Friday, February 29, 2008

Only 3 Days in and Frankie Gets Kicked Out of Kindergarten

So I go to pick up the kids from "Kindergarten" today and two of the
nice grandma teachers immediately come up to me and start "discussing"
Frank. I am not quiet sure of what they were saying so I purposefully
looked confused. They continued...apparently, what I got from the
whole thing is that they wanted him to come again in 2 or 3 weeks.
They said he was too young...What? My 2 1/2 year old is TOO young for
Kindergarten? Are you kidding me...he is so bright and articulate and
so darn cute....What could they possibly be saying. With some more
explaination and a lot of hand gestures I then came to realize that
they wanted him to be POTTY TRAINED...and I said, "Well, join the
club...WE ALL WANT HIM POTTY TRAINED!!!!" No really I nodded
apologetically and promised that only Judi & Peter would return on
Monday. When I told Frank he got Kicked out he said, "No I was there
today!" When I explained that he couldn't go because he doesn't do
PeePee and PooPoo in the toilet his reply, "I tried that and I
can't!" Got to love Franko. We knew this one would be Armenia's
greatest challenge.
: ) jonelle

Armenian Dollar Store

So if the Armenian Costco wasn't enough, today my cousin Vram and I
found "My Dollar Store." What's more is that is is actually full of
American Dollar store products, probably shipped over on some
container. I'm told originally the prices were one dollar or 300
drams, but now everything is 800 drams about $2.60. This was very
convenient for us since we recognized so many brands. We hit about
three more large "supermarkets" and the Armenian versions of Circuit
City and Best Buy, not to mention two pretty large potholes. The Niva
is covered in mud it looks like we have been on some kind of crazy 4x4
adventure, but here every other car is just about as dirty. Tomorrow
it will get a bath! Pictures will be coming soon... -kalem

A local call for you

Our Vonage phone is up and working! We are enjoying easy to dial,
clear calls to and from home. You need only dial our old house phone
number just like we were back home. We pay a flat monthly fee for
unlimited calling and then we pay monthly for our DSL internet
connection. This has been such a great thing for us, we have been so
encouraged by talking to our friends and family. We are enjoying this
now as we are not sure how well things will work in the village. If
you call us we would only ask that you call from the hours of 8 PM
Pacific Standard Time to 10 AM PST. Although you all are sleeping
most of that time, those are the hours we are awake, since there is a
12 hour time difference between Fresno and Yerevan.

There's Been A Lot of Talk, Maybe, Maybe Too Much Talk

So now a word about Jonelle's sleeping habits. There has been a lot
of talk about why I am sleeping SO much lately, so much talk that I
decided to dedicate this blog entry for all of you who are concerned/
obsessed/worried about why I, Jonelle am sleeping SOOOO much. First
the top 10 Reasons People THINK I am sleeping so much:

10. I have joined the Armenian Mafia and I work nights so I have
to sleep all day.
9. I am depressed about leaving my homeland and I have lost the
desire to get up.
8. I have eaten so much gata and drank so much coffee with
sugar that I am too FAT to get out of bed.
7. I drink TOO much VODKA so I am hung over and CAN'T get out
of bed.
6. I am pregnant so I need much more sleep.
5. I don't want to try and learn Eastern Armenian so I stay in
bed where no Hayastantzs can get to me.
4. That is what Armenian wives is a part of submission
to their husbands.
3. I have narcalepsy.
2. It is winter and I "hye"-bernate in the winter.
1. I am LAZY!

I hope you all had a laugh or two...NOW for the REAL REASONS....

