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.