Volume I Number 13: Schnorhavor Nor Tare yev Tsurp Tsinoond

Volume I, Number 13: January 10, 2005

Schnorhavor Nor Tare yev Tsurp Tsinoond (Happy New Year and Merry Christmas)

Hello Friends and Family,

We hope that the holidays have treated everyone quite well. It left us quite a few pounds heavier, though we probably needed it. Snow arrived a few days ago. We haven’t had snow since late November so it was well overdue for our area of Armenia. The weather was fairly nice during the New Year but, along with the snow, a cold front has settled over us. We’re back to wearing many layers and sleeping with extra blankets.

Christmas was very meaningful this year. We missed not being home with our family for the holidays and did not want to spend it alone. When a volunteer in Vanadzor offered to have volunteers come to his city to help distribute presents to needy children, we jumped on the opportunity. 15 volunteers came to the event to help distribute gifts and serve lunch to the children. Some of the children put on a Christmas play and others sang holiday songs. Over 40 children attended the event. Volunteers purchased gifts for the children and Santa Claus made a special appearance to help distribute the gifts. The children were very excited. After the event, the volunteers joined together at a nearby restaurant for a Christmas dinner that lasted late into the night.

Our New Year’s was spent in Dilijan with our Armenian family. We arrived on December 31 from 5 hours of traveling and little to eat. We were warmly welcomed and settled into Dilijan life as if we had never left. The home was decorated with a tree, balloons, lights, and other festive decorations. As the evening wore on, we were growing a bit hungry and asked when dinner would be served. “Midnight” was the response. “Oh!” was ours. We waited and when midnight rolled around, the family sat at the table and feasted together. Eating a meal at midnight and staying up through the night is common here. The meal consisted of many different meats, fruits, salads, drinks and desserts. Throughout the first week of January friends and family travel to each other homes to eat, drink and socialize. Tables are left set up with food and utensils in anticipation for visitors. Each time we had a visitor in Dilijan the adults would sit, eat and drink. We left Dilijan on January 2 and continued this tradition back in Alaverdi. We didn’t feel hungry the entire week.

We aren’t doing much right now. I wish I could say we are impacting lives and saving the world but we don’t feel like we are. The winter months keep everyone hidden away, including us. We are spending our time reading books, preparing lessons for school, completing Peace Corps reports, listening to music, doing a little hiking when the weather allows, socializing with Armenian friends, and making movies with footage we have from last summer. We hope to show the movies when we come home. The little work we have done is editing some English text for an organization’s website that will help promote tourism in our area. We have heard that school will start on January 17, but this date has change quite a few times and no one seems to be sure, so we’ll remain flexible about this.

Next weekend we are going to visit Stepanavon, a city to the west of us. There is a meeting there for Peace Corps Eco-Camp Directors. Our site was selected, along with 4 others, as cities to have an Eco-Camp this summer. In early December, 7 sites applied to have a camp and 5 were chosen by Peace Corps volunteers. We are excited about having this camp for our area. 40 children will be able to attend the 5-day camp. The children will spend the days with us, have a free lunch courtesy of USAID, and go home at night. The camp will be organized similar to a day camp in the states. There will be songs, local guest speakers, hiking, lots of activities, and friendly competitions between groups. We will keep you posted on how the camp works out.

With the winter also come shorter emails. We just wanted to say hi to everyone. Our website continues to be updated so please check it when you get a chance. The picture section looks great. Thanks.

Your friends and family in Armenia,

– Brett and Laura

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