Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving, slightly altered.

Three days of food with Americans and Armenians. Charlie Brown Thanksgiving; Planes, Trains and Automobiles; Grandma's Corn Pudding; Turkey hats; mulled wine; carbs, carbs, and more carbs. Overall, success!


Thanks Rachel for the peanuts and candy corn!

Looking forward to spending next Thanksgiving in good old Woodstock, Illinois!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

October Update

I can't believe it is already November 1st! Time is flying and I'm trying to enjoy every moment of my last year. Take a look at what I have been up to in the month of October:

I learned how to create a stop motion and make a little video. This was made by my friend Kathryn, my little host sister, Gayane, and I, but mostly Gayane. She is 13 years old and very creative! Take a look!

I took a trip down south a few weekends ago to the "wine region" of Armenia for the village of Areni's annual Wine Festival. A weekend of homemade wine is a great thing! Here are some pictures:

During the month of October, my sitemates Morgan and Kathryn, and I organized 6 seminars on Domestic Violence and Gender Equality and 1 DV event where we watched a film, displayed artwork, gave resources on DV agencies in Armenia and had a great organization, Society Without Violence, come and speak. Domestic Violence education was something I really wanted to do during my service and I'm glad we succeeded! Here is an article they posted on their website about the event!

And here is a picture from one of the school seminars (thanks for the photo Morgan!):

And Finally, a group of us gathered in the NE of Armenia for this past weekend to celebrate Halloween. Rocky Horrow, Costumes, etc ensued. I was a "Freudian Slip." Living in a foreign country makes you that much more excited to celebrate American traditions. (Photo courtesy of Fred)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

This is what a feminist looks like.

In honor of Domestic Violence Awareness Month, some of my Peace Corps and Armenian friends and I are working on a Domestic Violence series in our town this month. This week and next, we are going to schools and facilitating seminars on Gender Inequality and Domestic Violence. Hopefully, after the seminars are complete, we will be having a big event to give hard facts on Domestic Violence, present resources for help, show a film, and have art work and a speaker. We haven't really planned too much of that yet but hopefully, as things usually do in Armenia, it will quickly come together.

Now for any of you that really know me, you know this is right up my ally. I once bought a t-shirt off the internet that read, "This is What a Feminist Looks Like." And, I'm sure I've scared off a few guys in the past after insisting I open my own door or carry my own heavy box of whatever. But believe it or not, I have calmed down a bit here in Armenia. Or so I thought.

It wasn't until this week when I began watching my old time favorite sitcom, "I Love Lucy," that the bell in my headed started going off once again and my inner child folded her arms and squished her face while whining, "it's not fair!" I mostly watched this show (obsessively) at my Grandma's growing up and therefore was too young to pick up on the gender cues.

For instance, yesterday I watched the episode, "Sales Resistance," in Season two and this is what happened. Lucy bought a sales pitch on an infomercial and purchased a handy dandy kitchen tool. She attempted to show Ricky, Fred, and Ethel how it could be used to cut a potato into 16 identical slices for french fries. After it didn't work...
Ricky: "Lucy, either you call him and tell him to take it back or I'm going to use it to demonstrate how to cut a wife into 16 identical slices."
Lucy: "Really?" [picks up the phone to return it]

I couldn't believe it! Don't get me wrong, this is still one of my favorite shows; I absolutely love it. And, I know it is only a reflection of the culture of the time.
However, even if these strict gender roles don't exist [everywhere] in America anymore, it is very interesting to have a vision into America's past and know that these tidbits that were degrading to so many women are still real life scenarios all over the world, including right here in Armenia.

On a related theme, here is an interesting trailer I saw thanks to another PCV:

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


At present, I am assiduously preparing for the formidable, vexatious Graduate Record Examination. In other words, I am google imaging "GRE comics" because it is only 11am and my brain is already fried. Six more days...

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Sepember 1st and Squash Curry

Google "Rice, Squash, Peppers, Eggplant" (or what was in my fridge tonight) and you come across a biryani-ish recipe from Rachael Ray. Also available here:Rachael Ray's Official Website

Normally, I don't follow recipes for cooking, especially for stir fry type stuff. I usually just throw everything in with my favorite seasonings and see what happens. I'm glad that I deviated from that this evening. This is one of the best meals I've had in awhile. Of course, I didn't have everything the recipe called for so I added and omitted to my liking. I added hot red pepper and Cinnamon, and shredded carrots which only enhanced the meal! If I do this again, I will use a healthier's just too expensive to buy anything but white rice on a Peace Corps budget.

Also, today was "Knowledge Day" in Armenia aka the first day of school. Here are some pictures of my adorable students!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Summer in Sevan

September 1st, Armenian children will dress in their black and white dress up clothes and celebrate the first day of school. Congratulations will be given, songs will be sung, books will be distributed. It sounds lovely, doesn't it? Then, why am I so sad to see Summer go?

