Sunday, December 7, 2008

Attitude of Gratitude Video

The "Kazarian's In Armenia 2008 - Attitude of Gratitude" video is now
available for viewing via YouTube. or you can go
direct at, or the link to
the side of the page about the kids video.

Saturday, November 29, 2008


Join us for light snacks and a video presentation of our trip to Armenia, including our special guest Gohar Palyan direct from Armenia. She will share about her work with Armenian Habitat, and the Fuller Center. We will have a question and answer time following the presentation. We hope you can make it, to our house, Sunday, December 7, 3:30PM evite invitation:

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Back in Our House

We have moved back into our home in Fresno, Kalem is looking for a
permanent job, while filling in with construction projects, and
Jonelle is continuing to homeschool the kids, and unpack boxes. We
missed our home, and are glad to be back. We continue to process the
experiences we had while in Armenia. Please continue to pray for us
as God puts it on your heart, some of the most difficult work
associated with this trip is being done right now, as we talk and pray
as a couple and seek Gods healing, provision, and direction. We will
announce a date for a dinner slideshow at Lilly's restaurant soon, for
now we are beginning to take invitations for dinner at your house to
share about the trip.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Back Home

We are back! Some highlights from the return trip: We left Armenia
on schedule, and enjoyed movies on British Airways flight operated by
BMI. In London, we made it to the proper terminal and gate with
plenty of time and settled into our seats on the plane, when after
about an hour of sweating in "the back of the bus" they unloaded all
of the passengers, to continue working on a faulty part of the
electrical system for the lighting and air conditioning. They fixed
the part and then it broke again, this is when they handed out $10
food vouchers to each passenger, so we ate and waited. Once on board
four hours later the kids fell asleep immediately, we ate dinner and
watched movies and slept, and 11 hours later we were in LA. Going
through customs one of Kalem's favorite parts is when the officer
says, "Welcome home." On the baggage belt things were going good
until the last bag could not be found. An employee said some bags
were left in London, but then the next morning we got a call from
another passenger that they mistakenly took our bag. Several hours
were wasted trying to connect directly with this family and ultimately
we just left, so now we are waiting for British Airlines to ship our
bag to us. We were quite surprised how neither customs nor the rental
car company, took very much interest in checking for illegal items,
and damages respectively. All that behind us we are extremely glad to
be home and are now fighting jet lag as we settle in. The kids are
actually kind of funny as they wake up in the middle of the night and
say that they are hungry.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Coming Home

We have begun our return trip home already, with a short transition in
Yerevan at a relatives house, for a couple of days, and then we will
travel home via British Airways through London. We have many stories
to tell and will continue to update the blog with some of our past
experiences, as well as some thoughts as we transition back to
American culture. We plan to lay low for a couple of weeks, as we
process the experience. We are trying to put together a book
compiling our past blogs, with some new an never posted blogs, to give
a fuller picture of our experiences in Armenia. More details to come.

Sunday, September 21, 2008


Irony of all ironies is this, we have been living in this village for
four months now, without even the hope of an internet connection, and
two days before we are to leave our neighbor announced that they got
their internet to work! You know I tried everything that I could do
to get a connection for us, but some times it helps to know someone.
It took our neighbor's cousin who works at the phone company to
personally take their phone back, reprogram it and personally come set
it up. Today I was one of the first people to surf the net from this
village. Now this may not seem very impressive to you, but if you
think about the donkey "Eeawing" in the background, the burning dung,
the horse drawn cart, the dirt roads, and the mountains on every side
of this village, it is very impressive. As our neighbors put it "it's
a pity we didn't get the internet sooner," we do feel blessed to have
been here and to see God answer yet another one of our prayer
request. Although it is not always the way we would want or in our
timing, He is faithful.
On a side note just as I was coming into Gyumri to send this email,
and print the last batch of photos to leave in the village, I noticed
they had begun fixing the road entering Gyumri coming from
Lusaghbyur. This road is really a night mare, for about 1/2 a mile
and has been like that as long as I can remember. Add that to the
irony that as we are leaving the road that we use most is finally
getting fixed. Lusaghbyur is slowly becoming a more comfortable place
to live, especially for the four families that have remodeled homes
this year!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Mommy's 1st Day of School

See this smile? This is the smile of good old American
remedies...Imodium!!! One sick day was all I could handle...I really
wanted to get to school. Kalem, Peter and Frank joined Judi and I
walked together to our class sporting our new Barbie backpacks. And,
as usual, we attracted a crowd. All the kids from my summer school
mobbed us and asked if I was REALLY going to school. There was a
mixture of shock and admiration as they joined our parade to Dabrotz.
Soon the Teacher, Unger (literally Friend) Khachadouryan walked in and
Judi and I jumped up to get our picture taken with her. (One thing I
lamented when I began homeschooling was that my children would NOT get
a picture with their new teacher each year on the first day of
school...I have great peace now since every year when they take their
school picture with me, I can look back and see how different I look
each year!!!) Unger Khachadouryan was very nice to me when I met her
this summer and was very excited that I would be joining her class in
the Fall. Today, though, she seemed pretty cold and aloof. Perhaps I
was being too giddy, I have been known to be just a tad silly ; )
sometimes. She took her picture with us and then assigned our seats.
Of course Judi and I were separated and I was moved to the back of the
class. Each of the tables had two seats welded to the frame and metal
partitions were set between the two individual seats (this would prove
to be VERY important with two 6 year olds sitting at the same table/
desk.) Vaneegk got put in the desk in front of mine but in the
opposite seat. I will tell you more about Vaneegk and all the
students later but just suffice it to say that Vaneegk would be
classed ADHD in the States and be heavily medicated. He was told to
turn around and sit straight about 10 times that day. And I made a
bet, with myself, that he would be the first to get smacked! After we
were all settled Judi, who was caddy corner to me across the isle,
turned and said, "Mommy, look we are so close." Unger Khachadouryan
swooped in and said, "Lesee Judeet, eem tasoom meeine Hyeren chosoom
ek, yev YES KO MAMAN ice degh!" (Listen Judi, in my class we only
speak Armenian, and here, I AM YOUR MOM!) I could see this was going
to be a learning experience for me, much bigger than I originally
thought. And so went my first day of school...maybe staying in bed
one more day would have been good, even though I am 38 and by far the
TALLEST kid in the first grade...I was scared!

When Mommy is Sick!!!

