Thursday, December 31, 2009

a brand new year

This picture comes from New Year's Eve last year. I was living with an Armenian family, following the patterns of their life and just getting a grip on speaking their language without coming across like a toddler: "Do you love water?"..... "I love water much right now." ....."No I don't eat because I much full, but thank you I love yours food." ..... "I think I must come to my house later right now is very late." It was worse than that - but anyhow New Year's is the biggest day of the year - gifts are given, people spend 5 days celebrating with all the food and drink they have gone into debt to give and share. The night begins at midnight, and lasts a good while. It's a bright full moon as well, which I can't help but think is a good sign for the start of a new year, around the world.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

road side wine tasting

The wine in Armenia isn't awful, but it's totally unpredictable. In my experience, one bottle of what I usually buy will be alright, the next slightly carbonated, and the next so sweet I have to spit it out. But the best wine here comes from the region I live in from a village called Areni in Vayots Dzor Region. On the side of the road there are small stands for about half a mile selling homeade wine in Coca-Cola bottles along with fruit, honey, and other things. My friends Emily, Henny, and I went wine tasting a few days ago in our preparation to buy 10 liters of the best roadside wine we could find for our Christmas party. So we walked from one stand to the next, testing all of it - getting happier and happier at each stop. We ended the day by carrying our 10 liters of wine up the steep hill to visit the church in the village, take a photo and celebrate on our success of getting 4 liters of wine for free. The audio is complete with drive by trucks, so listening to it twice might be a good idea.

video

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

and so it is christmas

A few nights ago a few of us sat around a small table and drank homeade wine and hung out with an art professor from the university we teach at. He sang us an old traditional song while we held each others pinky fingers swaying back and forth like the way they dance here; I don't think the song has much to do with Christmas but it went well with the night. Merry Christmas to all!

video

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Piano Lessons

This is the piano I am learning on - the only one in the culture house used for lessons that is missing half the keys. And it sounds horrible, but then again, I'm as green as they come right now. My teacher, Susanna, is a really patient woman but she often just likes to play or sing for me rather than teach, although she praises how fast I am catching on. I'm learning Ava Maria, and I recorded her singing and me playing (with many mistakes). One of these keys sounds so bad that it makes me twitch when I replay it. It's a lot of fun learning to play the piano; the best $15 I spend every month.

video

Where's your audio thing Paige?

These girls are obsessed with my audio recorder. And because I'm over at their house quite a bit, they bug me to play with it. They know it's in my bag, and even if I tell them I didn't bring it they know I'm lying. The first time I let them use it, they recorded 62 recordings. 10 second clips of silliness within an hour. So I stitched a few of them together - Russian TV in the background, my voice, them saying dumb things like" Listen to me, I'm telling you something." And then just laughter or silence. You'll see....

video

Monday, December 7, 2009

girls' gym class

video

I had the girls' 5th grade gym class to myself, which usually makes them wildly excited - because in the last 3 months we've played games that are new for them. Relay races with buckets of water, my suitcase of clothes they have to put on, running like a bear and a crab, and so on. This time though, the weather was bad and we got the gym to ourselves. So we played the old standby - dodgeball. The audio is like you'd expect, echoed screams and shouts that fill the space of a gym, so don't turn the volume up too loud.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

adding audio

I'm excited to put my pictures to audio. I brought back a cool little audio recorder with me so that I can record and remember the stories and voices from Armenia. Also so I can listen to myself speaking Armenian ten years later when I've long forgotten how to. This is my first piece, my friend Jon messing around on the guitar - learning minor and major chords one step at a time. He's not too keen on being recorded, but was a good sport. More to come.....

