Saturday, March 24

Signature writing in school!

During the last week we have been visiting 8 classes to tell about sexual health and to have awareness activities about hiv/aids. One of the high lights was when one of the classes wanted my signature on their new hiv-leaflets.

We visited some pupils from the 7th grade, but mostly those from the 8th and 9th grade. All the principals and teachers were positive and thankful for us coming, and we could have the activities and information just as we wanted it; great! But we never handed out condoms as we do in Norway, we only talked about it and asked them if they knew where they could buy them. Many boys said: “Apoteka”! :)

In addition to give some basic info about hiv/aids, Chlamydia, herpes, and gonorrhea, we had the activity “high risk, low risk, no risk” and if the classroom and chairs allowed us: the hiv-transmission chair game. One is without a chair, and will try to get one when those who have the name “mothers milk”, “blood” and “without condom” have to rise to get a new seat. I guess you all know this game, only the names are different…

We have this activity to have some fun with the pupils, and to make them remember the 3 ways of hiv-transmission: through blood, through breast milk and through unprotected sex.
Most of the classes were good to have the activities with, and some of them knew impressively much about hiv, and where very active. But as always: some of the boys are making a lot of noise, and many of the pupils are very quiet.

Some of the girls were giggeling, and it gave me some flash backs to when I was a little teenager; talking about sex and condoms can be embarrassing! :) (Look at these cute girls on the first row!)

But I hope in any case that they learned something new about sexual transferred infections and risk behavior, and that they will take care of their own and other people’s sexual health in the future. Because this is what it is all about…

A cup of fortune

Our house owner Sosanna claims to have the gift of fortune telling from coffee cups. I have already visited her several times to drink coffee and to know about my future life…

After drinking a cup of strong Armenian Jazzve coffee, it is time to turn the cup up side down, and wait some minutes before my fortune can be read at the bottom and the sides of the cup.

In Armenian Sosanna tells me that she can see a white pigeon which means that I will have some good news. She sees a telephone; I will get a call. She sees a heart with a bird; someone wants to hug me. She sees the letter H, the first letter in a name of a girl of great importance to me. She sees roads; I will have some short journeys and some long ones. She sees the numbers 3 and 7; those are good numbers and will bring luck. She once saw a horse; strength and good luck; something good will happen.

All in all I have had some good fortune cups, and I apparently have a lot to look forward too. :)

Kaja said that she saw an axe in one of my cups once, but that was ignored by Sosanna, she only tells us the good things she sees…

I guess we will visit Sosanna more while we are in the village of Ijevan in Tavush region. It is a small town with some 20 000 inhabitants (maybe less…).

Here we are enjoying the sun in the garden of the local Red Cross with our new Red Cross friend Losine.


Having a hangover on a Sunday afternoon in Yerevan is not that bad when you find someone looking shabbier than you feel yourself..

This is just one of hundreds of street dogs in Yervan. I think his name is Rufus!

Wednesday, March 21

Happy Paddy’s day!!

Irish tap dance, Irish songs, Irish music, Irish food, Irish flag, Irish green hats, Guinness and Irish whiskey… these are the ingredients of a successful Paddy-day!! :)
17th of March Kaja and I celebrated the Irish national day in Yerevan, Marriott Hotel, with a lot of friends and unknown green people… Dancing, drinking, talking, laughing… especially when I danced with this old guy: We were all alone on the dance floor, and he was such a cutie! With a Shamrock sticker on his forehead… :)
The party was organized by parents and teachers from the QSI, International school in Yerevan. Our cool friend Ragnhild sat in the committee, and looked Gorgeous in Green!

Paul from Norway (half British...) also enjoyed the Paddy-day, boy can he dance! And shout! Aprek!!
Slante! (It is cheers in Irish, is it not??!!)

Saturday, March 17

Culture shock in the region...

Kaja and I have now been 1 week in Tavush region in the north of Armenia. We are going to stay here for a month to strengthen the youth organization outside the capital.

