Volume I Number 4: Birthday Parties and more

Volume I Number 4:July 30, 2004


(Brett typed and Laura approved)

Dear Family and Friends,

With the summer upon us and, for some of you, in full force we hope that everyone is doing very well. We are doing as well as we can. We have been having our ups and downs with living in Armenia but overall it has been a positive experience. We can talk about that in a bit. Since our last email we have been able to visit Yerevan (the capitol of the country) for a few days, meet our counterparts and visit Alaverdi, and enjoy a few birthday parties. We are having so many new experiences.

Before going any further, we’re sorry that everyone’s email address is showing. Yahoo doesn’t let us BCC more than a few email addresses when sending out a mass email, so we have to show everyone’s email address. If this is a problem then let us know and we can accommodate for future mass emails.

We would like to bring to your attention not to send any letters or packages until further notice. Since it takes about 10 to 20 days for us to receive mail, and we are leaving Dilijan in a few weeks, we recommend that you don’t send any mail until we get the address for Alaverdi. If you have sent mail then it should arrive to us in plenty of time. We just want to play it safe.

Birthday Parties! Our host family loves to have a party. The first one we had was for Laura. This was the warm up party for the two we would have in the following weeks. Laura turned 25 on July 16 and we had a fun time celebrating it. In the evening we had the 6 other volunteers in our area come on over for cake, ice cream, and beverages. The cake has got to be one of the best cakes we have tasted. Our host mother makes it from scratch. It is a white cake with white frosting. Check out our website for pictures of it. It is very creamy and moist. If our host mom would try to go into business she would easily blow away the competition. We both agree that the cakes she makes are better then Beaverton Bakery (for those from the Portland area). The ice cream is very delicious. We bought some vanilla ice cream bars to go with the cake. Ice cream and cake is not an Armenian thing. We sang Happy Birthday in Armenian to Laura and listened to our host mother play with piano. Also, Armenians don’t sing Happy Birthday as we found out at the following parties.

The next two parties were last Sunday for our host father Tigran (he turned 33) and yesterday for Leleet (she turned 11). The entire family from Dilijan comes on over (about 20 or so) around 2 or 3 to help with preparations. Lots of food, treats, and beverages! We all sit down and eat and eat and drink and eat and eat and drink and well you get the idea. This goes on for hours. There is a ton of conversation and laughter. We mostly watch since we can usually carry on a sentence or two in a conversation. We did show our pictures from America to the family and they loved them. After about 3 or 4 hours of eating and drinking it’s time to dance and dance and dance. Armenians love to dance. The music is very loud and you hear the same 6 or 7 songs all nights. When the song finishes, they stop the cassette and rewind it to dance to it again. It’s rather amusing. We get use to it and had a great time dancing to the Armenian songs. The songs are traditional Armenian, Russian pop songs, and a couple American country songs (not a familiar artist though). The party ends around 11pm or so. We have enjoyed these parties and look forward to the others. Please enjoy the pictures we sent from a couple of parties.

Two weeks ago we had the opportunity to visit Yerevan. It was nice to get out of the villages and visit the city that so many people have talked about. Yerevan is almost like its own country in Armenia because it is so different than the rest of the country. Basically, the city is comparable to a modern European city with full amenities, variety of restaurants, lots of arts, 1.5 million people (Armenia is only 3.5 million), paved roads, and many other opportunities. We had the opportunity to eat at the only Mexican restaurant in Yerevan and possibly Armenia. We indulged ourselves and savored every bite. The purpose of the visit was for each trainee to meet their counterpart. Laura’s counterpart was able to attend the conference while Brett’s was a no show. Laura’s counterpart is the English teacher at her school.

After the conference each of the Peace Corps trainees went with their counterpart to visit their site for a few days. Laura’s counterpart helped us get on the right buses from Yerevan to Alaverdi. The drive took about 4.5 hours. Alaverdi is a beautiful area and we are looking forward to our two years there. There is a large gorge with mountains atop of it with sparse forests and lots of rocky cliffs.

Emotionally we are going through a lot more then we had expected prior to leaving the United States. Itís very hard to let go of the things we were use to in our daily lives. We often think of Mineral and what our life would be if we were still there. It’s not that we want to be there right now but that it is the life that we knew most recently. We are still getting use to this life.

In the 8 weeks that we have been here there have been so many great experiences for us. Our host family has treated so well. They really do care about our well being and even ask how our family is doing in America. This is always nice to hear. There have been some great trainees and volunteers that we have met and shared some great times with. The country of Armenia is so beautiful. There is so much opportunity to explore the unknown of Armenia. We canít wait to finish training in 4 weeks to have more time to see these sites. Many tasty foods have been tried and the horovats (BBQ’d meat) is excellent. The men take pride in their horovats and it shows. The little successes we have had in working with children in our community have been wonderful to see. The times that we can carry on a 3 or 4 sentence conversation in Armenian and be understood have been wonderful. These times could never have been shared if we never made the leap to come to Armenia. We know that without these simple but meaningful experiences it would be hard to find meaning in our work.

Overall, we are doing great. We have each other and the support of many family and friends from home. Our host family just got a 5 month puppy and that has been great. We miss our two dogs, Duff and Skylee, a lot and this dog has been the temporary replacement. Thank you for all of your phone calls, emails, letters, and packages from home. We share the magazines and treats with friends so that everyone can have a taste of home. For those that we haven’t emailed back we will the next round. We’re sorry about the delay. We look forward to hearing back from everyone. Take care!

Hugs and Kisses,

Laura and Brett

P.S. The pictures that we were going to send can not be sent at this time. The computer we are using will not read our disk with our pictures. We will try next time.


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