Wednesday, December 31, 2008
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
Monday, December 08, 2008
Here they are all lined up like ropes along the Deception Pass coastline. Strange floating whips.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
Saturday, November 29, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
The speaker panel included:
Lloyd Brown, Communications Director, Washington State Department of Transportation
Eric Jones, Marketing Project Specialist, Washington State Employees Credit Union
Derek Young, Founder & Editor, Exit133.com
Marcelene Edwards, Business Team Leader, The News Tribune
While each individual highlighted the pros/cons to utilizing a blog in their specific sphere, there were a few overarching messages that I thought might be helpful found applicable to any organization hoping to start a blog.
1. Appeal to a specific audience. Although this may seem like a basic tenant to any communications strategy, it was most helpful to hear that prior to establishing a blog site it is not always necessary to do a great deal of research and analytics. Interestingly, when Lloyd Brown set up the DOT blog in 2006, it was the night of a major crisis and he wanted to respond immediately by establishing a blog. Sometimes it's just a matter of getting started and then evaluating your readers after they start coming and commenting.
2. Eric mentioned (and the panel agreed) that blogs offer 'real person' testimony. Having a YouTube video or even video account links on a sidebar can help reach visual learners with current content.
3. Tone of voice is critical to success. Being able to develop a single voice (as opposed to several different writers contributing to a blog) helps readers gain a level of attachment for the site and continue to visit. In an effort to keep the tone on your blog positive, stick to the facts. If you must quote individuals (which usually results in nasty disagreements in the comments section) link your article (or post) to a reputable news source.
4. Maintain consistency. Panelists agreed that once a week is necessary (but it doesn't help to exceed 4-5 a day). Similar to the argument for strong voice, consistency helps people develop attachment.
5. Promote your site by: 1. utilizing other blogs and 2. tagging your posts effectively. Go to the Web sites that are most applicable to your target audience and begin leaving educated comments that build credibility as a reputable resource. People will find your blog on Google through your tags, but a link to your site from something they're already reading is best. Sometimes it's as simple as tagging your signature block too.
Any other tips I missed?
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
Monday, November 10, 2008
Saturday, November 08, 2008
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Monday, October 27, 2008
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Friday, October 17, 2008
Thursday, October 16, 2008
Wednesday, October 08, 2008
Monday, October 06, 2008
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Thursday, August 28, 2008
The Peace Corps teaches all volunteers more about themselves than we can offer the communities we serve. I learned about setting realistic expectations, building interpersonal relationships and how to focus on assets and resources rather than deficits and wants. I'll continue life in America with a more reasonable worldview and more patient work ethic.
Since leaving Armenia at the end of July I had the opportunity to travel to Moscow, through Russia, Mongolia, China (with a stop in Beijing for the Olympics) and Hong Kong. Despite the joy of seeing countries I never imagined I'd visit it's great to be home.
Thank you for your attention the past 27 months. It's been quite an experience and I appreciate your support and encouragement.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
I managed to visit most people I needed to see and pass out 'phone call cheat sheets' to everyone who may like to call me in the future. I had half the village practicing: "Hello, mei name iz ____" "Mei I have Sera".
The last night we spent at home, with people stopping by to say goodbye during our horovatz. My two best friends came over and stayed until I knew they couldn't keep their eyes open any longer...the family stayed up all night waiting.
We managed 8 in the car and after walking single-file up the car ramp and into the airport (we weren't sure about parking) I presented them with a scrapbook I had made from my two years in their home. As they flipped through the pages of our lives together they began to cry and I realized that the goodbye would be more difficult than I had anticipated.
I made them leave the airport before I went through security, shuffling them out the door and telling them to get back to the car. I told them to call so I wouldn't forget my Armenian and handed Donara my phone so she could keep in touch.
As difficult as it was to leave, I'm excited about the next three weeks of travel ahead. Beijing here we come!
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
The table all set for dinner
A short snack stop on the road: Hot dogs, cucumbers, tomatoes and sour cream
Saturday, July 19, 2008
The camp, sponsored by the Open Society Institute of Armenia and the Peace Corps, brought students together to study topics including corruption, human rights, civic responsibility and country studies.
Each afternoon the students used team-building skills to create and compete in country groups. Competitions included country introductions to a mock European Council, a culture exposition similar to the popular Armenian television show two stars, a mock war and a conflict-resolution rope game.