video

the cafe father

My University class students keep standing me up! I come all prepared, and everyone has already left the building. They just don't know how cool my charts and graphs are that I made for them. So I killed some time in this cafe and took a few pictures of the others inside drinking tea, eating fattening potato stuffed fried dough biscuits. He looks like a character from The Godfather, or so I thought. Good thing he didn't notice me shooting his way.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

give thanks


Last night our group of 75 volunteers came together to cook up a Thanksgiving day feast. The menu was straight up - traditional turkey, dressing, and pie. And it was a great dinner, anything that is off the beaten path of Armenian cuisine usually is. I like to think of these people, in a way, as my family right now. We share the same struggles, rejoice in the same small victories, laugh about the same absurd differences in culture, and live in a place that can be harsh and lonely. I am thankful for them as much as I am for the friends and family I have home in America who have shown me love and support in the same kind ways. I wish you and yours a Happy Thanksgiving.

on the clock half asleep

I found this man sleeping by his big stack of old used books in the metro station in Yerevan on my way home. I was pretty tired too, so I couldn't help myself. The lady selling metro coins promptly told me that I wasn't allowed to take pictures of people in the metro station. I laughed a little, then scaled down the escalators to catch my ride.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

apple?

Real apples, and the apple iPhone. Nobody knows what to do with or without them. I don't have an iPhone - but I do have more apples at home than I know what to do with.

Friday, November 13, 2009

flat tire, cheeseburger coma, and a walk with old friends




It's been wonderful to see friends and my family from my home state of Texas - and these are just a few images of the moments I've had so far.

Friday, November 6, 2009

slideshow

video

I put together this small slideshow - please forgive the numerous snapshots - for friends and family so that I wouldn't have to spend so much time explaining the details about Armenia. It's a 5 minute take on my journey here; it begins with the first picture I took and ends with a recent-ish one. I put it to The Hood Internet's 'Radiohead vs. Eve', as well as a new Neko Case tune I really like. I hope you also enjoy the music, and the pictures.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

friend-jan



Some portraits of my very good friends - Jon & Emily. An amazing writer, and a terrific photographer. My time here wouldn't be the same without them.

Monday, October 26, 2009

shoes

The shoes of a little girl - with their silent pink laughter they carry like a tiny secret. I used to have a pair of red cowgirl boots I'd wear with every outfit. Every outfit. There is something about shoes and girls....

Sunday, October 25, 2009

sunday church

Very few people go to the churches here on Sundays, but by ethnicity they are folded into Christianity. There are no dunkings, sprinklings, or bread and grape juice to save you from your Sunday morning teenage hunger, just a simple birth-right instead.

A recent Me

.....and a little sketch I drew.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

year 2

Year No. 2 in Peace Corps is much better than the first go round. I look at the pictures I took during my first Fall here and see and feel the differences. This picture is from October 2008 of some of the girls in my classes, after school. My life has more or less settled itself here, and I've become used to it. Now, we begin to talk about and plan for our lives after Armenia - and it's a damn whirlwind of emotion that is on par with coming here 18 months ago. I haven't made big plans yet, but I look forward to making them very soon.

Friday, October 16, 2009

age

A picture from an evening I spent tutoring English....on age, and being young. Whatever being "young" is, I think everyone clings to the idea. Have a great weekend - enjoy your time.

Monday, October 12, 2009

kid labor

This little boy is part of a new community of houses the Fuller Center of Armenia has built, and worked with us on Saturday to help build a new one. While we passed buckets of dirt and concrete, he hustled back and forth in the mud with oversized clothes and dress shoes to bring the buckets to the front of the line like it was a game. A cool kid in my book, beautiful too.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

officer man

A few weeks ago I missed the bus, and hailed down a random car going in the direction I needed to go. It happened to be this nice guy, a local policeman. He drove me to where I was going and we talked about the usual questions (where are you from, why are you here, how old are you, do you like America or Armenia better) for half an hour. He agreed to let me take his picture yesterday - I was hoping for a better background but I wasn't allowed to wander around the station looking. I really like these hats. They are absurdly tall, but make the stature more impressive on whomever they sit. I didn't have to worry about him smiling in the picture, because he'd never think of doing it.

Friday, September 25, 2009

010

I'm not sure how busy the Vayk Fire Department is, but this is their trusty truck and one of their long time firefighters. I photographed the whole crew, and then they wanted to photograph me, but this old man's expression and calmness was too hard to pass up. I took a few just of him. Just dial 010 and the truck and crew will come a runnin.

