Posts Tagged ‘caucasus travel’


[FAR’s Intern(s) in Armenia – Samantha]: FAR’s Children Center.

July 14, 2010

By Samantha McQueen

I’m back in Yerevan just in time to catch up on some sleep after an exhausting (but totally thrilling) first week. The Children’s Center was our final stop before coming back to the hotel and it was honestly one of the most unbelievable experiences I’ve had…I know, cliché, but seeing the faces of children excited to see some fresh visitors was uplifting after a long van ride. The kids loved to play with our cameras and I now have some great shots of legs and walls after they had their chance behind the lens. It was almost cruel to take my camera home with me.

The most touching moment happened after my first step off the bus when I recognized one of the children I have been updating stories for on Facebook. I wrote that he had little to no contact with his biological mother prior to entering the Center but I saw her leaving from a meeting while the boy yelled a final “MA” and she turned around to wave goodbye. I was absolutely elated to see that she’s now visiting. It sounds like a story you’ve heard a million times, but this just pulled on my heart strings in person. I felt a special connection to the Center because of my involvement with FAR. I was disconnected from Armenia on my New York computer, but now I have the chance to see my work in action and it this trip is a more powerful experience for it.

Ts’tesutyun for now!

FAR’s Children Center

Children's Center.jpg

Credit: iPhone & Samantha McQueen


[FAR’s Intern(s) in Armenia – Samantha]: Visiting FAR’s Projects.

July 13, 2010

By Samantha McQueen

I left Gyumri this morning and feel a bit different about my Armenian heritage for it. After visiting FAR’s GTech center, soup kitchen, and Octet School, it seems that there is so much I can do for this Armenian community, even from the Diaspora.

I’ve volunteered at nursing homes in America during my middle school days and was usually greeted with sentences beginning with “When I was your age…” and “Kids these days…” At the soup kitchen, I could barely understand the Armenian but I valued the “merci’s” and with the help of some friendly translators, I found out that the participants were thanking me for visiting them and giving up my time. They truly wanted to see that the younger generations abroad did not forget them and I was glad to show that I haven’t. Their appreciation and endless kisses made it worth the visit. It was also touching to see this community of natives who had faced a tragedy together trying their best on a slow journey to a normal, pre-earthquake life, be it 22 years later.

I’m more than happy to help them on their way.

Ts’tesutyun for now!

A Class Room at FAR’s GTech IT Center


Credit: FAR Staff


[FAR’s Intern(s) in Armenia – Samantha]: The Armenian Alphabet and Gyumri.

July 12, 2010

By Samantha McQueen

I had an exciting day of firsts. I finally learned to spell my name using the Armenian alphabet at Ashtarak, the burial grounds of the famous Mesrob, who wrote the Armenian alphabet. I even climbed the castle Amberd! The rocky roads and motion sickness were worth the sites.

We made our way to Gyumri today and I had the chance to ride a horse with a real Armenian cowboy, watched a fish gutting, and saw my food and bread cooked in open stoves in front of me. This city has a lot of character and you don’t have to search far for citizens of Gyumri who truly love their city and its traditions. These are the people who stuck through the 1988 earthquake to keep the culture. We passed street fairs and original fish farms, dating back to Gyumri’s role as capital of Armenia.

From foreign cowboys, to one thousand year-old castles, I’m honored to have this opportunity to visit my homeland with my FAR friends.

Ts’tesutyun for now!

Samantha and Erin at Mesrob’s burial grounds

Sam Pic.jpg

Credit: Unknown Young Professional


[FAR’s Intern(s) in Armenia – Samantha]: Garni & Geghard.

July 10, 2010

By Samantha McQueen

It’s day two in Yerevan and I’m loving this city more and more…I’ve even managed to avoid sun burn (knock on wood). We went to a jazz bar for dinner and met some locals. My grasp of the language is still awful but everyone has been surprisingly tolerant. Even the physical atmosphere is great. The sun never sets before 10 pm and parks are filled with families until 2 am. Armenians are night birds, like me.

We were lucky to have the opportunity to visit Garni and Geghard today. It was interesting to see the remains of an Armenian church physically built on the side wall of a 1st century B.C. pagan temple. It makes me proud to descend from a tolerant culture that respected and remembered their past. Tourists flocked from Iran and neighboring countries. The temple and fortress of Garni had something to interest everyone, from Greek-style baths to rolling hills and streams.

Geghard was completely different than anything I’ve ever seen. It was a monastery built into a mountain, almost like an extremely elaborate cave. I won’t lie, if I lived with the views the monastery of Geghard had, I would have been a monk, too. It was surrounded by gorgeous waterfalls and stunning mountain peaks. The cool interior even provided much-needed relief from the 105 degree F heat. I was absolutely amazed with Armenia.

We’re off to eat some fresh food in Ashtarak tomorrow. Ts’tesutyun for now!


Credit: iPhone & Samantha McQueen


[FAR’s Intern(s) in Armenia – Samantha]: Arrival.

July 9, 2010

By Samantha McQueen

I’m in Armenia! It still seems surreal. Everyone on FAR’s Young Professional trip seems great so far. We have a diverse group with only three Armenian-speaking travelers and two fluent in Russian and I don’t think my knowledge of Italian will be helpful (even if we are staying in an Italian-owned hotel).

It’s been a long day of traveling and I haven’t quite established my footing yet, but I’m excited to start exploring Yerevan. So far I’ve been on a van tour through the “Little Las Vegas” of Armenia, right outside Yerevan (gambling, interestingly, is illegal inside the city) and we drove between the brandy and beer factories. Needless to say, I need to leave my hotel and see the real Yerevan.

With all this excitement on my plate, jet setting through countries was not as glamorous as it may have seemed. A layover in the non-air conditioned Moscow airport made my seventeen hour trip a little less comfortable. I’m just glad to be here and the long journey just added to the adventure that is my trip to the homeland. I will certainly go into more philosophical depth regarding my place in this country once I finally start exploring. Ts’tesutyun for now!



Credit: Samantha McQueen