Tuesday, October 23, 2001

Today was a beautiful day. The sun was shining and I took a long walk. Tonight the stars were out as was a real bright half-moon.

I received a few very interesting answer to my question about the dream and the following couple of sentences echo�s what the majority had written (I just picked at random one of the answers, as they were well written).

Regarding the experience in the Republic Square: Religion and spirituality express themselves in grand dreams. The message is often imparted through dream revelations that suddenly throw a clear light upon the past or illuminate the dreamer's way ahead. The dreaming mind may encounter the "Wise Old Man", or other archetypal figures of wisdom, who reveal their truths and teachings. Other archetypes may take the form of symbols or religious icons. Transcendental experiences may occur, leaving the dreamer with profound feeling of exaltation and inner peace. Dreams involving priests and other religious officials may represent the authority of the established church, while Old Testament prophets, Christian saints, Hindu avatars or Buddhist boddhisattvas may symbolize aspects of the dreamer's spiritual identity or aspirations.

As for the public nudity dream: To dream of being naked in a public place, among other people who are unconcerned about the fact, or oblivious to it, usually indicates that you should discard as groundless any fears that you will be rejected if your real self is revealed. Nudity can represent the dreamer's spiritual nature, or the authentic self. It can also mean a desire to shed defenses, a freedom from shame and love of truth.

I�d like to thank everyone who wrote to me and as some of you requested, will get to work on the real story (not a dream) of being in a village in the Mardakert region and shall we say, was caught with my pants down and no one seamed to be bothered by it.
Last night I had a dream that I was in Yerevan attending a victory march of all the people that had come from different parts of the world to live in Armenia. They were not just recent arrivals, but also people that came in mass in 1946. In attendance were the Presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and Vehapar -- not our present day Vehapar, but Vazken I of blessed memory. Tens of thousands marched through the streets of Yerevan together, with our final destination being the Hurabarag (Republic Square). In front of the cross that was erected for the 1700th anniversary of Christianity in Armenia, His Holiness, with me standing by his side addressed the crowd. He told us how we, the descendants of Armenians who were driven from our native lands and who had settled all over the world, have now returned home are the true victors. By coming home, we have foiled our enemies' sinister plan to eradicate us. He said that we have many enemies and we have each personally in our souls defeated them all by returning to our homeland. He continued to say that they planned to empty Armenia of all Armenians and have failed to do this because of people like us. Our enemies may hate us, but they also respect us for our drive and will to survive which is in each of us. He said that we have each returned much stronger and smarter than anyone could have expected and for this we can only give thanks to God and our enemy for showing us our weaknesses. He said that those of you who have returned are no longer victims of the crimes that were committed against our nation over hundreds of years, but are the people that are truly in control of your destiny and the destiny of our nation. He closed by saying that Armenians all over the world must hear his words and understand that victory is not measured in how much land you have, but the peace you have each found by coming home. He then made the sign of the cross and wished upon us God�s protection, guidance and love. Then he leaned over to whisper in my ear that he needed to talk to me in private about an urgent matter and to come see him when the crowd goes. The dream ended right at that moment with the phone ringing. I tried to fall back to sleep, but was not successful. I wonder what Vehapar needed to tell me? I also wonder why he was in my dream and not our present day Vehapar? Well I'll spare you a commentary on this dream, as by itself is a very strong message. If there is anyone that professionally understands dreams, please write me to let me know what it means. Also maybe you can tell me about some of the other dreams that I have. Like what does it mean when I�m standing naked in a crowd of clothed people and am not at all uncomfortable? Actually, that really did happen to me here one time, but I�ll save that story for a rainy day when I really have nothing to write about and share with you some of my fond memories of life in Artsakh.

