A Boom in “Made in Armenia” Demand

It has been 3.5 years since I moved to Armenia and those who know me are perfectly clear on how I feel: it has been the best 3.5 years of my life. Now, as I sit here and contemplate my daughter’s future, waiting to welcome her to this world, I cannot help but think about the future of the country as well. Back in Canada, there was a time where people were trying to push the locally made or at least locally branded products your way; I did not truly understand it, though obviously it logically made sense. Buying local means supporting local, means increasing local revenues and contributing to the local economy in a very positive manner. It means more jobs for the likes of you and me. It means more new businesses and more investment into SMEs around town. But while logic made sense, the emotional value was not there for me. Not at that point. Today, in Armenia, that value is felt to my core and I would not buy non-Armenian is I knew that the local version existed. I rarely buy internationally branded shoes and would not touch a Made in Turkey for the life of me, mostly out of principle. Yet I have a closet full of Made in Armenia shoes, cloths and everything in between. I might pay a little more, but I don’t mind so long as I know it helps keep a new business on its feet. Creams and shampoos I only buy local, while food is always preferred to be home-grown…. unless it’s blueberries. I don’t think we get them locally, do we?

In any case, it is the fact that there seems to be a heightened preference for “Made in Armenia” production these days that has me intrigued. Many stores are popping up and putting up signs about their locally made products, with multiple naming their shops “Made in Armenia” as well. While socks, underwear, and baby clothes are the most commonly presented pieces, there are groups popping up on Facebook that encourage buying local, presenting all types of SMEs, while malls are also making it a point to include as much Made in Armenia as possible. Tashir Mall’s fourth floor opening was a huge step forward in that, while Tashir Street on Northern Avenue has more local production stores than foreign already. Toy stores like Mankan are growing rather large, and while they carry imports as well, it is amazing that we can find so many options there. Supermarkets are also placing the focus on local products, with Yerevan City seeming to be the most in tune with the trend, carrying everything from locally made stationary to it’s own haberdashery and even Vernissage style gifts that one can buy on his/her way. It is a great time to get into the “Made in Armenia” business at the moment, especially if you look at the DFA’s work concerning putting together the annual expo, since we seem to really be seeing a boom in local production support and an increase in quality due to a good amount of healthy competition. Of course, this has been my passion since I got here myself, with Facebook lists coming in very handy, such as this one I keep adding to!

Note:  One of my favourite enterprises producing local is Homeland Development Initiative Foundation, employing women around the country to create handmade pieces that can be sold/exported with ease. This includes everything from handmade dolls and bears to baby rattles and tape measures, to Christmas ornaments that range from trchnakir letters to your traditional crochet symbolism in angels, trees and snowmen.

 

The Best of the Boys are Leaving… Or Are They?

We have sung from childhood about living in a diaspora pining for the homeland. I have never felt the strength of this song until the day I sat down the kids of Gyumri during the AYF Summer Camp and along with some of the most patriotic people I know, sanf this song to them. My eyes filled with tears. I have gone away from my homeland, we sang, I have left my friends and family. We sand we will once again be reunited. Such an old concept and so very relevant to our days as well. The fire in my heart consumed me from that day onward, when the group of 100+ individuals of varying ages, 8-17 years old, stood up and gave a standing ovation, each moved by the sincerity in our voices. It haunted me for years and to this day is the single proudest moment of my life. It was also the song that took over my mind every time I visited Canada after my move to Armenia in 2013.

Today, it is another song that keeps me up at night and brings me to tears. It is another melody and other lyrics that fill my heart with longing, that batters at everything I have ever believed in. I watch them leaving. Gaggles and masses heading towards flight towards lands that promise rivers of honey and fountains of milk, leaving behind that very thing. Even writing these words, my eyes fill with tears. For with every individual who leaves, thinking the grass is greener on the other side, the land I have pledged to love and protect is left crying out in pain. Like a mother who cannot bear the sight of sending her child away, so is the pain felt by the country as a whole.

So now I sing,”The best of the boys are leaving, looking for their luck in other countries… leaving behind their loved ones and looking for something to fill the void from far away…” I sing that I am the world’s foolish lover and have friends more foolish than I. Boy is that true. For I am considered the fool in leaving behind Canada and coming home to Armenia, while the day’s migrations are taking the opposite route. How wrong you are my friends, but only time will show you exactly how wrong you are….

But are the best of the boys really leaving?

While it is true that many who head out towards the country that has allowed for Syrian refuge are indeed some truly incredible individuals, there are many who are staying put, understanding that while things look shiny from here, what glitters is not always gold. Some have already tried to take a different route, head up to Sweden or elsewhere, and have returned. Some simply do not even entertain the thought of walking away from the place they considered home from the day they were born. What gives me hope is seeing these boys and girls, these men and women, these children and adults who have a certain fire in their eyes and a longing to make things better with their own hands. They say that if you love someone, you let them go. If they come back, they were always yours, and if not… well, you know the rest. I’ve come back along with many others and we are here to stay. The best of the boys are not leaving it appears, but building a better Armenia! I raise a glass in gratitude for those who have not fallen to the lure of faraway lands and who have not lost hope here. They are the best of the boys in my eyes. It’s good to be living among you!