So far, we have met a lot of kind and open youth in the town of Ijevan who are eager to work with us and discuss with us (despite the fact that most of them do not speak English….). But only after a couple of hours with tea and chit chatting, mind you… Slowly, slowly, but firmly we have developed a couple of groups to cooperate with for the coming weeks.

During this first week, we dropped by several schools to ask if we could visit classes to inform and have activities about sexual health and hiv/aids. All the 4 schools were positive, and next week is full booked with some 8 class visits during 5 days. I am really looking forward to it! I had a mini seminar with some of the activities about the Active Choice program on Thursday, and I think the group liked it, and learned from it. We also plan to have a sport tournament against aids in the schools; that could be fun!

The region has a lot of trees, but they are not green yet, and the mountains and hills are covered by massive fog, typical for this rain season… hope to see the sun soon, cause it makes me a bit sad… But there are lots of funny pigs everywhere, also in the streets, and I will try to get some pictures of them…

Two Peace Corps volunteers also work in Ijevan: Justin works with computers, he wants to help handicapped children use computers, and Rud works with agriculture, trying to get funding to buy a green house in town. And he is also an excellent cook and story teller.

And as always, we have been at Armenian homes eating Armenian food and drinking Armenian wine… this time also with karaoke! With volunteer Sasha performing in Russian, accompanied with Sami people in the music video! (The first pic...)

PS: This week end we are in Yerevan, going to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day tonight.

Happy Paddy’s day all of you!

Smil from Norway & Armenia!

We hereby proudly present Lilit Melkonyan, the next youth delegate from Armenia going to Norway this fall!

She is 21 years old, an economy student at the University in Yerevan, also working on hiv/aids projects in the Youth Department. A nicer and kinder girl than Lilit is very hard to find, trust me!! She and David from Tavush region are going to Norway in September, but the place they are going to is not yet decided… Stay tune, all Norwegians!

Lilit and David participated in a basic training at Haraldvangen (north of Oslo) in February, and brought back lots of Norwegian chocolate from the Norwegian Red Cross. (Thanks, Monika!)

Cozy Cascades

My favourite place in Yerevan is the steps of the Cascades.

The gigantic stair was build at the 50 year anniversary with Soviet Union, but they did not manage to finish it before Armenia became an independent country in 1991. However, the recent years investments have been done, and they are now trying to finish all the steps all the way to the top of the hill.

It is a great place to relax without all the traffic of Yerevan, and you get a panorama view of the city. If the weather is clear, you can also see Mount Ararat (big and small), now situated in Turkey. I often go there with friends, and of course I showed the steps to my father and sister when they where visiting me.

The altitude of the steps made the SMS work...

Friday, March 9

Book nerds!

According to my guidebook about Armenia, you are a fool if you do not visit the Matenadaran book museum in Yerevan. I therefore decided to go there while my father and sister were visiting me.

The book museum contains several thousands of old books and manuscripts, mostly from Armenia, but also from Persia, China, Japan, and many European countries (given as gifts from the foreign governments). The oldest books where written on goat skin, and some of them where used twice. Many of the books are Gospels, Bibles and psalms, but there are also books about linguistic, science, math, music and medicine.

Galileo Galilei is known as the man who proved that the earth is round and not flat, but there was an Armenian writing these theories many hundred years before. He did not manage to prove it though… But his theories are now kept in the Matenadaran Book museum in Yerevan.

The Armenian alphabet is one of the oldest alphabets in the world, developed by Mestrop Mashtots, 401 AD. It then contained 36 letters, and the additional three letters (F, O, &) came more than 1000 years later.

I have noticed that very few Armenian words contain the letter F, and those who have, are often “modern” words, like “foto”, "faks", "kafe" and “forum”. France is called “Fransia” in Armenian, but I guess the country was not discovered by the Armenians in 401, and therefore no use of the name! :) Another thing that is interesting (because the Armenian language and letters are very interesting. Shat!) is that names with F are new names adopted from other countries, like Fillip, Fiona etc…

Our guide gave us a very interesting tour around the main room in the book museum and told us stories connected with many of the books and manuscripts. She also showed us the signature of Napoleon Bonaparte and Alexander the second. Fascinating!