Perhaps because of the trip to Istanbul....

Or the parents' visit to Armenia....

Or the wonderful couchsurfers I've hosted...

Or the copius amounts of fresh fruits and vegtables...

Or the beach that is a 10 minute walk from my apartment...

Or perhaps, it's the fact that really all that's left of my Peace Corps service is a mere school year! I will be home in roughly 10 months and I can hardly believe it. Until then, what will I be doing? I will go back to teaching English during and after school and participate in various secondary projects. I will be giving 6 HIV/AIDS seminars in September. In October, I hope to facilitate and organize events for Domestic Violence Awareness month. And after that...we'll see.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Just. Dance.

A couple weeks ago, I was fortunate to assist in a dance camp for participants from the YMCA in Vanadzor, Armenia. The focus was B-boying and Hip Hop. The dancers learned basic b-boying (commonly known as break dancing) moves and a choreographed Hip Hop dance by another volunteer and myself. We also spent a small amount of time teaching the moon walk, body roll, and a few other hip hop techniques/skills. The group worked on self-expression and confidence through dance throughout the duration of the 4 day camp. The final day, they performed their hip hop routine to community members.

With my background in dance, this was a worthwhile and fun project to work on and we may be continuing it in other communities in Armenia in the coming year. Also, I spent the week eating amazing food cooked by some awesome Peace Corps Volunteers.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011


Thank you for everyone who supported GLOW 2011. It was a great success. 44 girls from all around Armenia experienced an intense, 7-day summer school learning about topics ranging from public speaking and team work to nutrition and sexual health. They made many friends and became interested in all sorts of new stuff (peer education, yoga, etc.). The theme this year was JUNGLE; every room and many activities were jungle-themed. We also took an excursion to the Botanical Gardens in Stepanavan to test water, and had environmentally themed debates and quizzes. This was the first time for many of these girls to leave their regions and be away from their families. By the end of camp, most were crying because they didn't want to leave their new friends and this great experience.

If GLOW is something you are interested in funding, please look out for donation links on my blog. Currently, Stepanavan Youth Center, the partner organization, is looking for donations to go towards outreach, follow up activities for the girls and their peers in regions of Armenia. Here is the current link:

More pictures from GLOW 2011 are available on my facebook page:

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Year

It's funny how your senses trigger certain memories. A few weeks ago when the daily rain in Armenia began, I started to sense something familiar. An Armenia I knew one year ago. Except then, that smell resembled nervousness, fear, uncertainty, and perhaps, idealism at it's best. Now, it just smells like home.

I've grown so much in the time I have been here. The Armenian people and the Armenian way of life have taught me so much. I have learned that hardships and struggles should never carry too much weight on one's shoulders; life goes on. History should never be forgotten; it is part of us. I have learned that doing the work now is better than leaving the sink, for example. Water, although necessary, doesn't need to flow twenty four hours a day. I can survive on a shower or two a week, and disguise it well. Getting to know your neighbors can save you a broken door or a trip to the store in the rain. Taking care of one's self, needs to occur, in order to care for others. Dryers are nice but not necessary. Children are unique, beautiful creatures meant to be shaped by adults(this I knew, but the feeling has amplified in ways). By pushing your ways of life onto me, you're not trying to interrupt mine, just trying to take care of me in the ways you know. Coffee and tea, bread, and food in general is not just to eat, but to enjoy each others company. Language holds no bounds to friendship or family.

I look forward to year two in which I hope to return so much of what's been given to me.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Support GLOW!

Thank you to everyone who contributed to my Peace Corps Partnership Program for the 2011 GLOW summer school. Unfortunately, funding this program is not complete. If you haven't already, and have the means to do so, please think about supporting this wonderful program! Here is the latest link:

Thanks in advance,


Monday, February 21, 2011


Dear Friends,

After living in Armenia for nearly nine months, I have witnessed a critical gender gap that is seldom addressed in Armenian society. I am proud to work with the Girls Leading Our World (GLOW) program this coming summer to address this issue. GLOW offers adolescent girls life-changing self-development opportunities in a fun and friendly atmosphere. The girls will have a chance to explore issues they are concerned about, learn new skills and tools to enhance their self-development, discover their full potential, and become active contributors of Armenia’s evolving society. This will be the fourth year of GLOW in Armenia. The GLOW project has already received feedback about the positive impact on former participants. If this program is not implemented, no other young women in Armenia will have the opportunity to grow and change through the GLOW program keeping the status-quo for rural women. GLOW is a leadership program for young Armenian women, ages 13-16. The program begins with residential summer school, giving 50 participants the opportunity to work in a team based setting to explore topics such as personal development, gender, career planning, health, HIV/AIDS, peer education, human rights and leadership. After the summer school participants hold peer education sessions in their communities, contribute to the GLOW newsletters, and help organize regional reunions and follow up seminars during the year for other young women. The project is a strong cooperation of a local organization Stepanavan Youth Center and U.S. Peace Corps volunteers.

