Sunday, October 7, 2012

Women , Robots, and Autumn in Armenia................

POSTCARDS:  My summer English conversation group recently completed a project sponsored by Traveling Postcards, an international organization which gathers postcards from women in groups worldwide. Their theme is ART, Power, and Potential and through the interweaving of these 3 entities, women (and some men) are drawn together as they focus on others. The cards and messages of support from our group will be distributed to  other women suffering hardships such as domestic violence, trafficking, serious illness, homelessness, or other situations which victimize women.  Our group which consists mostly of university students and English teachers  wishing to practice conversational English, created handmade post cards with messages of hope, love and concern for these women we’ve never met yet with whom we feel a kinship. We even had a guest participant who is a university student in Russia and who uses impeccable English. It was a new experience for the young women and 1 young man to reach across boundaries of geography and ethnicity and to help others.  My wish is that this brief experience will light a fire within at least one of our group’s participants to work for change in the role of women in Armenia.  This might be an idea for a group you know. To learn more about the project go to  .

Post cards created by my English conversation group to be sent to women all over the world through 



WOMEN AND ELECTIONS : I just learned this week that 4 women are seeking city council seats in our small town of Dilijan, Armenia. That is noteworthy because women do not typically participate in elected volunteer positions in Armenia, especially in smaller towns. The women are all directors/principals of their organizations or schools. They are well educated, well known in town and well respected. These women will have many opponents---one report says 33, another 70. Although as Peace Corps volunteers we are not allowed to be involved in the political process, we can certainly be interested observers. The outcome of this election will be most intriguing and may set the stage for future involvement of women in how our town is run. May the best women----and men, win seats on our town’s advisory council. May they bring fair judgment, honesty, creativity and enthusiasm to those posts.  Special after-note:  the director of my college was the only woman elected to our town council.  Shnorhavor (congratulations!!)Tamaryzan. 

 Greta Tamaryzan, new Dilijan, Armenia town council member


ENGLISH:  “Hi, Mrs. Judy. How are you?”  I am walking home and hear a child’s voice.  I respond with, “Hello, I am fine. How are you?” “My name is Aram”, replies the cute little 10 year-old boy as he rapidly pedals his bike by me.  This is a typical exchange of greetings Dave and I encounter every day. Children we’ve met at school, on the street, during summer activities, or elsewhere, want to practice their English, so a person identified as speaking English is often greeted by robot sounding questions learned by the children in school. This particular child, Aram, did not understand my question.( “How are you? “was answered with the child giving his name.) Most children know the correct response based upon what they’ve memorized. “I am fine, thank you”, is usually uttered in a robot tone of voice.  That is often the end of a conversation except for the smiles and giggles of an embarrassed child. The boy who spoke to me had met David and me during the summer and now knows we’ll talk with him. I hope we move past the robot stage, into a more relevant verbal exchange as time goes on.
Aram always speaks to us when we see him in our neighborhood 
Autumn… ARMENIA:   We just bought 10 kilograms of fresh tomatoes and 2 kilograms of red bell peppers today. The lady down the street who sells fruits and vegetables at her home wanted to know what we were going to do with the purchases.  We tried to tell her that wewere planning to can the tomatoes and peppers for use in the winter, but we did not know the Armenian word for canning. That is where charades comes in handy----we acted out how to seal a jar with the Armenian tool used for that purpose. She understood and said, “shat lav” or very good.  I guess she was surprised that Amerikatsi’s would do such a thing. We learned last winter that many vegetables are plentiful if you wish to pay the winter prices or if you choose to eat only potatoes, onions, cabbage, beets and carrots.  Tomatoes and peppers are available but the selection is limited and costly during the winter, just as in other parts of the world.  We learned how to can tomatoes and peppers from our friend last fall so are doing it ourselves this year.   The neighborhood saleswoman weighed our bags with her small hand scale and gave us a price.  We spent less than 2000 Armenian drams for tomatoes and peppers, a fraction of what those items would cost during the winter if we chose to buy them. We also will can peaches next week before that season of tasty fruit is over.    Preparation for winter has caused a scurry of activity as women can, continue the process of drying seasonal fruits and herbs, and complete the laundering and line- drying of thick bedding needed during Armenia’s frigid winters. The harvesting of apples, pears, and plums also signals the beginning of vodka distillation. Thanks to a fine book sent by Kirby Riffel, we will go from a very modest 5 gallon distillery to a much more ambitious plan this year.   David and I are trying to get ready for winter and to use some of the knowledge we gained by living here last year. We hope we are as prepared as the ant in Aesop’s fable, The Ant and the Grasshopper. 

A few of the 31 jars of tomatoes we canned......yummy in winter time with chili, spaghetti, etc.

Kitchen tool every Armenian uses to seal jars after canning. Our neighbor lent us hers and was surprised that we'd even WANT to can!

Dave sealing canned peaches with Armenian  kitchen  tool. Armenian men do not usually help with canning or other kitchen chores. That fact was confirmed by  a student Judy tutors.

Dave putting jars into pot for boiling, just one of the steps in the home canning process

(Autumn pears waiting to be canned.)  Our neighbors bring us more pears than we can eat they will be canned too!

We hope you enjoy your autumn, wherever you might be.
Judy and Dave

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