If you ever go to Yerevan, you are a fool if you miss the Matenadaran… :)


Sunday, March 4

The Barrel of Peace

The Armenians are very proud of Ararat, both the mountain and the brandy. According to the Bible, Noah’s ark stranded on Mount Ararat, and according to the legend, "mankind first tasted wine when Patriarch Noah planted the first vine in the fertile Ararat valley… "

Brandy has been made in Armenia since 1887, and they use white grapes from Armenia and Karabakh. We got to see hundreds of barrels in the factory, but one of them is extra ordinary:

”The Barrel of Peace” contains brandy from 2001, and will be opened only when the conflict between Karabakh and Azerbaijan is over.

My dad and me wrote our names on the barrel and also the words:”Skål for peace” in the book next to the barrel. (“Skål” means ”cheers”, and in Armenian it is ”Kenats”!)

In a certain place of the storage, there were many barrels with name tags on them. These barrels contain brandy for different presidents and artists, and were given as gifts from the factory. My dad is hoping he will have his own barrel soon…. :)

Of course, we also got he chance to taste Armenian brandy: 3 years, 10 years, and 20 years. I have absolutely now clue about brandy, nor do I like it, but the youngest one was not that bad.

The company during our day at the factory was quite interesting: an Armenian from California with a beautiful lady and a group of American business men. The man sitting next to my dad was a Telemark enthusiast from Colorado, and they ended up discussing Telemark style and Sondre Nordheim...



Overnattingsbesøk hos Tatik Emma

Sør i Armenia er det en gammel dame som kaller seg bestemoren min. Hun heter Emma og er oppi de 60. Vi besøkte henne en ettermiddag i februar, og fikk god tradisjonell armensk mat, vodka og ny oppredde senger.
Slektinger og naboer kom også på besøk for å treffe meg og familien min. De kan kanskje 5 engelske gloser tilsammen, og jeg fungerte litt som tolk. Armensken min er så klart veldig begrensa, men jeg merka at jeg kunne snakke mer med tatik Emma og co nå enn for et par måneder siden.

Den lokale trubadur-helten Krikor dukka også opp, og imponerte med å synge ”Bæ, bæ, lille lam” og ramse opp Øverlands:

”Det er en lykke i livet som ikke vendes til lede. Det at du gleder en annen,
det er den eneste glede.”
Han hadde lært "Bæ, bæ" av Neving, en av de første ungdomsdelegatene i Armenia, og diktet av Håvard Hovdhaugen, den gangen koordinator for delegatprogrammet.

Krikor ville at pappa også skulle lære han noe på norsk, og etter litt stev og div endte vi opp med å lære han ”Mikkel rev”, 2 vers. Krikor tok det imponerende kjapt, og repeterte minst 40 ganger før vi la oss. Neste morning kom han på besøk igjen, og da var Mikkel tilbake!

Små gleder; lykken i livet som ikke vendes til lede...


Armenia rundt med paps og søs!

Storesøs Ingjerd og paps Tor var på besøk en liten uke i slutten av februar. Vi fikk med oss biltur på vinterføre med sommerdekk, våren i Yerevan, besøk hos bestemor Emma og Røde Kors Ungdom lokalt og sentralt, fest med de norske, konjakkmuseet og bokmuseet og en drøss kirker…

Mandagsmorning dro vi sørøstover for å se et par kirker på veien og besøke tatik Emma og Røde Kors Ungdom i regionen hvor jeg og Kaja jobba i desember.

Vi dro ut med to armenere, sjåfør og guide, og det gikk helt greit bortsett fra at ingen visste at det skulle være så mye snø på veiene! I det ene fjellet var det så mye snø (ved nesten 2 400 m.o.h.) at vi måtte snu og kjøre enn anna vei opp til Sevan sjøen. I en Lada med sommerdekk begrenser det seg noget hvor man kan dra, men armenerne er optimistiske til det motsatte er bevist!

På høyden i enden av en blindvei i Vayots Dzor region ligger Noravank med to nydelige steinkirker fra 12-1300-tallet.

Mens vi var der var vi så heldige å få med oss et armensk bryllup...