Monday, June 30, 2008

FLEX Session 1

After three days of classes on cultural exchange and shock, host families and high schools, and how to make friends with Americans our first group of FLEX finalists are prepared to leave for the states.

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

Harvest time

Last Sunday I spent the day in the orchard picking our crop of freshly ripened apricots. After collecting for awhile I fought a tough battle trying to convice my host father that I wasn't going to fall out of a tree and break my leg reaching for the best of the best from the top branches.

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:

First, you have to pick 'em...

Then to market...

With every last one finding it's purpose...these lucky few being juice and jam

I've finished all of my travel and now with only six weeks remaining I'm getting ready for a civic leadership camp and our FLEX pre-departure orientation (next week). Oh, and there's the job search too. It's a shame I won't be around for watermelon season. Maybe I just won't leave...