22 January 2011

Дельфинарий (The Dolphinarium)

Yesterday, together with the Olson family, we visited Yerevan's new Dolphinarium 'Nemo' in Komitas Park. Nathan and Ari loved the tricks and playful antics of Vachik, Masha, Hrachik, and Dasha, but it's a good thing the show was less than an hour long because they were both getting pretty fidgety by the end.

Since Jarred and I have seen marine mammal performances at Sea World and other world-class venues in the past, we found the Dolphinarium relatively small and less professional in appearance. For example, the animals share only a single circular pool, which serves as both a living and performance space, meaning there is no "backstage" area where the dolphins can escape the crowd or even relax and wait during the sea lions' opening act. I don't want to use this blog as a soapbox, so I won't say any more on the subject of showbiz and animal rights...not here, anyway.

Considering the price of entry -- 3500 dram (approximately US $9.72) per person, free for kids 5 and younger -- this was definitely a worthwhile way to spend a Saturday afternoon, and a great opportunity for landlocked Armenians to witness firsthand the grace, beauty, and intelligence of dolphins!

10 January 2011

An orphanage in Yerevan

As has become our family tradition, we toured a local orphanage on the morning of Christmas day (January 6) to pass out a few toys, clothes, and homemade cookies, and spend some time with the children. This year we went to Hadug Tibi Orphanage (actually, this is its former name; I can't remember the new name), which houses nearly 100 children ranging in age from toddlers to teenagers, most with Down's Syndrome and other special needs.

Despite their mental, physical, and social disabilities, the children seemed happy to receive visitors. They smiled broadly, munching cookies while excitedly showing us their Christmas decorations and framed photographs of friends who had "gone home." Several of them proudly performed songs and chants from memory for our entertainment. One 5 year-old boy, amused by the silver dragees adorning his cookie, explained between giggles that the teachers are always telling them not to put small balls and toys in their mouths, but that these tiny balls were good to eat! Meanwhile, a little girl who seemed unable to speak communicated her emotions to us by opening her arms for a long, deep embrace.

Nathan was an angel the whole time, cheerfully passing out toys and playing independently when he saw we were busy talking with the director or greeting the children. He was amazed to see the bedrooms: dozens of bunk beds in straight rows, all neatly made, without a single thing out of place. I asked him why he couldn't keep his room so tidy...

Yet of all the heart-felt -- and sometimes heart-wrenching -- moments we experienced that day, I found one rather symbolic image especially touching, and had to snap a picture:

That's right, I managed to keep it together in front of the kids, but it was the sight of their sweet little toothbrushes that brought me to tears. There they were, all lined up on the bathroom wall -- like the orphans themselves, they looked at first glance like a fun, colorful bunch; yet in reality, each was alone, separated from the others, numbered and waiting helplessly, but hopefully, for someone to claim him.

Finally, the teachers called the children to the canteen for lunch, so we said goodbye and wished everyone a merry Christmas one last time before trudging across the snow-covered yard to our waiting taxi.

02 January 2011

Best of Brussels, Christmas 2010

Although we had originally planned to spend Christmas with family in the Philippines, that trip, unfortunately, had to be postponed until the summer. Luckily, our backup plan to holiday in Brussels was successful and memorable. We've selected our favorite pictures from the trip and uploaded them to Photobucket. Please click here to view them all! You'll notice that it was cold and snowy, so we spent a great deal of our time shopping and visiting kid-friendly museums to stay indoors -- and drinking warm beverages when we were outdoors!

Additionally, there are several new videos (of our trip, though mostly focusing on Nathan) available for viewing on our YouTube channel.

Wishing you all a happy new year...may 2011 be even sweeter than Belgian chocolates!