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

Sunday, May 11, 2008


This is a Top Ten List dedicated to our Mom's, Elaine & Jane on Mother's Day.  We realized that we wouldn't be in Armenia WITHOUT THEM!  Of course they gave birth to us but they also instilled many things in us that have helped us get here, survive here, & thrive here in Armenia.  (I know they are both shaking their head's and saying, "They're blaming this on us!?!"  : )  We love you both dearly and cherish you as our mothers.  We also want to pay tribute to our Grandmothers too!  Geganoosh (Gertie) Kazarian and Isabelle Najarian, whom are still blessing us with their lives on earth and Grace Garo & Lillie Karabian who proclaim God's greatness and majesty in heaven.  (Don't worry we have another list for Father's Day!)

10.  Talk to EVERYONE.



 7.  Act SHNORKOV (in other words BEHAVE).

 6.  Love of TRAVEL (they both love to see the world).

 5.  ADVENTUROUS (they don't want to leave any rock unturned).

 4.  Be JARBIG (go after what you want without being shy).

 3.  Throw the BEST PARTIES


 1.  For goodness sake have on the right SHOES!

"Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes.  For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.  Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."   Ephesians 6:10-18

Thank you MOMS for EVERYTHING!  and for a special treat read this wonderful short story by a good friend SHARLA SEIDEL and take action!  Love Jonelle; ) 

Friday, May 9, 2008

Top 10 Best Things About Armenia

10. Walking right up to monuments, climbing on tanks, airplanes, etc
that would all be off limits in the States.

9. Ice Cream literally on every corner (I guess this is good and

8. Darling individual pastries and cakes for less than $1.00 (La
Boulangerie would charge about $5 for the same thing.)

7. No Car-Seats required (again good and bad!)

6. $0.50 Soorj available EVERYWHERE...(note---soorj or cafe is all
they call it...not Armenian Coffee AND Armenian's in Armenia have NO
problem admitting they got it from the get a grip in
the diaspora!

5. Delicious ORGANIC* fruits and veggies (*much more on this later!)

4. Shoe repair for less than $1.00!

3. 24 Hour SHOE STORES!!!!! (note for those of you who know my
Imelda side...I only have 5 pairs of shoes's almost like
suffocating : )

2. 9 Holidays in May with Full-On FIREWORKS EVERYTIME!!!

1. CHOCOLATE BUTTER!!!! (No explanation needed!!)

50% of my list is about food...I MUST BE ARMENIAN!
Enjoy Jonelle;)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Only In Armenia!