On the final day of camp, students were asked to imagine their country's future and participants painted a mural in the village's playground.
Students stayed in Surenavan with host families from the village. Each evening students were invited to gather for theme night activities including sports, movies, a disco and an excursion to Khor Virap, the famous monastery near Mt. Ararat.
Monday, June 30, 2008
Syd and I had a great time training, by far, the best group of Armenian 14 and 15-year-olds I've ever met. They were polite, respectful and participated in lessons. We had evening activities that even we looked forward to such as a Remember the Titans movie night (with buttered popcorn) and a 'critical thinking' scavenger hunt. On the last day we had them all worked up by scheduling a 5-hour 'test'. They were all delighted to find that they were taking notes at an American BBQ and dance party (including fresh made s'mores).
The entire group is split into two sessions with the second half having their training starting tomorrow. I can only hope that the next section will benefit as much from my advice on joining after school clubs as the first.
The future of Armenia
The students surprised me at midnight on my birthday with a huge 'bee-day' sign and singing.
Introducing the homecoming queen concept
S'mores. So tasty you want some more! (My dear student on the left hadn't tried them yet.)
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
The kids and I collected nearly 150 kilos before I decided my energy was better spent 'organizing' the boxes and crates into presentable rows and columns.
The next day I traveled to Yerevan on the train. It is my favorite time of year for this type of transportation. Spring and fall are when the train really comes to life with buyers and sellers loading their produce in through windows, yelling out prices and fighting for standing room. Luckily mine is one of the early stops so I always manage to get a good seat for the show.
My host father says that apricots have a different personality. They're more difficult than apples-which you can leave hanging for a few days. The family spent night and day in the field getting every last apricot down in it's right time. Even Sargis, my brother, stayed in a small 'domik' or shack to guard the crop in the night.
I've enjoyed seeing the process. There are pictures to illustrate it below:
With every last one finding it's purpose...these lucky few being juice and jam
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
All of the PCVs in Armenia are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the A16s on May 31st. This past weekend we briefly looked at their Yahoo! Chats and blogs. They're no different from how we were two years ago-- nervous, anxious and excited. I'm looking forward to meeting them.
In the next two months there's a pull to get all of my work completed (an endless battle) in the village while trying to balance the demands of 'house visits' to say goodbye and hunting for a job in America. Despite all of the work that needs to get done and people who need to be met, I'm most looking forward to the apricot harvest in June. Ararat Marz apricots are the best.
Sunday, May 25, 2008
*Eurasia is used by the U.S. Government to describe the republics of the former Soviet Union.
Tatiks look the same in Kiev as they do in Armenia
St. Michaels Cathedral
St. Andrew Street (for gifts and handmade crafts)
I returned to Yerevan after my ten day trip only to leave again for Georgia. I spent two days touring Tbilisi--my only excuse being that it is so close and I hadn’t made it to the beautiful city yet.
I returned to Yerevan and the same day picked up my dad. It was a joyful reunion of us laughing and crying in the middle of the Zvartnots Airport. After nearly a year and a half I couldn’t seem to pull myself together enough to worry one bit about the cultural scene we were making in front of an astonished Armenian crowd.
Dad and I toured Armenia beginning with my first host family in a village near Vanadzor, then by attending the National Spelling Bee in Hrazdan, followed by my current village and on south to Noravank, Jermuk, Goris and Tatev, finally back to Yerevan for my close of service conference. He got to do some very touristy things including scheduled tours of Gharni and Geghark churches but he also got a true perspective from the time we spent with my host families and in the villages. He got to fish with the kids, hike with my host father, BBQ with my host brother and even prepare ghngali (ravioli like pasta) with my host mom. He enjoyed horovats (BBQ) at least seven times in the nine days he was here and I’m sure he had more than enough homemade jelly, cheese and lavash to last him for awhile. It was fun to have him around to show off my translating skills and the villagers all enjoyed commenting on how ‘young’ he looked and how ‘intelligent’ he seemed. All very true statements.
Dad competing to make ghngali the fastest...host mom won
Sitting with the neighbor ladies
Spelling bee competitors
After my dad left I returned to work to finish up the school year. We received funding for our civic leadership camp taking place in July and finished our European Club’s ninth grade emigration/immigration service learning project. We organized our after school mentorship club schedule so the students from the secondary school would be able to continue their classes in the kindergarten during summer break. I spent the last week of classes teaching the seven and eight-year-olds summertime safety lessons and gathering summer camp applications for GLOW (Girls Leading our World) and BRO, (Boys Reaching Out) two camps sponsored by our Gender and Development PC initiative, from the older students.