Now you might be wondering WHY ON EARTH would I, Jonelle, let that absolutely HORRID picture of my sick self be sent out for all of cyberspace to view...well, I guess I can only liken it to having a baby!  I am an extremely modest person, BUT when in the throws of labor it seems that little matters in the area of modesty.  Let me expl
ain what I mean.  I was on my death bed as you recall and Kalem was working at the neighbors house.  I was trying to do homeschool with Judi, Peter & Frankie, on our King-Size mattress (praise GOD for the container FINALLY arriving!!) whilst under the covers laying flat on my back.  It was actually working...for an hour or so but then it got to be lunch time.  I sent Judi into the kitchen with these instructions, "Jude, get the peanut butter, honey, and bread and make sandwiches for you and the boys."  Seemed simple and straightforward enough...A few minutes later Judi came into our bedroom announcing, "Mommy, Tsoeegk is here and she wants to ask you something."  Again giving seemingly simple instructions, I replied, "Oh, Jude can you please tell her Mommy is sick and see if you or Daddy can answer her question."  APPARENTLY NOT!  Within moments Tsoeegk was standing at the foot of my bed, BUT NOT ONLY TSOEEGK...NO it was Tsoeegk, Aysa, Shoosh
anigk, Nellie, Vart, and two or three smaller size children all standing around my bed, staring at me!  Oh, the horror!!  I don't even want to look at me when I am sick let alone all these village women!  I wanted to die from stomach pain before but now I wanted to die of sheer and utter mortification.  There they were hashing over the story of why I was sick and all chiming in on what THEY thought the REAL reason was and what remedies I should pursue forthwith.  I was trying to explain to them that in America mostly we just want to be left alone when we aren't feeling well.  They assured me THAT WAS NOT how they were.  (So I had to put the picture in...I wish I had one of THEM looking at me...NOW THAT would have been priceless.)  They wanted to"HELP" (The 70's Alan Alda & Margo Thomas' LP FREE TO BE YOU AND ME popped into my mind "Some kind of help is the kind of he
lp that helpings all about, and some kind of help is the kind of help WE ALL CAN DO WITHOUT!)  Just then Judi came in the room and I asked why on earth she let "these women" in my room (You know that is the BEST thing about people here NOT knowing English...I can say whatever I want and not have to sensor...but I digress), Judi just laughed which made the women laugh and I laughed but only out of embarrassment.  "It's not the watermelon!  said Aysa, "Gegham brought us the rest of your melon and told us you got sick eating it...we laughed the whole time we ate the rest!"  Oh, please I thought, but I replied, "Zer stomachneren oojhegh en, eemnas tweel eh." (your stomaches are strong and mine is weak.)  Next came the in home remedies (mind you EVERYONE is a DOCTOR HERE...or so they act)  I had already  tried the one method Kalem tired; the spoonful of fresh espresso ground coffee...I felt like I was suffocating...ever try to swallow a spoonful of powder?  
Try it...IT'S ABSOLUTELY AWEFUL (that's funny, like when you smell spoiled milk that is just horrendous, but then you want others to smell it too...) I was about 10 minutes past that attempt when the peanut gallery arrived.  The women fought among themselves as to whose concoction was the soundest, but since Aysa and her two daughters-in-law out numbered the rest they "won".  They insisted that I needed to take LEEMON I could figure out the lemon part but it was the TUTSEE I was afraid of.  A few more minutes which seemed like hours past and the whole crew marched off to get the mysterious wonder drug.  I was left with the lingering smell of cow in my room, which I might add is NOT helpful for a sour stomach.  Shooshanigk returned with a folded envelope of newsprint and presented Leemon Tutsee to looked like large granulated sugar but it tasted like lemon flavored ACID.  I downed a spoonful and gagged on some water...she said I should be back to normal "quickly" but if in an hour I wasn't better to take another spoonful.  I don't 
know if the coffee grounds and the acid didn't agree with each other or if the LEEMON was doing the WATUTSEE in my stomach...all I knew is that helpful visit from the women of Lusahgbyur made me want to EVERY sense and there was NO WAY I was going to have one more spoonful of ANYTHING from those DOCTORS.  And as I lay in my bed reeling from the day's events my sweet angels made their lunch..alas it was NOT PB & J, not it was GRATED CARROTS WITH SUGAR POURED ON TOP (on top of the carrots, the table, the floor.  But my mommy says, "Some days are like this, even in ARMENIA."  Jonelle ;)

Friday, September 12, 2008

Sevan Cruz

Every year our family takes a few days off and enjoys what some call
the Armenian Riviera, or Santa Cruz. Up to our ears with village live
we decided to take a few days off and enjoy the real Armenian Riviera,
Lake Sevan. Now we have visited the popular an convenient West shore,
but we were told about the more secluded East shore. We packed up the
Niva and headed away from the village. Two hours later we reached the
far side of the lake and found the "resort" that we were told about.
We were shown to our "domik" (like a double wide trailer, with two
bedrooms, bathroom, living room and entry. All newly built within the
last three years. Our contact was the closest thing to an Armenian
Beach Bum that we have ever seen, laid back, tan, and always close to
the water. Motored raft rides, horse rides, all part of the $50 a
night domik fee. We enjoyed our rest and returned somewhat refreshed
and very burned.


Just found out today that our neighbor here in Armenia, Satanik, a 82
year old widow, had already prepared her grave. Her husband died
a couple years after they married, she has been living in a domik
(metal shipping container since the earthquake, 20 years ago. The
domik is extremely hot in the summer, leaks when it rains, and is
freezing cold in the winter. She has a relatively decent disposition
about life, but at this point it seems she is just waiting to die.
She will be buried next to her only brother who was killed in the
second world war. The basalt headstone has a picture of her brother
and already a picture of her. With no children or other close relatives to
look after her, she has taken the final preparations upon herself. It
is just a reality here, and I have not really experienced this before,
just thought I would share.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Twas The Night Before 1st Grade...

The night before my first day at Bullard High School, I threw up and
was sick the whole next day. Chalk it up to 9th grade jitters or bad
Chinese food. The night before my first day of 10th grade THE SAME
THING HAPPENED! What are the likelihoods of that? So I missed the
1st day of school two times as a teenager possibly from food but most
likely from nerves. The night before I was to start my matriculation
at Kyoogh Tduhbrotz No. 1 I was FINE. I was so excited to go.
FINALLY I, JONELLE, had a REAL class all to my self, for me to learn
the Armenian language PROPERLY with a teacher, books, homework and
all. I told EVERYONE. I had my clothes all laid out, my pencils
sharpened and a brand new notebook crisp and ready...but like a three-
peat of my high school career, I awoke Monday, 1 September with the
sourest stomach I have ever had in Armenia. I have not had a problem
with my bowels in my homeland and so I have told, nay, boasted to
all. "Kalem just has a weak stomach." I would say. But that morning,
even if I tried to swallow those words they wouldn't have stayed in
me! I know I was excited but could I possibly be scared of THE FIRST
GRADE? Maybe so but I contest it was the WATERMELON!!!! Kalem can
confirm this as we have done personal and costly (to our innards)
experiments with said fruit. Locals say that if the melons are left
in the hot sun all day, day after day they turn to "POISON". Of
course I did not believe this at first and had quite a few delicious
sumerook since I have been in Hyeastan, which I took to mean that I
had a cast iron stomach or that I was truly a deghatzee (Local)! It
actually begs the question, "How would one know if a melon had sat in
the sun all day, day after day?" This melon in question was purchased
from a traveling market (these are guys in vans or better yet cars
with boxes of produce stacked to the gills. Sometimes the whole of
the car is filled, back windows and all to the headliner of the moving
Khanoot.) and our neighbor even asked, "Are these things poison?" Now
I know I am not the best business person, but what produce peddler
(especially an Armenian one....) is going to say, "Yes, actually all
of my melons are terrible and you would do yourself and your whole
family a great disservice by purchasing one of my black-seeded TIME
BOMBS!" Whatever the culprit, the nerves or the melons one thing is
USA!!! And Lord willing tomorrow I will see if I can stomach the 1st
grade! Weakly yours, Jonelle ; {

Sunday, September 7, 2008

First Day of School

September 1st is the first day of school for the whole country of
Armenia. Everyone was scurrying about on Sunday, 31 August to make
sure they had their fresh notebooks, sharpened pencils, rulers, and of
course new clothes. In the Village school, the children in grades 1-4
have clothing requirements. The girls must wear black skirts, white
shirts and white socks (shoes are left to preference). The boys are
clad in brand-new 2 and 3 piece suits with newly quafted hair-dos.
The rest of the Tduhbrotz (school) wears what they like, but what they
like is THEIR BEST CLOTHES. I must say I DO NOT MISS the nasty,
scankie, and sloppy dress of American students, and the population in
general. It is refreshing to see kids who want to look their best.
That is not all...the students are taught to stand when an elder walks
into the room and greet them with a hearty "Barev Stez". Disrespect
and foolishness are NOT allowed by the teachers and the parents know
(and it seems, LOVE that the teacher is the one disciplining their
children!). While I was doing my School/VBS/Babysitting/English
Teaching/Refereeing this Summer, I was told by parents that if their
children misbehaved that it was MY JOB to smack them! Of course I
explained to them that is WAS NOT my job but THEIR JOB the other 22
hours they were NOT with me. Alas, this is the way they roll. Each
of the 1st graders received not one but two brand new backpacks; girls
got BARBIE, of course and the boys either a dragon motif or
SPIDERMAN. The packs were stocked with colored pencils, a ruler,
three pens, an eraser, one pencil sharpener, 9 small "blue books" in
the US but here they are light green. Four of them are for
Mateematicas with a grid pattern for paper and the other 5 are lined
for letters and writing. There was also one 8 1/2 x 11 pack of white
drawing paper, and one "packet" of colored paper (don't go picturing
the thick, pulpy American grade...No this is paper is a blend of say a
tissue paper and the transfer paper tailors use to mark white lines on
fabric. Oh and the color is only on ONE side of the paper, the other
side is white.) The first day started with all sorts of Pomp and
Circumstance Village style with a weak rendition of Mer Hyedeneek,
bouquets of flowers for each student (except Jude of course because we
are the newbies and NOBODY tells us what we need to do until AFTER the
fact : )!!!, and a general welcome to all the new and returning
ahshagertner (students). Of course I am writing this only second hand
because this 1st day of school did NOT turn out to be MY first day
along with Judi...No my first day of school was spent in an ENTIRELY
DIFFERENT way! More to come, more than you know....Jonelle; )

