Friday, December 26, 2008

a time for 2009

Christmas still hasn't been celebrated here, and it won't until the 6th of January. However, the children of Armenia wait patiently for Zmer Papik to arrive with his white polar bears on New Year's Eve. Zmer Papik means "Winter Grandfather" but this unseen character sure does look and respond just like Santa, bringing gifts to the smaller ones who believe. I will be back home in Texas when Christmas comes here, enjoying faces and voices I have not seen or heard in awhile. So I wish us all a good new year, 2009, a year full of new stories, pictures, and moments.

Friday, December 19, 2008

ipod world

This is Vaje. He is roughly 2 years old, and welcomes himself to my room every time he visits. He bursts in and then tiptoes around to see what else he can find that is "new." Yesterday we discovered the iPod. Hmmm...what IS this? Wait a minute, I can hear something through these green things. Hey....this is rocking!

what am i reading?

I'll go ahead and ask the question, and then answer it as well. I just finished Kafka on the Shore, which was an interesting novel. But I am just in the whee-stages of Leif Enger's new book 'So Brave, Young and Handsome.' The little boy's name in the book is "Redstart", so you know it will be an adventure of Southern wide open space well worth savoring. Reading Enger's books reminds me of characters I witnessed in Blanco. Their names were (and still are) ever so perfect. Among the good ones was a smooth talking farrier named Slim, a Mexican laborer who drank the backwash of beer cans named Pancho, and an overweight 5th grade teacher painted in blue and pink eyeshadow named Charlene Cockerham. That's probably just the tip of them, if I thought real hard about it I know I could fetch more. Right now I am spending an abnormal amount of time reading because I no longer have my computer to converse with, and I have no idea how Peace Corps Volunteers even went about this without one. That must've been another world.

Saturday, December 13, 2008


I was inside the marshutney bus, waiting for it to fill up to it's never exceeding maximum of 45 people when I caught the eye of this young girl. Then I wedged myself in tightly for the ride to come. Getting a good seat is a smart idea, a seat all to it's own, that you don't have to compromise your leg, lap, or whole body for. As much as I whine, I have come to appreciate how unbothered everyone is while on them. The dependency is high, people have next to no other way to travel within their means, but even if a bus is oozing bodies there is always room for one more. Someone will point to the remaining 4% left of a seat and say "here, right here, sit down."

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

28 N and 3 E

Armenia hinges on the gates that open the East and distinguish the West at those geographical points. I often try to make my mind up on what I think, but I never can. It has been heavily politically influenced over time, trying to please all neighbors while protecting the culture and history of its people. The language dates back to the age of dirt and stars, and so does the charm and this face above.

Monday, December 1, 2008

sunday light

The view from a friend's window apartment that looked far more beautiful at the time than this picture can convey, and my good friend "Jon M." at Sunday's dusk.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Lavash is the traditional Armenian staple. It is almost like a tortilla, but not. It can be a little jaw intensive to eat after it has been sitting out for awhile, like days. But I've eaten my share of it and find the history interesting. It is holy bread, therefore cannot be thrown out. And it is as old as time, consisting of only flour, salt, and water. I often come to this one room lavash factory to warm myself, and I eventually eat a few free slabs while the women are nice enough to let me take their pictures. It was an attempt to do a mini-essay, I hope you enjoy.

in your face

Every Tuesday and Thursday I run an "English club" with a group of 7th grade kids. They are more or less like wild animals on crack. They beg me to take them down to the stadium where I let them run around and be 7th grade kids, instead of teaching them how to say "Hello, how are you" in the classroom. I remember my 7th grade year as being the year of pantsing people and spitting really far. Awful. It has to be the hardest age to work with, I feel great amounts of pity to all 7th grade teachers. Today though, I brought a few of my own clothes, hats, scarfs, and belts and we played the 'put on clothes and run' relay game. It went over with many laughs and two rounds.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

jason eskenazi

I was not able to copy one of his images, but Jason Eskenazi is worth your time. He has taken some beautiful and interesting photographs of the the Soviet Union and other Soviet countries before and after the collapse. If you have some time, visit the NPR link that has an 11 image gallery and a small interview with him. On my way out of the Peace Corps I think I am going to take the long way home, through some of these places myself.


