20 August 2008

Here we are! (The post you've been waiting for)

The Blackmer family made it safely to Hayastan, known to the rest of the world as the Republic of Armenia, on August 5 at 4:00 AM after a long and tiring journey. Sargis, one of the assistants at QSI Yerevan, picked us up from Zvartnots International Airport, where we had no difficulties in obtaining our visas and entering the country. The airport officials were very understanding of the fact that we had a baby and did not make us wait in the line at passport control, which would have taken at least 30 minutes. Outside the baggage claim area was a swarm of people jammed together, craning their necks and jumping from behind each other to see their arriving friends and family. As soon as Sargis saw us, he pushed his way through the crowd to greet us and help us with our things. The people cleared a path for the baby stroller and made a big fuss over Nathan, who was wide awake and smiling at everyone. They all fawned over him in his stroller and someone even shouted, "America is here!"

We loaded into the school van: Jarred and myself, Nathan in his car seat, Mabel (our cat) in her carrier, all our carry-on luggage, the stroller, and our 5 enormous duffel bags weighing 100 pounds each. On the way to our apartment we passed through a neon-lit area Sargis referred to as "Armenian Las Vegas." Yes, there are casinos here, but according to our guidebooks they are not too popular.

We spent most of the first 3 days sleeping and unpacking, sleeping and unpacking. Nathan needed a week to fully overcome his jetlag -- in the beginning he would wake up around 3:30 AM ready to play (and since he couldn't go back to sleep, we would have to get up and play with him through the dawn until he was ready for a nap at 7 or 8 am), then sleep for long periods during the afternoon. It was a little confusing for all of us!

Since then, we've spent a great deal of time exploring our new city and getting to know the people with whom we will be working here: Alla, our housekeeper; Marina, our nanny; Doug Shippert, the director of QSIY; and all the other faculty and staff at the school. Downtown Yerevan is beautiful. It is urban, yet not overcrowded, full of tree-shaded parks and open-air cafes, and with so many amazing historical and cultural sites we didn't know where to start! Some of the highlights so far include the Cathedral of St. Grigor Lusavorich (Gregory the Illuminator), the Matenadaran, the Vernissage, the Cascade, Victory Park and the Mother Armenia statue, which overlooks the entire city. Photos will be up soon; please be patient!

That reminds me -- we do not yet have internet at home, so for now we can only check email while we are at work. In a few weeks we will have a new laptop and internet all set up in the apartment so we can post photos and videos, and communicate via Skype. In any case, our email addresses remain the same, and if you would like to send us any mail or packages, please address them to

Jarred and Angela Blackmer
QSI International School of Yerevan
P.O. Box 82
Ashtarak Highway 2A
0088 Yerevan
Republic of Armenia

About our apartment... we have 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms with shower stalls, a large kitchen and dining area, and living room with fireplace. There are 4 balconies overlooking the Hrazdan River Gorge, and we have all tile and wood floors, with a big area rug in the living room. In our opinion, it is the nicest apartment we have ever had! We have A/C, thank goodness, as it is very hot right now. Our hot water gets very hot, and the cold water gets very cold, which is great. In case you are wondering, none of us have gotten sick from drinking the water, but we still boil water to be used for consumption as a precaution.

For those of you following the news about the Russia-Georgia conflict, don't worry, as it does not affect us here. QSI does have a school in Tbilisi, and a couple weeks ago they evacuated their teachers there and put them up in hotels in Yerevan. I suppose once everything is deemed safe they will return to work in Georgia.

And now the really big news: NATHAN CAN WALK! He celebrated his birthday on Saturday, August 16, and took his first steps by himself on Sunday. Daddy couldn't get it on video until Monday, and of course we will post that as soon as we are able. For his birthday, we took Nathan to a small amusement park downtown where he and Mommy rode the carousel and a Dumbo-type ride, but with swans instead of elephants. More than anything else, though, Nathan loved the balloon a clown gave him at the park. He held that balloon and smiled all day long! We showed Nathan all his birthday cards and the drawings in his Birthday Wish Book created by family and friends at his party on August 2. Our gift to him was a toddler-sized table and chair (Pooh and Friends), and some Crayola art supplies (chunky crayons, finger paints, drawing paper, etc.) we picked up at local stores. He loves sitting at his table for snacks as well as creating his masterpieces. He's such a cutie, and he is admired everywhere we go, especially when he's in the Moby wrap.

Whew! I've got lots more to share, but it will have to wait for another day. Thanks for all the emails and phone calls over the past few weeks. We miss you all and will keep you updated.