25 December 2008

MERRY CHRISTMAS



When we brought Nathan out to the living room this morning, it took him a minute to notice all the presents under the tree. He seemed somewhat confused about the whole situation -- in fact, he immediately headed for his regular books and toys. We sat him down and gave him his Christmas stocking, and helped him open his first gift: a little toy airplane. He was really happy to have it, but after a couple minutes of flying it around, he said "Ba, ba," (translation: "Put it back") and placed it in the stocking again. So it took us a while to show him that there were other things in the stocking, and even more under the tree. I guess we could have just gotten him the airplane and he would have been satisfied, not knowing yet how Christmas really works for kids.

Although we didn't get the white Christmas we had hoped for, it turned out to be a beautiful day just the same...sunny, cold, and clear. So after our brunch, we got dressed and headed up to Victory Park to enjoy the view.

Armenians celebrate Christmas on January 6, so for everyone else, it was business as usual today...and a good thing, too, since Jarred decided at the last minute we needed green beans with our dinner and had to run to the supermarket this afternoon.

And now it's time to snuggle up for hot chocolate, Christmas cookies, pumpkin pie, Jarred's version of his mom's "fudgy-scotch squares," and a movie...and probably a stomach ache in the morning! Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Click here to see all our December photos, including pictures taken today.

21 December 2008

I'm dreaming...

...of a white Christmas! Looks like our chances are pretty fair:

check out our forecast

Today we'll be heading downtown for a "Winter Parade," the kickoff of Winterfest 2008, followed by festivities in the park across the street from the Presidential Palace. We'll be sure to take plenty of photos. By the way, I've been able to upload a couple more videos on our YouTube page, and there are more coming!

17 December 2008

Vodka Kalashnikov

While Christmas shopping at a nearby department store this afternoon, I saw this and had to share:



I don't remember the exact price listed on the shelf tag, but I know it was over 70,000 dram -- more than U.S. $230! Is anyone really going to buy that?!?

(Since I didn't have a camera on me, I got the picture from a Google image search. I also came across this article, if anyone is interested.)

14 December 2008

The last few days have been great. I'll just take it one day at a time.

We had about an inch of snow on the ground when we woke up on Wednesday. Having not seen snow in so long, I almost forgot how beautiful it is! Luckily, we bought Nathan a snowsuit last weekend, just in time. It's so big and thick that he can barely move in it, and he can't get up without assistance when he falls down. There's a great scene in the 1983 film A Christmas Story in which Ralph's little brother has the same problem.

On Thursday the parents of one of my students sent me a Christmas gift: a pair of tickets to a wine and cheese tasting event sponsored by the Center for Agribusiness and Rural Development (CARD). The event was held at the U.S. Embassy on Friday night. Jarred really enjoyed it, and even though I don't drink wine OR eat cheese, it was nice to see Ambassador Yovanovitch again (she visited our school in October) and hear her speak about how the USDA is supporting Armenian agriculture. I was also pleased with the live strings and piano, the locally-produced breads, fruit juices, and chocolate-covered dried fruits and nuts, and the opportunity to mingle with other English-speakers.

While at the embassy, I ran into Inna, the mom of another of my students, and she invited me to join her yoga class the next day at Shoonch, a relatively new yoga studio and spa in downtown Yerevan. You may be surprised to learn that I've actually never done yoga before, unless you count the prenatal yoga DVD I used during my pregnancy...I loved it, but after about 7 1/2 months I was too big to do most of the poses anymore! Anyway, I've always wanted to try it, and I figured there was no better day to start such a rejuvenating practice than my 27th birthday -- especially since they give a free trial class to all newcomers -- so I accepted Inna's invitation and attended the Iyengar yoga class at 10:30 on Saturday morning. It was a good workout, and after thanking the instructor for allowing me to join her class, I asked her at what time the beginners' classes were held. She paid me a compliment by replying that the beginners' class would be too easy for me, and recommended I continue as a member of her regular class starting this Tuesday. Jarred had the brilliant idea of buying a Shoonch membership for me as my birthday gift, so I'll definitely be there!

On Saturday night, we had a few friends over for more wine and cheese (Jarred was inspired to make a few purchases after the tasting), pumpkin pie, and a very chocolatey birthday cake. Everyone had a fun and relaxing time, including Nathan and 2 year-old Alex, the son of a fellow teacher who came to celebrate with us.

*****

We're off work now until January 7 for the winter break. We borrowed an old laptop from Josh and we finally set up internet at home, so we'll continue to post blog entries and photos in the coming weeks. Until next time...

02 December 2008

cold weather is coming

I took this photo from our back porch (looking northwest across the gorge) at the beginning of November:




A few weeks later, this is the same view:



I am now uploading all the November photos to photobucket. Click here to see them!

small spending

A neat thing about grocery shopping here is that stores don’t follow the “Not labeled for individual sale” rule. For example, if you only want 1 yogurt from the 6-pack, it’s no problem. Just break it off and bring it to the register. This is especially true of large items that would normally be too expensive for most Armenians to purchase on their meager salaries (I’ve heard that a person working a typical minimum wage-type job in Yerevan earns about 1000 AMD – less than U.S. $4 – per day). So instead of having to buy the mega-pack of Pampers for 7000 AMD (nearly U.S. $23), just tear open the bag and buy a few diapers individually for 100 dram each (only 30 cents)! Instead of paying 18000 dram ($60!!!) for an entire 15-kg bag of Purina dog food, just ask the store clerk to scoop some into a plastic bag and weigh it, and you’ll pay 1200 dram/kilo (about $1.79/lb).