Sunday, October 21, 2001

Today was really quite a nice day. I�m not sure if this is mini-summer revisiting us for the second time, but there was no rain and the sun was out. I�d been waiting for a break in the weather so construction on my house could continue. I know what you�re saying. I haven�t logged anything about house construction and what does he mean continue? I just didn�t want to bore you with another construction story, or else �Life in Armenia� was going to have to be renamed to �This Old House in Armenia�. So I won�t talk too much about my construction, other than before winter sets in, I have to use up a couple of tons of cement I have so it won�t go bad. This means that every chance I get, I have to figure what else I can do to my house. I will say one other thing. This construction has been going on for almost 3 years. You may ask why it�s taking so long? Well for a couple of reasons. First of all, I have no plans to go by (don�t want any) and am doing it all freestyle. This means that I tell the construction crew where to put up walls, windows, doors and so on as I go. The second reason and biggest disadvantage to not having plans is that there really seems to be no end to what I add. I mean last year I started to have an indoor swimming pool and Jacuzzi built. It�s not done yet because I realized my office was more important, so they started that and it�s almost finished now. During construction of the office I was having problems finding farm-fresh chickens and decided to build a place to keep chickens and turkeys. I had a place built in the corner of the front yard so I could keep cats and dogs away and when they finished building this 180 square foot henhouse, which took 3 days to do, it was so cute and built in the same style and quality of the rest of the house that I decided that it would serve better as a place to cook the hens, and well, it�s now the future location of the kitchen. And the space between the kitchen and the house, which is about 30 feet, is where the formal dining room will be. So you see, things never end, because there is no end. I also found out today that the house next to me on the side I don�t own is for sale. So I�m thinking about buying it so I can enlarge my front yard. One thing that I will say with buying all theses houses is that they are a good investment for my family�s future. You see I come from a family where children are usually male. And here they have a custom of the parents of the male children giving their sons each a house (to reduce the hardship and stress of starting out I guess), all but the eldest (poor thing), who usually gets the family house and is required to take care of the parents. As for the female children, they hopefully are married off and go live with their husband�s family. So since there is a good chance that I�ll have more boys than girls, I�m buying up the houses around me so all my children can be near by to help out with taking care of me and my wife when we get old and ornery. I figure that as much mischief as I get myself into now, when I get older, it will only be amplified and it�s going to take more that one son, bride and grandchildren to keep me entertained, so I better set things up so they have some backup support. I guess getting married would also help to make this equation work too.

Saturday, October 20, 2001

Today the sun came out around noon and with it a lunch invitation to the Mayor's house. That may sound more impressive that it is, as the Mayor is one of my closest friends and was so, long before he became Mayor. At 1 p.m. I drove to City Hall and from there together we drove to his house. His mother, whom, indecently, I also call Mom (I have a few mothers who have adopted me as their own, but this is the only one I actually call Mom), had lunch ready for us. We ate and talked over the usual topics, which included what we need to do to stimulate the economy and make this place more attractive in terms of business opportunities for native and Diaspora investors. I won�t get into details on the web as to what was said, since the conversation I would categorize as confidential, right up there with military strategic planning and how much our reserve of mulberry vodka is. All should be treated as topics of national security. So after lunch, we returned to City Hall where we continued our discussion. At 5 p.m. we were invited to a lecture being presented by a man named Artyom Sarkis Sarkisyan. Mr. Sarkisyan was born in the village of Jardar (the largest village in the Martuni region) in 1926 and after attending the institute in Baku, he worked to become an Academic in the field of Oceanography. He started out his lecture in Karabaghian-Armenian, giving us some general background information about himself. He then went on to tell us about how five years ago he was lecturing in someplace to some Armenians in Russian and at the end of his lecture, a man walked up to him to tell him how much he enjoyed the lecture, but since he didn�t understand Russian, he didn�t understand a thing he was saying. All the people in the room laughed. Then he said that he knows that the Armenians of Karabagh are educated and understand Russian. He then proceeded to talk in Russian. Well, I admit I�m educated and know some Russian, but only words that relate to car parts, road directions and the more practical things like underwear and socks. So here I was sitting in this room with Academic Sarkisyan talking up a storm. To make the most of it, I decided to see how much I could understand and you know, I actually understood about 10 words, which was 10 words more than I was expecting to understand, but that was because I thought I heard some car part names (maybe he was talking about parts on a boat?). So when the lecture ended, I wanted to go up to him and tell him how much I enjoyed his lecture and didn�t understand a thing, but thought that maybe he would feel bad for making the same assumption twice (it�s like not learning from your mistake the first time, which I personally hate to do). I did ask the Mayor to fill me in on what was said, and when he did, I then kinda wished that the lecture had been in Armenian. For those of you that want to be impressed, check this out. Academic Sarkisyan was able to locate and document where in the Atlantic Ocean water flows in two directions. Yea, you heard me right, he found a place the current breaks one of the laws of physics!!! People knew this could exist, but didn�t quite understand how to prove it. This means that the surface water goes in the direction of the wind and about 50 meters below, the water flows in the opposite direction. For those of you that don�t understand what I�m trying to say, let me put it in terms that some of you should relate with. It�s kind of like if you flush a toilet in the Northern hemisphere and it swirls clockwise. In the Southern hemisphere, it swirls counter-clockwise. But if the toilet were in the middle of the Atlantic at that spot, Academic Sarkisyan found, after swirling clockwise for 50 meters down into the ocean, it would change direction. Well, maybe that�s not a good comparison, but it�s one of those puzzles of physics that even I don�t understand. Please don�t make me try to explain how you would get out there to flush it to see for yourself, let alone install it way out there. Oh, and for that discovery, he got some big prize of money (Armenians love to talk about money, and I would guess that got the attention of those people sitting there in the room dozing off and also thinking about how they were going to stay warm this winter). The other thing Academic Sarkisyan was known for was for disproving some hypothesis, which he really didn�t give details on, but said that he almost ended up in Siberia over. It had something to do with challenging three leading American and one leading Russian scientists who didn�t want to admit to their mistake. Well those were the highlights of my day. Let�s see what tomorrow has to offer.