10. I took my final Marriage and Family Exam one week before we
left and had to study a lot before our move.
9. I packed up my entire life, house, family and boxed it up
to stay in America and to come to Armenia.
8. I became deathly ill 4 days before we left and was sick in
bed with the flu.
7. After our farewell party the night before we left I didn't
get to sleep until after 1am and had to wake up at 6am.
6. I traveled 3 1/2 hours by car to LA and 16 hours in
airplanes, with three children under 6 years old.
5. Got to Yerevan at 3am and got out of the airport by 4am
with 5--50lb boxes and 5-50lb suitcases.
4. I had insomnia for 4 nights straight not getting to sleep
until after 3 or 4 in the morning. 3. My husband, trying to
get us all on a "schedule" disallowed me sleep for the first 5
days until he realized.
2. I had to say goodbye, not very well to my old life and all
my family and friends = emotional wear and tear.
1. I am just plain TIRED!!!!!

Thank you for your indulgence of me. Besides Armenia is a wonderful
country where people stay up late and SLEEP's freezing outside
and nothing gets going until 11am anyway. So cut me some
slack...besides I bet some of you are a bit jealous! : ) When was
the last time you got to stay in bed until 1 in the afternoon. I love
you all! From my BED! Jonelle;)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Armenian Costco

We hit the jackpot yesterday! My cousin Vram took me to Armenia's
largest supermarket, about a 10 minute drive from our apartment. It
was comparable to a normal size Vons or Savemart, well lit, with wide
isles, well marked prices, and very helpful staff. The largest
shopping car was a little larger than the kids shopping carts they
have in the states, none the less we filled it up! With our
comfortable apartment, sound vehicle, kids in kindergarden, and now
with a real supermarket, our major tasks now are for Jonelle and me to
find a language teacher, and work on the village house.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I was just going to the store

I was just going to the store with Judi when a neighbor stopped me
and asked who I was and where I was from, what I was doing here and
what I thought of Armenia. Another neighbor asked if we could help
him with his 60 year old house (he'd applied to habitat already). The
first guy then took me by the arm into his house, for coffee, (I had
just had coffee after dinner at our own house). There was no stopping
our new friend Ashot, because before the coffee we had to have some
kind of brandy, two shots. He had a daughter, Fenya, who is seven
days older than Judi. We planned to have them play together after
So back on our way to the store with our neighbor Ashot. Once there
he cut in line and got pasta for his dogs?!?! We waited and continued
our four day attempt to find cream, we have bought every milk product
so far except cream, milk, evaporated milk, sour cream, yogurt, cream
cheese, butter, and about three different kinds of cheese. I finally
called my cousin and again explained to him exactly what cream was and
he explained to the store keeper. They had a tiny bottle of it and I
was so excited, but he wouldn't give it to me!!! He said it was old
and tomorrow they would have more... after all that!
So when I went to pay I only had 5000 drams ($16) to pay my 1000 dram
bill. As usual in Armenia there was no change to be found, even after
asking every person in the store. Ashot finally loaned me the bill
and we were off. Then I borrowed a bill from Judi that she had at the
house and took a note she made for Fenya to Ashot. What do you think
happened? Of course we went back in the house, had another shot,
vodka this time. "This is an Armenian house!" he repeated over and
over again. Both Jonelle and I are learning that a trip to the
grocery store that is less than 100 yards away can take as long as an
hour or more, so now we plan accordingly.

More car stories

Driving in Armenia requires quite a bit more concentration than
driving in the states. The pot holes are killing me, its pretty much
like going on a cross country 4x4 race, zigging and zagging, this way
and that. There are ice chunks, slick roads, hills, rocks, puddles,
people, police and more. I'm becoming more comfortable and learning
the roads and the rules a little more each day.
Registering the vehicle required going to one place that just made
copies of our passports and other documents, then going to the next
place that typed up the documents, and finally to a notary to stamp
and record our signatures. Like the grocery stores here you pay each
person for their services. I do have to say it was much easier than
waiting in line at the DMV!
We drove across town to get the Niva aligned, using some prehistoric
alignment system, it was interesting to say the least, but for $10 I'm
not complaining. I will probably have to visit that guy once a month,
considering the conditions of the road here.
And lastly I was chided by my cousin for not using my turn signal.
The police will jump at the chance to write a ticket for that yet
anyone and everyone can throw trash out the window right in front of
the police, no problem. Actually the police are probably throwing
more trash as they sit in their cars waiting to write tickets or take

My Children went to SCHOOL!!!!! Without ME!!!!

