Showing posts from June, 2002

Letter 04 : Amberd and Mount Aragats

Saturday, June 22, 2002

Today we drove to Amberd and Mount Aragats. We rented a minibus for the whole day (11 passengers from 9 till 18 hrs) and it cost us 15000 drams. The driver, Alig, is an actor-musician from the Spendiarian Institute. He plays percussion equipment and the Xylophone. Most of the Spendiarian artists have defected to the West. He decided to stay and earns his living driving the minibus. It was a beautiful day, and we were treated again to the beautiful sight of Ararat, all along. Amberd is a 12th century fortress that was destroyed by Timor Lang’s Mongol –Tatars before they sacked Baghdad in 1233. The fortress walls are still standing but the town below is destroyed. The Church outside the walls, however, has been repaired. (You can see the photos/description of this and other sites on ). The guide to the Church, Aram Manookian is a WWII veteran whose battalion was wiped-out during the siege of Stalingrad. He was wounded there but survived with 3 othe…

Letter 03: To and From Sister Arusiag’s Summer Camp

Saturday, June 15, 2002

We’re waiting for the minibus promised to us for 9:00 a.m. to drive us to Dzaghgadzor, to meet the orphans of ‘Kouyr Arusyag’ (Sister Arusyag), the Armenian Catholic nun who spend 30 years teaching children in Philadelphia and decided to devote herself to the orphans of Armenia. To save time, we take a taxi to the ice-cream factory to buy ice-cream sticks as a treat for the children. The factory is near the Dzidzernagaberd Genocide Memorial. It seems like a state-of-the-art factory. Well organised, clean… we bought the 150 sticks at wholesale prices, in record time, no sweat… Armenians love ice cream! Like all Armenian dairy products, it is especially delicious! There is plenty of freezer-chests plugged-in all-over town selling ice cream to go… They are so tasty, and your best Haagen-dash chocolate with nuts stick imitation costs less than 200 drams on the street (50 cents Cad.).

We finally take-off at 11:00 and climb the Caucasus range to leave Yerevan. The sc…

Letter 02: The Orran urchins

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

This afternoon we visited the ‘Orran’ (the haven) Centre in downtown Yerevan. It is an old building that smells like boiled hamburger fat, where the social ministry or other institutions send street-children. Children are fed and taught there and sent back home (usually single parent families). Orran’s director is Gail Howard, who came to Armenia with the Red Cross and is now managing this centre created by Raffi Hovannissyan’s wife. Gail is a wonderful woman with a huge heart and bosoms to match.

There were some 50 children there when we came, and Sheila pointed-out a young boy who reminded her of Raffi. He turned-out to be one of the smartest ones and was the first to win a candy in the little intellectual/vocabulary games our volunteers had prepared for the children. I don’t know if they had had enough candy that day (I’d be surprised), but several of these children came to me and offered me the candy they had just won, as if I needed any candy at my age. Amo…

Letter 01b: First impressions (continued) Lousavorich Cathedral

Sunday June 2, 2002 We slept in… our hostess did not want to disturb us and waited patiently! We have 20 minutes to be in church. Fortunately it's just across the street. We make it in time for the ‘tapor’ procession. The church is impressive: the largest Armenian Church ever built. At the entrance, a small marble kiosk containing the relics of Sourp Krikor Lousavorich, recently returned to Armenia by the Vatican..

The ‘tapor’ is impressive… I am moved to see the faithful gather to the side of the church to try and touch/kiss the banner, kiss the cross in the bishop’s hand… The deacons exhaling incense from their little ‘encensoirs’ the others shaking the small bells… the faithful donate incense from their hands straight into the recipient held by the head-deacon. This is their offering!… they go all around the huge church… It is beautifully built… The painting of the mother and child on the altar is unique.. They look Armenian (it is a painting made by Soureniants in the 19th cen…