Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Underage drinking

I renewed my Alaska driver's license today and discovered that my old license has actually been suspended since 2005. Reason: underage drinking in Homer, AK. Problem: I have not been underage since 1999, and I have never been to Homer. It is all resolved now, and I have a new license, and Jeremy and I are departing Juneau on the ferry to Kodiak Island in a couple of hours. We'll write a lot more once we get to Nebraska on July 3 and have regular access to a computer. We've seen a bear, a few porcupines and seals, and lots of my old friends. And eaten a lot of fish. It's been great.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Road Less Potholed

Our hit counter is over 1,000! Yeah, most of those are probably me and Jeremy ... but, I wonder who reads this blog? So, I'm back in the States. I arrived Saturday, and immediately got a frappucino at Dulles while I was waiting for Ksenia to pick me up. It was a coffee light frappucino, and maybe it's because it was the "light" variety, but it was really gross. I miss cafe glasse in Yerevan - cold coffee with full-fat ice cream ... yum! My disappointment with the frappucino was more than tempered, however, by the bump-free ride back from the airport. Imagine ... miles and miles of road, smooth as a baby's bottom. It was unexpected bliss.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Airport to airport

Greetings, reader. I write now from Vienna International Airport's business class lounge. Yes, I get to fly business because I am traveling on official orders with a transit time of more than 14 hours. This is actually only my second time in a business class lounge. My first was in the Alaska Airlines lounge in Seattle, which was actually much nicer than this one. They had comfy couches. Here, the decor is typically European (at least in my limited experience, which mostly involves airport hotels). The colors and furniture appear straight out of the kids' section of the IKEA catalog. Though the egg chair I am sitting in is actually quite comfortable, I just had a free croissant and free cup of tea, and I don't have to sit on the floor in Terminal A, so I really have no business being snarky.

My Washington-bound flight will depart in about three hours and 15 minutes. My computer battery will die about an hour before that, just in time for me to board.

And ... I've left Armenia. Perhaps for good, or perhaps Jeremy and I will go back sometime to show our children where we met. Either way, it won't be the same. New buildings are going up all over town, the road to the Renco apartments is PAVED (see pvs post), and an ice-cream bar costs 43 cents, up from about 27 cents two years ago. The roads are more crowded, the drivers more aggressive, the SUVs bigger, and the rest of the population no better off than they were in 2005. The times, they are a-changin' ... but maybe not that much. And I'll miss Yerevan.

A whole new world

I am blogging from the new departure terminal at Zvartnots Airport in Yerevan, Armenia, via the terminal's FREE wi-fi connection. This is big news. The terminal only opened a few days ago. It's brand spankin' new, doesn't smell like smoke, isn't freezing cold, and there are even chairs with foot-rests. And this happens just before I leave.

The other thing that happened, happened yesterday. I drove home, and noticed that they were paving the alley that leads to my (former) apartment building. Unfortunately, I do not have photos of the new paved road. I only have a photo of the alley as it was two years ago when I moved in.

It has changed quite a bit. There are new buildings on either side, and it is usually full of cars. That will probably not change now that it's nice and smooth. As irritating as it is that they chose the day before I left the country to finally civilize the road, I take solace in the fact that it will be potholed in a matter of weeks, if not days.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

80% Done

Well, I'm almost done with this whole graduate school thing. I gave my capstone presentation last week to a class of community development students. It involved a 20 minute ice breaker (called Jet Fighter), a 30 minute presentation and then 15 minutes of Q&A. I was required to give this presentation in order to complete the first half of my final graduation requirement. The other part is to turn in a capstone paper.

What is a capstone? It's sort of like a thesis, but instead of dealing exclusively with theory, it's a reflection of my recent year-long internship. I took the opportunity to address an issue that I felt Mikva was beginning to realize existed but hadn't quite started to fully address. My capstone dealt with Mikva Challenge's need to create a long-term evaluation framework in order to judge its impact and certify that it was meeting its mission statement.

Well, now that the presentation part is done, I now have to turn in the paper. And now that I'm not working, that should happen anyday. Or maybe next week. Sometime anyway. No, seriously, it's 80% done according to my advisor. Just need to retool some paragraphs and update some things. So, here's to the final 20%!!!! Wish me luck.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Apparently, I'm not over it

The following is an excerpt from an e-mail my sister Ksenia wrote me November 27, 2002, to help assuage my apprehension at my impending move to Alaska.

"Yes you are scared, and yes you do not know why you are doing this, but I truly believe that everything happens for a reason. Something is pulling you towards it so just go. ... Maybe then this travelling problem you have will go away and you will be able to settle in a quiet suburb like Harrisonburg, VA. And have a peaceful existence with ten kids, and fat husband. Love, Ksenia."

Saturday, June 2, 2007

One week left ...

It's my last Saturday in Yerevan. Carina and I took a walk to Marco Polo with her son Alex, and had lunch. We weren't worried about being taped by the NSS (we don't have much to say that they would be interested in). Then I came home and tried to figure out whether all the stuff I set aside to put in my suitcases will in fact fit. I think it will. Now I'm off to enjoy some sunshine. It's definitely a bummer to leave Armenia in the summertime. I think I earned quite a bit humidity-free sunshine during the long, dreary winter. Instead, I'm off to DC -- possibly the only capital city in the free world built on a swamp.

Friday, June 1, 2007


I sang a recital last Sunday at the Komitas Chamber Music Hall in downtown Yerevan. This is remarkable for two reasons:

First, my voice teacher Susanna tricked me into agreeing to the recital. She asked after my first one, in December, whether I could do another before I left Yerevan, and I said no. Then she got me to agree to sing in a joint recital with her other students, and I'd only have to prepare "two or three songs." That sounded manageable. As she kept throwing more music at me, I figured that we'd choose two or three out of the bunch. We got up to about a dozen. Finally, I said "I'm the only one singing, aren't I?" She admitted I was. "And I have to sing all these songs?" She admitted I did.

Second, the Komitas Chamber Music Hall is one of basically two professional performance spaces in Yerevan for small music groups. And they let me, a complete dilletante, sing there. No audition, no questions asked. They even made a poster. Unlike at my last recital, however, the TV cameras did not show up. That was a good thing, because my singing was much worse this time than the last time.

But although I and Susanna agreed I had sung better, I received nothing but praise from my loyal friends in the audience, and from the random Armenians who came in off the street. One guy reverse-heckled me while I was singing. I don't know what else you would call it - he called out loudly and somewhat obnoxiously while I was singing and in between pieces. Things like "I love America!" "Bravo!" And then after the concert, another of the audience members handed me a card, written in Armenian sufficiently poetic that I only understood about three words of it. Roughly translated by a friend, it is an anagram poem that talks about God singing through me. Very nice, but clearly this guy doesn't know that much about singing. Or maybe he was just impressed to hear an American sing in Armenian.