Monday, September 7, 2009

yesterday




A few from my walk yesterday. Thanks for paying any attention to this blog - I hope you enjoy it.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

two

I attended the engagement/wedding party for my friend Anush and her new husband Karen (a male's name in Armenia) last night. I liked the symbolism of these two chairs on their back porch - open and ready for two people to come together, to share and enjoy time. I think that's what it's all about really. And I wish them the best.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Letter No.1

This was just for fun. A Friday night in Armenia just for fun - although I did get my inspiration from elizabeth poje from a series of ads they run for her in Communication Design Magazine every month. You can check her crew of talent out at www.elizabethpoje.com. They take 4 random pictures and write around them in a letter format. It's a cool idea - or so I think. Here's my stab at it.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

posed and ready


Yesterday while walking out of my piano lesson, I noticed how gorgeous the light was outside. The rain storm was coming, but the sunset was competing for the attention. I was trying to get the buildings, but the kids just weren't going to let me. They were much more important than buildings. The onset of Fall is hard to miss - the nights are cool, the air is lighter and it carries an easy playfullness. It's a nice change.

Friday, August 21, 2009

single mom




I met Knarick last summer when I moved in with my second host family. She is one of their relatives, and I was really happy to meet her then because she spoke English. She teaches English in a village nearby and raises her two young children all by herself. Her husband left almost 8 years ago, to Russia, and never came back. But she still claims to be married. The social pressures for women to marry are strong, and once you are - you are. She's not alone in this regard, I've met many women in the same boat. I hate that it's that way for them, but Armenia is a traditional place with strict rules about marriage and divorce. I took these pictures yesterday at her house, when I came along to help bring her a load of new furniture. We ended up staying all afternoon, cooked a chicken, ate dinner - the whole 9 yards.

Monday, August 17, 2009

come close

I would have liked to get closer to this little girl, but as it was she was pretty clued in on what I was doing, trying to take her picture. But as it is, I like her gesture. Alone, and looking or deciding where to go next. I've always struggled getting close, and at times go back and forth with myself about doing that. Maybe that's why I like taking pictures. It is difficult and complicated, but fun also. It makes me think about what I am making other people feel, as I try not to think about it because I know it looks beautiful. Shortly after I took this picture, the girl ran at high speed out of my frame and I watched as she crashed into her Dad's leg and grabbed hold of his pants to hide her face from mine.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

narine the great

This is my dear friend Narine. Every summer she works for Peace Corps teaching new Americans how to speak Armenian. She taught me how to last summer, and from time to time I see her in Yerevan and stay at her apartment with her family. She has a son who is deaf and she taught him to read lips in both English and Armenian - and boy is he good at it! She's an amazing woman, and I ran into her at the Swearing In ceremony last week to welcome the new group of volunteers who have finished their training. It's weird to be the "old" ones, but it feels good to be helping the "new" ones out with their start here.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

finished


All the Green Camps I volunteered myself for this summer, are finished. I don't know how many times I sang Boom Chica Boom - like a monkey, like a chicken, like a soldier, like a pirate, like a crazy bus driver - but it went down really well and the kids had a great time. I think it's really important to demonstrate to the Armenian youth that being silly is OK. That thinking creatively is more important than just being right. I've seen the inside of the schools here, and they can be scary. It's a system of dominance, fear, and embarrassment that only praises children who can memorize things quickly. I believe in these camps. I think they educate and inspire. And that is something to place some value in.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

i said a boom chica boom

Green Camp #1 is going good. The kids, despite having no hot water or indoor plumbing, are having a great time! We took them on a 2 hour hike today through the forest, came upon a beautiful mountain stream and had a huge water fight. They couldn't believe I was willing to get my shoes wet, but after a few moments we were all pretty soaked. It's not America, where camps often resemble something like a dream land, but we do sing "Boom Chica Boom" every morning and every night and have matching t-shirts to show off when it's all said and done.

