Archive for the ‘FAR’s Intern(s) in Armenia – Celine’ Category


[Celine’s Dispatches: FAR’s Intern in Armenia]: We’ll miss you, Celine

August 31, 2009

By Levon Lachikyan

Prior to her internship at the FAR Yerevan Office, Celine Kaladjian had an opportunity to participate in the FAR Young Professionals’ Trip, which gave her a great opportunity to tour the country with other young Armenians. However, this was not Celine’s first trip to Armenia.

Born in Marseilles, France, Celine was raised in an Armenian district of the city. Currently, Celine studies at University of Bordeaux III (France). She first discovered Armenia in stories documented by her great-grandparents, emigrants from Western Region of Armenia in 1922. But only the death of Celine’s grandparents in 2005 motivated her to visit Armenia for the first time.

In June 2009, Celine visited Armenia for the second time. On her second visit she wrote: “I felt like I was back home”. Two months were enough for the young Armenian girl to get involved in various FAR programs and visit many corners of Armenia. She shared her impressions with our FAR supports, through many stories she wrote for the blog.

Celine quickly made friends with FAR Yerevan and Gyumri employees, enjoying the open and warm atmosphere in the FAR offices. Everybody at FAR was truly saddened by Celine’s departure.

Celine on her last day at the Yerevan office

+ Celine at FAR Yerevan office

Credit : Levon Lachikyan

One of the benefits of Celine’s internship in Armenia is that she also started learning the Armenian language! We believe that on her next visit, Celine will communicate with her Armenian friends through her beautiful Armenian language. We are looking forward to seeing


[Celine’s Dispatches: FAR’s Intern in Armenia]: Living in Barekamoutyoun

August 27, 2009

I live in the neighborhood around Barekamoutyoun (North-west Yerevan). When one of my Armenian friends first told me he knew of an apartment available in this area, I really didn’t know what to expect.  With a myriad of concrete buildings sprouting from the Earth, this district does not look appealing from the outside. Yet, within the masses of construction, one finds a very happy Armenian community.

When you think you’ve reached the end of a street in Barekamoutyoun, there’s usually a small passage that leads you to a quiet area, sort of a city in the city, if you will.  And you forget that you’re in Yerevan: people beat their wool, children play soccer, elderly play backgammon and street vendors display their colorful array of fruits.

Foreigners draw distinct glances from locals, but I know that this is more out of curiosity than anything else.  “Why would a foreigner come here?” they wonder.  When you approach a local in Barekamoutyoun, his or her face brightens.  For example, one street vendor lets out a childlike laugh every time I stop by his stand because he has to teach me the Armenian words for each type of fruit or vegetable.

No, I wouldn’t want to live anywhere else!

– Celine

View from my window: Nighttime in Barekamoutyoun


Credit : Celine Kaladjian


[Celine’s Dispatches: FAR’s Intern in Armenia]: Yerevan Disconnected from the Web

August 20, 2009

On July 13th, I went, as usual, to FAR’s Yerevan office to begin my day’s work.  However, on that particular day, we had no electricity and therefore no Internet.  After an hour, I realized that all hope was lost and I decided to go on a hunt through Yerevan for Internet.

After dropping by my fiancé’s office, it became clear that I wouldn’t be able to get a connection in the downtown area.  Therefore, I decided to go to some internet cafes outside of Yerevan’s city center. But alas, still no internet.

I was told “it happens!” in a very matter-of-fact way. Yerevan is not New York: in Yerevan, if you lose internet, you don’t worry about it.  You just leave work and enjoy the sunny afternoon: tomorrow will be another day!

– Celine

An old Volga in Yerevan’s streets

taxi yerevan

Credit : Celine Kaladjian


[Celine’s Dispatches: FAR’s Intern in Armenia]: Negotiations 101

August 13, 2009

On Sundays, Vernissage is the place to be in Yerevan. This open-air flea market offers anything and everything you might be looking for – from unrecognizable pieces of machinery to touristy Armenia T-shirts – there is really something for everyone!