Friday, October 19, 2001

I remember when I lived in the US and it would rain on Sunday, I would stay in bed, watch T.V. and read the newspaper. Well when I woke this morning to find it was raining, I decided to pretended I was back in the US and it was Sunday. I turned on the T.V. and all that I could get a decent signal from was BBC news. It was so depressing to watch, that I turned it off and logged on to read the LA Times. Well that was a mistake. So I decided that today was going to be movie day!!! With that said, I made some popcorn, got in bed and did a marathon quadruple-feature. The Green Mile, The Sixth Sense, The Beach and Saving Private Ryan. While that noise was going on in the background (I've only seen them at least 5 times), I surfed the web looking for alternative ways to heat my house. I found that the US Patent and Trademarks Office not only has the abstracts of patents online, but they also now have the drawings and detailed descriptions. Did I hit pay-dirt or what? So I downloaded a few patents of boilers, burners and multi-fuel stoves that I'll mix and match to maybe have something built here that will not only heat my house, but also heat the water for my bath, swimming pool, Jacuzzi and maybe I can even design it so I can built a Sauna right on top of it and heat that too!!! As you can imagine, today was really boring.

Wednesday, October 17, 2001

Today it rained all day so I stayed inside and turned my electric heater all the way up. I worked on an assignment from a good friend who has a daughter that got married and moved to Brussels, Belgium. She calls once a week, but the connection is really horrible and I'm sure costing someone a small fortune. They want for her to send letters via e-mail, but she has no idea where the internet cafes to do this are. Unfortunately I'm not there to hold her hand and get her set-up so I need to find someone there that can help me out to do this. I got on the internet to find someone and did a search for an Armenian organization or anything Armenian there, but came up with nothing useful. So if there's anyone out there that can help me or you know someone there with e-mail that you think would be willing to make a phone call and maybe even a new friend from Artsakh, please contact me so I can get you in contact with her. Thanks in advance.

Tuesday, October 16, 2001

Not to scare Lena, but I was over at my neighbor's house this morning for breakfast. This is the same neighbor that told me about mini-summer. I asked his wife when will mini-summer come? She gave me this look and said mini-summer has come and gone. I asked her if I missed it and she said that it was an extra-mini one this year. Great, does that mean winter is here? Let's hope she's wrong. Just in case, I better get the long underwear out and charge up the batteries for my electric socks. Today it was overcast and right now it's raining. The outside temperature all day has been 12.3c (54f) and is starting to drop. I hope my sneezing is because I have dust in my house.

Sunday, October 14, 2001

In front of my house is where the neighborhood kids gather at night. I guess since we don't have street lighting in our neighborhood and I have a motion light, that makes my place the hotspot. I sometimes get calls from parents telling me to send their kids home when it gets late. Like tonight I got a call from Ashot's mother telling me that he has to do his homework and to please send him home. So I went out to find Ashot sitting in front of my house talking with his friends, eating a pomegranate. I told him that his Mom wants him to come home. He thanked me and went running off. The kids range in age of 2 to 16 years old. It's not uncommon for a mob of over 20 kids to gather in the summer. Sometimes it gets a little loud out there, but I've never seen things get out of hand. They all know me and call me by my first name. The little ones are the cutest and always ask me how I'm doing? Hide and Seek, Tag, Statue/Free (same as Red-light/Green-light) and War seams to be their favorite games. I remember when I was a kid we use to play the same games all the time, but when it got dark, we had to come in and make sure the front door was locked. Well I guess that rule does not apply here. On non-school nights these kids stay out until midnight or even later. I mean this last summer I don't think they slept at all. I would sometimes come home at 2 or 3 a.m. and find some of the older kids still up and talking. One thing I can say with confidence is that we don't have the same predators Western countries have. When my very protective cousin, wife and 7 year old son came for a visit this summer, they very quickly got use to the idea of letting him join the other kids without a worry in the world. I guess life here is different in that way. So tonight after sending Ashot home, I decided to walk down to Arthur's store to get some munchies. I walked in the store and this little boy of probably 3 years old looks up at me with amazement and says "Aran neh", meaning "it's Ara". I said hello to him and pat him on the head. As I'm waiting my turn, he stares at me with his big brown eyes watching every move I make. I take a piece of gum off the counter and give it to him. He smiles and runs to his mother. While leaning up against her hip and still staring at me, he says in a soft, secretive voice, "keedes, Aran neh". She smiles and the lady working behind the counter comments on how important I am to the children here. I ask him his name and he does not seam to know what to say, so his mother answers "Aram", like your name, only with an "m". They finish their purchase and Aram and his Mom walk out with Aram tightly clinching the gum I gave him.