FY0A2647

 

24 Years Later on a Golden Path: The Generation Born to Independence

I should start with a rather hearty congratulations sent out to every Armenian out there. Armenia is officially 24 years old, as of September 21, 1991. It is an incredible feeling really and I am more than just a little excited to see how the country will mark its 25th anniversary in the upcoming year.

While it may not seem like the country is very old (we have gone through so many regimes, changes in power and a mega metamorphosis over the years, making the multi-millennium old country appear no older than a mere teenager), it is clear that it is maturing at a very fast pace. Ups and downs put aside, this is a country where the most incredible things are happening every day, if only you know where to look. We are transforming into such a pretty butterfly, but one that lives for an eternity, not the type that dies within a few days. We will have our Golden Age come soon, a renaissance of sorts that will sweep the nation. First, however, we need the Independence Generation to mature a little more. They are, after all, a mere 24 years old, born in the days of homes quashed and rivers of sorrow. This is the generation that will bring about the best years this country has ever seen for they have nothing to compare with. These are the heroes of our future, the leaders who do not look back on Soviet days long gone, but to a bright and incredibly inspirational future. They are the seedlings who will bud into the most fragrant of roses, with thorns to warn off those who seek to overthrow their rule.

This brings to mind the tale of Vartevar and how the tears of Asdghig gave rise to roses thus healing the world of its sorrow, pain, anger and jealousy. The sun shines really bright these days really, brighter still than when I first move in 2013, years ago. The sun is warmer, the sky clearer and it appears that the blossoming roses are truly giving rise to a nation of positive energy, hardworking and beautiful, with a love for each other and their country that overflows from their hearts. It appears the tyrant has been slain and Asdghig’s tears turn to that of happiness, knowing that her own love has found roots in the generation born to independence. And who better to beam with pride than her lover, Vahagn, the very essence of the sun?

Independence is hard to come by but we have brought it about twice in the past 100 years. In 1918 we proved that we are ready to be free, to govern our own people in our own nation, without having to kneel. We brushed off our knees and stood tall, a feat that many could not have imagined being achieved only years before. In 1991 we once again joined hand in hand to ensure we have a nation, to ensure we save our language, our culture, our identities. We gave the vote that was overwhelming, nearly unanimous in the call for freedom from foreign regimes. We snatched our future from the hands of those who would have devoured us and thus paved our destinies with gold. Only, we failed to notice the value of the ground we walked on as we trudged forwards, forgetting that beyond the dirt, the grime, the sorrow and death was glittering warmth and a wealth that would be irreplaceable. Some failed to see because they kept looking backwards, some because they only looked to the sky. Today, however, that path is clearing, the snow is melting, the ice has become nearly nonexistent. There are still those who look back, still those who have yet to notice the gold on the ground because they are too busy looking up or to the sides where the same path does not exist, but the youth, the well-read and well-rounded, the generation belonging to the days of independence knows the truth. The sky is blue, the sun shines bright and just ahead of us the road is clear once more, the golden shimmer mirror the proud rays of the sun. The old gods and the new rejoice because Armenia is becoming whole once more, one steady step at a time. Now is the time before the rise of the Golden age and those who remain, those who dare to dream and can see beyond the fog, they will be the ones to create what will be the foundation for a new Armenia.

Happy Independence Day to our dearest homeland. May your Golden Age rival that of the most esteemed of countries in the world. May your children forever feel the call of the mountains you cave created to protect your land. And most of all, may the Independence Generation grow to become the most awe-inspiring and magnanimous of rulers, known for bringing peace and prosperity to our lands. Happy Independence Day and may you stay free for all the centuries and millennia to come!

How to be a right protester: 10 tips from Armenians

Haha! Pretty much!

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Hey! These days local and international media blow up with articles about protests against electricity price rise in Armenia. The protests started long ago, but finally people managed to take under their control one of the main avenues of Yerevan: Baghramyan avenue on which there are situated many important buildings such as the National Assemby and Presindential residence. It’s already the fifth day that a part of the avenue is closed and protesters remain there, they even sleep on the street during the night.

Of course the story started with violent actions of police, spraying machine and hundreds of arrested people, who then where set free and came back haha.

But my article is not about violence, it’s about our creativity in activism.

