So my idea of keeping up to date on this blog has put me to shame. SO MUCH HAS HAPPENED!
Let me go in order of fun things:
First, on June 25th, SITE ANNOUNCEMENT HAPPENED. This is when I learned that I will be living in Verin Ptghni for the next two years. Verin Ptghni (and yes, it is as difficult to pronounce as it looks) is a village of about 1,000 that borders the capital city, Yerevan. I am pretty excited about this placement for a number of reasons. First, the NGO that I will be working with seems to be a great fit for me. The organization is called Peace and Friendship Bridges NGO and consists of a group of young women who are dedicated to helping the community to flourish in many ways, especially by building youth empowerment. I am really excited about everyone’s eagerness to improve the community and encourage youth to do the same.
|Myself and other volunteers eagerly awaiting our placement announcement|
Shortly after site announcement, we had site visit. I had the opportunity to meet my new host family for four days. This is another reason why I’m excited about my placement. In the picture below, you can see my host mom and host sisters and my host dad. The gentleman to the far left is a relative but does not reside in the home. The only one not pictured is my new host brother. Everyone was EXTREMELY welcoming, and I was touched by the kindness everyone showed. My last day there, we even had khorovats! Very delicious!
|My new room (please excuse the mess!)|
|My new host family|
|My host sister picking apricots|
|Host family cat|
Next, on July 12th, I was invited to a Christening party. My host family’s extended family (our neighbor) had all three of their children baptized and had a huge party to celebrate. It was my first experience at a formal Armenian party and it was a lot of fun, despite the heat! There was tons of dancing and TONS of food. I have never in my life been served THREE MAIN courses, but it is the norm at an Armenian party!
|The mayor toasting to the grandmother of the newly baptized children|
|Trainees and Host Country Nationals dancing|
|My host father and host "son"|
|I was very impressed by this gentleman's clarinet playing!|
On July 14th, trainees had the opportunity to visit the Garni Temple and Geghard Monastery. Both places were extremely beautiful. The Garni Temple is the last Pagan temple in Armenia and is from the 1st century. It has (obviously) been reconstructed, but the view was absolutely amazing.
Geghard Monastery complex was founded in the 4th century and is known for its unique architecture. The church was dug entirely out of rock; construction began at the top of the mountain and the structure formed by digging and carving into the mountain itself. We had an hour to explore but it was barely enough time to see it all.
|View from Garni|
|Chamber at Geghard- you can see the wax buildup from many years of prayer candles|
|View from chamber in Geghard|
On July 17th, I was invited to celebrate a neighbor’s 14th birthday. Again, there was much dancing and three main courses of food were served. My favorite dish though was the “banjararen torte” or, vegetable cake. It was made of vegetables, but looked like a cake. Fantastic! The real cake though, was extremely tasty. Or, as they say in Armenia: shat hamov eh.
|Table's all set!|
|Gargeek giving a toast for the birthday boy|
|The REAL torte|
|Birthday boy and fam|
July 27th was a very busy day. The trainees living in my training village put together a field day for the kids in the village. It turned out to be a great success! We played American games like the water-spoon game, had a three legged race, and had a water balloon toss. All in all, a lot of fun!
|Volunteers and village children|
On July 27th,I also visited Yerevan’s Cascade for the first time. This awesome structure is a gigantic stairwell beautifully adorned with exquisite landscaping and waterworks. At the base myself and other volunteers had the opportunity to witness and participate in traditional Armenian dance. It was a ton of fun! However, I must say that Armenian dancing is a lot harder than it looks!!
|View from top of Cascade|
|A platform on a level at the Cascade|
|View from bottom of Cascade|
|Traditional Armenian dancing|
Finally, on July 28th, I visited the Sevan Monastery and Haghartsin Monastery in Dilijan. Again, both very beautiful. Sevan Monastery is located on Lake Sevan, the largest lake in Armenia. The monastery itself resides on the lake’s peninsula and has an immaculate number of stairs, but once at the top, the view is hard to beat.
Haghartsin Monastery is the smallest of the monasteries that I’ve visited, but extremely beautiful. Dilijan is known for its vast forests and is an unmatched beauty.
|Gentleman providing music on the way up to the monastery|
|Fantastically beautiful tree at Haghartsin Monastery|
So, it has been a BUSY MONTH!! Again, I apologize for the delay in posting, but will do my best to update again soon!