Just when I think I've got the whole town of Vayk licked, scouted, and all discovered, I will stumble across something unusual. Since I am no longer able to run around the soccer stadium with cows and chickens in solitude due to the cold, I am using an old gym. While inside I heard small voices and chairs screeching coming from upstairs. I found a chess room full of kids and a chess instructor too. I learned they have matches and lessons 3-4 times a week up there, and while I did a few wind sprints on the court below that took me back to being in high school basketball, I thought about how retarded it is that I never really learned how to play and that some 6 year old could probably whoop me.

Saturday, November 15, 2008


Passing moments, passing the time. The most exciting thing about taking pictures (in my opinion) is getting a great looking moment in your camera. Its like a little treasure, that you made and that you can put your name on, stick on the fridge and stare at. I would like to say thank you to the people who have been kind and encouraging with my photos, pushing me forward. Like it is said here, "Apres!"

Monday, November 10, 2008

november days

A few shots of home life. I woke up this morning to find the tree in the front yard struck barren of its leaves and little Moni-dog looking chilled and gloomy at the front door. I always try to smuggle her inside at night for a few minutes but it never fails, everyone else prefers to have her outside. Poor poor Moni-jan, you don't have a prayer for an indoor existence.

For the past 3 days my town has not had any gas. We have been taking bucket baths and cooking our food with tiny electric coils. I took this second shot while in the kitchen chatting with Arpine, waiting for my oatmeal to cook, and hoping she wouldn't mind my obstructive camera in her face.

Aside from photos, I do actually work. I don't like to write about my daily life on this blog, who wants to read about anyone's day in day out stuff. Its a gift to be this free, and to give what you can. My newest project ideas are to host a breast cancer walk for women in the spring, provide some basic outdoor education to the youth here; compass reading, hiking, fire-building, river crossing, first aid, etc., and to work on a few teacher training classes this winter. But taking pictures is by far the most fun!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

6 months

After 6 months, this country feels like an old worn in car. I know how it works, how it smells, and what I have to accept. It has brought about some new thoughts and cultural awareness that I don't think I have the talent for articulating well. All that I can say at this point is that I wish everyone the experience to not only travel to far places, but to stay long enough so that your hands become callused from the grip of hanging there awhile.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

cups of good fortune

Coffee and vodka, vodka and coffee. Each drink is followed by either a toast or a fortune reading. After the coffee is drank, you turn the cup over and let the sludge run down the sides. From the patterns in the sludge comes your fortune. My fortune has been read so many times I've lost track of what is supposed to happen to me. And if anyone sees your vodka glass empty they will gladly refill you whether you want more or not. "Paige-jan, eat, drink, and eat some more!"

Monday, October 27, 2008

malishka village

Most everyone I know well, knows I grew up in Blanco, TX. A small town that still only has one stop light. In any other country, the size of Blanco would be considered a village. I am certain I grew up as if I lived in one. My best friend Jessie Haas, at age 5, had the one thing my family didn't. Chickens. I would go over to her house just for the pleasure of walking in the coop and scoping for the laid eggs. I've always felt more comfortable in a smaller place, with people who own land and animals, and appreciate this way. Sure, I'm a Texan, and you can make fun of this all day long. But home is where the heart is, and I'm sure I'll never grow too big to enjoy a small place, like Malishka Armenia. (The images above are all from the village.)

