Tuesday, September 9, 2008


Since i always draw a blank when i try to write this like a journal, a 'web log' if you will, i will just cover a few basic things that people probably wonder about Armenia.

Before i came, Armenian food was described to me by various sources as a mix of Greek, Persian and Russian foods. This may be true to an extent, but it sounds vastly more exciting than the reality. The big traditional meals are dolma (rice and almost invariably beef, wrapped in cabbage or grape leaves and boiled), khorovats (barbecued meat on a shish) and the accompanying boiled bony parts called khashlama, khash (cow leg stew), and spas (yogurt soup with rice or wheat berries and mint). I often enjoy dolma and always enjoy spas (though i am in the minority on the latter point).

A typical breakfast might be fried eggs, fried eggs with beans, or boiled hotdogs, usually with lavash (flatbread that accompanies every meal in most homes), a pungent cheese, a large slab of butter and a fruit jam or muraba (jam with whole pieces of fruit). Everything is on the salty side (or over it), and the amount of butter or oil used to fry things is at least one order of magnitude greater than what i personally use. The murabas and jams are an unbelievable addition to the table, and to my life in general. These range from the traditional blackberry and raspberry, apricot, and cherry, to things i never dreamed of before, like rose petal and young walnut muraba. The rose petal is my favorite. I like to pretend i'm Nero when i'm eating it. The young walnut is made by cutting the green rind from the walnut fruit and boiling it for a long time, presumably until all the iodine is fixed, and the fruits look like black jewels. Then they are boiled in a sugar solution and canned. The result is a pure, black fruit with the texture of an apple, and inside is a sweet, creamy, walnut-flavored liquid as rich as liquour.

A lunch or dinner will often be soup, either vegetable, chicken or balls of rice and beef, heavy on dill. Hot peppers are often used, and can be unexpectedly very hot. They have a flavour similar to Hungarian wax peppers. There are also a lot of grains, particularly buckwheat, which i could eat almost exclusively. The table will almost always include a salted and oiled salad of tomatoes and cucumbers when in season. I haven't been through a winter yet, but i hear it basically comes down to potatoes, and lots of them (if you're lucky). So far, my all-time favorite is what is called, 'khaviar,' which means, 'caviar,' but is actually roasted and pulverized eggplant, tomato, pepper, onion and garlic. It's like babaganouj and tomato sauce combined. I could eat a liter of it at a time.

Fast food is kababs or schwarma, and comes in lamb, chicken or beef. They also do perashkas (pieroshkis) filled with potato and dill, for which i opt when i feel like making a bad health decision.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Address change

I am not going to post my address here (note the disclaimer above), but please be advised that i'm moving to my permanent location. i don't have the post office number yet, but please contact me if you want to be so kind as to send me something. there is no such thing as forwarding mail here. Still doing splendid.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


A quick post to let you know that we are all safe. There is no danger of the fighting spreading to Armenia.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Amrane, ev kyanke hesht e

Summer is here, and so are the flies. Lots of flies. Bees have started nesting in the woodpile we use to heat water for showers. They spend a lot of time sucking on the tar that the boards are coated with, though i'm not sure what they get out of it. Our time in the village is drawing to a close, which is sad and exciting. It will be nice to get a fresh start in a bigger city, where strangers won't necessarily know what i ate for breakfast. Also, i'm anxious to begin work, in both senses of the word. For those of you who are counting, the final language exam is on the 12th and we swear in as peace corps volunteers on the 14th. Wish me luck.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Panapapahnakan kertutyoon


it's been a while. we are halfway through our teaching practica, in which we corral all of the kids in the village into school during their summer break in order to teach them about the environment and to practice our discipline techniques. It's fun for me, if not for anyone else. The kids are pretty well behaved, considering their situation, and they are much more entertaining than adult students. And they really, really want to contribute. I mean, they levitate above their chairs when they think they know the right answer. I have taught lessons on seed dispersal, ecosystem succession, aquatic life, nature drawing and decomposition.

Also, i have been given my permanent assignment. I will be working with a teacher training NGO to help incorporate environmental education into other disciplines and teach techniques for incorporating students of different abilities. My work is definitely cut out for me, but i'm excited to see what happens.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Shnorh havor hoolisi 4-in!

Happy 4th, everybody.
We celebrated in style on Peace Corps' dollar. Every village had its own party, and we had a barbecue for all of our host families. There was about 15 kg's of meat for about 30-40 people, not including the lamb that our mayor had slaughtered for the occasion. Then every family brought desserts and side dishes. So basically it was yet another eating olympics.
Other events included pin the tail on the donkey (in which everyone cheated) the denting of a mercedes (when the smashing stick yielded before the pinata), tug-of-war (in which we got our asses handed to us), a fire and a few fireworks. Overall, it was a very nice time. But a lot of work.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

a dream i had

Last night i had a dream. I was the caretaker of a large and elegant mansion, whose rooms i had not entirely explored. The owner was an equally elegant, beautiful woman who was gone for an extended period of time. An intimidating man with a man and woman accompanying him forced his way into the house and was trying to hustle me with a redecorating project. Somehow he had managed to 'redecorate' the patio with a whole bunch of snake plants. Some were in crappy plastic pots and others were in elaborate, expensive pots. The man charged me $300, and i was relieved because it wasn't too much money. I wasn't happy with what he had done, but at least the price was reasonable. The owner had two black duffel bags that contained her important belongings, and on top of them was a key to the mansion tied with blue yarn and the owner's addressbook. The intimidating man was trying to take the key and the addressbook. For some reason, i had to show the woman who was accompanying the intimidating man to the basement. When i came back, the man was leaving with a duffelbag, and the other was already gone. I tried to grab it from him, but he already had the key and addressbook.