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The accident

A couple of weeks ago a few minutes after I had learned about the
benzine crisis I was driving around in Gyumri with the kids after
church (Jonelle was home with a bad headache), I had a long list of
things to pick up from town and was trying to make sense of the
situation, when I saw the calling card I was looking for in the window
of a street side stand. I had just entered a wide round about and was
maybe in the middle when I darted over the right to stop. The car
behind me honked and then they pulled over in front of me. I jumped
out to get the calling card while the angry driver was coming towards
me. I had seen plenty of accidents in Armenia and knew that a large
argument usually follows, but I didn't know it happened for near
misses. As I got my card the man tore into me, "why aren't you
looking where you are going, we almost had a bad accident." My reply
was you are right, it was my fault, I am sorry. This is a very
uncommon response here and not knowing how to handle it he tore into
me again. I explained the situation, apologized again and admitted
that it was my error. With sevral more warnings the man left me and
we were back about our business. The funny thing about this story is
that two weeks later I had stopped into a store in Vananadzor (East of
our village, 60 miles from Gyumri) for an ice cream bar and it just so
happened that the store owner was the same man who I nearly ran into.
We rehashed the same conversation, he again gave me more warnings, but
a least this time he asked what I was doing in Armenia and we had a
little nicer conversation. Armenia is a small country, but in the
seven months we have been here I have only recognized four people
while I have been out and about, this was a very strange meeting.
Fast forward to yesterday, I was in Yerevan to take care of a few
things and was headed to say hi to my relatives before I headed back
to the village. I was in a standard bumper to bumper traffic jamb in
the city when all of the cars in front of me slammed on their brakes.
I did to and nearly missed the car in front of me by inches, and as I
listened for the car behind me to stop also, I heard very little
breaks and and then a crash! Jolted nearly into the car in front of
me, I held my spot and then pulled over to the side to hash out the
situation. Again angry driver yelling at me, we argued about the
situation, and he claimed my break lights didn't work, and that we
should go right then to a body shop and get the car fixed. Although
they in fact did work but were weak from a low battery and bad
alternator. I know that the law is the same in Armenia, as in the US,
the person who hits from behind is as fault, usually for not keeping
enough distance. I called my cousin and he came over to help, but the
man continued to insist that I pay for the damages, then he called the
police over to help settle the situation. This took about half an
hour to get a police officer to the scene (where are they when you
need them?), and we went through the whole thing one more time. The
man continued to insist he was right so the road police called an
expert to measure skid marks and determine who was at fault.
While we were waiting my cousin left to take care of his business,
and the other guys off duty police officer friend also came to the
scene. Left alone in an unbalanced situation, but pretty sure I was
not at fault I waited to see what the expert would say. After a few
words with the man that I was not privileged to hear, I heard
something about him having to pay at least 20,000 drams ($65) to even
have the guy measure the scene. Finally, understanding the situation,
the man backed off, the expert officer asked if I had any problems, I
said "no" even though my cousin wanted me to have them get a new rear
bumper for the Niva (that showed little to no signs of an accident).
So after over an hour of waiting and arguing, I was finally able to
leave in peace, glad that the law prevailed despite what connections
one might have. In conjunction with many other experiences here this
is not a country where one admits their fault very easily.


With all of the comments and emails about the last blog (Ch Ga II), I
thought I would update the situation with what we do have (Ga). We
now have gasoline, and at decent prices. We have been able to leave
the village for church and rest. We worked very diligently at trying
to resolve the situation with our neighbors, and an understandable
stalemate resulted. Although it was not the best outcome all sides
were heard and rules were created for their kids not to be
unsupervised in our yard.
The power still goes off frequently and actually last week, the
"PG&E" guy changed the wires on our pole, that had melted and then
they melted again. Some uninsulated wires had touched and were
causing a short, he fixed the short and changed them again. For half
a day of work and 100 feet of thick wire I traded a 90 pounds bag of
cement about $10.
So now we have power most of time, we sort of have friends, and are
continuing to make new ones. We have benzine and our health most of
the time. But most of all we have hope, that God will provide for us,
though out all of these situations. As we also have many
opportunities to share our faith with many of the people who are
interested in us. Finally, we have all of you that are praying for us
and supporting us, thank you.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Ch Ga part II

When we were in Yerevan I wrote what I thought was a pretty extensive
list of things that were not available. Things like the gas being
turned off, the water being rationed a few hours each day, internet
not working sometimes, and the electricity being shut off for unknown
periods of time. After three months in the village my understanding
of "ch ga" (don't have) has greatly increased. Not only are the above
mentioned things periodically turned off, but there is a whole host of
other things that now not available.
This particular blog was inspired by the current absence of gasoline,
in the whole country! This is something particularly difficult to
fathom after living in America our whole lives. Sunday after church
in Gyumri I pulled into a gas station to fill up one gallon (4 liters)
to make it back to the village, and was surprised that they didn't
have any. Why you ask only one gallon? Our car was broken into after
only one month in the village and with the front seat headrests, the
radio and speakers, one windshield wiper blade, and $30 worth of fuel
was stolen. This lead me to buy a locking gas cap, but then when the
thievery continued three more times by breaking the lock on the gas
cap, I resolved to keep the car as empty as possible to prevent future
loss. I would keep about an old juice bottle full of benzine
(gasoline), in case the empty gas tank didn't get us to our next
destination. So I had used up the bottled benzine to get to church
thinking for sure I could just fill up both the car and the bottle and
return home. When the second gas station in Gyumri was also out of
benzine, I began to worry. At the third gas station, I just had to
ask what happened and where I could get gas.
The attendant explained that there was no gas in the whole town,
(Armenia's second largest town), this blew my mind, as I have never
experienced this before in my life. Next we decided to pray, as for
sure we didn't have enough fuel to even get home. In faith we decided
to try and see in what way God would provide. So just before leaving
the city limits, I spotted a sign in Russian that said "Benzine" not
that I read Russian, but after 6 months I've learned to recognize it.
There was a stack of gas canisters (not American red, but Russian
green), and God answered our prayer with us buying the last gallon of
gas that the old man had, for $6! I was more than happy to pay the
inflated rate just to get home. Asking again what happened to all the
gas, he explained that the rail line coming to Armenia from Russia
through Georgia, was blown up. Workers fixed the line in a few days
and then it was blown up once again.
Now we are "stuck" in the village, with just enough benzine to make
it back to the city to refill once the trains make it in. Not only is
Gyumri out of gas, so is Yerevan the capital city of this small
country, and every other city. The only cars on the road are the ones
that are fueled by natural gas. This has brought about a whole host
of other problems.
Since it is nearing the end of the month, the cash I withdrew for
this month is nearing it's end, and it's not like we can just hit the
"village ATM" to get some more cash, or use our Visa card at the
village store to buy food. So add to the list "pogh ch ga" (don't
have money). Jonelle can't go to Gyumri to teach her bible study
class, or shop for the items that just are not available in the
village. We don't have a T.V. or satellite dish like many other
people, no news paper either, so we don't have any idea what is going
on in the world.
Just recently our closest friends in the village turned their back on
us, after their mother slapped two children that she thought hurt her
grandchildren in our daily summer school at our house. Refusing to
apologize to us or the children who she slapped, we have had to ban
her grandchildren from our house. Needless to say this has negatively
affected our fellowship with our believing neighbors. So add to the
list "ungerner ch ga" (don't have friends). There are other people in
the village we know but by far we have invested the most time with
this family. This has also lead to unstable mental health as we
ponder these issues, and a general lack of freedom as we are stuck
here with neighbors that apparently don't want anything to do with us.
As you may also know, we were never able to get internet in the
village so by the time you read this the benzine situation should be
resolved, but remember it is Armenia so you never know.
Please pray for us that we finish our last month here in Armenia
well, that we continue to be living examples of Christ's love, as he
continues to streach us and teach us more about complete dependence on

Friday, August 22, 2008

Gegham Hopar

"Barev Gegham Hopar!" is the cheerful greeting I receive from dozens
of children everyday. It brings the biggest smile to my face every
time I hear those words, for several reasons. First the children are
respectful and greet their elders properly. Second, they have learned
and use the authentic Armenian version of my name Gegham. Third they
call me "Hopar" which is short for "Horut Aghper," which is "fathers
brother," literally "uncle." Fourth since Mr. & Mrs. are generally
not used and everyone becomes uncle and aunt I have been loved and
accepted with the greeting "Hello uncle Kalem."
Finally, my smile doubles with joy as my own children have even begun
to refer to me as Gegham Hopar. Not only is it funny, but I just love
the sound of it so much, and coming from my own children it is that
much sweeter, (as improper as it is to call your father Uncle and use
his first name). I love this name so much I changed "Simon Says" to
"Gegham Hopar Aseys," as I lead the 20 or so kids that come to our
house daily for "school." For those two hours, and when ever they are
around we are able to love them as our own family, as they call to us,
"Barev Gegham Hopar, Barev Joawna Tota."