One Sunday after church Kalem took the family to a place where both tourists and locals frequent;  Haghtanak Igee (Victory Park).  Mayr Hayastan is there in all her glory, decommissioned tanks, an airplane, rocket launcher, and other military goodies.  Also there is one of the best vistas of Mt. Ararat (when you can actually see it) that takes your breath away!  The first few times we drove by Victory Park, I thought it was nothing really, just a tufa block fence and long-worn-out signs in Russian and Armenian on either side of the entrance way.  From our house in Nork Marash we can see Mother Armenia and a Ferris Wheel near-by her.  It was only weeks later that I realized Haghtanak Igee was a fully functional park and that the huge Mother Armenia statue overlooking Yerevan and the Ferris Wheel were in the same place.  That Sunday we parked and walked down the concrete slab tiles (2 1/2' square with grass growing between the 3" spacing).  Trees lined the walk and vendors spotted the way selling cheap toys and plastic jewelry.  As the walkway continued up to a circle other vendors sold popcorn and cotton candy.  Once we reached the circle we noticed three "British" looking cars from the 40's.  Apparently for a few hundred drams (a few dollars) one can "rent" the car.  That is to say, a person (any age or so it seemed) would pay to drive the car around the circle and down a street perpendicular to the walkway.  We were almost plowed over by a 12 year-old commandeering one of these two-toned autos.  Past the circle the walkway continued; food vendors and rides were the next attractions.  The first ride we saw looked to be an abandoned dinosaur roller coaster.  The track followed a semi-circular pattern with undulating hills and valleys.  The dinosaur had five cars holding four people in each section.  Each car had a "hold-on-for-dear-life-bar" but no safety restraints to speak of.  In the center section of coaster were long metal dowels connecting the dinosaur to one main hub in the middle of the weeds.  The metal platform and guardrails were painted green at one time, but rust and weather had taken their toll.  But the most disturbing thing about this dino-coaster was that they USE IT!!!  In fact, Judi, Peter, Frank and I made our way up the metal staircase to board the roller coaster with much excitement and a pinch of FEAR.  The ride attendant (who looked like some guy off the street) took our 200 drams (per person) and then went to his booth.  No checking to see if we were safe inside our cars.  No strapping our seat-belts tightly...because THERE ARE NO SEAT-BELTS!  No, he just went to his little stool, lit a cigarette and pushed the green "GO" button.  Praise God we got off alive!  There were other ramshackle rides and little cafes with overpriced food just like Disneyland only without the $$$$ entrance fee, gorgeously manicured lawns, colorful characters and an electric light parade!  Okay, so it's not like Disneyland at all, more like Rotary Park's Playland in Roeding Park, Fresno...only way more weeds.
We continued on and let the kids ride some tamer rides and then found a little building with one Skee-Roll type bowling game. For those of you who don't know, JOHN-L, that would be me, LOVES Skee-Roll and looks forward to playing in Santa Cruz every year.  So we walk in and see a little old Armenian grandma with a tashkenak (handkerchief or as Frank calls it, a hanker ship) on her head, several layers of clothing, possibly 6 teeth, and slippers.  We paid 500 drams ($1.66) for 5 balls to roll at bowling pins suspended from an arm above the game.  As each of us took one roll Grandma would say, "Ahbrees" (Well done/good job) even to Frankie's roll right into the gutter and Peter's power roll that hopped the alley and landed on the other side of the booth!  When Kalem rolled the final ball she motioned for us to come to the "PRIZE CENTER" which was a box 4"x8" and about 6" high.  Inside were the following: 2 sets of "high fashion" jewelry, a heart shaped alarm clock, a plastic gun, 5 or so, hairbands, and some bracelets.  Of course I took the clock!  We continued to walk and made our way to Mayr Hayastan; she really is amazing with her gargantuan sword and shield and the view of Ararat was truly amazing that day.  We even visited the Museum of the Ministry of Defense which is located underneath the Mother Armenia statue.  We had "lunch" (ice cream & one koravadz) and then were making our way out of the park when something caught my eye...the park had quite a number of those "CLAW" machines; you know the ones you spend tons of money in to move the claw out to the very spot your favorite stuffed animal or toy is sitting.  You've done it get the claw all lined up and push the button for the three fingers to drop.  You hit dead on your toy and the fingers grab your prize and start to ascend when before your very eyes the claw's grasp is not enough to bring the much desired goodie to the watch it slip out landing back into the pile of toys and dolls that will NEVER leave that house.  Only in Armenia would you ever see one of these filled not with toys, stuffed animals, balls or caps, but with....CIGARETTES!!!  If you don't believe me see for yourself.  Never ceasing to be amazed...Jonelle;)

See For Yourself!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Another trip to the Village