Friday, October 24, 2008


A hodge podge of images recently. I attended the dance recital the kids put on, front row and center cheering, it was the first live entertainment I've seen since I came 5 months ago. I've also been riding in some icy buses that leak the warmth and drive us all past the rugged abandoned scenery. I would like to take more pictures inside these "marshutneys" but as soon as I take the camera out of my bag I can feel 100 eyeballs all over me. And that would prompt me to explain myself in a language I can hardly speak. Camera Courage, I need to find more of it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

trimming it up

In a few years, the eldest folks here in Armenia will be beautiful memories of a country that has seen change run swiftly through. I'm privileged to witness their characters, and enjoy watching how much respect they receive. This is my host mother's father, Papik. Grandfather he is, and his still enjoyment of having his hair cut, was what made me take about 35 pictures of him.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

teaching is...

This is one of my assignments I've given the students here. Its a start, lame as it might look. But I like to drag them up to the front with me to answer bizarre scenarios where they have to think on their feet and be creative. Why did you come to the disco dressed like a man? I saw you driving on the wrong side of the road with your face painted blue, what were you doing? I heard you were standing on your head eating bananas and shouting at people in front of the school, explain this. Anything, I'll take anything they say.... as long as its imaginative. And that is the challenge, they have never been asked to be creative. I feel like a loony up there, especially when I notice their confused faces laughing at me, but I'm hoping it will bring about something valuable. Teaching is tough, and I'm giving it my all....trial by fire.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

pb thievery

This is the second time I've gotten up one morning, hungry for peanut butter, and found the jar to be already finished off waiting for me. I have noticed a little here and there eaten up from members of my host family, which is sneaky enough, but to find the jar wiped clean and still sitting in its place is incredibly unbelievable. Someone please send this country a few shipments of peanut butter.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

little ones

This little girl is my favorite among them. Her name is Milena, although I call her Milekas. It means, my little Milena. Her head is shaved from her own request, and she is a tomboy through and through. In the beginning she had to dislike me, it was in her nature to. But now we are buddies, and when her parents come over to my house I pick her up and swing her upside down until we are both exhausted from laughing.

There are a few orphanages in Armenia, although this country is extremely family oriented they do exist, and I have plans to visit them next month during a break from school. Their stories are a mystery to me, and how their lives surfaced them there.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


A few students I teach, helping their father repair the car. Most of the cars in Armenia are about 20 or 30 years old, but there is always a few on the road that don't belong. A new Land Rover, Mercedes or BMW. Quite a contrast to say the least, and it always confuses me. What is the real situation behind all this show?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

mini america space

I didn't know before getting myself into this, how attached I am to my "things." My things, are essentially my home. I am still digging out of my suitcase for underwear, pens, ducktape, books, all of the things I wasted too much money on, and the very last of my jolly ranchers. As long as I have all of this to retreat to... I think I'll be fine. I've learned alot about myself in 4 short months, one thing being that no matter where I am, I still don't like waking up early, and another is that I'm alot more "American" than I thought when it comes to walking. I actually do walk fast, and with purpose.

My Pops shared with me a line from a book he is reading. I don't think anything could be truer.

"Even if all needs are satisfied, there is a tendency to feel restless unless we are doing what we think we are capable of doing." --Maslow

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

english class

I didn't learn a second language until I was in high school, and even then it was somewhat of a joke with Senor Vela and his notorious yellow mustache he had from chain smoking. I remember being kicked out of his class one day for passing out gum to everyone before he came in. It was supposed to be a joke, but I got the boot. No chiclet meant No chiclet.

I was able to sneak this picture without too many of them noticing. Armenian kids start learning English in the third grade. It sounds impressive, but the truth is that they only know how to read English. Comprehension is not a priority as many of the teachers aren't concerned if they can or can't comprendo. If a class can run 45 minutes without a reason to start yelling and pinching ears, its a good day.

Thursday, September 18, 2008


I sat in on an Armenian dance class for young girls the other day. It took a while for them to forget I was taking pictures, I was a big distraction. The traditional dances they practice are ages old, and are usually focused on intricate hand and arm movements. With the Arabic sounding music, it is quite something to watch.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

mt vayk

Me and my site mate Elliot climbed Mt. Vayk this morning. Only lunatic Americans go venturing off up the mountains, and I'm sure I'll go to Armenian hell for sporting these shorts. But the hike was a Hike and the view was incredible, desert mountains have a beauty all to their own.

