Posts Tagged ‘erin henk’


[Dispatches From Armenia]: Lost in Translation.

July 29, 2010

I realize this title is kind of a cop out. But there’s some truth to it. I was lucky enough to constantly be around an Armenian or Russian speaker during my first two weeks here and I could easily get by with my Armenian “hello” and “thank you.”

Now, when I’m out wandering the streets of Yerevan, I run into some problems. The other day I asked for coffee and then I inadvertently refused it. (Refusing rich, delicious Armenian coffee is a now crime in my book, too.) We had to have a third party intervention. Just days before that, I asked for lemonade but ended up with pear juice. Worse things can happen due to my language deficiencies, I know. And at least I’m trying. I think I’ve mastered how to ask for a bottle of water, (essential in this heat) and now I’m working on the forms of you, us, we, etc. Small steps.

Lost in Yerevan


Credit: Hasmik Manukyan

One thing’s for certain — I could listen to Armenian for hours and stare at the Armenian signs I see everywhere because the alphabet fascinates me. Does that count? Regardless, I’m so appreciative that most Armenians I meet tolerate my bad pronunciation and dearth of vocabulary, even when their questions are met with my perplexed looks. Their patience and understanding are a testament to their warmth and understanding. Shnorhakal em Hayastan. 

Erin –

Etchings at Tatev Monastery

Credit: FAR Staff


[Dispatches From Armenia]: A Glimpse of CME.

July 28, 2010

It’s amazing what some of Armenia’s doctors are able to work with. Today, while visiting several medical centers in and around Yerevan I was able to see where the physicians participating in this month’s Continuing Medical Education Program are based. Walking through neonatology wards and intensive care units, I heard a few stories about their home institutions.

One anesthesiologist must observe through facial expression and movement how her patients under anesthesia react during surgery because her hospital in Vanadzor doesn’t have all of the proper monitoring equipment. Another neonatologist is one of a team of two who must care for the 30 infants who come to her hospital every month. Her hospital also lacks proper equipment and they are simply unable to transport these children to Yerevan in the case of severe emergencies. And then there are other obstacles, like no electricity, no running water, etc.

I’ve seen similar conditions in other parts of the world. But hearing these stories, no matter how brief, still leaves me incredulous and also awestruck by these doctors’ dedication and resourcefulness. Things need to continue to change, however. The CME program gives them the opportunity to spend a month training with leading specialists in Yerevan. And they can learn new methods and establish a network with their mentors that they can use in the future. CME is making strides with healthcare in this country and with a waiting list of more than 100 people, demand for it is high. With more support it can be expanded, and all of Armenia will continue to benefit as that expansion happens.

Erin –

A modern hospital in Yerevan


Credit: FAR Staff


[Dispatches From Armenia]: Yerevan, Day 1.

July 27, 2010

Well, this is it. After nearly two weeks of touring Armenia and Karabagh with this year’s Young Professionals Trip, I’m back in Yerevan for the rest of the summer. It’s a little surreal — we saw quite a bit of this city during the trip and parts of it began to feel familiar and comforting. Now all of those different places we visited are starting to feel congruent.

Despite my haze from prolonged sleep depravation, a conversation with some of my co-workers this morning started to open things up even more. We discussed the high unemployment that drives so many Armenians out of their homeland and the obstacles women in particular often face to get work — the need to be attractive or young enough to get the job as opposed to professionally qualified, for example. While some of it was grim, they also emphasized something very important that all Armenians need: hope. Without this, many won’t even try to stay here in their homeland. Without this, others won’t strive to further educate themselves. Instead, they’ll simply continue to look for ways to leave, and even abandon their families in the process. So FAR’s mission to build the country’s intellectual capital, give Armenia’s people opportunity, and engage the Diaspora is an extremely important task. My first two weeks helped me delve beyond the program descriptions and reports I’ve read for the past year or so, and now I get to see how things are really done. I look forward to having my perspective changed even more.

Erin –

Republic Square


Credit: FAR Staff


[Armenian Landscapes]

July 26, 2010

In the shadow of Odzun


Credit: Erin Henk


[Dispatches From Armenia]: Beautiful Nagorno Karabagh.

July 21, 2010

At the ruins of Tigranakert


Credit: FAR Staff

Our second day in Karabagh, or Artsakh, as it’s also known. After exploring Stepanakert’s streets and markets, and even being interviewed by the local news the night before, we set off toward Agdam, a city on the buffer zone between Karabagh and Azerbaijian. This was the line drawn during the 1994 ceasefire and conflict still arises in this area. It is dry and desolate with sloping hills, but still stunningly beautiful. Crumbling Azeri homes abandoned during the war dot one side of the road. There are also Azeri cemeteries here; Armenia’s were destroyed, another example of assault on cultural heritage.

Driving to the buffer zone


Credit: FAR Staff

We end up at the ruins of the fortress of Tigranakert, and witnessed its excavation in progress. Climbing up the mountain toward the ruins and looking out over this land was surreal and hard to describe, like standing at the edge of a precarious point. As we continued on to our next stop at Gandzasar, a 13th century monastery, the land changed to lush green mountains and valleys that extended as far as the eye can see.

This is one of the most beautiful places I’ve seen.

Erin –

Carvings at Gandzasar


Credit: FAR Staff



Credit: FAR Staff

A visitor at Gandzasar


Credit: FAR Staff

Rush hour in Karabagh


Credit: FAR Staff


[Dispatches From Armenia]: Entering Nagorno Karabakh.

July 21, 2010

After traveling through liberated territory from Armenia to the entrance to Nagorno-Karabagh, we arrived in Shushi. The devastation from war is evident everywhere here in partially demolished buildings, strewn concrete, and rubble. Yet, construction crews are also working and there are some new buildings in progress. Together, we traveled to the edge of town, where once again I put my fear of heights aside and stood in awe of the astounding beauty of bright green mountains, rocky cliffs, and wide open sky. Afterwards we headed to Stepanakert, where the development is palpable. We are learning more and more each moment we are here about Karabagh’s growth, identity, determination, history, and its quest for recognition by the rest of the world. And every moment is fascinating.

Erin –

Check Point into Nagorno Karabakh


Credit: FAR Staff


[Dispatches From Armenia]: A Perfect Day.

July 19, 2010

By Erin Henk

We stood in the sun, in the shadow of Ararat, and descended vertically into the pit of st. Gregory the illuminator at Khor Virap Monastery before arriving in Goris, a picturesque town in the south. Its probably changed very little in the past 20 years. It’s our stop for the night and was the jumping off point for our visit to Tatev, a beautiful monastery on the edge of a gorge, which apparently few visitors to Armenia actually travel to see.

After bouncing along in our van up paperclip mountain turns we arrived just in time to see the monastery before the clouds blanketed it completely. It was breathtaking. And from there we set out on foot to explore it – peeking through doorways and windows that look out on the mountains, observing a worship service, and (some of us) braving a climb along its severely aged infrastructure. We ate dinner overlooking this incredible sight, toasting our skilled driver, thankful for the treasures we saw.

Pretty much a perfect day.



Credit: Marywhotravels via Creative Commons / Flickr