In this bazaar, negotiating becomes a sport. A vendor will never reveal the actual price he or she hopes to receive for an item, because the negotiation is an integral part of the sale process. Armenians certainly do have some business savvy running in their veins!

The treasures found at Vernissage very much remind me of my childhood: my grandpa used to restore anything he could find. On Sundays, we would go to the flea market in Marseille to sell the items he had just brought to life again.  This weekend ritual was less about making money and more about my grandfather’s feeling of satisfaction.  However as I child, I was happy because the money earned always ended up in my savings.

– Celine

Photography Paraphernalia Seller in Vernissage


Credit : Celine Kaladjian


[Celine’s Dispatches: FAR’s Intern in Armenia] : Water Pouring From the Sky

August 4, 2009

With temperatures now reaching 105°F in Yerevan, I welcomed Vardavar Day with open arms.  On Sunday July 18th, buckets of waters were poured all over the capital. Distracted pedestrians, cars with windows left open, and foreigner were specific targets for the childrens’ folly. So I came home drenched, but happy that for once I could walk in Yerevan without zigzagging from tree to tree seeking shade.

In ancient times, Vardavar was a pagan celebration honoring the goddess of water. This holiday has been integrated into the Christan calendar, and today it falls exactly 98 days after Easter and has become an important family holiday.

On the Saturday before Vardavar, Armenians are at work because the following Monday is a vacation day.  The quiet streets of Yerevan on Monday reminded me that summer is the best time for angist (rest).

– Celine

P.S. : As you can imagine, I am unable to provide pictures. With the litters of water being poured, there was no possibility to take my camera out of my flat!


[Celine’s Dispatches: FAR’s Intern in Armenia] : Armenian Hospitality

July 30, 2009

On a recent Saturday evening, I fled the sizzling heat of Yerevan for the countryside near Aparan.  I had decided to go camping near the river with some Armenian, Iranian and French friends.

The surrounding scenery was heavenly: vibrant flowers covering the fields and beehives clinging to the hills.  Just as we were packing our things to go back to the city, two men arrived by car, inviting us to a meal and a game of chess.

Since we all had to be in Yerevan by evening, we tried to decline their invitation to travel to their homes for dinner. Needless to say, we did not succeed. They packed most of us in their battered car and our one friend Ali had to sit on the roof.

In the village, we had dinner with their family and went for a tour of all the houses in the village.  I could not tell you how many coffees we drank!  Before our departure, they made us promise that we would come back soon so they could take us to Aragatz.

Armenian hospitality really is unbeatable!

– Celine

Armenian Landscape, Armenian Carpet!


Credit : Charles Guenec


[Celine’s Dispatches: FAR’s Intern in Armenia] : Gyumri, Synonym for Hope

July 1, 2009

Crossing the Shirak region en route to Gyumri during the summer makes it hard to believe that winter is harsh here. Stretching to the horizon, bright and colorful flowers cover the hills. Here, this is called “Armenian carpet”. Yet, the beauty of the surrounding landscape does not hide the pain suffered by the individuals that I’ve met in Gyumri.

A Young Violinist from Octet Music School


Credit : Celine Kaladjian

Since the earthquake, classes at the Octet Music School have been taking place in prefabs. The talented young artists continue to rehearse during winter, though the temperature drops down to – 30° C.  Playing the violin with mittens or cold stiff fingers would discourage most of us.  However these youngsters draw their strength and determination from these tough conditions.  Giving up is not an option.

And the elderly from the soup kitchen are so thankful to see visitors that they each individually approached me to give thanks.  Most of their children, for those who have any, have moved abroad on a quest for a better life. Old age is not an ugly thing as we tend to think in Western Societies. These elderly have beautiful faces and a lot to pass on. Every time you walk out from this soup kitchen, you know that something inside of you has changed.