Friday, July 10, 2009

stranger in a strange place

Taken in a small village, Luskert, where I spent a few days training a group of very bright young Armenian kids who will be going to live in America for a year, just how America will be. I came across this little girl one evening who had apparently never seen anyone as strange looking as me. I was that stranger in a strange place.

apricots and gas

Pumping gas in Armenia is a cultural affair. I've watched the process at least fifty times but still don't know why it takes 20-30 minutes to fuel up a tiny worn out Russian hoopty. But it does. And no one is allowed to sit in the car or bus while filling up, instead everyone mumbles and kicks the dirt outside while complaining about the weather either being too cold or too hot. Occasionally there will be car like this one, that is incredibly picture worthy. One with a notable color and strapped down with a ton of weight going for the long haul. Our bus left about thirty minutes after this car did and we passed it on the road within the first five minutes. The old man was trucking apricots all the way down to Iran. I hope he made it.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

toot!

The Armenian word for "mulberry" is toot. I like saying it and hearing it. It makes me grin inside. And the fruit is everywhere - dripping from the trees. Yesterday while I was tutoring little Angelina's dad, we went outside in the street for a toot break. We scoured the tree branches I could reach for as many toot as we could eat.

Friday, June 19, 2009

campers

I have a bunch of kid pictures from Armenia now because the kids are the light of this experience. They're pretty much the only people who you can make laugh and they're also the ones who are open to differences, even as curious as they are about you. The Armenian children are fun and I've enjoyed teaching, playing, and being at their level in the schools and out of the schools. From time to time they'll come knock at my door to come see what I'm up to, take a long look around my house and all the things I have inside, and marvel at the fact that I live alone. I will be working in Peace Corps Armenia's annual Green Camps this entire month of July helping teach young children about the environment. There is nothing they love more than to watch you act like a kid yourself.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

fisherboy

Hands of a son of a fisherman. I think he wanted me to reach in and take one or two, with his big smile. A lucky boy....living on the sea.

Monday, June 8, 2009

istanbul turkey




My destination was Istanbul and after a week of traveling by bus (bus trips gone insane, bus) and train I am here. I dont know how the locals stay so pious with western tourists tromping all over the place in their revealing summer clothes but they seem to quite beautifully. I leave in a day.....back to Armenia, my small corner of home.

Friday, June 5, 2009

sinop turkey


This small peninsular town off the Black Sea coast is where I want to live for the rest of my days. It juts off into the sea, trailed by rolling countryside and full of nice people and happy stray dogs.

It has been rainy here, and while I was walking around I stumbled upon an outdoor fish market that had crabs for sale. I stupidly gestured to ask if there was a restuarant anywhere where I could eat them. They told me there was using their own gestures. When I found the place I was told by the waiter that they in fact did not have any. But there was an old man inside eating and he told me I could buy some from that market I was just at, bring them back to him, and he would cook them for me (he spoke English). He actually decided to walk there with me, bought them for me, and then once they were cooked invited me to eat them on his boat with him. So I did. It was my own ´old man and the sea´ .....he told me all about his career as a fisherman, his travels, his family. Now 83 years old, he just kicks around this town jovially being kind to strangers like me. That is him at the top, 35 years ago. King of the sea.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

trabzon turkey


there are lots of people and great food in trabzon turkey. i am headed down to the coast right now to check out the carnival rides by the water. swinging boats and ferris wheels. it feels great to be in this country.

Monday, June 1, 2009

georgia



I'm in Batumi, Georgia for the day and the night....and the Black Sea is wonderful. It is hard not to compare Armenia and Georgia, but for their proximity to each other, size, and history, the cultures are remarkably different. The train ride to Tbilisi, and the bus ride to Batumi were both memorable experiences. I didn't think we would get to Batumi alive last night....our driver drove 5 hours straight, like a maniac. Passing 5 cars at a time, even the police. If it wasn't for the little bottle of apple juice and vodka I mixed for myself, I might have cried. And the train....lingering odors of sweat and urine, mean border patrol officers that practically kicked us to wake us up at 4 am, but beautiful sunsets and sunrises on both occassions. I just wanted to post a few pictures from these first few days...