Sunday, July 27, 2008

Saying goodbye

The host family, my best friends and the entire village demanded visits and time during my last week here. I spent long reminiscing about what it was like when I first arrived (i.e. poor Armenian, confusion over water availability and frustration with rowdy children in school) and how so much had changed over the last two years. If I had 300 dram for every time someone said the time had flown by so quickly I'd be able to buy a plane ticket to America.

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

Teacher Excursion

As a goodbye and one last opportunity to toast to the health of Americans everywhere, the teachers from my school decided to plan a two day trip to Lori Marz. We toured Tumanyan's (a famous Armenian poet) home and museum, two famous curches and spent hours upon hours singing and dancing in our small bus.
One may aruge that there was a lack of organization when, at midnight, no one knew where we were going to stay that night. I was sleeping peacefully in the bus when my director informed me that we had found a grandmother who lived alone who could 'comfortably' host us (or 15 of us) for the night in her home for 1,000 dram (less than $3) a person. We moved in and soon thereafter I realized the bus may have provided a quieter sleeping arrangement. The women started jumping around and giggling like 14-year-olds! I guess girls will be girls. We had a fun time in that house. It's almost like Couch Surfing only with less planning.


The table all set for dinner

A short snack stop on the road: Hot dogs, cucumbers, tomatoes and sour cream


Our sleepover

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Civic Leadership 2008

On July 13th, thirteen students from Vanadzor, Idjevan, Nor Kyurin Village and Yereghnadzor joined twenty-three of my students for a five-day civic leadership camp in the village.

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.