Without donations, this opportunity for girls across Armenia is not possible. Please consider donating through the following (tax-deductible) link:

To read more about the success of the GLOW project, follow these links:

Thanks for your support,

Friday, February 18, 2011

For the Love of Culture

Barev dzez,

This week I have had several exciting cultural exchanges so I thought I'd take the time to share them with the internet world (or the few people that read this blog). It's the cultural experiences here that I'll remember forever and that make the challenging days so much better.

Trndez: Trndez is an old Pagan holiday. Armenians light fires in their yards to welcome the coming of Spring. It also symbolizes luck for newlyweds, and hopes for childbearing. It is custom to jump over the fire with family and friends for good luck. There is also a traditional dish eaten on this day of popcorn and wheat. Trndez which means toward a meeting with the Lord, is also 40 days after the Armenian Christmas and can now be justified to have some Christian meaning as well. I celebrated this holiday with the Sevan Youth Club.

Saint Sarkis Day: This holiday is all about making predictions of marriage, something I notice Armenians doing every day of the year. Single girls eat a salty treat, aghablit, and go to bed thirsty. They hope to dream a vision of their future husband bringing them water in their sleep. My counterpart gave me a aghablit to eat but unfortunately there was no man in my dreams last that a sign? They also make a porridge dish, khashil, in which girls take a bite and then leave it on the roof at night. If it is gone in the morning, perhaps a bird took it to the house of an eligible young man for you.

Valentine's Day: This western holiday is starting to gain popularity in Armenia, although frowned upon by the church for it's root in business, not religion. I celebrated this day by talking about love to my English classes and telling them how we celebrate this day in the U.S. Then we made Valentine's which were pretty hilarious. How come most 7th grade boys cannot say a thing to me in English (after studying since the 3rd grade) but they know sayings like: "I need you, I want to kiss you, etc." I think that's an indicator of some sort..

I also baked cookies for my co-workers, neighbors, and well, mostly myself. In Armenian culture, it is seen as rude to give back a plate empty. So when my neighbors returned my plate, I was given sweet rolls. How sweet!

Friday, January 28, 2011

You Say Potato, I Say Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner.

Hingali - Georgian dumplings filled with meat, cheese, potato, or other things.

Piroshki- fried dough filled with potato and herbs

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Finding Comfort in Armenia

Barev Dzez!

First of all, I'd like to apologize because procrastination has gotten the best of me this winter. I really want to make it a goal to update my blog on a more regular basis. I am coming on 8 months in country. It is hard to believe that I only have a year and a half to go. Before, I couldn't do the whole counting down thing. I couldn't imagine being away from all my familiarities for 27 months, 25 months, or even 20 months. Now, 18 months? Completely manageable.

I haven't been as productive as I would like to be but I feel settled and comfortable in Sevan and ready to begin the work. I am growing more and more comfortable staying at my site; the excitement of meeting up with other Americans has somewhat died down. And as Peace Corps Armenia has changed somewhat in the past few months (Youth Development will be replacing the Community Health and Enviornmental Education sectors), I too have changed my role as a volunteer. I will be teaching English as a main assignment and at a different school in town. I look forward to the new challenge and feel I can really do some better work in that role.

I have finally recovered from the New Year. It was fun, exhausting, and filling! On the night of the 31st we set the table with overloads of food and waited until midnight. Then, we popped the champagne and had a family feast. Fifteen minutes later, I was ready for bed! The following week, I had to visit my host family's relatives and friends, eating on average 3 feasts a day. Each meal, like the others, started with a toast and ended with sliced fruit and homemade pastries. Two common themes around the table were: "You don't eat meat? What about BBQ meat? Chicken? Aren't you hungry?" and "How is New Year's celebrated in America?"

To counteract the calories brought on by New Year, I have started focusing on my fitness a little more, with the help of my site mate. We are taking free boxing lessons at the Culture House (perhaps I shouldn't say free; I have compromised my "Armenian womanliness" and my back is aching).

I also found an apartment to move into after our Project and Design Management conference in a couple weeks. I look forward to the freedom of grocery shopping, bare feet, and showers on a more regular basis. However, I will miss living with the best family in Sevan (pictured below).

*** To everyone who has sent cards, letters, and care packages over the holidays, thank you so much. Know that you are appreciated and reading your well wishes and updates about life back home brings a smile to me! I love you all! ***

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I'm thinking.

Each day here I am learning and growing. Once I gather some thoughts and have the time after the New Year festivities settle down, I will write some of it down...or rather type, I guess.

Happy 2011,


"Let others lead small lives, but not you. Let others argue over small things, but not you. Let others cry over small hurts, but not you. Let others leave their future in someone elses hands, but not you."