Thursday, April 27, 2006

Culture and more Culture

It seems every corner I turn and every instance in which I leave myself open to speaking with the numerous people I meet here in Armenia, I learn so many interesting things. I have met a Bulgarian woman who has documented the war on the front lines in Karabagh and received a bullet in the leg, I have met painters who might interrupt a friendly dinner to ask us to pose and reassemble ourselves so that he might have a photo for his paintings, a Russian tour guide who knows the ins and outs of the city and has a deep soul and understanding of human life. My days are endlessly filled with interesting people and their stories.
The trip back to the village was short and sweet. We spent most of the day photographing a nearby 9th century monastery which was breathtaking. Hawk (see picture), myself and Zaven the head of the Parajanov museum in Yerevan were witness to a dramatically beautiful day in Armenia. I felt I could have been in the hills of Ireland. We stopped at Lake Sevan where the mist was just starting to lift revealing the twin churches on the lake. The mountain peaks were sliced by clouds and by the time we got to the monastery the sun made its appearance. In the village the children were happy to see us again. We managed a local kebab on the way home and even went to a concert in the evening.

On April 24 we tackled torrential rains and made our way to the Genocide memorial. At 4:30 there was already a wall of flowers for the 1.5 million Armenians who were mercilessly killed in WWI by the Turks. I said a quiet prayer for my great-grandparents and grandparents. The number of people were overwhelming and continued to arrive into the evening hours.

It is no wonder that we are a nation of artists, photographers, musicians, dancers, poets, writers, can we forget? How can we not come back "home" and give back and make strong what our neighbours have tried to rob us of for so many centuries?

Monday, April 17, 2006

To the Village and Musical Advances

We had the advantage of being driven up to the village of Martz this past Saturday with one of the members of the Yerkir organisation, the construction expert, and the hired driver. We left at 7am in the morning with a most somber crew. The driver did not speak a word during our 3 and 1/2 hour journey, Robert the Yerkir representative stuck his headphones in and Hrair the construction expert nodded off in his own world. Fortunately I had my friend Anna with me (guardian angel as I call her) and we had a good laugh at our situation. We passed many towns each turning greener and more beautiful as we headed north. Though we could not locate the village on a local map we crossed our fingers and headed in the right direction.
After tackling a muddy track which left our tyres spinning and many Hail Mary's we reached our destination. New little piglets were scattered about rummaging through the turf welcoming us back to the village. The look on the villagers faces was one of surprise mixed with joy and grateful acceptance. I explained our mission to renovate the school and we were welcomed with great respect. We measured, photographed and discussed as the children slowly got the gist of the fact that I was back. One by one they crept out of their classrooms to come and give kisses and hugs and exchange a few words. Some of them quickly went and picked fresh daffodils to hand to us. Not before long the children queued up and waited to greet us and asked eagerly if we would be coming back to run the summer camp in August. Their excitement at my confirmation was bittersweet.
Martz at this time of the year is so beautiful. All the fruit trees are flowering, the river has risen and playfully runs its course through the rocks. Everything suggests new life and new hope. Some things remain exactly the same. The village dog Quatro greeted us as if we had never left, the large irrigation pipes along the road which were meant to be constructed still lay strewn about as they had been 7 months before. The mayor had changed, the principal of the school had changed, one of the young boys was now married but time had not touched anything else. We were treated to a typical meal of pork barbeque, potatoes, local cheeses, bread, whisky, wine, and sausages. Toast after toast and the locals got their midday buzz while we feigned to drink what was in our glasses! We are now to put together the budget to see how far we can take the money we have raised and will start work after une 10th when the children finish school. I am to return on Saturday with Hrair "Hawk" Khatcherian (renowned photographer) to document the village and our work.
On the musical front many doors are opening. I have found a jovial and warm hearted woman who has worked with many top musicans in Armenia to work with the arrangements of the songs. In the mean time I am being introduced to reporters and television stations who are all showing interest in the fact that these songs are coming together for the benefit of the poor villages in Armenia. God seems to be guiding the way constantly and all I do is listen and follow. Truly my days are incredibly busy but they are never planned. Spontaneously things seem to unfold, take shape and just fit perfectly along the road. I go forth with great happiness.
I shall attempt to get some pictures of the village uploaded soon.
Until then - Happy Easter. Peace, love, light, sunshine and spring flowers.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Here at Last

Well it's all very real now! It has been a rough two days with no running water in the apartment and a sense of complete isolation from everything I know but things are beginning to take shape and come together. I feel like a foreigner in my own land sometimes and yet other times I am incredibly connected and moved by it all.
There are a wealth of musicians, artists, and photographers here. The city is buzzing with life and energy. At the Naregatsi Art Institute there is something every evening - from fashion shows to pantomime to concerts and exhibitions. It is a true cultural fountain.
To wake in the morning and see Mount Ararat majestically on the horizon is incredibly moving. She is playful and flirtatious - sometimes barely showing herself and sometimes stating her presence like a queen. When she decides to show herself I have to catch my breath at her splendour.
We visited the home of Roupen Haghperdian - a famous singer here. He is a character out of a feminists nightmare. It was entertaining nevertheless. We have also managed to watch some incredible jazz musicians and meet many interesting artists. I am now meeting and greeting - socialising and discovering my environment so as to begin my musical venture. As for the village - I am meeting with the director of Yerkir this week and hopefully we will set a date to go up and see them. SO much to do - but all will fall into place - I am at peace with it.
I have enjoyed the quiet times at my apartment as well. Sitting on the balcony and overlooking the city. Summer has already arrived and tourist season will begin soon bringing with it more buzz.
I shall check in again shortly.
Love and light