June 08, 2003

Were working on a business plan to re-construct the big cross that was in �Independence Square� in Yerevan that was used to celebrate the 1700th anniversary of Christianity.

Instead of lighting it up, we are going to construct it with �meat hooks� where we will be hanging all those responsible for the economic, cultural and social genocide Armenia has faced since �independence�.

For those wondering what genocide I�m talking about, you can see one example at:

For those interested in investing in this most benevolent venture, you can e-mail me and I will provide you with information on where you can send your tax-deductible contributions.

Saturday, June 07, 2003

Ara Manoogian wrote at 11:22 PM:
No internet connection for a few days now, but it seems that this problem may soon be resolved. The answer is satellite via Karabagh Telecom commitment to IT in Artsakh. I hope in the next 3 days I will have an answer as to when I will be connected to a high-speed connection.

One of our readers Hagop B. (Lena logged about him dropping into her office for lunch) is now here in Martuni!!!

Hagop is an incredibly talented guy who is also very patriotic and is thinking about staying in Armenia or Artsakh for an extended period of time to help with a little bit of nation building.

Hagop is now working on business plans for all my ventures so we can not only see where we will be going in the future, but also to use to just maybe attract investors where needed.

Tonight Hagop and I went to the mayor's house for dinner and had quite a nice time talking about the city of Martuni's future and what role we plan on being in said future.

Anyway it looks like the rainy season is almost over and the weather right now is great!!!

Sorry to make this log short, but it's been quite a log day and since there has been no connection for the last few days, there is a lot of catching up for us both to do with the 7,200bps connection.

Tuesday, June 03, 2003

I mentioned in my April 5th log, my feeling that Iran would be America�s next target. Well it really looks like America is stupid and desperate enough to engage Iran in some kind of conflict in the name if �war against terror�. I guess they are figuring that Iranian's are the same as Iraqi's.

Here is my next prediction.

If America does try to invade Iran, Russia, Armenia, India and China will support Iran.

America will try to use Iraq, Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and Georgia as bases to launch their attacks, which will put those countries that do agree to play along with America on the s-list of Iran and the Islamic nations that don't support America.

At that time world war 3 will have truly started and who knows how it will all end, but all I can say is start stocking up on food, water and fresh batteries for you radio, as America is going to be an even bigger target to retaliatory strikes for the havoc and war it started in the middle-east and the common people will be the ones most effected.

So what is America�s plan and long term goals?

Taking into consideration that America now has an administrative staff of OIL TYCOONS who know how to make money via OIL, then you will understand that one major reason for this war is OIL!!!

Let�s now take a look at what is found in the region that America has been invading since said administration has been in power? OIL!!!

I�m not going to write about the obvious, but will write about how this conflict relates to the Armenian nation.

If you take a look at the map and take into consideration that there are about 20 million ethnic-Azerbaijanis living in North-Iran (Azeris call it Southern-Azerbaijan), and by having control of said territory, Azerbaijan and Turkey would connect. At that time, Armenia would be effectively blockaded from 3 sides and would be dependent on the very unstable Georgia for ground transportation. At present about 90% of all ground transportable goods come into Armenia via Iran.

What will happen is going to be up to all of us.

In the Diaspora, it is going to be of the utmost importance to protest, demand and make sure that you all do what you can to prevent that mad-man George Bush and his administration of money hungry oil tycoons from starting any war with Iran.

On the Armenia side I won�t comment too much, but will hope that Armenia does the right thing and stand by Iran to do all it can to prevent this war from happening. But if the war does start, make sure they do what they can so America gets pounded and run out of the region once and for all.

Like I said in my April 5th log, what we are possibly facing is the start or maybe the continuation of world war 3.

BTW, I�ve really not had the time to follow the news, but did the U.S. ever locate those weapons of mass-destruction that were suppose to be in Iraq and their justification for attacking in the first place?

Sunday, June 01, 2003

I�m back from Khash at Souren�s house. I only drank one shot of vodka.

I�m really not sure why we had Khash at night, since as a rule, you eat Khash in the morning before sunrise.

So back to my visit with my friends from California and the Mesrob Machtots U administrative staff.

It�s always enjoyable for me to have intellectual conversations with people who work in the field of education.

We talked about their new campus and I made some suggestions as to selecting their site. They listened and though at first I guess I didn�t articulate myself well, as my feeling of a site that was detached from the city on a hilltop with no paved road was not such a good idea, was initially criticized by the director, but later on my explaining the costs and disadvantages to such a site and her getting to know me better, yielded her approval and they are now considering a smaller more central site that was not offered to them by the Prime Minister, but they are now going to meet with him or the President about securing that site.

Since some of the project solicitation materials will be aimed to the Diaspora for support, I have been asked to write something to be added in that material in support in my words of what a difference the Diaspora can make to education by helping and so on. I�ll have to think over what I can write in the next few weeks.

On top of this, it looks like I will be taking an active role in the supervision of the construction to make sure that things are done properly and the money is maximized.

During our talk about the possible war in Iran and its effects on us, one of the professors told me to note in my journal that he predicts that one day the Turks will accept the fact that the 1915 genocide happened and as part of restitution will give us some land back which will give us a port on the black sea.

I looked to him and said that apparently he didn�t understand who the Turks are and as a rule of land, even if someone takes land unfairly, they never give it back. The only way we can get any of Western-Armenia back is by getting recognition of the genocide and then at that time take it back by force while the rest of the world watches with approval.

He continued to try to convince me that we will get land back the way he said and another professor turned to him out of discuss and asked what fairytale he is trying to telling to me? He said that �you don�t know the Turks since you have never lived with them as I have in Baku.�

One last thing I will say about today was my friend�s wife who when we sat for tea, on the table they had glasses of water and glasses of vodka. The glasses were not so different in size and at one point, my friend�s wife drank from a glass she thought was water but in fact was vodka.

Realizing her mistake, she proclaimed that this place was dangerous as there is vodka everywhere and it�s hard to tell the difference between it and the water.

Well it�s getting late. I still have some housecleaning and laundry to do so I better get going.
I just got home from Amaras Monastery. I went there with a friend and his family who are from California.

My friend has come Artsakh to lay the groundwork for the building of a new campus for the Mesrob Machtots University in Stepanagert.

With my friend and his family were the administrative staff and some facility members of Mesrob Machtots U.

As I had mentioned, it rained very hard last night and the yield from that rain where some very muddy roads, which their van driver skillfully was able to pass without getting us stuck. It really was very impressive even for me.

So after touring the monastery, we had a khorovads feast, which of course when a friend from so far away visits, you can�t no drink. My drink was wild-burry vodka and after 5 shots, I was still surprisingly sober, though I know it was quite strong since it seemed to have quite an effect on my friend and his family. I guess my system has built a good resistance to alcohol.

I guess this log will have to continue a little bit later since I was just invited to Souren�s house for Khash which now means I can really test my tolerance to alcohol since Khash without vodka is�
Where this storm came from is beyond me. It�s coming down really hard right now with constant lightning and thunder. It very beautiful and very loud.

I�m expecting the electricity to go out anytime now along with my internet connection.

If it was not for crop damage, these kinds of storms would not be a big deal. Well what was left from the last storm is sure to be washed out from this storm.

The puppies are so well trained that I had to literally drag them into the house and out of the rain. What was great was that they didn�t seem at all frightened by the light and noise.

Well I have to get back to the window to watch the lightning show.