Fall is finally here, and it brought the most crystal clear blue skies and pitch dark nights plastered with stars....makes me think about high school football games, toting my late Annie dog around in my first pickup truck, my Papa and his dumb pranks, and home.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

a hundred years of....

I've forgotten her name, like alot of people I meet because they are tough to remember, but not her age. 100. I wanted to stuff her in my pocket and take her home with me, ask her questions about her life and the secrets people this age know. I'm sure she's got some story.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

greenhouse proposal

My host family's greenhouse here in Vayk provides them with extra income in the winter and spring months where they sell produce to available markets in Armenia. However, their heating system has been broken for a few months and they will not be able to keep their greenhouse warm this winter without repairing the gas heater. The family is expected to pay around $8,000 to fix it. Armenia suffers from a lack of jobs and a Soviet corrupt society that makes it very difficult to take out loans and sustain small businesses. I believe this family could really benefit from some charitable donations. If you are interested in donating some money to their greenhouse, please contact me at Through Peace Corps' Major Gifts Program, all private donations are 100% tax deductible.

Friday, August 29, 2008

birthday girl

I traveled 4 hours on a mini bus, that is supposed to seat 12 but had no less than 25 people on it, just to see this little babeh-girl and to celebrate her first birthday. The public transportation system has no rules or safety regulations as to how many people one mini bus can fit. It blows me away. I was quite relieved to be with my family from Arzakan for a few days. I followed my host mother all around... picking apples and plums, trying the almonds on the almond tree and deciding they still had a few more weeks until ready, milking the cows, playing rough with their dog Chipo, and watching the rain storm blow in with majestic lightning. It was a big party, with lots of dancing, drinking, and drinking. Homeade vodka...straight from the village.

Monday, August 25, 2008


This is the way its done here. 70% of Armenians smoke, and since women don't or rather can't then everyone else does. The ebb and flow of loving this and hating it, is constant. The world, as one of my friends here said "is actually small." The differences between us are a fascintating and frustrating.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

something H2o

The "pool" at my house has a stagnant 2 feet of water in it, a little bit annoying since there are no other options near by for swimming. So, the water hose became my friend. My host family pitched a big fit about my hair being attacked by cold water and they insisted I would get sick. But I am willing to take my chances, in fact I think I am making a difference by being such a rebel.

Friday, July 25, 2008

pool boys

While we were having a going away party at my house for Igit, who left for Iraq, these boys were having the time of their lives in the pool. 1 or 2 feet of water is all they needed. It was much more fun to take their pictures than the teary eyes inside....

Friday, July 18, 2008

cherry picker

Taken from the inside of my bedroom while watching 'American Gangster' in the middle of the afternoon, realizing how lazy I am compared to Aida. She's a cherry picking fool and a cow milking professional.

One of the things I noticed here right away is how close the Armenian people feel to Americans and how Americans have no idea where or what Armenia is. My family's kitchen here is decorated with sugar and spice bins that resemble the American flag... I had a good laugh inside when I first saw them. When I told my grandmother I was going to Armenia, she asked me what country Armenia is in. True story. But it doesn't matter, they adore us anyways.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

curious georges'

Just about everyday, I will get a gang of followers out in the street asking me... where are you going, what are you doing, when can you come play? Its difficult to bypass the curious georges'

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

eat, sleep, speak armenian?

This is the real deal farm life. Just like on TV! I am privelaged to eat cheese and drink milk straight from the cow because I have no other choice. Other than the whole village smelling like a stockyard, life in Arzakan is truly something else. You would have thought that Jesus Christ himself was walking down the road, the way people here look at us, especially in the small village. I am going to pay fifteen times more for posting these pictures, so I hope you enjoy!