About my life in Armenia, about being a mom and an activist, working for women's rights.
The challenges and benefits of raising a family in a post-soviet republic.
Finding a place, my place and calling it HOME.

3.7.18

Summer with teens

Finally summer is here in Yerevan! Which means NO school for a long time! Which also means more patience needed for parents to cope with the heat and non-stop arguing siblings at home.

This year is a little special, since we have three official teenagers in the house and one 7 year-old teen-wannabe who thinks that he can talk like the others and who just recently asked me if he can go take a walk in the city alone to see his friends :) too cute!
For this summer vacations, we encouraged our older ones to either work or do some volunteer work to gain more self-confidence and become more responsible, preparing them for their futur adult life.
The older one graduated this year as well, we are so proud of her and her creative personality. Of course school was challenging in Armenia for someone looking and acting so different than the established local norms, but we constantly supported her and encouraged her to pursue and not loose hope. With her piercings and different hair colours, she often was targeted on the streets or in the classroom with comments, threats or insulting jokes. Sometimes it would get to her, but we would spend hours each night discussing things, analyzing situations and trying to find solutions to be able to continue her studies as much as possible without having to compromise on her identities, values and approaches. Yes! It was quite a challenge, but when you constantly talk to your teens, eventually it helps, even though you end up drained most of the time, it is worth it! So older one finally graduated from high school and now trying to find a university program abroad on visual/experimental art. She loves Art, she is very talented but the art academy in Yerevan would limit more her creative spirit and dreams. So we are trying to find good programs either in Germany (by since she learned the language in school) or other cities in Europe. Education is ok in Armenia when you are in school, although it needs a good reform, which the new government is working on, but when you get to University the choices are very much limited. The good part is, that there are so many talented artists in the country that it was easy for us to find her in the meantime good private art lessons and work a little as well to gain experience.
The other two are busy volunteering in different places. The second one has applied to volunteer for a film fest and a children’s day camp and my 13year-old moved for a week or so to a horseback riding camp to do some community work and help out with cleaning and preparing the camp for visitors.

Summer is an important time for teens to try out different things, see what they like and gain work experience, learn to help out and volunteer for a cause. It prepares them to become more responsible, less focused on themselves and open to new challenges. Armenia has different opportunities for young people to volunteer in the summer, from day camps, to organisations/causes, offices, farms...Let’s see how it will go!

Tbilisi with kids

(From January 2018)

The best part of traveling with kids is that you get to be once more amazed at the simple things through their eyes. And the challenging part is to not get exhausted by all the questioning non-stop, the never-ending energy to try everything, touch everything and take risks. 



I am becoming more and more exhausted with the years and it seems with the forth child sometimes my energy level is down to minus 5. Of course having to balance the day and adventures with 2 teenage kids and a third who is almost 13 plays a major role on how much energy is left for the 4th child, a 6-yr old very active one. But overall it is going well and between two parents, we are managing to keep it together and enjoy the journey. 



So yesterday was quite a full day. We started first with a stop to “the” favorite donuts place for coffee and sweets then headed to the museum of soviet occupation on Rustaveli, which is situated in the same building as the Georgian National Museum. It was quite impressive but selectively presented. Almost no mention of Stalin(or just a shallow overview), who played an important role in the process. When I asked the woman sitting near the entrance and guarding the place, about it, her answer was very evasive. Instead, she showed me a map of historical Georgia going from the Black Sea to the Caspian sea...funny, my 8th grade teacher in the Armenian school used to show us an exact map but instead of Georgia, mentioning Greater Armenia, and still remembering her words “dzovits dzov Hayasdan” (Armenia from sea to sea). The Georgian lady was feeling uncomfortable with my questions and smiling, trying to show me other things to divert the attention, and then she ended up saying “ no, you know we couldn’t allocate a specific space for Staline, this is more about Russia, you know, you understand me, it is very political...” Sad, the museum and the Soviet occupation collection would have been really a good one and an important contribution to the history of humanity if it had a more critical review of the past and wasn’t presented in such a biased way, with nationalistic sentiments taking over. Weirdly enough, Georgians are very critical about everything Russian and Soviet, but in almost all souvenirs shops and some restaurants you find many memorabilia of Stalin, proudly exposed. But nationalists are the same everywhere, be it Georgian or Armenian. 