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Hyestan Hotties

This is my 1st blog since entering the Kuyoogh. Of course we don't
have ready access to internet and today is the first day I was given
1) The Car, 2) Time, 3) Knowledge about how do hook up at the internet
cafe 30 minutes away. I have missed you all TERRIBLY!!! So, Lena
Eritzian, Nar Yergat and Jonelle are sitting on a lovely bench at the
Hocktonakee Igee (that's Victory Park) in Yerevan to enjoy a few hours
of Fresno fellowship and play for our kiddos. Of course, by the photo
you can tell that Nar and Lena are....well...they are just HOT!!! I
would aspire to be them someday in the reverse (Fresno to Armenia
transplant) but THEY are the original and reigning HYESTAN HOTTIES!!!
As we sat in the small space of shade to shelter us from the
smoldering Yerevan heat we noticed three Vosdeegans (police officers)
coming our way. As is typical Hyegagan Sev (Armenian Style) the three
were staring unashamedly in our direction. But it was oh, so much
more than they typical stare-down of the Armenian Male...they circled
back around THREE times and couldn't stop drooling...I know because I
was staring them down and they WERE NOT LOOKING AT ME!!!! This is the
problem...if you are beautiful and without a male in toe you will be
stared at, BUT NEVER in my entire 7 months here have I seen the
determination of the vosdeegans that day. I was please to be in such
company but even more to share those few hours with such wonderful
women as Lena and Nar. They brought a piece of Fresno to me, they let
me speak English and they are indeed beautiful...INSIDE and OUT!!
Miss you all Jonelle ; )

Where did the pounds go?

Moving to Armenia has taken its toll on us physically, first of all
traveling here with our whole family suffering a winter flu, then
Winter snow, rain and cold that seemed to last through Spring,
coupled with the kids bring back colds from kindergarden, seemed to
keep us generally immobilized, with at least one of us sick. This is
when we tried such remedies as Vodka and Garlic, rubbing snorting,
eating and drinking, we tried Russian versions of cold medicines, on
of which sent me (Kalem) into an Anti-falactic reaction, which
required more medicine to fix.
From previous trips to Armenia, I was warned not to drink the water
due to bacteria, so this time I bought four test kits and checked all
of the main water locations we would generally be drinking from. The
test was negative for bacteria, but only showed very hard water not
surprising for non galvanized pipe. So we drank the water with ease;
but still something else caused stomach problems, mostly for me, but
we were pretty certain it was not the water. A note in Armenia we
also found ourselves walking quite a bit which also added to the loss
of extra weight.
After a while I tried eliminating coffee which had cause different
problems in the past for me, but again to no major consistency. About
this time we moved to the village, which brought a whole new set of
problems. Our newly remodeled house was extremely humid from all of
the water based wall treatments, earthen plaster, drywall plaster,
paint etc. There was and still is stinging nettle everywhere around
the house and the village for that matter, the kids and I would
frequently run inside for the anti-itch cream. We all fell ill again
that first couple of weeks, and our neighbors attributed it to
"changing air."
One night I awoke in agonizing pain and found myself between the bed
and the bathroom the rest of the night, not knowing in which direction
to approach the toilet. That actually lasted into the next day, and
the cause was left unknown. Once that bought was over I noticed that
I had run out of holes in my belt. I had already moved in two, about
two inches, and my pants were still loose. Although I know I didn't
loose it all in one night I was curious to see how much weight I had
lost after being in Armenia for five months. Ten pounds was lost in
all, and so I started to try and replace the weight.
I had often skipped lunch for work, but now I would try to eat at
least one lunch if not two. I switched back to beer for toasts,
instead of Vodka, whenever possible, and tried to limit my stress.
Just when I was gaining weight and had eaten one of the most
satisfying meals of my time in Armenia, (lamb, pork, and chicken!),
and was completely full, I continued the feasting with cold
watermelon. To my dismay found myself in the bathroom again the whole
next day.
My most recent theory is the warning we were given about not eating
watermelon that has been out in the sun. Almost everyone buys
watermelon from street markets, almost all of the watermelon is left
in the sun, and so I am beginning my fast from watermelon. My Imodium
supply is running very low, but I do think they sell a Russian version
here. I also tried the village remedy of eating a spoon full of
unused coffee grounds. Which seemed to work but has kept me up late
into the night writing this blog.
As for those who think this to be "too much information" this is very
much apart of most peoples experience with Armenia and is important to
be noted. It is hard not to think and long for the processed fried
food of America at a time like this.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Animals living with us

Although we live in a "remodeled" house, complete with European
windows, and door, there are quite a few uninvited guest in our home,
and this time I don't mean our neighbors. I am not sure where they
are coming from but we have an ample supply of flies everyday,
literally I spend about 20 minutes every morning with the fly
swatter. Then there are the spiders which I generally leave alone, as
long as they stay out of the way, to help control the ever increasing
fly population of course. With all of the fresh fruit this time of
year there are also quite a few gnats, and besides getting rid of the
fruit we don't have a way to control them. The moths are pretty easy
to kill with the fly swatter, but they still seem to be gaining in
numbers. There are ants, usually in the bathroom, Raid (produced in
Russia) takes care of that problem, for a couple of days at a time.
The real interesting thing is the black beetles that we find in the
shower, not so easy to squash but not to fast either. With all of
these insects if the kids ever leave the door open the neighbors
chickens find their way inside also, but at least that is one animal
that we can eat!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Hot Chili Pepper by Judi

Once upon a time when we were living in Armenia we were eating dinner and as usual my brother Frank was sucking his fingers.  Mommy had warned him that if he sucks his fingers he would get to meet Mr. Hot Chili Pepper.  Frankie still sucked his fingers.  So then Mommy grabbed one hot chili pepper and Mommy broke it up into two sister and brothers.  So then Frank was just funny.  He put them on his fingers and started to mess around like they were puppets.  And then he took a bite of the end of the top of the pepper.  Then he said, "Ah!" but then he started to mess around like they were puppets again.  And then we all took them off.  Then we all told him to suck his fingers and he listened to us and sucked his fingers.  BUT THEN he started to cry and Mommy gave him some ice cream and then we all finished our food and then we ate our ice cream and Frank just had a fit with Mommy that he wanted more ice cream.

Five Minutes Peace

We were warned before we came to live in the village that people would
expect to be able to walk into our house at anytime. In my mind this
translated as one or two unexpected visitors a day, maybe three. We
have since learned to expect that amount per hour! Us being from
America and all, is very interesting to many people here in the
village. People would want to talk, introduce themselves, invite us
over for coffee, see if we needed anything, bring us some
"housewarming" gift, etc. Then as work on peoples houses picked up
they would come over to borrow tools, or need materials. Then Jonelle
started a daily class with the neighborhood kids that were hanging
around anyway, and they all arrive around 11 AM for class. Then as
word got out we had a scanner/printer we offered to copy a passport or
two, and that has turned into about three or four a day sometimes.
There are many more "then's" but I think you get the idea, during
meals, rest times, waking up, going to sleep, showering, etc. the
doorbell is ringing, people are knocking, and yelling for us. It can
be very overwhelming at times, and sometimes all I want to do is hide,
as would Jonelle. We have tried very hard lately to say no,
especially at night and on Sundays, as we retreat if we can to the
safety of the house. Slowly people are learning as we are setting
boundaries, but it still leaves the rest of the day to be pretty
hectic. I was commenting to Jonelle the other day that our calender,
which is usually full of events in America, is literally empty, but
yet we are run ragged everyday, without 5 minutes peace.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