After demonstrating his tap-dancing skills, this Soup-Kitchen beneficiary holds me close to him the time of a picture


Credit : Levon Lachikyan

Armenians are a strong and courageous people. Looking in their eyes, the probverbial doors to the soul, is the key unearthing their treasures and secrets. They have risen from the genocide, the earthquake and the Karabagh war. Now they are trying rise from the fall of the Soviet Union. And with dignity. It’s time to leave the past behind and look to the future.

– Celine


[Celine’s Dispatches: FAR’s Intern in Armenia] : From Yerevan to the doors of the Orient

June 23, 2009

Last Thursday, as I was sitting in Yerevan, everything around me started shaking. It took me a few seconds to realize that I was experiencing the second earthquake of my life. The epicenter was near Garni and according to seismologists, the magnitude of the quake reached 3.6. Needless to say, this light quake reminded everyone of the past. Within seconds, cell phone networks were saturated by numerous Armenians calling to check on their peers in different regions of the country.

On Friday, the Young Professionals jammed their suitcases into the van and headed to southern Armenia. On our way down, we stopped in the Khor Virap monastery, where we had a wonderful view of Ararat. The two highlights of this excursion were visiting Tatev and reaching the Iranian border.

Coming back from Tatev was an adventure: our van was on winding roads under pouring rain. Several members of the group started to feel increasing motion sickness. Or was it because of the delicious home made apricot vodka we drank during dinner?

As we traveled farther south, we could feel that we had reached the Orient.

The landscape started to change, looking more like a rock desert. The border and a flag reminded us that Iran was just few hundred yards away.

– Celine

Unleashing a Dove Towards Ararat at Khor Virap


Credit : Kaloust Hovsepyan


[Celine’s Dispatches: FAR’s Intern in Armenia] : Back to City Life

June 18, 2009

After spending a few days in northern Armenia, the Young Professionals have now returned to Yerevan. Our group is not known for being on time. However, this morning everyone was standing in front of the hotel at 9:00AM. The reason? We were going to meet His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catolicos of all Armenians, in Echmiadzin.

Amy and I do not speak Armenian, and yet we were taught the sentence we had to use to address the Catolicos upon meeting him. We intensely rehearsed, hoping there would be no faux-pas. When our group entered the room, we felt very relieved, as we realized that His Holiness Karekin II felt comfortable around young people, and preferred not to use the protocol.

On our way back to Yerevan, we stopped by the memorial for those who had fought in the Karabagh war. For the first time, my friend Ara saw his cousin’s gravesite. His cousin had last been seen sixteen years earlier upon his departure for Armenia. A veteran led us through the cemetery. I could not understand what he was saying, since he spoke in Armenian. As a consequence, I decided to look him straight in the eyes and get the feeling of what he was trying to communicate through his look. This was a powerful experience. I did not need to understand his words to understand his emotions. Just by looking at one another, we knew we were talking – just in a different way.

– Celine

Ara at his Cousin’s Gravesite


Credit : Celine Kaladjian


[Celine’s Dispatches: FAR’s Intern in Armenia] : Northern Armenia, The Weight of Past

June 17, 2009

Gyumri was our first stop on the Young Professionals tour of Northern Armenia.  Each of us had images from the earthquake in our minds, but sadly no one expected to see a city still so devastated twenty years later.

The charms Gyumri, the second biggest city of Armenia, are today buried under the remnants of the Soviet Union and a layer of rumble that still remains after the earthquake.  Visiting FAR’s target=_blank>GTech, Soup Kitchen and Music School projects gave us a unique opportunity to gain insight into the hardships of life in Gyumri, and the work that FAR is doing to improve peoples’ lives in the city.

Next, we moved on to see Alaverdi, and the monasteries of Haghpat and Sanahin. Looking at the souvenirs around the Sanahin monastery, I had the opportunity to converse with a local woman selling socks. Next thing I knew, I was drinking coffee and having lavash in her front yard!
Our last stop was in Lake Sevan. Lost in a no man’s land, we enjoyed the serenity and wonderful landscapes. Lake Sevan was the perfect place for the group to chat and form some stronger bonds.

– Celine

Prayer Time at Haghpat


Credit : Celine Kaladjian