21 September 2011

My First Military Parade

In observance of Armenian Independence Day, we are off school/work today.  So this morning, I headed downtown with friends to witness the annual military parade.  I had never seen it before, and since this is the 20th anniversary of Armenian Independence, I decided there would be no more appropriate time for me to finally attend.

The metro was packed, but it was probably the best way to get to Republic Square.  We arrived at about 10:45, and the parade was scheduled to begin at 11:00.  Amazingly, it started right on time!

The bleachers were reserved for high-ranking government officials, so we peasants gathered around the edges of the square, straining to catch a glimpse of someone or something more important than ourselves.

After about 30 minutes of watching soldiers march around chanting stuff we couldn't hear clearly enough to understand, we were about to leave to find a better view, when suddenly, formations of fighter jets and helicopters began soaring over the square in an impressive show of Russian-backed military might.

Last but not least was the rolling display of tanks, bombs, rockets, missiles, and other testosterone-fueled devices.

All in all, it was a fun and eye-opening experience for me -- not a bad way to spend a day off, anyway!  I doubt I will attend future parades, except maybe for Nathan's sake.  (He wanted to come with me today, but after making a number of bad choices yesterday, he lost the privilege.)  To see footage of the aerial display and a hilarious parade planning goof, check out the "20th Armenian Independence Day Military Parade" videos on our YouTube Channel.

11 September 2011

A 30-minute drive from Yerevan

Mr. Ben had the brilliant idea to invite us and our friend Diane on a somewhat spontaneous day trip yesterday.  Jarred had already committed to play a softball game at the embassy in the morning, so we didn't actually leave until about 1:00, but even after stopping for lunch at the charming Pascal & Diodato Cafe in Ashtarak (and despite getting turned around a couple of times due to poor signage), we still managed to visit several important historical landmarks through the course of the afternoon.  Early September at the foot of Mt. Aragats is clear, warm, and breezy -- just right for a small group of novice explorers.  In fact, it was the most relaxing Saturday we've had in a while!

Khachkars at the Karmravor Church (7th century) in Ashtarak.

Trees and gardens surround the St. Mariane Church (1281) in Ashtarak.

An incense burner hangs from the ceiling in St. Mariane Church.

Hovhannavank (7th century) is a large monastery dedicated to St. John the Baptist.  It gives the impression of a dangerous beauty, perched on the very edge of the Kasagh river gorge in the village of Ohanavan.

Wall carvings inside Hovhannavank.

 Windows, khachkars, ancient inscriptions, and sunlit columns inside Hovhannavank.

 Overlooking the Kasagh gorge from Saghmosavank (13th century), a well-preserved monastery in the tiny village of Artashavan.

 Nathan plays peek-a-boo with a new friend just his age.

 The fading summer sun pours a few gentle rays through this opening in the ceiling of Saghmosavank.

 Original red and white paint still clearly visible on columns and archways inside Saghmosavank.

 Knock, knock...

 Fresh produce from village farmers is the best kind of souvenir!

02 September 2011

Back to School

It's a new school year, and we're all back to business full-time. It's also a new month, and our little beanpole has finally sprouted to 100 centimeters, which is the last mark on the growth chart on his door!

Now that he's in school for the second time around, and in the 4-year-old section of his class, Nathan really feels like a big boy. He loves seeing his friends every day after having been away from them all summer, and he's having minimal trouble readjusting to the routine: up at 6:45, home at 5:00 (unless we go to the gym -- then we get home at 7:00 -- a very long day!), and to bed at 8:30. He brushes his own teeth, dresses himself (mostly), and eagerly buckles himself into his car seat each morning. Actually, he insists on doing just about everything himself...sometimes it's not a good thing!

We're hoping to see some progress in terms of socialization in the coming months because academically, he is ready for the 5 year-old class, and if he can prove himself behaviorally, we might request that he be tested for promotion later in the year. We certainly don't want to put any pressure on him, but he has mastered the majority of the 3-4 year-old curriculum, and are afraid he might not feel as challenged as he did last year, which could lead to more discipline issues if he's losing interest in his lessons.

Jarred and I are off to a pretty good start with our classes, too, and we've enjoyed working with the new school director so far. The new 6 year-old class teacher was given an apartment in our building, and we're glad to have a new friend and neighbor. Lucky for her, she speaks Russian fluently, and has had no trouble adjusting to life in Yerevan.

The weather has been gorgeous lately as summer is coming to a close. Cool, fresh mornings give way to clear, blue skies and golden sunshine, followed by balmy, breezy nights. The harvest season is in full swing, and markets are bursting with the fragrance of ripe figs, peaches, tomatoes, apples, grapes, and berries. The vivid colors of late summer blooms paint our school entryway, roadside gardens, and private homes with unabashed brilliance. Now would be the perfect time for you to come visit us in Armenia!

Morning recess on the school playground -- can you spot Nathan?

After the first full week back to school, Nathan and Mabel just want to hang out at home.