Hello All,
It is Jonelle here trying to fully recover from the flu/cold/sinus
pressure that makes my head feel like that new star trek guy with all
those puffy folds on his forehead and the bridge of his nose! Kalem
FINALLY agreed to let me sleep in to try and make up for 4 nights in a
row of INSOMNIA...Just a side note for all of you who don't know Kalem
too is always, "ADVANCE ADVANCE, never Retreat!" (and if
anyone knows what movie that line comes from you will get special
props on our illustrious blog!). I digress, so I woke up at 1PM!!!
today, oh glorious sleep (we had a party last night...more on that
later). When I awoke the apartment was unusually QUIET so I ambled
down the white and grey marble stairs to Kalem sitting on the
couch...ALONE. I stopped for a moment with a look of
confusion...Kalem said triumphantly, "The kids are not here!" Sweet
Mother of Mary, "You didn't take them to school did you...not without
me...????!!!!#$@%% : ) So Kalem, feeling so proud of himself to have
gotten all three of them to a little Kindergarten a short walk from
our house, without the interference of the homeschooling MOTHER. So I
am conflicted...I want to protect/be with my children in this NEW
COUNTRY as well as learn with them and I want to SUBMIT to my Strong
Armenian Husband...Kendra...council me!!!! : ) Needless to say I
have never had such a nice HOT breakfast, did my Armenian lesson and
gotten to use the computer all in one 2 hour period. I love you all
and will let you know about my first evening of entertaining...Martha
Stewart is DEFINATELY on VACATION! Peace of Christ with you all. I
love your comments.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The Weekend

We are finally all sleeping through the night, and are for the most
part all in good health. We celebrated our first week here by a
family trip into the city. We traveled by Mashutka, an old russian
passenger van with 11 actual seats but normally hold about 20 people!
The fare is 100 drams ~ $0.35 as far along it's route as you want to
ride it. (We have since learned that for our family a taxis are much
better since the min. fare of 600 dram, ~$2 would take us faster and
further and to more places than the shuttle.) Since I am on
transportation the subway system is also excellent, clean, temperate,
and cheep 50 drams ~$0.16 per ride.
So we arrived at the Vernesage which is the most famous open air
craft market in Armenia. There you can find everything hand carved,
woven, painted, sculpted, etc. We had a nice walk and then ate lunch
at the City Diner, serving hamburgers, fries, salads, and other
American food, it was founded by an Armenian woman from Glendale.
This was a treat as our bill was equal to all of the groceries and
supplies we bought during the week.
Sunday was interesting, as we got to church promptly at 11 am "the
time that all churches in Armenia start" as my cousin instructed, only
to participate in the last 10 minutes of prayer before, the service
that started at 9:30, was ending. So we walked 15 minutes to another
church, where the doors were locked and people were not to be found.
Jonelle and the kids returned home and my cousins and I went to the
Car Bazar to look for a vehicle.
Imagine a giant parking lot the size of a couple of football fields,
then imagine cars covering every possible square foot of it with
little rhyme or reason to why or where cars are parked. Trash,
littered the muddy ground, the freezing air smelled of khorovads
(BBQ), and the sound of revving engines and bartering filled our
ears. Approach a car, window rolls down, "what year," "how much," and
on to the next one. We were looking for a Russian (I hesitate to say
SUV because it is so small) mini SUV, the Nivas are all white, and
maybe 10 on the hilltop parking lot. The fourth one we saw fit our
budget and condition. Meeting up with the owner we continued the test
drive and looked under the car. It passed the test and we gave the
owner half of the money and he kept half of the paper work until we
transfer ownership the next day and we took the car. I struggled to
keep up with my cousin, as I drove without proper documentation, past
about 10 police, dodging potholes and people, driving and passing
without the benefit of marked lanes, all in a strange vehicle. It was
a little stressful to say the least, I made it.
We will host our family at our apartment Tuesday night to celebrate
the new car and express our gratitude to them for extending such
tremendous hospitality.