My 6 yr old was very much impressed with the Georgian traditional costumes and the archeological exhibition on the other floors of the museum. He kept asking questions about the evolution of humans, guns and wars, making interesting remarks like “better keep guns in museums than outside where it can hurt people...” or “Georgian men are wearing large robes so their legs are free to run faster...” and many other comments and questions that 5 of us were  taking turns to address.

We ended the day with a stroll in the Dedaenis park which was transformed to a Christmas market and winter entertainment place for the holiday season. We had nice warm coffee at the cute little cafe called Bookcorner, overlooking the river. 

Tbilisi is a beautiful city, with very old historical buildings, soviet monuments and little streets taking you through surprising houses and constructions dating from different eras. It is a good place to travel with kids, with its many parks and green areas to rest, play, run around freely. The food is excellent as well but service not so good. People working in most of the touristic areas still lack different language skills. You need to know Georgian or basic Russian to be able to communicate with waiters or tour officers in the city center. 

A vibrant city, so interesting to explore with very young ones as well as older kids!



4.1.18

Trip to Tbilisi

We arrived yesterday in the afternoon. The bus ride was a little tiring but we made it safe at around 4pm. Friends were accompanying us. It is their first trip to Georgia, they are really excited to discover the place.     





Even though it is not my first trip to this city, it is going to be interesting to explore it once more through my kids. I often travel to this place for work, since it is the most neutral space in the region where we can meet with our partners from Azerbaijan and Georgia, all together. So Tbilisi has been over the years, a place of meetings and conferences, but this time i will enjoy it this time as a complete tourist. 

We have rented a cozy affordable two-story house through airbnb, which is very well located, near Rustaveli; one of the main streets in Tbilisi, where the parliament, the museums, the ballet and theatre are located and many restaurants and stores.  
For our first day, we took a short walk down Rustaveli, where we met many Armenians. For the past years Armenians are favouring spending the New Year in Tbilisi, running away from the hustle and bustle of Yerevan and the exaggerated prices of short getaways in resort towns in Armenia. After the walk we ended up at the Lolita restaurant a trendy place with an outdoor sitting area. It was great enjoying delicious burgers and cool music, with the kids outside in January. 

We ended up the day with a short visit to a donut place(a favourite of my daughter) for coffee and sweets then bought some basics from the nearest supermarket and headed back to the house for a good sleep

2.1.18

Celebrations 2018

It is our 15th Christmas and New Year in Armenia. Things have changed over the years; in 2003, we wouldn’t see a single decoration on the streets, on the windows of the shops on the streets, or on the balconies of apartments. We could find some lighting decorations here and there but nothing majestic. The markets, restaurants, bars, shops would all close from the 31st to the 13th of January, until the old New Year. Local friends would advise us to buy bread for a couple of days, as well as food, to survive the long holiday. The whole country would stop for 2 weeks; rest, celebrate, eat, drink, and visit each other. Mothers, aunts, daughters would spend days cooking the traditional food; the Bood (porc leg/thigh), dolma, blinchiks, “olivye” salad and many other meals essential to the Armenian festive table. 




Things are changing over the years. Today unfortunately, larger supermarkets appeared everywhere, with longer opening hours, more products. You don’t need to buy extra bread and stock up on food before the holidays since most places open up earlier. The holiday period shortened as well, with capitalism gaining more power in this tiny post-soviet republic. Everyone is back to work around the 7th of January. For next year the government adopted a decision to close for the holidays from the 31st to 2 January and then for the 6th for Armenian Christmas, shortening even more the holiday period. Walking on the streets of downtown Yerevan, You can see more decorations on the streets, some nice others with less taste, but definitely more people and stores decorating earlier.

The sad part is that poverty is increasing but people still insisting on taking loans to prepare an overloaded festivity table. Everyone complains about the situation, but as usually rarely people will change their attitudes and behaviour. 

Nevertheless I enjoy the  simplicity of celebrating New Years in Armenia. This year we opted for an Italian night with seafood pasta (with frozen seafood available at carrefour:) and an authentic Italian lasagna and for desert carrot cake and ice-cream. Being a Repat and still considered more a diaspora living in Armenia than a local, still gives me the privilege on deciding which traditions to keep which to avoid. The dinner will be followed by lots of singing and music. Having super talented kids passionate of music makes our celebrations even more fun and joyful; so Vayk on drums, Varanta on base, Vocals by Amassia and entretainement by Yeprad, we are set for a nice cozy evening welcoming the New Year.