Saturday, September 22, 2007

What do you do with an organizational communications degree?

You build playgrounds!
I didn't know what I signed up for when I arrived in Armenia more than a year ago but in February when Alla and I began surveying the community for project ideas it became clear that four years of studying situational analysis, research skills, group work and project management would culminate into playground construction. With only experience at Habitat for Humanity for guidance I rolled up my sleeves and gathered the villagers for every step of the process from the grant writing to the hole digging.
On September 20 the Secondary School hosted our grand opening of "Bari Lur". With representatives from the Peace Corps, mayor's office and marz center office, neighboring schools and even AED we celebrated the collaborative work of more than 50 community volunteers. It was a nice day.

Students at the school entrance holding bread and salt, wine and fresh fruit for our guests.

The students lined the school drive with balloons and signs. My favorite one read: "Thanke you!" The entrance was grand with nearly 400 kids screaming and clapping.

After speeches and the presentation of certificates of appreciation my school director (left) and PC Armenia director Lee Lacy cut the red ribbon.

We played mini futbol, basketball, sang and danced to celebrate.

Friday, September 14, 2007

I've got the blues

I got home from a parent meeting last night craving Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. Thanks to a generous care package I had the Kraft but the family didn't have any butter or milk. Being the resilient PCV that I've become I turned to Samvel and asked him to run next door to our vice-principal's store for a stick of butter. I went upstairs, changed my clothes and yelled for Sargis. Sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do...This was my night to learn how to milk a cow.

The box only called for 1/4 cup of 2 percent milk. Patiently, Sargis sat beside me and showed me the procedure. I milked for awhile but lost interest and asked if he wouldn't be willing to finish while I went inside to boil the water. The family had no idea what I was doing and the men sat in disbelief at my attempt.

Donara looked at the orange pasta on the box and questioned my ingredients: Milk, butter and pasta didn't seem like much to get so excited about. I explained that growing up this was the only thing I knew how to make (shamefully it is probably still the only thing I can't mess up) and that there was definitely a different taste when the macaroni is shaped like cartoon characters.

Nervously, I boiled my fresh milk and mixed in the package of powdered cheese. I didn't know if my anticipated meal was going to taste like cow or not but much to my delight it was 'shat hamove' very tasty.

If going out to milk the cow at 8 p.m. to make your mac & cheese isn't Peace Corps I don't know what is.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Environmental club creation

Alla and I decided to build off of the success of the summer Green Camp by creating an after school club/mentorship program. Ever since I arrived I had wanted to inspire some sort of Big Brothers/Big Sisters activity but I wasn't sure how it would work. After a year things have come together and our first meeting was held yesterday.

Fourty two students in the 6th -10th grades arrived after school to learn about our plan to volunteer in the village kindergarten. We obtained lesson plans from an environmental NGO and described what would be expected of club participants. The kids were enthusiastic and anxious for leadership positions. Twenty students nominated themselves for club president and vice president positions. Elections will be on Friday.

At the end of the meeting we passed around a sign-in sheet and I instructed the students to mark if they were interested in the fall or spring sessions. The room errupted in laughter and I turned to Alla in surprise. She said: 'You just commanded them to get engaged!' I laughed too and turned back to the students; telling them to 'mark' the correct box and later we'd get married. We all enjoyed the slip up...while I made a mental note to get back to my language studies.