Friday, February 22, 2008


Finally, our internet is somewhat setup and working. It was truly a
team effort! My cousin Ashot drove, my cousin Vram translated, I
paid, our apartment owner, Serop, dad signed the release, Serop
rewired the house phone which randomly disconnected for a whole day
during the modem set up time, and I have been trying to set up the
modem and routers for the last day. Can I just say, everything is
much easier in America. I hope to increase the modem upload speed so
that our vonage phone (fresno number) will work. For now you can
leave messages there, that we get as email attachments, and we can
call you back, with skype (VOIP - voice over internet protocol).
So while our phone was out for one day, our water also turned off for
the better part of the day. Needless to say we were unprepared (a
little thirsty with a stinky bathroom). We have since filled a large
jug for drinking water, and have a bucket full of water to flush the
toilet. Good thing because the water went out again for a couple of
hours the next day.
We are adjusting, to the time schedule and everyone is feeling much
better. I've taken Jonelle and the kids out for a walk the last
couple of days. We receive many stares and strange looks, one boy
walking the opposite direction stopped and watched us until we were
out of sight.
We have made good friends with the small grocery store owners, they
are very gracious with our poor language skills and american
measurements. Every thing is behind the counter and you have to ask
for things by name and say how much of it you want, usually in
kilograms or grams. Not only are we not use to dealing with metric
weights, the system of saying how much you want, and even not being
able to get things yourself is taking some getting used to. It is also
funny how in one store you might pay three or four different people,
when you buy something out of their section. I have only seen one
store (downtown) that they have a central cashier and they use a
scanner to read barcodes. Needless to say this "Nareg" household
supply store (600 sqft Target?) is my favorite place to shop.
Thank you all again so much for your prayers and encouragement. We
are doing much better now as we are adjusting in so many ways. We
look forward to buying a car this weekend at the bazar, (car swap
meet?), I can only guess...


Thursday, February 21, 2008

A long night

My plans to go into the city for supplies were thwarted by my Aunt
who said it was dangerous the day after the election. Apparently
there were a thousand soldiers in the city to keep the peace and
control demonstrators. we didn't get there until 7 p.m. by which time
we had to drive all over the city just to find one small group of
This little tour lead my cousins and myself to a family friends
neighborhood, where of course we had to stop in to say "Hi." Saying
hi equals: coffee, tea, fruit, desert, and long political
conversations, a little help with there computer, and the evening news
in the background. As we were going to pick my cousins son, we
stopped in at his brothers house for another quick "Hello" which
equaled about two more hours, left over potato and meat dinner, three
toasts, coffee, tea, fruit, desert, reminiscing about old times,
Russian dubbed movies playing in the background. By this point it was
obvious it was going to be a long night.
Our next stop was to drop one cousin off at his house, where we of
course all went in to say hi to his wife. We had two more hours,
three more toasts, juice, tea, desert, nuts and dried fruit, armenian
soap operas playing in the background.
It was very good that we had a driver who brought us back at which
point for some reason it seemed logical just to stay the night with my
cousins, even though I only lived one mile up the street, so as not to
bother the family at such a late hour.
At that very time Judi had woken Jonelle up, sad that she was missing
her father, there dialog continued for a couple of hours in and out of
bed, up and down the stairs, in and out of the kitchen and the
bathroom. Until finally everyone fell back to sleep.
Rising early, 9 a.m., I made my way up the hill through the very cold
and sleepy Yerevan morning, to find Judi fully dressed sitting on the
couch in anticipation of my arrival with the rest of the family asleep
in bed. This was a very long night for all of us.