On Wednesday the “Last Bell” (i.e. graduation) festivities began for the two graduating classes (11a and 11b) with a ceremony at Khor Virap. The students lit candles, listened to a speech by the residing pastor and received their last bell ‘bells’ (corsages) from first graders. On Friday, the students had ‘last class’ where 11a ‘packed’ a suitcase of all of the knowledge they gained during their school career and 11b created a future goal tree. Teachers made speeches, students voiced their appreciation, they got ‘pinned’ with their bells and then everyone drank champagne, ate cake and danced. Saturday was the last bell ceremony. After two hours of presentations by the students themselves, my school director recognized my last bell as a teacher in Armenia. I got pinned and was asked to speak. Here's what I said (in very eloquent Armenian)...
"Dear teaches, parents and guests, yesterday in 11a's classroom, during their last class, our students wrote their thoughts to this question: 'I'm leaving my school and with me I will take...' I thought all day about this question and must say that I will take a life experience from this school-- an experience that brought me new friends and strong skills. Yesterday in 11b's classroom, during their last class, our students built their 'Tree of goals'. My goal is to always stay connected with this school. Dear graduates, the age difference between us is not all that great, at most seven years. Let's work together in this small world. Let's help people, protect the environment and save the world together! I will give you some advice: In Mrs. Grigoryan's (my counterpart) classroom she has a saying on the wall: 'I listen, I forget, I see, I remember, I do, I understand'. Dear graduates, as much as you are able, try to take advantage of the opportunities you have in life. My life is richer because of the two years I experienced here and I am sure that you will also achieve your goals if you work for others. I am extremely grateful for Armenia. I wish all of you health and all the best. I will miss our school."
Oh graduation. School's out for summer!
Sunday, April 06, 2008
Naira and I drafted a contract for our participants. It read:
Miamsjak Miasin (A month Together)
"Move a lot, live long"
I came here because I want to live a healthy life and I want to feel good. I will try my best to learn new exercises and adopt them into my everyday life. I will try everything. Over time, I will live a healthy lifestyle. Today it is very important for us to maintain our health. This is not only important for me, but for everyone. When we are together, we are strong. As much as I am able, I will help the other women here.
The first day, all four participants signed. I was disappointed with the turn out, especially considering we had made attractive announcements and hung them around the village. I later realized that our problem was that women in their 20s and 30s don't go out walking in the village. Many, in fact, rarely leave their homes. I decided that it wasn't fair to tell my host mom, age 63, that she wasn't allowed to participate, especially since we had so few women the first day anyway and she came too. It has been three weeks since we began and we've had 15 women participate. My host mom surprises us all with her amazing leg-lifting ability and everyone is feeling better, stronger and lighter. I received a "Pilates for Dummies" disk and we're using it to learn exercises and improve our breathing. I couldn't be more proud of our group's consistency and enthusiasm. We even started adding in "running Fridays"
Who wouldn't feel good when, at the end of a difficult exercise class, everyone gathers in a circle, hands together, to cheer: "Miamsjak Miasin!"
Friday, April 04, 2008
The event was a nice opportunity for me to invite my Armenian language teacher and other PCVs to the village. We had four judges and numerous 'audience controllers' (as the students like to help one another out).
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
On Friday afternoon I decided I wanted to travel on the holiday. A group of girls were gathering south of my village and I wanted to celebrate the Armenian holiday with Americans. The decision was justified by the following conversation I had with my host mother on Friday afternoon:
Host mother: "Tomorrow is women's day-we're having a party."
Me: "You mean a BBQ?"
Host mother: "Yes, it will be big."
Me: "And who will set the table?"
Host mother: "Donara [my host sister]"
Me: "And who will cook the food?"
Host mother: "Donara"
Me: "And who will gather and wash the dishes?"
Host mother: "You and I will."
Me: "So really what you're saying is that the women are going to throw a party for themselves and then do all the work while the men sit and eat and toast to our holiday and health? I'm going to my friends house."