The drive to the village was especially pretty this week, as the
temperatures dropped quite substantially, and a series of rain and
wind storms cleaned the smog out of the whole country. Yerevan is
built in a valley surrounded by hills to the North and East. Behind
those hills you can see that there is an even larger valley created by
Mt. Aragats to the North, Mt. Ara to the East, and Mt. Ararat
showcased to the Southeast. The mountains are all snow caped and
during the drive up and around the base of Aragats, I drove through
snow flurries in the town of Aparan (the halfway point).
Entering the town of Aparan a police tried in vain to pull me over
for speeding, I was probably going 65 kilometers per hour and I think
there might have been a sign saying it was 50 km/h. The siren and
flashing headlights were just not convincing enough for me and he only
moved his car about 50 meters, before giving up the "chase." I was on
the look out for the police on the other end of town but it wasn't
until after the next village did they stop me, this time they were out
of the car and flagging me down, again there was a special 50 km/h
sign, and they apparently clocked me at 84 km/h. I stayed in the car
with my seatbelt on and waited, a suggestion from a friend, who said
getting out of the car means you want to negotiate.
So, let me explain the driving rules I just learned, the open road
speed is 90 km/h, and town or village speed is 60 km/h, unless
otherwise posted. I tried to explain I thought it was an unfair speed
trap, coming around an uphill turn out of a village into a specially
marked danger zone, but that didn't work. They said the fine was
10,000 drams ($30), but would reduce it to 5,000 drams, this meant
from a ticket to a bribe. There are really three options, ticket,
bribe, and warning, since our goal is not to pay bribes, so I
continued to slowly deliberate with the police officers. Seeing I was
getting no sympathy with my standard pleas of just learning the rules,
and being here to help build homes for poor people, I tried my newest
tactic. I have a copy of all of the driving laws in Armenian, so I
brought it out and asked the police officers if they could show me
exactly which rule I broke and what the fine was. After about 30
seconds of flipping through the fine print, one officer shouted under
his breath, just give us money! To which I patiently waited for them
to show me the rule and 10 more seconds later he was handing all of my
documents back to me and saying don't drive fast anymore. I heeded
there warning and enjoyed the scenery, and drove 60 through remaining
villages and was passed by cars, trucks, and even a car with three
sheep in the back seat.
Lusaghbyur and two other villages nearby were without power for three
days, this stalled work on the house, and left Vartan and Vahan
freezing in the village with no heat and nothing to do, they retreated
to Vanadzor until the power returned. They have made quite a bit of
progress all interior walls are built, doors and windows are
installed, and rough electrical and plumbing is done, and the particle
board floor installed. The bathroom fell a little behind as they still
need to pour the concrete floor, then tile the floor and walls. They
were doing finish carpentry of baseboard and casing, and will paint
once the tile work in the bathroom is done.
After attempting to drive home late last week after being warned that
it was dangerous, I now agree that in Armenia in a Niva driving
outside of the city at night is dangerous. A person can hardly see
the white line in the center, and the edge of the road is even harder
to find, and other driver are just fine to pass with high-beams on,
the real fun came when some one tries to pass on a turn leaving little
road left to find in the dark. So I left early and in a 10 hour round
trip I was in the car for 6 hours, back before dark and glad to be
back with the family.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


