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The Lindsey & Tony Peace Corps Armenia Web Site
The Lindsey & Tony Peace Corps Armenia Web Site
Barev Dzez Hayistanits!
(Hello to all from Armenia!)
The Official Tony & Lindsey-Peace Corps Armenia Newsletter
Volume 1, Number 1 January / February 2002
Bari Or! (Good Day!)
It’s hard to believe, but as of February 6th, 2002, we have been living in the beautiful little country of Armenia for eight months! It’s been an amazing, challenging, and rewarding experience so far, and we want to share it with our friends and family throughout our months here. This is the first edition of our newsletter. We hope to send it out, via regular U.S. post (with the help of our overseas publishing houses, Jean White and Jane Smith) and via e-mail, every three or four months.
Where to begin? Maybe on June 6th, when we and 34 other Americans, landed at Zvartnots Airport, in Yerevan, the capitol city of Armenia. We became the 9th group of Peace Corps Volunteers to serve in Armenia since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991. As Peace Corps Volunteers, we made a commitment to serve in Armenia for two years.
Before we entered into service, we spent three months in intensive language, cultural, and technical training in Gyumri, Armenia. Gyumri is a city in the Northwest part of the country, and very close to the Turkish border. So close, in fact, that one of the Volunteers in our group accidentally, well, crossed the border (making our group the first to cause an international incident, before our service had even begun!) It is also the city most affected by the terrible earthquake of 1988. Everybody in the region lost family members in the catastrophe.
We lived with an Armenian family in Marmashen, a small village outside of Gyumri. Talk about cultural and language immersion! Nobody in our host family spoke much English, and so we had to learn the basics of Armenian quite quickly. Our host family consisted of Hrach, our host-father and Director of a nearby village school; Saida, our host-mother and a Math & Physics teacher at the local school; and their three children, Lilit (their 21-year old daughter who was just finishing her studies at the Gyumri Polytechnical Institute, and who got married at the end of the summer!); Mkho (the 19-year old son who was studying at the Polytechnical and preparing to go into the Army in the spring); and Zaza (the 14-year old son who knew the most English and often helped translate for us).
During most of the week, we studied language with our language trainers in the village. Two days each week we went to Gyumri for cultural and technical training, Tony in Community Health Education, and Lindsey in English as a Foreign Language. It was a busy summer! We spent a week with some volunteers in Dilijan, a former Soviet resort town near Lake Sevan (the biggest alpine lake in the world), in July. Our training also included trips to Yerevan and to Sevan. Mostly, however, we stayed in our village and learned A LOT about the realities of life in Armenia, after the earthquake and after the Soviet Union collapsed.
Our permanent sites were announced in late August. We were assigned to Goris, a small town in the southernmost Marz (Province). Tony was assigned to work with a health organization and Lindsey was assigned to a Government Teacher Training Center. We took our oath of service (the same oath that the U.S. President and others in government service take) on August 24th, 2001, and left for Goris the next day! (to be continued...)
An Armenian Language Lesson
(by Lindsey, with An approximate English tranliteration!)
Hello! Barev Dzez!
How are you? Inch speses?
What’s up? Inch ka?
What are you doing? Inch es anoom?
OUR FRIENDS IN GORIS
The Peace Corps experience is an interesting combination of immersion in Armenian culture and interaction with other Americans. We are lucky to have two other Volunteers from our A-9 group who live in Goris, so when we want ‘American’ interaction, we get together with them.
continued on p.2
Our Friends from p. 1
Sara Todd is from Milwaukee, where she graduated with a degree in Economics and International Relations. She works as a Business and Community Development Volunteer in Goris. She is a great cook and also a long-time vegetarian, so we cook lots of great food together! We also are honing our skills in puzzle assembly, and have plenty of conversations, both philosophical/political and goofy. It’s a relief sometimes to just chat in English, as we spend our days stumbling around in baby-level Armenian.
Lynn Noell, also our sitemate, is from Chicago. She is a nurse and public health educator, with many years of experience in Chicago hospitals. She’s working with the Goris hospital, helping them upgrade their diagnosis equipment and (hopefully) develop a mammography center. She’s got three kids in the States, and a cockatiel named Fred, and entertains us with news of all of them!
But of course, we also have lots…and lots…and lots…of Armenian friends. In fact, we suspect that in the next year and a half we’ll have had coffee in every house in Goris and some of the villages nearby! We’re well on our way! Some of our best friends are…
Nara Martirosian—Lindsey’s work counterpart and Armenian teacher. She is 22 years old, but wise beyond her years (she says it is because she is the oldest in her family of four, and also because her birth month corresponds to the month of the apple tree, which means strong and independent). She is from the village of Tatev, which is famous for its amazing 8th Century monastery/fortress. She studied Armenian language and literature at her university, but has taught herself English. Her hope is to travel abroad this year (maybe even to the United States) and although we’ll miss her, as she has done so much to help us settle into Goris, we wish her “Bari Janapar”! (Bon Voyage in Armenian!)
One of Tony’s good friends is Narek, who is fifteen years old, fluent in English (again, mostly self-taught, although he has studied it in school), and a computer genius. Really. He hopes to go to Yerevan State University (which he will start next year—Armenian college freshmen are usually 15-16 years old!) in computer engineering. Eventually he wants to work for an international computer company, preferably IBM or Microsoft. He’s incredibly busy, getting ready for the end of school, the final state exams AND the university entrance exams (separate in Armenia). But he and Tony get together and chat computer games and tech-head stuff when he has time.
We’ll tell you more about our Gorisetsi (from Goris) friends and families in the next edition of Barev Dzez!
FOOD in ARMENIA
We have had lots of opportunities to sample the cuisine of Armenia, which seems to be a mixture of Russian and Middle Eastern influences. Although we were warned that maintaining our vegetarian lifestyle might be difficult here, it hasn’t been. In fact, Armenians themselves do not, as a rule, eat a lot of meat. They can’t afford it. Once they get over the idea that we SHOULD be offered meat as their special guests, they are relieved not to have the expense. Since the most common form of hospitality here is coffee and sweets, we’ve included the recipe for Armenian coffee (Haykagan Soorch) below. More recipes in future editions!
Armenian coffee is thick, black and sweet—a very traditional Middle Eastern kind of coffee. To make it, you need finely ground coffee (as fine as Espresso, but NOT espresso coffee), sugar, and little tiny cups the size of doll tea-cups.
Measure into a small pot 2 tiny cups of water; 2 teaspoons of coffee, and 1 ½ to 2 teaspoons of sugar. Put on a medium flame until it just boils (it will boil over and burn quickly, so you must watch it every second). Pour the coffee, grounds and all, into the tiny cups. Serve with a cookie or sweets of some sort. Never, ever drink it alone! Armenians always drink coffee with friends. As you can imagine, Lindsey, with her caffeine addiction, is in heaven—and even Tony, who never drank coffee in his life, has begun drinking coffee Armenian-style!
Well, that concludes Edition #1 of Barev Dzez.
We love mail, by the way, and PEANUT BUTTER (it doesn’t exist in Armenia).
Our mailing address is:
Tony White & Lindsey Smith
c/o Peace Corps Armenia
33 Charents Street
Yerevan, ARMENIA 375025