A Good Nights Rest

The container shipment of tools and household supplies just recently
arrived for our last two months in the village. Included in this
shipment was our old cal king mattress, and another very new donated
full size mattress. We looked at them in awe like they were from
another planet not really believing that they had made it here, as if
we had forgotten what a mattress was. I say this because in the
village the standard bed consists of laminated wood or tubular metal
bed ends, a bed frame that really looks like some kind of medieval
torture device as it is a woven coil mess that is tensioned by two big
bolts on one end, and really one can never get it tight enough and the
result is a very saggy hammock. Then on top of the "spring" a
"mattress pad," which is usually old rags sewn together or some other
ugly mess, it is used to keep the rust from the "springs" from the
"mattress." The quotes are for emphasis since this is all such a far
cry from what you all would consider appropriate names for these
items. A picture of this "mattress" is included with this blog, it is
really a giant person sized pillow case stuffed full of, yes lambs
wool. This is not processed wool one might find in the US, it is
sheered washed a little and stuffed in the bag. We have seen our
neighbors spending days washing and putting the "mattress" back
together (after their young children pee on them), and now it is our
turn. Since we have real mattresses now for ourselves and the boys,
who are sharing the full by sleeping in it sideways, we are washing
Franks mattress, before we return it since he also did a bit of pee
pee in his. We are on our third load now as we speak and you can see
how much is left, I don't even think we have washed half of it yet.
The worst part is that you can not see how much dirt, sand, and dust
is actually in this thing. I finally understand very clearly why my
asthma has been so bad ever night since we have been living and
breathing the clean village air. I have actually been sleeping on and
under a sort of sand bag, like a dirty vacuum cleaner bag, since the
top blanket is more of the same just a little thiner as it is sewn
flat. Judi has been gracious enough to sleep in the remaining bed
that actually does have some what of a decent modern mattress, and we
all have "fresh" donated used sheets and blankets from America.
Personally my body rejected the firm mattress and I tossed and turned
all night, but the second night, oh the second night. It was
absolutely wonderful, no inhaler before bed and in the middle of the
night, no puff of dust every time I moved and the bed was actually
flat and smooth all night. Having a good nights rest has changed all
of our attitudes and outlooks. Although we are generally very tired
and sore everyday from life here, it is very nice to actually be able
to have a good nights rest a top a real mattress.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

PG&E in the village

Today was Frank's 3rd birthday, and we didn't have power for about 8
hours. Jonelle was left with one cake ready, one in the oven uncooked
and one not yet prepared. We served small pieces to about 30
neighbors, adults and kids and it worked out okay. As night
approached my very American wife came to me and said, "what will we do
about our food in the refrigerator, we still don't have power." I
began to ask around and I heard from one neighbor that our transformer
(1/3 of the village) burned up, and that we wouldn't have power for
So that neighbor and I worked out a plan to run power from his house
where they did have power, but before we executed, we thought maybe we
should ask the town electrician or the equivalent of the electrical
side of PG&E. The younger brother came to our aid and said that I was
the first to complain after 8 hours (that is almost 100 families who
didn't say anything!) So we went up to check the transformer and
after smelling something burnt, flipping a few switches and nothing
happening we gave up and headed back down. We were met by the older
brother who (usually collects our power money when ever he needs
money, there is no real schedule), and he was carrying a pair of
pliers and some thin wire in his back pocket. He suggested we grab a
pair of rubber gloves and a flashlight, so we did and up again we went.
On the 10,000 volt side, of the transformer, (the dangerous side,
that they are not supposed to work on) we found two of the two three
phases were burt out, and by burned out I mean a wire not much thicker
than a strand of hair that stretched about 2 feet was missing. I
found it very hard to believe that the power for a third of the
village ran through such a thin wire, which acted as fuse. Looking
closely I saw that this was not the first time this had happened as
there were about twenty old wires still tangled about, as the older
brother was yelling at the younger brother who was cleaning it up, to
leave the mess and hurry up. A couple of switches were thrown and the
lights brightened in the houses around us. I left the gloves as a
thank you, and said that next time if we don't have power for five
minutes I'm coming to your house to tell you.
To continue my description of the other half of PG&E, we recently had
gas run to the house, by some "independent contractors" from the
village. I use the term loosely because we are still not sure really
how much they over charged us. Although according to the official
paper work they showed us, we along with our neighbors bargained the
price down about 20% over coffee on our balcony, yet other neighbors
said we paid too much, and others said they are waiting until it is
free (which may never be). One mayor of a neighboring village,
refused to let anyone of his villagers pay to have gas run, insisting
to the authorities that it should be run with out payment, they still
don't have gas. What ever the case, these guys hooked us up, we still
haven't done any paperwork and we have gas, which Jonelle is enjoying
very much, by the way as her fingernails have returned to their normal
soot free color.
The exciting part of the gas experience was hooking up to the main
low pressure line, which runs along the street parallel to the high
pressure line. The welder was using an oxygen/astatine type torch
although the astatine I think was some other gas he produce from
dropping a manufactured "rock," that they call carbide, into a
pressure tank filled with water. Once he had all the welding done he
came back to the main low pressure line, welded a short piece of pipe
to the line that would fit into the larger line we ran to the house.
Then with a metal punch and hammer he proceeded to create a hole
inside of that fitting, and gas began to spew forth. Once the hole
was large enough he fitted the larger pipe over, gas still hissing
out, and lit his torch. Needless to say a ball of fire flamed in the
very area he had to weld, and for about 10 minutes he welded in the
flames. Just as he was finishing and people were congratulating us on
having gas and wishing us well, one of the oldest men in the village
silently walked by with a giant wrench in his hand, and everyone was
yelling around him that the water was going to be cut off.
So poetic justice in Armenia, just as we got gas, our water was cut
off, only to be rationed for a few hours each day, this was to go on
for the next two months while the water was diverted for watering
potatoes. Thinking I could beat the system, a few days later I
installed a water storage tank in the basement to accumulate water,
and a pump to create the pressure to lift the water and fire the gas
powered hot water heater. Then as you read above the power went out
and we didn't have any water either! So this is our life here in
Armenia in the village. But, just when we tried to complain about the
conditions, we were told that they lived without power, gas and
minimal water for over five years after independence in 1991, and that
they are all use to things not being. So we are grateful for what we
do have, and trying to make the best of PG&E in the village.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Harvest time

Things are happening in the village, its grass harvesting time.
Everyone is talking about it making plans, working out schedules,
watching the weather, and harvesting their weeds. There are pretty
much three things here, animals (cows in particular), potatoes
(harvested in September), and grass (straw, weeds, flowers, what ever
you want to call it). Most people that have animals have grass, and
the ratio is about a hectare (2 acres or 2 football fields) for 5
cows. This year the grass is tall about 2 feet almost three, there
are combines that cut the straw and there are bailing machines, but
there is an exceptional amount of harvesting that is done the old
fashion way with a sickle, rake and pitch fork.
In the morning men go out walking a couple of kilometers (little over
a mile) to their fields with long sickles slung over their shoulders,
a small cellophane bag of food, and a small bench in their hand. At
first I thought the bench was to sit on for lunch or a rest, and I
have seen this, but a closer look and an explanation revealed that
there is actually a small anvil attached to the bench. The cutting
edge of the sickle is hammered out to remove dents from rocks and to
be made thiner for easy sharpening with the stone they carry in their
pockets. If you are going to swing a sickle around all day it better
be sharp to be most effective. Then there is the raking with over
sized wooden tooth rakes (usually women help out with this) and then
their is the pitch forking on to trucks or carts pulled by tractors,
horses, donkeys, or even people. All day long trucks bring bails
back to the village, to be stored with this loose straw for the
animals to eat for the winter.
There is so much work gathering straw that there are hardly any
interruptions to our work, and I have taken the time to finish up some
of the lingering projects on the house we are living in. Wether there
or one of the other houses, the work days are long and like the guys
cutting straw all day I look forward to a good nights rest at the end
of a long day.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


