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.