Saturday, October 13, 2001

Well the weather is starting to change and it looks like winter is coming. Everyone tells me that we will have a mini-summer, which I guess comes in November and then winter will sets in. Regardless, it made me think of how I'm going to stay warm this winter and heat my house. I mean coming from Southern California it's not something that I've ever really had to think about too much before moving here. My house there had a central heating system and all I had to do if and when it got cold was turn it on. But here it's a bit different. Right now you can hear the sound of saws and axes cutting and splitting wood, as people get ready for winter. Last year I hired a crew to go and chop down a forest of trees for hardwood flooring and to burn. Part of the burning wood I donated to the two preschools we have here in Martuni and also gave some to my close friends (I still have enough to last me a couple of winters). In my house I had a wood stove and an electric heater going and that seamed to do the job. I only had the problem of remembering to dress warm (something I'm not use to doing) and got sick twice. Well this summer I decided to complicate things and had the ceilings in my house painted and the walls whitened. So if I put the wood stove in this year, everything will blacken for sure. I have radiators in my house, but since we don't have natural gas yet, it's a real chore feeding the boiler with wood all night and day (I tried it for about a week the year I had the system installed, but it was too much work). I'm told that I can add a 250 gallon tank and some drip system so it will work on diesel, but considering that diesel is now $1.45 per gallon (last year I think it was less than half that) and its average use is 2 gallons a day, were talking something like $85 a month, which is way more than what I spend on electricity during the winter months. I saw in Yerevan electric blankets, but being that they were Turkish, it was not an option. So after thinking about it long and hard, I decided that I'm going to spend the winter in Costa Rica!!! Just kidding. I guess I'll move into one of my smaller rooms and just crank up the electric heater and hope that we don't have many power outages. The locals tell me that I can solve all my problem by getting married. I don't know how they figure that's the solution. Maybe they figure my wife will make her way through the snow to keep feeding wood into the boiler? I would never allow that!!! Just kidding, I would. I mean NO, it's wrong for them to think that way!!! How dare they!!! Let's just hope we have a short and mild winter.

Thursday, October 11, 2001

I'm so pooped out with all the weddings and birthdays parties I've been going to. I mean it's a good sign to see so much activity here, but with two a week, it's just too much for me to deal with. What I've noticed is that Armenian's love to entertain and when they invite people over for a celebration, they don't skimp on anything (though most don't have it, they find it someplace). The typical party here is done at ones house and I've never been to a gathering with less than 100 people. I mean if you're going to party, you have to invite everyone. They set out these long tables and barrow dishes, cups and utensils from their neighbors and relatives. Part of the talent of giving a good party is to not only prepare as many different tasty dishes as possible, but to stack them as high as you can. Though there are always these great salads and cooked dishes, my favorite has to be the 100% pure honey with butter, on home-baked bread, yum!!! Besides the food, drinking is a big deal here, though it can be very dangerous. No one drinks alone and those that don�t drink are looked upon a little strangely. I'm not a drinker and fortunately people are now use to me not drinking too much and are okay with me just lifting my glass for a toast. Beer is not considered a real drink, but is very strong (11 to 12.5% alcohol) and the wine is usually so good that you think your drinking grape juice and don�t know that your drunk until it�s too late (it's happened to me a couple of times). Then there�s the vodka (a man�s drink!!!), which in most cases is made of white mulberries and is way too potent for me (up to 70% alcohol and not only a drink, but a medicine that cures just about anything that could ail you when taken with fresh garlic). Next month the high season for weddings will end and winter will set in. The layer of fat that I�ve acquired will burn off by the end of winter when I finish hibernating and it will start all over again next year.