no internet

Day three, still no internet. Our second day Jonelle and the kids
slept, trying to recover from the flu we had, and I tried to unpack
our stuff, and buy food and other supplies. Since we are further up
the hill from the city, we have a great view, but the small stores
here are a little lacking. So a drive, walk or shuttle down to the
city is the answer for items that we cannot find here in our area.
Tuesday was the presidential election, and so most places were closed,
so today, Wednesday we will try to get connected to the internet in
our apartment.
An interesting thing has been happening, every night, sometime around
4 AM our entire family is awake. Remember we all sleep in one giant
room upstairs in this apartment. For about an hour Frank wanders
around as we tell him to get back in bed, Peter coughs relentlessly,
and Judi cries as she is sad and this is the hour she most misses
everyone back home. We stay in bed and fall back to sleep, I wake up
earlier and like good Armenians the rest of the family sleeps most of
the morning away. I have been told by some that morning in Armenia
doesn't start until 11, others have referred to 3 p.m. as still
morning. So far we have not really had breakfast just one big supper
type meal and random snacks. I guess it will take us a while to
establish some system that works for us.

We made it

The kids really did great the whole trip over, especially considering their sicknesses, and we are glad to be off of the airplanes.  After our short jaunt from Moscow to Yerevan, (3 hours, was nothing compared to the 13 from LA), we were the last to go through customs because we had yet to get the kids visas.
The customs official tried to give us a hard time because he thought we might be bringing in new products to sell in the 5 boxes (people do this to avoid the 20% Value Added Tax).  So far I am 5 for 5 for being hassled in someway or another coming into the country.  Don't let me scare you, I usually bring weird things, like drip irrigation systems, or electronics, or tools, or my hair had been long in the past, and a couple of times I came in with a passport that had been through the wash.
My family greeted us and brought us directly to our rental apartment in Nork Marash above Yerevan.  We had a great sleep during the day on Monday, and an even better party at Aunt Rosanna's house.  Where Jonelle and the kids were greeted by the family for the first time.
Peter and Frank were a bit more shy and tired with their colds. Judi was in with everyone soaking it all up.  She cleaned up with about 5 stuffed animals, building blocks, and a sweater/dress.  Nana made one of her famous cakes, 4 layers, chocolate & vanilla 8" tall and about 14" diameter, all from scratch, they just keep getting bigger every time.
Not even mentioning the extravagant spread of dolmas, blintz, vegetables, meats, breads, etc that lined the table from one end to the other.  Toasts were made and we drank our vodka or wine (which this time was served in an old cognac bottle, as it is new wine an cheeper to buy direct in an old two litter soda bottle).
We are tired now and it is time to say good night.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Our Adventure Begins!

We said farewell to America today, to friends, family and the
"American way." Our Friday night goodbye party was fun, thank you so
much for those of you who were able to make it. It was truly a
blessing to have you there to show your support.

You might have heard that our whole family fell ill with the flu days
before our departure. This was quite a difficult obstacle to deal
with, as we were packing our bags to leave the country, packing up our
things that were staying, say good bye to people, and stay in bed and
rest?!?!? Through this time we have solidified our adoption of our
family slogan for the year, "Attitude of Gratitude."

It was also quite interesting taking 5 suitcase and 5 boxes, each
weigh the maximum 50 pounds, through the airport with 3 children and
all of our carry on items. Lets just say we are glad that part is over.

Thinking back on the last couple of weeks and days there was a very
funny question that many people repeatedly would ask, "are you taking
that with you?" Or the varrient, "are you taking _____ with you?"
Since so many people are interested in what we plan to live with for
the next 7 months here is a list of the more interesting items:

150 pounds of clothes

50 pounds of shoes

50 pounds of gifts

50 pounds of electronic equipment including a printer/scanner.

55 pounds of pictures of peter and frank, there out of date scrapbooks
and a whole lot of stickers.

35 pounds of homeschooling supplies

35 pounds of transformers 3000 Watts being the biggest

30 pounds of kitchen supplies including a vita mix blender (11 amps),
we do like our smoothies!!?!

20 pounds of toiletries?!?!!?! Jonelle! [oh, give me a break will
'ya...i'm mov'in across the world, i should at least have my

15 pounds of personal tools

10 pounds of Juice Plus +