And so I did. I went down south and the five of us did girly things like get our eyebrows done (a 500 dram= $1.25 expense), eat cake and ice cream at a tea house, lay out in the sunshine and watch English movies. It was my ideal of a women's holiday-spent with women doing things that made us feel good.
On Monday morning I got to school and opened Yahoo! to find that internationally, women were doing things on Saturday that had a little more impact than getting my eyebrows plucked. There were interesting stories of tributes, rallies and celebrations. I was most struck by an article about Wajiha Huwaidar, a Saudi woman, driving her car in a remote area to mark the day. Appearently she posted her video on YouTube. Interestingly, there are very few women drivers in the regions of Armenia. In fact, it's pretty unique to see women driving in the cities. I'm constantly thankful for the freedoms of both law and culture that allow me live openly in our society.
Friday, February 29, 2008
As one of the volunteers expecting others to participate in this week’s festivities, I felt an obligation to organize my own ‘meeting’. I called together the leaders from my region’s Youth & Community Action Club to present background information on the PC, a personal testimony about my work at site and provide an open forum for questions and answers to my counterparts and the school director.
The Peace Corps is a source of great pride for my director and this village. As one of the first villages in the region to host a PCV in 2004, my director has always been admired among educational leaders for her proactive attitude and successful project writing skills. After the success of my small meeting on Tuesday, she took the initiative to attend the regional director’s board meeting on Thursday with the same speaking points, PC site application forms and a personal request to the Director of Education & Sport for an announcement to be made about applying for a PCV. She’s the best spokeswoman the organization could hope for.
While individual PCVs promoted the Peace Corps in the regions, in Yerevan opportunities were organized with the US Embassy to provide informal presentations, lunches and language lessons to staff. We were invited to sit in the cafeteria on Thursday and offer up conversation about our experiences in Armenia to both Americans and Armenians on break.
The hope is that more people will have a positive idea of the organization and apply for a volunteer to work in their office or school. Fifty new volunteers will arrive in June and the more sites willing to host them the better.
Thursday, February 14, 2008
In my village, however, there is no church and after yesterday's celebration there are quite a few cultural traditions left unexplained. Even though this is my second 'hopping over the fire' holiday here I haven't been able to find anyone in my extended host family who can explain the behaviors of February 13th.
The celebration is for newlyweds or newly engaged couples. If you happen to be fortunate to have one of these pairs in your family you have a fire to jump over and a party to attend. This year we had two in our family--both parties starting at 5 p.m.
Everyone arrived and a fire was lit in the street. The women gathered up beautifully wrapped bowls of baked grains and popcorn in addition to horovats and vodka. There's also a traditional dish called halva (although I think it's enjoyed in Russia too) that they carry out to the fire. Women surrounded the couple and everyone walked around the fire seven times. My friend Sargis told me that they walk around seven times in hopes of the bride having a boy and eight times for a girl. For the record, I can't imagine an Armenian couple walking around eight times. Regardless, the theory was quickly negated this morning when my host grandpa infomed me that the next step in the celebration process-of actually jumping over the fire- is what leads to fertility.
Seven times around (I later learned that this could be for seven days of the week...or maybe because 7 is a lucky number)...
After leaping over the fire three times a relative took one of the sticks and burnt a mark into the bottom of each of the couples pant legs.
Me: "Why is she burning their pants?"
Grandma: "To let all the bad things and illness come out."
Me: "Illness comes out of the bottom of our pants?"
The couple was handed a pair of candles and they lit each wick from the fire in the street. The candles were left burning for the duration of the party.
My host grandfather says that God looks down on earth and sees all the fires burning on this day and decides to change the weather. All the heat also helps of course. This is why it starts to get warmer after February 13th. Try telling that to my friends up in Gyumri who still have another solid three months of winter ahead of them.
After this we all went inside. Well, some of us. One of my favorite relatives decided she also wanted to jump over the fire three times. I'm not sure if she was wishing for fertility (she already has three kids my age) or just wanted to see if she could do it.
The party inside was just like any other party table with BBQ, dolma, fruits, candies, cold cuts, olives, cheese and lots of bread. We ate and toasted to: The couple, their grandparents, their parents, uncles, aunts, even me and my family. Each toast is followed by its own thank you toast. Needless to say there was a lot of vodka flowing.
After two parties I returned home and handed each of the four kids a piece chocolate. After all, isn't chocolate the most important aspect of Valentine's Day anyway?
Happy Valentines Day--I love you.