Friday, April 20, 2012

Girls Leading Our World Camp

Hello Everyone!
I just got back from my close of service conference where I heard some alarming news. This year our GLOW camp, an amazing Peace Corps sponsored camp that teaches young women about career paths, leadership training, and gender development issues is in serious trouble due to lack of funding this year. If you remember last year I nominated three incredibly intelligent young women who attended this camp and came back with so many ideas that they have already put to action in Spitak. This program is really empowering for young Armenian women who often don't have many chances in an extremely male dominated culture. Among other things, Glow camp teaches AIDs education, in a country where aids is never discussed but raising in numbers... It teaches women how to protect themselves, how to ask their future husbands to be tested and how to talk to other about it.
Last year I discussed the impact that this camp had made on my students in this post

I have never solicited funding via my blog nor facebook, but I am making an exception this once because I truly believe in this camp, Armenian women and their futures... If you'd like to make a donation please please please, follow this link

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Spring has sprung

I couldn't resist taking this picture of my 3rd grade boys yesterday in class! They just look so polished and grown up! It was also a sign that spring has finally begun. No more ugly winter clothes!!! The sad thing is it's my last spring in Armenia. Today I will head to my COS Conference which stands for close of service. Peace Corps is preparing us to leave the country and go back to our ordinary American lives... I can't even imagine what that will be like at this point.

I have about a month left to spend with my amazing students and then only summer remains before I come home. So one more round of Armenian Ice cream, lazy mornings, fresh amazing fruit and vegetables, a few summer camps, at least one more wedding, hopefully some last Armenian sightseeing trips and then I am out of here. Time goes by so faster that we can catch it and learn to cherish it.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Armenian/American love

So as I said in my previous post, yesterday I travelled to the tiny little village of Arteni, to go to a wedding. This was no ordinary wedding; this was the wedding of a Peace Corps volunteer to a Host Country National, or HCN as we say. Not just any HCN either, this was the wedding of my friend Scott to his counterpart Mary!! That is right; he married the person chose at random to be his lifeline in Armenia, kind of makes us question how much is really ever random!! No Peace Corps volunteer ever comes to country thinking that they will find the person that will find their true love. Most of us don’t even think we will find anyone to date while we are in an isolated part of the world. During training the doctors explain to us that no one ever thinks they will fall in love here and most take a vow of celibacy but that statistics show that in fact most of us will actually find some sort of love and that many of us will marry the person that we find. I can remember hearing this and laughing with my friends as we all said yeah right, and I believe my friend Scott was one of those people.
So that Scott fell in love with his counterpart is an unexpected course of events, unless you were around on the day that all the TEFL volunteers met their counterparts that is… On that day, Scott fell in love at first sight, and since that day there has never been anything else on his mind other than making Mary his wife. In November of 2010 we had a counterpart conference with all the English teachers and their colleagues. We were sitting around having some beers when Scott announced that he wanted to marry his Mary! At the time I thought he was absolutely out of his mind, at that time I had still not adjusted to the culture and couldn’t see how any American could have a serious relationship with a HCN… let’s just say my views have changed since then…
So as you can see the love story of Scott and Mary is one that is described with one word: DESTINY!! Really, I haven’t been this excited to witness a marriage in a long time and I was so glad to be able to take part in such a beautiful mixture of American and Armenian culture.
When I first arrived to Arteni with my boyfriend, neither of us really knew what to expect, as this wedding was neither Armenian nor American but instead a hybrid of the two. When we arrived we were greeted by a large number of Peace Corps volunteers who all came to support Scott, but what was most exciting was seeing his parents standing around anxiously not really knowing what to expect. I tried to imagine what they must be feeling, this being their first time in Armenia, not speaking the language and never having witnessed an Armenian wedding. I thought back to the first Armenian wedding that I attended almost two years ago, and remembered how confused I was but also how interesting it all was to me. I guess what made is so amazing to me, is that they were brought to Arteni of all places, a place that even my Armenian boyfriend commented about the poverty there. I can’t imagine what they thought seeing for the first time where their son has lived for the past two years and where their new daughter grew up. I also thought how amazingly lucky Scott is to have two parents that were willing to make such a long journey to share this day with their son. What’s more, they actively participated in every step of the way, from dancing with the Armenians (more of just clapping their hands), to placing the levash over the bride and grooms shoulders after the vows were said, to taking toasts with a group of Armenian men, when they really had no idea what was being said.
I have to say that I loved every moment of the wedding but my favorite part was when all the Peace Corps young women were invited in to watch the bride get dressed. An Armenian woman belted out a beautiful song about the brides dress and her wedding day as loud as she could, as this is usually the job of the groom’s family, but being that only Scott’s mother was there, and she doesn’t speak Armenian, and the rest of us girls don’t know the song, she went at it alone as the bride was tied into her dress and pearls were put around her neck and on her ears. Scott’s mom explained to us that the earrings had come from her mother in law, which made it so much more special, and a fantastic sweet blending of cultures. The Armenian woman, red in the face and no longer able to carry the weight of being the sole singer asked us to sing. We all looked around for a moment and then out of nowhere someone began singing Going to the chapel… I can’t tell you how beautiful and sweet it was… possibly all the more beautiful because we really have some girls who can sing. The Armenians sat around us staring and smiling and the end gave us a huge round of applause…
Really it was such a magical day, and because there was a huge amount of Americans who had no idea how to Armenian dance, I even had a great time dancing with my boyfriend, though mostly he laughed at us all. And for the first time, I tried, and learned to dance the traditional Armenian folk dance that I have seen at every single wedding but have always been afraid to take part. So congrats Scott and Mary, really I think that the two of you were destined to be together and wish you all the happiness in the world!!

Ode to Spitak

I spent most of my day yesterday driving throughout the Western most parts of Armenia with my boyfriend, traveling to a wedding in Arteni, a village so small and obscure most Armenians have never even heard of it. Over the course of 3 hours we saw many different small villages that we had never heard of before and of course we experienced Talin and Arteni first hand. I have to say, I am used to villages and small towns here but man did this experience open my eyes to how poor some parts of Armenia still are. It is very easy for me to live in Spitak which is a relatively big town and to forget what it used to be like living in Alapars where we had no running water and had to go to the stream to collect it a few buckets at a time. So anyways being in Arteni has made me appreciate my Spitak much more and I thought I'd share with you a video of my beautiful little spitak which I have grown to love and sometimes hate with love. By the way for you A-20ers, Spitak will become home to two or three of you in August!! I just hope you guys learn to love it as much as I do!!
And also I added a Sophie picture because really she is just so cute!

Monday, April 2, 2012

A happy little birthday party

One of my 3rd grade students invited me to his birthday party!! It was actually really sweet, I sat at the table with 12 9-year-olds in their mini chairs and ate cake with a mini fork... I felt a little bit awkward being the only adult sitting with the little kids, but to be honest it was really fun and all my students stared at me the whole time like woah she really came!! And when it comes down to it, I realize that I get along better with children and animals anyways so I might as well accept it and start sitting at the children's table more often!!!