Archive for the ‘Dispatches from Armenia’ Category

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[Dispatches from Armenia]: Tztesutjun Armenia.

August 30, 2010

By Erin Henk

This is really difficult. After two months in Armenia, my return to the U.S. looms. For the past week I’ve been trying more than ever to process this incredible experience with the hope of being able to summarize it in some kind of eloquent and profound way. This is not going to be the case, unfortunately.

I can try and explain it a little bit, though. Being here has been a constant learning process and I’m actually pretty happy to say that I’ve experienced a range of emotions over these two months, both high and low. At the risk of spewing clichés, I find it incredibly hard to describe how strongly I feel about Armenia and Armenians now. Before I came here my knowledge of Armenia added up to, well, nothing. I mean this in the best possible way. Since starting to work for FAR about a year ago, I’ve learned about the organization’s work, along with a little bit about Armenian history and culture and I’ve appreciated all of it. For an odar like me, however, this was nothing compared to actually experiencing Armenia, its wonderful people and witnessing FAR’s work firsthand.

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Credit: Erin Henk

Since coming here, I’ve been able to see things like the fragmented remains of the Nagorno-Karabagh War juxtaposed with development in Shushi and Stepanakert and watch clouds sweep in and cover Tatev monastery and its majestic surroundings. I’ve been lulled to sleep by the river in Goris and now feel quite at home in the bustle of Yerevan. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet face to face with the students, doctors, the elderly and the children whose lives have been touched in unique ways through FAR’s programs. And there’s more – tasting some of the freshest and most flavorful fruits and vegetables on earth, attempting to dance, learning the true meaning of Armenian hospitality and the Armenian love for culture and art, and forging friendships that I hope will have no end. I’ve even managed put aside my pre-conceived notions that I’d never be able to learn Armenian and I got myself a tutor. We’ll see how that goes. 

My strong feelings about Armenia and Armenians didn’t happen overnight, either. I arrived eager to absorb all I could about FAR’s work, along with some Armenian culture and history. My hope was for an enriching experience, which would enable me to improve my work. I never guessed this trip would spark such a fascination. Something crossed over in me, something that’s caused me to be enthralled by Armenia’s tumultuous history, the dynamism and strength of its people, and its global community more than I ever thought possible. I can hardly remember being so pleasantly surprised by something that’s captivated me so unexpectedly.

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Credit: Erin Henk

There have been many goodbyes lately; people ask me when I’m coming back. Even though I don’t know when, I do know that I am. On that note, minch nor handipum, Hayastan. 

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[Dispatches from Armenia]

August 27, 2010

Parajanov’s Courtyard

Dispatches_Parajanov's courtyard

Credit: Erin Henk

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[Dispatches from Armenia]: Searching in Vain for Ararat.

August 26, 2010

By Erin Henk

For a long time, I had no idea that the parking lot of my apartment building overlooks one of Yerevan’s most beautiful views of Mt. Ararat. Unfortunately, this view is rare depending on the day’s level of pollution and the cloud coverage, which is probably why I almost tripped over myself the time I was walking home on a clear day and saw that beautiful mountain right there in front of me, magnificent and pristine. I wished more than anything that I had my camera to capture that moment.

Since then, the first thing I do when I step out of my door every morning is turn around to see if the sky is clear. It never is. Not that clear. Not once. Usually, all I can catch is a glimpse of Ararat’s outline or its distinguished snow-capped peak if I focus my gaze.

Ararat view_Erin

Credit: Erin Henk

The other night while returning home at dusk, Ararat was more visible than usual. I had my camera with me but as I rushed to try and take the picture, a sudden gust of wind swept my hair into my eyes and a bee stung me right on my face. Needless to say, the moment was ruined. My time in Armenia is nearly over now and I have little hope that I’ll ever see Ararat as I did that day. There are some things that shouldn’t be forced or contrived, I suppose. At least that beautiful view will always remain clear in my mind. 

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[Dispatches from Armenia]

August 26, 2010

Parajanov from my window

Parajanov's museum

Credit: Erin Henk

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[Dispatches from Armenia]

August 25, 2010

Shuka in Stepanakert

DISPATCHES_photo by Erin

Credit: Erin Henk

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[Dispatches from Armenia]: Weekend in Tbilisi.

August 24, 2010

By Erin Henk

It started out slightly rough. The supposedly five hour marshutka ride from Yerevan turned into a nine hour trip during which my (rather tall) husband’s knees were bruised from being continually slammed against the wooden seat in front of him. Then a small child vomited all over our fellow passenger’s backpack about 30 seconds before we disembarked for the border crossing. We arrived in Tbilisi in one piece, however, and spent the weekend wandering around a very pretty and dynamic city.

Tbilisi

Credit: Erin Henk

Strolling through narrow cobblestone streets, it was wonderful to admire the balconied houses of the old town, the buildings that creep up into the city’s sloping mountains and the random performances of live music. The rumors about delicious Georgian cuisine are true; we constantly dined on khatchapuri, walnut stuffed vegetables and wine. We meandered through several construction zones to climb the Narikala fortress for the view. I searched in vain to see the city’s only mosque – the construction there actually stopped us from entering. And then I think I managed to have the entire top layer of my skin scrubbed off in the “royal” sulfur baths. Never have I felt so clean and so … odorous.

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Credit: Erin Henk

Couldn’t miss the Cathedral of St. George, the last remaining Armenian church in Tbilisi, also Sayat-Nova’s burial place. We arrived to find a wedding going on inside — not unexpected after having witnessed so many baptisms and other ceremonies in progress at various monasteries during the YPT trip. We also walked along the Mtkvari River for about an hour and a half in the wrong direction one day, in search of a particular market that we never actually found. A chance to observe city life as it happens, nevertheless.

Tbilisi 2

Credit: Erin Henk

The ride home was definitely shorter and smoother and I found myself quite eager to return home to Yerevan. 

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[Dispatches from Armenia]

August 23, 2010

Laundry to Dry

Monday- Laundry to Dry

Credit: Erin Henk