Richard Garabedian where are you?!!!! I don't know if it is because I
haven't worked out consistently in over 2 months, or if it is because
I am hunched over using those blasted tumbleweed brooms made for
Munchkins, I'm sorry, Little People, or if it is because there are 3
potholes for every 3 meters (like that, I've gone metric!) of road and
the jarring is finally getting to me OR it could be a FEW things wrong
with my BED! Let me describe my previous sleeping arrangements in the
States...Kalem and I had a firm Cal-King mattress with a 3 inch
"Memory Foam" on top. 1,000,000 thread count, 100% Egyptian Cotton
sheets on a Half-Sleigh Bed made out of dark Mahogany wood, not that I
really remember sleeping in that bed, since it was over 2 months ago!
Please don't read snobbery in the description of what was formerly
know as "My Bed", just imagine comfort; sheer and utter nocturnal
bliss when I snuggled in with the sheets enclosing my face like a
hooded sweatshirt. And lest I be remiss to speak about my Pillow, my
Sweet, Sweet, SWEET pillow! It too is constructed of "Memory Foam"
matching the very curvature of my neck and holding my spine at
ergonomic perfection. (For those of you who would like to visit this
sleep shrine call 555-Circle K Ranch for visiting hours and admission
pricing; senior citizens discounts, food stamps and coupons are NOT
So a long day of sweeping like a hunchback, being thrown about in the
front seat of the Niva, and my lack of stomach and back strength all
play a role in my aching back and spine but the bed here really takes
the cake. As you recall ALL 5 of us SLEEP in THE SAME ROOM!!!!, I
know that many of you practice "co-sleeping" with your newborns up to
age...? But this is the whole lot of us like Rob Roy MacGregor or
something. Judi and Peter have "twin" beds (they are about 1/3
smaller than a twin in the US) and the head and footboards move in and
out at the slightest touch. Poor Frankie sleeps in between Jude and
Pete on one of those inflatable twin mattresses and as of late, every
morning we wake up to either the bed being totally flat or it has
deflated enough so that he has slid half-way (feet and legs) under
Judi or Peter's bed. Now, our bed; our bed looks like regal queen
size with a extra-super-high-high-gloss reddish, brown wood appearance
(it is really a styro-epoxy-foam frame with wood painting)and fancy
curls and swoops on the headboard. The mattress, sans box spring sits
on a 8" high black wood box, so it is quite low to the ground. The
mattress is a WELL WORN spring type and you can actually feel EACH and
EVERY individual spring. I have learned to negotiate a semi-
comfortable position with limited spring contact, BUT if by chance I
move in the dead of night I am reminded quickly and painfully not to
try that again. So the mattress is less than ideal but the pillows
are even more of a difficulty. The pillows that were on the queen
were "European" 2 1/2 Feet Square. At that size if we laid the
pillows down flat and placed our heads appropriately then our feet
were dangling quite uncomfortably over the edge at some distance. But
if we moved up on the pillows to fit inside the bed, then not only
were our heads on the pillows but so were our shoulders and arms down
to the elbow, and our ribcage...if you can't picture is NOT a
very satisfying sleeping position. Also, I have heard of duck down or
goose down filled pillows, but I think they have the WHOLE BIRD in the
pillow too! Forget building houses. I am going to open a SLEEP
NUMBER or TEMPERPEDIC Shop on Abovyan!!!
Needless to say, after 2 1/2 months sleeping in these contorted
positions I am in desperate need of a chiropractor, Richard COME, NOW
PLEASE and bring my darling DEANNA and the luvy love girlie girls
too!!!! Until you get here I will try a massage...I have an
appointment today, my first ever in my life even though my sweet and
caring mother-in-law tried to gift this to me at least twice!!!
Thanks Mama Jane! Pray that it helps. Now please don't feel sorry
for me...after all if our lives were perfectly seemless what on earth
would we write about! God's Peace to you all and to all a Good NIGHT
(sleep)! Jonelle;)

Sunday, May 4, 2008

A Strange Day

May 1st is Labor Day in Armenia and other parts of the world, it fell
on a Thursday this year, so government offices, banks, and some stores
were closed. Even on Friday some stores and shops were closed and the
traffic was lighter. Then came Saturday, was probably the most
normal, with some kids returning to school (school is normal here on
Saturdays) but it was still a little strange as this holiday feeling
lingered. Then came Sunday, I was anxious to see what would happen as
I had heard that government offices would be open, and students would
be expected at school. Sure enough church attendance was a fraction
of what it is regularly and the city activity was more like a weekday
than a Sunday. In the evening traffic was a little lighter than usual
(only holidays and Sundays), as it seemed people tried to regain their
lost Sunday. All this crazy schedule changing to honor the workers by
making them work on Sunday! Needless to say it was the very topic of
the sermon. Making it the strangest of the four days.
We attended the an Armenian service in the morning and were told
about an English service that evening, so we went to both. The kids
receive grades for their behavior in church, 5 in Armenia is
equivalent to a A, and 4 is a B etc... The family average is about
2.5 usually. For some reason Peter pulled out a 5 this morning at the
Armenian service and we couldn't believe it (3 has been the family
high), then at the English service in the evening he managed a 0, with
shouts of "is it over yet," "this is too long," and "can we go
please!" during the sermon and prayer time. This English speaking
church service was also very strange with med students from India, and
other students from Asia and Africa, Non-Governmental Organization
(NGO) workers from all over the world, and a few locals. It was the
most multicultural church we have been to in a long time, and it felt
strangely familiar and comfortable to be amidst this mix of people all
speaking English.
The evening topper was getting a frozen pizza from the supermarket
for dinner and upon opening it finding hot dog chucks as the featured
meat! At least it wasn't coated in Mayonnaise as most other pizzas
are. The kids didn't get to bed until 10 (2 hours past their 8 p.m.
bedtime), celebrated with fireworks over the city for who know what?
Although these things may or may not seem strange to you, we continue
in the cultural daze that we call life here, with glimpses of
normality on occasion. Leaving us asking ourselves over and over
again, "really what is normal?"

