27 October 2008

Back to work

Well, it looks like the summer weather is gone for good. The past week has been cloudy, grey, and drizzly, although I understand that autumn is normally considered the most beautiful season in Armenia. Even today it is raining, so our students had to spend recess indoors. I don't mind the cool temperatures at all...in fact, it's rather nice to give my sweat glands a break after 14 years of subtropical Florida weather...but still, I hope the sun will come out tomorrow.

Our fall break was great -- productive, but not too busy, and relaxing, but not to the point of boredom. On Monday, we took Nathan to a pediatrician recommended to us by a coworker. Dr. Abelyan was very friendly and Nathan got a clean bill of health. The same afternoon, all three of us went to the dentist's office just around the corner (we literally walked there from our apartment in about 4 minutes). Jarred and I both got a cleaning for a total of 20,000 dram (about U.S. $30 each) and we had the dentist examine Nathan's strange-looking front teeth. He said they are caused by a single tooth follicle producing two fused teeth. He added that we shouldn't worry about it now, just allow him to monitor it, and it shouldn't be a problem. In doing a quick search, I found out this condition is called gemination, and is fairly common in babies. I don't have photos of Nathan's teeth, but this is what they look like. And if you're still curious, here is an Alabama dentist's description.

Marina came over for two days to babysit so that Jarred and I could go out and do a few things on our own. On Thursday we went out to lunch at Pizza Roma for their excellent salad bar, then it was on to the National History Museum on Republic Square. The most interesting exhibit was the ancient map display. It turns out that the oldest known maps of the world, particularly the Babylonian Imago Mundi, show Armenia as one of the few nations on Earth. Another map that struck me (from the Middle Ages), shows Armenia just northeast of Paradise. We also learned about Armenian-American artist Arshile Gorky, and saw some of his works displayed among an exhibit of Armenian traditional needle-lace.

On Friday, Jarred and I went to Tsitsernakaberd, the site commemorating the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Just outside the entrance to the museum were planted rows of trees, donated by world leaders and sympathetic individuals in recognition of the victims of that atrocity. I counted three donated by U.S. Congressmen, and even one from Pope John Paul II. We didn't get to stay long in the museum because it closed at 4pm, but seeing the photographs and reading the letters, articles, and other preserved documents was nonetheless a very moving experience. For over an hour after the museum closed, we strolled the surrounding woods, pondering the dark side of human nature, and wondering why we didn't learn about the Armenian Genocide in any of our world history classes.
*****

As a result of my thrice-weekly lessons and of course, our daily exposure, I find that I am now able to read more than half of the Russian signage I encounter. My vocabulary is still quite limited, however, so I am able to understand far less than what I can read. It seems there are a lot of Russian words pronounced very similarly as their English equivalents, like salon, autobus, three, aquarium, and mayonnaise, for example. Pretty random, but hey, those are five words I can say in Russian without even thinking about it! And my accent must be fairly good because no one gives me any weird looks when I greet them. Sadly, my knowledge of Armenian (both written and spoken) remains virtually unchanged since a month ago. To say it is a difficult language to learn is an understatement.


I will be posting more pictures taken in the past couple weeks, including photos from fall break, at this month's Photobucket page. Enjoy, and thanks for reading!

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