So to continue my description of village life let me talk about our
neighbors for just a little while. We live along what used to be the
main road of the village 15 years ago just down from the school two
houses before the river which bisects the village in the opposite
direction thus marking the center of the old village.
Lets start at this cross, on our side of the road, working to the
school, we have Anoosh (which is really a girls name but short for his
real name), he, his wife and daughter tend the "neighborhood store."
They have two cars, and about 15 cows, he employs a handful of his
friends and neighbors in construction projects in neighboring
villages. They are one of the "richest" families in the village.
Next we have Satenik, who is a widow only after a few years of
marriage and she is 82 years old, her only sibling, died serving in
WWII and she lives in a metal shipping container next to us. She
really doesn't have any relatives and the weeds in the yard that she
just harvested plus a Social Security type payment, are her only
sources of income. The other neighbors really help her out as much as
they can, from what I can tell.
Special note, below Satenik off of the main road lives Vaho and Rita,
and their two sons (who are in Russia working, Edgar is one of them).
They truly are the most genuine family, and we really enjoy their
company. I can go on and on about how great they are but I would
rather complain about the next couple of neighbors a little more.
Next to us is Ashot and Zoghe, they have two daughters married with
children one living in the village and the other in a different
village outside of Gyumri, their only son is serving in the Army for
one more year, Ashots mother, Araks Tat, also lives with them. If our
house was "house 1" to be remodeled theirs is "house 2", and with no
one else really around I am over a lot helping Ashot. He works as a
railway tunnel guard, 24 hour shifts about every 4th day, he and about
20 others from the village are employed to make sure no one blows up
the train tunnel, not a real exciting job. Ashot was a "rich kid"
growing up when the earthquake destroyed all that his father had left
him he like many others fell apart and turned to drinking, and has not
stopped since. Ashot is a drunk and is drunk most of the time. In
Armenia you aren't really considered a drunk unless you are drinking
alone, so as long as all of his drunk buddies are drinking with him it
is okay to consume over a liter of Vodka every day. When Ashot is
craving a drink and no one else is around he will try to stop what
ever I am doing and say lets eat. It didn't take long to realize that
eating equals drinking every time, a person really doesn't say come on
lets have a drink. Ashot is really pretty incapable initiating any
project on the house, he can bring tools and buckets of water and mix
concrete, and carry rocks, that is about it. Zoghe works as hard if
not harder than most other village women, cooking, cleaning, and
tending the animals and potato fields. Today Zoghe and Araxs Tat,
both washed up, and changed their clothes. This was the first time in
over a month that we have been here that Arax tat changed her clothes.
"House 3" is next and it is Ishkan and Aysa, and their three sons
( Jirar, Hamayak, and Hapersoom), two of whom are married, and they
have two grandsons, David and Garen. Ishkan lost is right arm working
on the trains, Jirar was born with something that makes him a little
slower and awkward, but still very sharp, and Hamayak lost his left
leg below the knee during the earthquake 17 years ago. If Ishkan
isn't over my shoulder talking and giving advice, or his grandkids
aren't stealing tools and constantly on top of me, I wonder where they
are. Really, David would be on a double dose of Riddalin if he were
in the states. The three women are constantly busy working around of
the house, occasionally we'll see them chasing after the kids, who
don't come when they are called and are often shooed away like dogs by
other adults. Jirar takes the families 11 cows out with the other
cows 11 days a month, Hmayak works construction 8 hours out side of
the village in Karaghbagh, and Hamparsoom, works repairing the rail
line. These guys are very capable of working and are doing a great
job on the house. They are very conservative Christians who don't
drink, smoke, dance or listen to music, (except Hamayak who rebels
against everything).
House 4, and 5 are further away, but I do have an honorable mention,
Sas is about 10 years old but functions more like a 5 year old, he is
over every day all day, he is very obedient but forgets very quickly,
so we find ourselves repeating things over and over for Sas, and David
and Garen (for them because they just don't listen). There are lots
of other neighbor kids that come over, but these three play in our
yard more than our own kids do.
So there you have it, I feel better knowing that you know. Please
pray for patients for us as seek to serve God and be his witness here
in this village.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Dirty Fingernails

In the village we have 24 hour high pressure water (this is big
considering that many parts of Yerevan only have water a couple of
hours per day). The other thing is that we have electricity most of
the time, it usually only goes out for a hour each day. Gas was
brought to the village this winter via above ground pipes along the
main roads (standard for Armenia), the responsibility of running the
smaller pipes to each house is left to individual homeowners and their
own finances. We are just now learning about the process and are soon
to pay for the line to be run to our house and from there our
neighbors will pay to run it to their houses. For the last month we
have been using a 20 kg (44 lb.) butane tank (about three times the
size of US BBQ tanks), for cooking, washing dishes, showering, and
heating the house. Needless to say we empty the tank about once a
week, and I take it to get refilled in either Gyumri or Spitak both
about 20 minutes away. All but one refilling station causes a black
soot to form on the bottom of our pans. This black soot is the
transfered to other dishes in the sink while washing, and then to our
towels when drying. Jonelle's rubber gloves are back from the soot
and after one month of living like this her fingernails seem to have a
permanent reverse French manicure with black tips instead of white.
Believe it or not this one thing drives home the magnitude of what we
have done, in bringing an American city girl to an Armenian Village.
As far as these two lives are worlds apart, my wife has embraced her
role, and serves our family with out grumbling or complaining. With
dirty fingernails, she loves our family, she loves and serves our
neighbors, she teaches our children and our children's friends. It is
a pleasure to live and serve here with Jonelle and I thank God for her.

Monday, July 7, 2008

刺 Embroidery 繡2008/7/8 下午 01:43:15





Our product line include:


All kinds of embroideries Police ,  Fire , Military , Security , Sports , Clubs , Boy scout , patches badges emblems, flags  art designs, and a variety of 3D raised embroideries and popular embroideries


Metal  badges,  pins


We offer wholesale and retail services. Welcome to place orders with us!


Welcome to contact us (but please DO NOT reply this e-mail directly!)

Please send your e-mail to   


We have many sorts of products on our website, You can go to portal sites (like Yahoo or Google) and then
search the key word "meilung". In this way, you'll also easily find our website. Or you can also write to the following email accounts, we'll send you the hyperlink of our website as soon as receive your valuable email.  



We founded in 1931 and have been specializing in the manufacture of Bullion embroideries and computer

embroideries for more than 70 years. In Taiwan, we are the sole company that was an approved supplier

for U.S. Navy Exchange In Taiwan from 1960s to 1973.


We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience that this mail may cause to you!

If you don't want any more mail from us, please click the following link to send us an email.  



Chang wen-sheng







Saturday, July 5, 2008

Life in the Village

I have been reflecting on what we thought village life would be like
vs what it really is like, and thought this might be a good topic to
explore in a blog since we have had so few lately.

The first is the weather, we were told it could get up to -35 (F & C
are the same at that temperature) in the winter, we experiences some
of that freezing weather on a trip there in February, and have heard
plenty of stories about the harsh 6+ month winters. This was part of
our decision to winter in the US starting in October. Generally in
Armenia the winters are dry and summers are wet, like the East Coast
in the US. In the village this translates into frequent thunder
storms, which were every day for about 10 days when we moved in during
June. General humidity causes condensation on everything in the
house, the walls are drying VERY slowly from all of the plaster and
concrete work that had been done during the remodeling process and
every two or so days we are wiping MOLD off the walls. At night
sometimes our "dry" sheets feel like they just came out of the wash.
The one good thing is that the summer high doesn't get above 80 F and
the air is clear. while people are sweating and choking in Yerevan we
are enjoying a very temperate summer in the village.

The next thing is the cows, we knew this was the livelihood of most
people in the village but to experience that on a daily basis is
something else. At sunrise (about 7 AM) the cows get milked and are
herded out to the hills by shepherds, then before sunset (about 8 PM)
the cows are brought back to be milked again. If a family does not
participate in the shepherd rotation they pay about $5 per cow per
month for the service. There are about 50 cows that go out with about
5 shepherds. Sheep are a different industry, they are kept in large
buildings above the village, by just a few families, and one shepherd
can handle about 100 sheep, so the monthly pay for this job is only
about $1 per sheep per month. Back to the cows, the morning milk is
usually used by the family to drink, to make yogurt, or cheese, if
there is surplus it is sold. In the morning and the evening about the
same time each day a vehicle slowly makes its way down the village
main roads where women stand with their buckets full of milk, the
going rate is about $0.30/Liter or $1.15 gallon. The women usually
stand together as neighbors and I have seen them waiting into the dark
of night usually about an hour sometimes as much as two. The cows use
the roads (dirt and rock) more than cars do and they generally have
the right away, which goes something like this: cows, sheep, cars,
people, dogs, chickens. Then there is the dung, the indoor pens have
to be cleaned everyday, the dung is spread in flat pile to dry in the
sun. Often it is rolled and compressed each day. This time of year
the dry dung is cut up into squares and stacked to create round towers
to dry further, to be used in as heating fuel in the winter. Cutting
and stacking dung is a job usually done by older women in the family
(80 year old grandmothers that look like they are 100). So with all
this dung you can understand the village has a general smell of poop!

After cows comes potatoes, everyone grows them and everyone eats them,
every day and in every form possible! They plant, then hoe their
fields, water and wait, then they harvest, enough for the whole year.