Attitude of Grattitude

We recently had an American guest to our home for dinner, and in
conversing after dinner, I found myself running down a long list of
differences in living between Armenia and America. You might
remember, "the potholes everywhere, traffic lights that don't work,
corrupt police, a very uncomfortable bed, the kids are constantly
getting sick from kindergarden, the gas goes off and so does our hot
water, heater and half of our stove, the internet connection needs to
be reset constantly because it has trouble staying connected, the
water has been off for as long as a full day and about once a week,
and then the worst one of all when the power goes out so does
everything else, since the water is pumped electrically from a tank,
the hot water heater has an automatic electronic ignition, the oven is
electric, and the dsl internet doesn't work with out power." To my
surprise he said something like, "I have been to places where they
don't have any of those problems, because they don't have any of those
things!" I just listened humbly to him tell of life in third world
countries where people live in mud huts, with out any of the luxuries
of gas, power or any other connection to the outside world. Where
they are grateful to have a place to sleep and live off of the dirt.
We were reminded of our family's theme for the year of having an
"attitude of gratitude," something we will defiantly need as we are
soon to transition into life in the village. Where I am sure we will
have a new list of things that don't work like America, or even like
Yerevan. We are so grateful for friends and family, for your prayers
and encouragement, as we struggle with these minor hardships, for the
sake of sharing the good news of salvation by grace through faith, and
as we help provide a little better quality of life and bring a renewed
hope to a downtrodden place.

Saturday, May 3, 2008


Janapar has many meanings: Paree Janapar (have a good trip), Vor
Janapar (What Road), Garch Janapar (Short Cut), Oreesh Janapar
(different way), Janapar! (get out of the way).
While working in the village this last week, I found out that our
"front lawn," which is really the back weeds, is really most of the
above. It is a short cut through the houses from the road and fields
down the hill, a different way to go, and it is almost turning into a
road at least for horses drawn carts. I almost use the "Janapar!"
statement to all the people just watching as I was carrying rocks into
the house to raise the bathroom floor.
The project is progressing very nicely, Vahan and Vartan are just
doing the best job. They are sleeping in the house, working 12 hour
days, and are doing quality work. With two local masters I was the
apprentice, moving rocks, mixing cement, bringing tools, etc. When I
volunteered to help build a wall, I was told "do you know how to do
this" Sure I can learn, but their response was, "No, these are
Master's tools, you can bring some water." It was mostly in jest as
I learned quite a bit about different mortar and plaster mixes and
The funniest thing is when I laid the bathroom out originally it was
9' x 9' then they said it was too big, okay I consented down to 6' x
7', and now once the bathroom is built, they said it is too small!
This could be added to Jonelle's blog, "the way it is."

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Vie Frankie: Part 2

One day I went to pick up the kids from Mangabardez and walked in to find Frankie dressed like this...but with his tennis shoes on!  Apparently he had an accident and his pants were spoiled or should I say SOILED, and this was all they had for him..teal girl's tights, size 6x with little Zummer Babi's (Santa Claus; literally Winter Papa) on the sides.  I could not stop laughing...I was trying to control myself what with the possibility of YET ANOTHER complex for my poor children...but I just COULD NOT contain myself.  And, if it was ANY one else they would have cried or had hurt feelings but not Frankie...he is my "tough-guy in teal tights"!  Jonelle; )