A Travellerspoint blog

Swimming in Sevan

Third time’s a charm! I was finally able to swim in Lake Sevan. The first two times I visited were way too cold to even think about getting in, but what a perfect day today was to take a plunge! Some looming grey clouds threatened rain, but the sun defeated them in the end, enticing us into the water with its warm rays.
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It didn’t take long for us to spread out our gear and stake a claim of Sevan.
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The beach in our area was narrow, but we had just enough room to sprawl. Directly behind the beach was a wooded picnic area. The covered tables and grills were all claimed by eager visitors. In true Armenian fashion, each crowd was barbecuing meat and vegetables and blasting danceable tunes.
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Vram had secured all the fixings for an enormous feast. He and his nephew tended to the fire, while I helped Sofia with the grilled vegetables.
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The end result:
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With only a couple more hours of sunlight left after dinner, we took to the sand and sea again.
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And then, it turned cold. Hoodies, blankets, and jackets became necessary.
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And just like that, it was time to wrap it up and head home.

Posted by NatalieSLC 05:23 Archived in Armenia Tagged living_abroad Comments (1)

Blended drinks and brandy brews

Unfortunately, it was all wasted on me. I'm talking about the brandy we sampled at the Ararat Brandy factory. While Ararat Brandy is world-renowned for its distinctive flavor and traditional crafting methods, brandy just isn't my cup of, er...tea. However, I'm positive that if I were a brandy-enthusiast, my drink of choice would definitely be Ararat. We tasted three different kinds: the 5 year Ararat, 10 year Akhtamar, and 20 year Nairi. Intoxication sets in from just sniffing the brew, especially the Nairi. I had a hard time even sipping that one.
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After Armenian language class last week, we invited the interns and coordinators to our house for cocktails and hors d'oeuvres. Elizabeth, Kathryn, and Sofia were busy bees preparing lavash rolls and blended drinks.
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We made Vram clean up after everyone. Hey, he deserves it. He hardly does anything for us interns. (Just a joke - Vram's ALWAYS got our back!)
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When I saw his washing I exclaimed, "Vram, my mom would be so mad at me if she knew you were washing our dishes!" Vram responded: "I thought you all have American standards." We do, but we have also maintained our Armenian hospitality.

Posted by NatalieSLC 04:01 Comments (1)

Sofia's birthday

Sofia Mnjoyan, one of our illustrious interns, celebrated her 23rd year of birth. She invited us to a party at her uncle's house where we were greeted with a plentiful spread, cake that reminded me of my youth in Glendale (the kind with the fruits inside and nuts on the side), and hoppin' and boppin' Armo-style.
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The interns chipped in to buy a top that was "so Sofia!" In addition, we girls let our creativity flow with odes and songs written especially for the birthday girl. Talene wrote and recited a name poem ("S" is for..., "O" is for...).
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Kathryn performed an awe-inspiring haiku that left us with questions about life and birth. Sweet innocent Liz from New Jersey got crunk with her "we're gonna party like it's your birthday" rap. And I, I delivered two personalized limericks.
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I dug deep and poured out my heart and soul in these limericks.

The Texan-Armenian Sofia
Beautifully sang Ave Maria
And other such hymns
To no one’s chagrin
Until she grew tired of the idea.

(That was in reference to her "sharakan" singing at Haghpat Monastery, then quickly disappearing.)

There once was a girl studying pharmacy
Who traveled to Armenia across the sea
Where she met other interns
And explored without concerns
The eternal land of their ancestry.

Charents and Sevak called; they want me to stop.

Posted by NatalieSLC 03:07 Archived in Armenia Tagged living_abroad Comments (1)

Catching up

I haven't updated the blog in a while, but we've had some pretty noteworthy experiences since I last wrote. Here are some short blurbs highlighting the best ones.

June 29, 2009
Before our delightful PB&J shindig we met with the Deputy Mayor of Yerevan, Kamo Areyan. He let us ask some acute questions and we didn't really hold back. Sofia drilled him about the deterioration of education quality taking place in order to meet European accreditation standards. I wanted him to comment about the lack of jobs that is plaguing the city and country. I know many people who have graduated college but cannot find employment. He conceded it as a major issue and admitted that Armenia's current economy cannot support an influx of repatriates, mainly because of the lack of job opportunities. I appreciate how willing he was to tackle the tough topics and how frank he was to admit Yerevan's problems. Here we are with Mr. Areyan.
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Yerevan City Hall has a history museum and observatory tower. The tower offers some snazzy views of the city. Yerevan_Ci..s_tower.jpg

More photos.

June 30, 2009
State Dance Ensemble
The pride and joy of every Armenian danseur and cultivated person in general. We had the spectacular fortune of attending the day of their 50th anniversary celebration. The interns were inspired to imitate.
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Let's leave the hard stuff to the professionals. Here is the poppy dance.
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Posted by NatalieSLC 02:37 Archived in Armenia Tagged living_abroad Comments (1)

Peanut Butter Jelly Time!

It was much more than just PB&J; there was PB&B, PB&A, PB&N, PBN&A, to name a few. (Peanut butter & banana, peanut butter and apples, peanut butter and Nutella, and peanut butter Nutella and apples, for those who don't catch my drift.)

The shindig was at Talene and Elizabeth's cozy apartment. Here's the gang showing off the goods and proving that Armenia does in fact have PB. (One of them is local. For the record, the Skippy was smuggled into the country from the US.)
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Liz, PB&J lover and gracious host, made custom sandwiches to order. No request was too weird for her. You want PB, sunflower seeds, apricots, and honey? You got it! By the way, that sink and cupboards in the picture? That's their entire kitchen.
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Liz has also developed quite the taste for Eastern surj (coffee), the official drink of Armenia. Two things Armenians love: coffee and ice cream. Ice cream vendors are on every block! Ashtarak brand is definitely the best. But back to coffee. My parents drink at least two cups of the stuff everyday, so I've had thousands of opportunities to try it but for some reason I never thought I'd like it. While here, I was a guest at someone's house who brought me surj without asking. Too shy to refuse it, I began sipping it and to my surprise, I really liked it! I love that I had to come to Armenia to appreciate the surj. Armenians typically drink some after dinner. Here's our post-PB&J surj.
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The happy PB&J gang. Interesting tidbit: that building outside the window is the KGB building. I'm pretty sure we were being watched.
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Posted by NatalieSLC 06:55 Archived in Armenia Comments (1)

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