So what to do while you are protesting in Armenian style:

1. Be prepared for spraying machines, rain and other watery stuff like that: 

protest

2. Be phisically…

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Standing Up for Their Rights: The Rise of #ElectricArmenia

The streets have been ringing with calls of miatsoum (Join us!) and alive with the excitement of the people who once again show hope in seeing a better future for days now. The hearts are beating, the eyes alight with a fire to see things change, and change for the good. This is no revolution, not in the sense that both Russian and Western media make it out to be. This is a call to those living in the country to stand up and show their own strength, for once feeling like they hold the power… and all of it done legally, peacefully, with heads held high and pride surging through their veins. The youth have awoken, this time coming to the streets better prepared to protest against a hike in electricity prices that essentially would make the poor even less likely to live a standard of life they are entitled to. As I see the crowds gathering in waves, waning during the peak times of day and the dead of night only to be bolstered with newcomers as the dawn breaks and dusk sets in, I hear myself singing a rather fitting song from Les Miserables:

Do you hear the people sing!
Singing the song of angry men?
It is the music of the people
Who will not be slaves again!
When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

I most definitely am hearing the people sing, and dance as well! The unity among the people, the young and the old, the rich and the poor, the MP and the waitress, the writer and the butcher – this is what Armenia is truly about. This is what #ElectricArmenia is about.

Armenians may divide among themselves, but as Gevorg Emin so aptly stated, when there is a threat, particularly from the outside, they will come together and fight alongside one another. In this case, the governing parties are not seen as one of the people; they are seen as enemies more so sometimes than Azerbaijan. While there are those uninformed who may call it an anti-Russian rally, or one which seems to take on the style of the Ukrainian revolution, the truth is that this is merely the local population grasping at an opportunity to make its voice heard, struggling for control over the way the people “elected” into power use the reigns given to them. After all, absolute power corrupts absolutely, they say. When the authorities begin to abuse their places, exploiting what is in their power for their own gains, or so it appears, those who initially dropped in their ballots will certainly rise to the occasion and remind said individuals that their power is truly not as absolute as they may think. In the meantime, they will certainly enjoy themselves to the maximum, including dancing Kochari in the middle of Baghramyan Street, sleeping on the hot asphalt, and playing chess while being cheered on by total strangers who feel suddenly like close family.

Raffi Suzy

Water Us and We Will Sprout and Grow

In response to the only show of violence seen throughout this protest, the 2.5 thousand became 10, and now we see ever increasing numbers on Baghramyan street, with new waves flowing in from Freedom Square. The diaspora stands in solidarity with those living in Armenia, raising its own voice to match the strength found in the boom that resonates throughout the country, beginning the hashtags of #ElectricYerevan, #ElectricGyumri, and #ElectricArmenia.

Of course, in response to the water cannons used to disperse the population camping out on the streets on June 23, those gathering on the 24th came in with their own precautions and entirely Armenian humour:

Setting the Record Straight

Ara

While we in Armenia know the truth, it appears that the police were indeed correct in stating that there are provocateurs among us in the crowds. These people include “journalists” spreading false propaganda:

Lilya

Russian media is abuzz with the false information being transmitted, not only by apparent Armenians who are only Armenian in name, but also Ukrainians and Russians themselves who are warping the stories to present the appearance of an Armenian Maidan, while Turks and Azeris are using the propaganda machine for their own interests, some even stating their stance of solidarity in the “fight against the Armenian government.”

Of course, there are images which have us amused to no end as well, as spread by Russian sources. Apparently our Dear Kanye West is a Western provocateur here to encourage unrest. I doubt I’ve ever seen anyone so happy to be arrested though!

Of course, no “revolution” would be complete without love blooming – whether we are talking about the sudden revolt in Vancouver when Canada lost a game or the love of comrades in Les Miserables, the love the spurs the fight against the English for Braveheart or any of the other love stories that have captured the hearts of freedom-loving individuals everywhere.

Strong images from the past few days include:

               Celebrating Birthdays While Protesting – © Narek Aleksanyan

This brings to mind another of Emin’s incredible works, the Dance of Sassoun. “As Sassoun danced, the world was enthralled; as Sassoun danced, the world understood that this is no dance, but a country’s history where even the losses count as prideful victory; where nothing can defeat this ancient people, who with their efforts and with their wills know how to dance…”

Պարեց Սասունն, ու ողջ աշխարը հիացավ,
Պարեց Սասունն, ու ողջ աշխարը հասկացավ,
Որ պար չէ սա, այլ մի երկրի քաջ պատմություն,
ՈՒր պարտությունն անգամ ունի հպարտություն,
Եվ չի հաղթի ոչինչ այն հին ժողովրդին,
Որ այս ջանքով,
ՈՒ այս կամքով
Պարել գիտի…
Հասկացան ու ասին ի լուր ողջ աշխարի,
-Հալալ է քեզ,
Սասուն, պարի…

Thoughts, News and Interesting Tidbits- From Armenia C. 2013

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