Then fresh bread is made once a week, in family teams as one rolls out
the dough, the other is sitting over a clay lined hole in the ground
with a fire burning in the bottom. They are making lavash, Armenian
flat bread. We reap fresh bread milk and cheese sometimes, but mostly
we are still buying most of our food from the cities half an hour a
way in either direction.

One more thing is the weeds which grow wild everywhere, the worst of
these is the stinging nettle which sends the kids in running for anti
itch cream. Some crazy locals eat the stuff and even rub it on their
skin to make them immune or tougher, who knows. The flowers this time
of year are very beautiful (bright yellow, white, orange, and purple
flowers. They have already started cutting the fields to be bailed
and stored up for the winter, and they are doing this by hand with
giant sickles, talk about 50 years ago!

I will leave village hospitality and neighbor relations for part two
of this series, until then...


Thursday, June 26, 2008

Work Projects update

We just completed the second week of work projects with 10 volunteers
the first week and 15 the second week, a very full and rewarding two
weeks. We worked on our two neighbors houses, filling rocks and sand
into kitchens and bathrooms to raise them up to match the floor grade,
and then mixing and pouring concrete all via bucket brigade. The job
that never seemed to end was lifting dirt up to the attic of one of
the houses to be used as insulation. All of our volunteers had great
attitudes and all did great work, even our parents! We are now in
Yerevan to spend the last few days with the group before they head
back, then it will be back to the village for more work. We are still
without internet there, but hope to have it in July sometime. We
enjoy your emails and comments, and will try to fill in some blogs
with the great stories we have of village life.

Tsavet Danem

"Tsavet danem" literally means, "I take your pain." Although the
modern usage of this phrase has drifted much from the original
meaning, it is easier to see this phrase lived out in the lives of the
people of Armenia. As neighbor helps neighbor, as burdens are shared
and bared, and labor is taken up together.
Although I was not here for the earthquake in 1988, I do remember
exactly where I was when I heard about it. Fourteen years old serving
as a candle holder in St. Gregory Church in Fowler, Father George
Arakelian announced that an 8.9 earthquake struck near the town of
Spitak in Northern Armenia. I had no idea then that I would be
rebuilding those very homes that were destroyed, and to live and
witness the devastation day after day 20 years later. I had no idea I
would be so enmeshed in lives of these people struggling to survive.
I have come to understand what it means to say tsavet danem as I work
hand in hand with my own neighbors rebuilding their homes and
encouraging them to persevere.
Story after story, live after live, changed in a moment forever.
Homes destroyed, children losing parents, parents losing children,
husbands, wives, loss of limbs, loss of purpose, never to be the
same. It is almost to much to comprehend such tragedy, living in
tents through the winter, then shipping containers, and still. This
burden was taken up by the world, as country after country came to
little Armenia to rebuild and yet the pain is still there. Then homes
are still not complete, families are broken, and the people bear the
scars of this tragedy. We say tsavet danem as we lift them up and
bear their burden with them.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Update on village life

We have survived the first week in the village, and one of the next
families has already begun work on their house. The next couple
families will be soon to follow. The kids are cycling trough colds,
fevers, and various allergic reactions to the plants and food. It is
a very cold and wet environment and our house is even more humid from
all of the construction work. If you could please pray that we all
get and stay well, especially the kids who are particularly sensitive.
Things have been pretty busy settling in to the house, meeting our new
neighbors, and helping on their home construction. We hope to have
more blogs soon!

Friday, June 6, 2008

We've moved to the Village!

We have moved to the village. We have a flushing toilet a shower and
hot water, but as of yet no internet. You can call us via
international calling card (specific Armenia cards can be found at
armenian delis and grocery stores) 37425560308. We receive voice
messages on our Fresno phone number via our email. Our postal address
is Kalem Kazarian, Lusaghbyur Village, Lori Region, Armenia,
094652088. We hope to continue to update the blog site as we make
trips into town, and of course we love getting emails and comments
from you. Our email addresses are our (first name)@(our last
name).net and we hope to find a way to get internet here, until then
there will be delays between our blog posts and replies to emails. We
have plenty of new and even better stories so keep checking. We
welcome our first volunteer Linda Shekerjian who will be helping for
the month of June, and are expecting our family and friends for
touring and working in the middle of June.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Problem at the Zoo!

When we were leaving the zoo we actually saw a zoo employee. They
were yelling and screaming at us and pointing vigorously. We looked
around us to see if one of the children were missing but they were all
there or if one of the kids had picked something up and walked away
with it, but no they hadn't. We were totally confused but the man
kept pointing at Peter and Frank and then pointing back toward the
zoo. Kalem tried to calm him down so he could try and understand what
he was ranting and raving about in Armenian. Apparently he thought we
were trying to smuggle animals out of the zoo. Of course we did not
want to have the authorities brought in (you know how it is in Mexican
prisons? Well I don't and I didn't want to find out about Armenian
ones either!) Kalem pulled out his wallet to try and settle this the
good old fashion Armenian way, but the man persisted even though he
thought about the drams for a moment. NO! He insisted he must have
the animals...they were zoo property. So we had to obey. If you want
to see Peter and Frank, remember it only costs $1.00 for adults and
kids are free (although the airfare gets pricey in the summer!)
Having fun at everyone's expense! JONELLE: )

Friday, May 23, 2008

Zoo Pics

The Zoo

Yes, we went to the Yerevan Zoo, or Gazannanotz (Beast Place) today.
I must say it was quite an experience. We paid $2.00 entrance fee
(that was for Kalem and Me and the kids were free), and found our way
into the park. I half jokingly said to Kalem, "Where are the maps?"
when we glanced up and saw a beautiful 5' x 8' painting of the map of
the zoo with each animal in it's quadrant. We ambled our way up the
path and the first "Beasts" we saw were bears; they were blonde
bears...(perhaps Russians who didn't leave after the 1991 collapse?).
There were two of them, one relaxing with his back against the side
wall and the other pacing back and forth in front of the 6 foot
wide"stream" that flowed through their den. The bear seemed to be
quite interested in her reflection in the water or just a nervous
hadiff, I'm not sure which. We walked on and to the right, saw quite
a collection of the cannes family; foxes, wolves, jackals, hyaenas,
and dogs, yep just household or wild shoons! They all had grotesque
parts of dead animals to feast upon, but the section could be a leg or
ribcage or some unidentifiable mystery meat. On our left, which was
the center strip of the park landscape were deers, a small lake with a
single swan and other crane-type birds, two camels in desperate need
of a comb down and my favorite the elephant (of course the elephant
pen was sponsored by Grand Candy, the confett conglomerate of Armenia
selling everything from delicious chocolates, hard candy, flavored
coffee, ice cream, etc and the Grand Candy mascot is a huge pink
peegh...that's Armenian for elephant but sounds like pig!) There were
a number of equine exhibits, many big cats, and yes they did have a
household cat too...gadoo! Peter's favorite was, of course the lions,
2 males and one female and the vagker (tiger) unfortunately they were
all asleep! and Judi loved the peacock and peahens but would not
believe me when I told her the beautiful bird with the fanned out
plumage was a boy. She insisted that GRANDMA told her the beautiful
one was a Girl! I could not believe the gorgeous vultures, stately
eagles and colorful birds unknown to me before. This was quite a
unique place in so many ways. For instance, there was a nice "train"
that had two passenger cars and a man who drove paying customers
around the park. In reality there was no track, the driver; a 45 year
old, relatively tall man crammed behind the wheel, smoking a cigarette
(I mean that is a given) and doing about 25 MPH with toddlers and
grandmas holding on for dear life, honking as he drove through
pedestrians. Most parks and especially zoos have signs, restrictive
bars and park personnel to prohibit untoward activity with or near the
animals. Amazingly enough there were NO park attendants ANYWHERE.
The only people in the zoo were vendors selling food & carnival toys,
old women with their cupfuls of black unsalted sunflower seeds, and
the visitors to the park. And that was the problem. We learned that
the zoo is a place for small children with their whole family, lovers,
and groups of Neanderthal men trying to impress each other or show
off...not a good mix, but when you are in a beast place I suppose one
likes to act like a beast! There were groups of these smart guys
throwing rocks at the wolves, chunks of sweet bread to a ram and the
the worst of all was a dagha mart who threw his half drunk 24oz Coke
into the cage of an old baboon. He offered the primate a cigarette
first but then decided it would be more fun to poison the poor thing
with soda instead. Of course, the baboon took the bottle opened it,
poured it out and started lapping up the brown syrup. Kalem pulled me
away before I could intervene! Next there was Christmas music playing
in the park cafe in the middle of Spring and in ENGLISH. But probably
the most disconcerting and then slightly humorous thing was the rats.
Yes RATS. No they did not have a specific rat display or habitat, no
they just had a lot of...rats. The rats had burrowed holes in and out
of the rare bird section, dined on the porcupine carrots and cabbage,
ate the seeds and grains served to the peacocks. In a word they were
everywhere. Kalem said, "There are more rats in the place than
animals!" But the day was lovely, the weather beautiful, the ice
cream cold and creamy and time with Kalem and my three little beasts
was the best...rats, crazy drivers, foolish boys and all. Enjoy the
pictures and see if you can find the Rats! Jonelle; )

Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Top 10 Things We Wish Were NOT in Armenia

10. Smog and relatively few clear days

9. Mafia (this lumps in everyone who gets away with NOT obeying the

8. Corrupt Cops (they are not the norm but they give a bad name to
the clean ones)

7. Litterbugs (There is way too much trash in this BEAUTIFUL land
of ours...I am going on a crusade!)

6. Burning Trash (They might not use pesticides here but the air
filled with toxic burning plastic bottles can't be healthy!)

