Over the New Year's holiday I visited a Peace Corps chum who lives in a town near there and finally got to see some of the true glories of the country. Here's looking at you, Armenia...
Someday I'll start a "My Armenia" blog. But not yet; I don't know enough.
I can say that teaching English here has its rewards: eager students and extremely intelligent teachers. But the school is unheated and dilapidated and the town is full of empty houses, marking families moved to Russia or the Ukraine, where there are a few jobs for the men, at least. The economy is in the basement, as is the mood. Moreover, the currency has witnessed a 25% devaluation since last week, in response to the Russian economic crisis. Russian-Armenian links are still very tight, which is part of the problem, I guess.
My town has four historic churches and a medieval bridge, but few facilities for visitors. Only this cafe: Pascal and Diadato which will be a great place to hang out when it reopens in the spring.
I'm organizing groups of students to compete in the Armenian National Poetry Recitation Contest and informal English classes for teachers. Also trying to set up a blog between my 7th graders and a class in Monterey, CA. And introducing my colleagues and host family to banana bread.
Little steps, all. As they say in Armenian, keech, keech.
Meanwhile winter's closing in and the high Caucasus Mountains look like a great white fortress, but no snow yet in Ashtarak.
Onward and upward in Armenia.
Author, columnist, traveler Susan Spano has journeyed the world reporting on culture, nature and the curious human race. She launched the still-running “Frugal Traveler“ column for the New York Times, then joined the staff of The Los Angeles Times which sent her to the City of Light from 2003 to 2006 to start the popular travel section blog “Postcards from Paris.”