5. Potholes (sometimes it seems like more are added each night to
test pole position driving skills...NOT helpful)

4. Fully Tinted Car Windows (I mean ALL the windows, even the
WINDSHIELD, black as night.)

3. Armenian Rap (I guess once you stop laughing the music is almost

2. Armenian Brandy Filled-Crucifixes (I mean this is in poor taste
and sacrilegious)

1. The Evil Eye (This is seen everywhere in Armenia a blue eyeball
set in gold or wood, etc. hanging on doorposts, rearview mirrors,
BABIES!!! Okay so if we rest on the fact that we are the 1st
Christian Nation then, why are we hanging on to superstitions?

Loving my homeland but saying it like it is! Jonelle; )

Monday, May 19, 2008

Waiting in Line

There are two main places we find ourselves waiting in line, the
grocery store and stoplights. The funny thing is that lines or
queue's don't really exist in Armenia, it is more of mob scene every
time. From what I have been told it is a repercussion of Soviet time
food lines, people weren't sure what line they were standing in so
they would just crowd towards the front to find out. On my first
trips to Armenia I was welcomed by this mob mentality in the airport,
and although with good position originally I found myself one of the
last to go through. Thanks to the terminal at the airport things are
much better now.
Driving here has introduced some other line waiting issues. The
winter snow and sand just about erase the painted lines leaving lanes
up to the drivers imagination. This is particularly intensified at
traffic lights due to several reasons. Left and right turn lanes are
often combined with the option to go straight, and cars waiting to
turn back up the cars trying to go straight. So extra lanes are
usually assumed as drivers pole for unhindered positions, the other
problem is the furthest right lane is often filled with parked cars
and sometimes double parked cars. Probably the worst and most
unpredictable are the mashutkas (public transportation vans), that
pull over and back into traffic so randomly, and are often stacked two
or even three deep into the road. The next problem is the impatient
drivers, usually new black BMW's and Mercedes with black windows, that
will pull out into on coming traffic to cut in front of all of the
cars waiting at the light. Let me just throw in the frequent
accidents, stalled cars, erratic police driving, and lets not forget
road construction and all of the potholes.
In grocery stores from small neighborhood shops to large chain
supermarkets, the "express lane" is missing, this is because every
lane is an express lane. If you want a pack of cigarets you can cut
in line, if you have just one item you can cut in line, if you act
like you are in a big hurry you can cut in line, if you are too cool
to wait in line, you can cut in line. After months of this behavior,
our sweet patient Jonelle had just about enough, and she snapped. We
had just filled our kiddy sized shopping cart with about thirty items
from the cramped downtown supermarket chain, and had them all loaded
on the checkout belt. Just before the checker started an older man
stepped in front of Jonelle and handed his item to the cashier.
Jonelle gave a hard look of frustration and rage that translated very
well into Armenian, and the man said in Armenian "I'm going ahead, if
your not getting too angry." The frustrated Jonelle, started out in
Armenian just let him have it in English. "I'm not ANGRY!" "I'm just
tiered of everyone always cutting in line!" By this time he had
already paid and was walking out the door, with nothing left to say.
I had a good laugh about the multilingual exchange and enjoyed seeing
my wife hold her own.
There was another time I tried to pick up a package at the post
office, and I learned that mail and packages are only about 1% of what
they did. This was the place where people received their social
security, pensions, and other governmental benefits, and it was also
the place where they paid their electricity, gas, and water bills.
The lady giving out the money was backed up about 10 deep (this is
really ten wide as everyone was crowding the counter), and in walks an
old grandmother, straight to the counter and even pushed a few of us
out of the way to get right in the face of the lady with the money.
There is no comment from anyone about the crowding, it is just
accepted. When I saw that I had lost my place as second in line and
was now something like 11th I decided to leave and come back later,
but before I did I saw most, if not all, of the government money get
recycled back through the other lady to pay utility bills. When I did
come back later they didn't even have the package there it was at a
central office, where there was more waiting for a special tag (kept
in a safe) to be filled out with my passport information, stamped and
signed twice, before the package was released!
All this to say three months in and there are still many things we
are still getting used to, and some that we might never understand...

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Amazing Armenia

When we came to Hyestan there was major upheaval due to the
Presidential elections. There were protests; peaceful and not,
propaganda on every side, and it was reported that 8 people died in
one up-rising near the Opera. Some stores were looted and vandalized
and many people were injured in the fray. I know all of you around
the globe were worried for us and called or emailed your concerns.
Others planning trips to Armenia in the Spring and Summer actually
canceled their reservations! We were saddened by the actions of a few
that caused so much turmoil here for a few weeks and very sad that
some will not come here because of these events. Granted a rioting
nation is not the ideal vacation spot BUT we are ARMENIANS! We all
make a lot of noise, cause problems, yell, are stubborn and want our
way at all costs...these are detrimental traits and also ones that
have kept our nation and our people alive and well for thousands of
years. The other thing we Armenians can do REALLY well is PARTY!
These Hot Air Balloons were floating up and down over Republic Square
and beyond for inauguration day and a few days following. There was a
laser light show in the evening of the inauguration and music with the
balloons nesting in the Square for the spectacle. At precisely 10:00
pm the fireworks began, huge, exploding canopies of color and booming
sounds filled the night air. (Note: for some reason Armenians like
Fireworks...I mean REALLY like them. I personally have seen no less
than 10 4th of July-esk celebrations in the sky since February!) It
was a tremendous celebration honoring the man that would take
governance of Armenia; who was the center of controversy the month
before. So...rebook your flights and come and see the beauty, wonder,
insanity, and life that is Armenia. (I have been paid BIG $$$$ by the
Armenian Tourist Association (ATA) for this endorsement, I just wanted
to disclose this before you come and see me driving around in a fully
tinted, black ice, H2, with RED license plates!) Jonelle;)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Pentecost Sunday

This last Sunday was Pentecost Sunday when we Christians remember and
celebrate the gift of the Holy Spirit to all those who believe in
Jesus as their Lord and Savior and the birthday of the Church. The
story in Acts 2 is tremendous, replete with a howling and violent
wind, tongues of fire, people enabled to speak in languages that were
not their native tongues and Jews from around the ancient world
hearing the Good News of Jesus in their own tongue. The Apostle Peter
then stood up and preached to the masses and 3,000 people believed on
Jesus and were baptized! This Sunday we attended The Yerevan
International Church which is gold among the treasures of Armenia.
This Fellowship assembles Christians, literally from around the globe,
to worship Jesus in a smallish upper room in ENGLISH! The only
travesty is that we discovered this haven much too late in our stay in
Yerevan! We met and worshiped with Armenians from Armenia and
Glendale; with Indians...from INDIA, Dutch from the Netherlands,
Germans, Mid-Westerners, Africans--Yes, from AFRICA! I have not yet
figured out all the other nations represented but we with one voice
sang, prayed, listened to God's Word, and worshipped our Lord Jesus
Christ who is King, Sovereign and Lover of His whole Creation!!!
Pentecost must have been an AWESOME experience but we tasted the fruit
of what God intended and what we will experience in heaven forever! A
tremendous and wondrous blessing from God! We are far away but closer
than we realize! Loving you all in Jesus Name and worshiping the SAME