All posts by Tamar Najarian

Someone born in the wrong country in the wrong time period.. go figure :D

Four Years and Counting

It’s rather strange to be keeping count of this because living in Armenia is as natural to me as breathing, but for the sake of keeping a well-maintained timeline, I do. It has been nearly four years since I moved to Armenia on June 25, 2013. Four years since life has been simple and perfect in its own right.

In four years I have come such a long way but yet stayed the same. I have been me. I have laughed and cried (tears of joy mostly) like any other. I have found my mate, my partner, my second half. I have borne a child into this world. I have shopped and danced and enjoyed the company of good friends. I have worked and paid the rent and paid my bills. In short, life has been as life should be, no different than anyone else in the world. Just a simple, happy stream of moments. I do not recall ever feeling brave or privileged or wondering why I made each step that I did. It simply flowed. One foot passed the other. I don’t even think I wobbled or fell. Everything happened as it should have. And now, four years later, I wonder why people think it is bravery to move to Armenia.

When I came, I will not lie that I felt an incredible sense of power. It was like I was doing something magnificent. Something akin to a heroic act. I don’t believe I ever felt like I was sacrificing. I did, however, have an inflated ego about it all. I was treading where few men dared tread. Now, I wonder why so few do it. I mean, if I can walk around for hours in heels, handing out my resumes in Canada, I can certainly attend some networking events and shoot off some emails here. If I can get a part-time job to help pay for my gas, my food and as much of my university expenses as possible, I can certainly make do with what I have here. I’m no materialist. I can wear the same shoes for 10 years and it would not bother me in the least. So why would keeping a budget until I got onto my feet bother me here? It didn’t. Mind you, I did choose the most opportune time to move. I had neither career nor family of my own to tether me down. I had my parents, grandmother, cousins, aunts and uncles, of course, but no husband and no child. I had only myself to think about. That’s why I made the decision when I did. It was perfect.

Now, it isn’t that my parents didn’t help me. I simply refused more than a small share. I did come with just over 1000$ in my pocket, which melted away rather quickly. I’m a smart spender though and with a rent or two paid by parents and cousin who all came to stay with me in the first months, I did it on my own. I wanted to do it all on my own. I wanted to ensure I had the skills to survive and thrive. That is exactly what I discovered in myself, and with a boost in confidence so came back my infectious laughter and incredible love for life. I was my own woman. It took me very little time to discover that facet of myself and even less to be loved for it. It was how I got my first job at USAID EDMC. It is why I still love my boss there like a child would her surrogate mother. I will forever be grateful for that experience as well, for it opened my life up to the possibility of business.

There was a period of joblessness, of course. First when I arrived and picked up any odd job here and there, and later when the EDMC project closed down prematurely. I threw myself into online freelancing at that point, while also picking up students for tutoring. I once again picked up odd jobs, but within a few weeks, I had caught the attention of two individuals who offered me 200k a month part time jobs each. That made for $1000 a month at the time and I was more than happy. Plus, I had some extra time and the work offered flexibility. I threw myself into an MBA program that I graduate from tomorrow. I learned much and snatched a final degree (hopefully) to add to my belt. From now on, it will simply be workshops, online courses and seminars to add to my skillsets. In the meantime, I am a full-time mother with some part-time jobs, as my place at Repat Armenia awaits me.

I don’t think I was ever brave for doing all this. I don’t think I was ever particularly special. I was a simple girl out of university, finding herself in her homeland. Here is where I made my life, after immigrating of my own volition. Here is where I plan to raise my children, living a simple but fulfilling life. I am grateful for my bounty and even more grateful that my parents’ own immigration ensured a full family for my children. They will grow up with my brother’s children along the same ages, with both sets of grandparents by them, and in a place where children are beloved by all. What more can one ask for?

Four years later, I am simply living a simple life. 😀

#ArmVote2017 – Facts, News and Funny Posts

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Armenians took to the polling stations for first parliamentary elections since the changes in the constitution. One thing I absolutely loved this time around was the fact that the people could vote for individuals in the parliament, as opposed to a single party overall. Perhaps that is what emboldened many to pick the Republican Party, particularly since the party members are widespread and generally have a great following in their respective regions. When you have heads of tops charitable organisations, well-known doctors and the like, it is hard to forgo voting for the one you know and respect just because of their party affiliations. Particularly for the older voters, there are many old-timers in the community that they have befriended or worked for over the years. The most important thing to note is that there is a growing voter awareness of responsibilities and the beginnings of a positive opposition creation that focuses its efforts on building versus empty promises. What all top 4 parties/alliances have promised is a change for the better, a more fair and peaceful future. We will be holding them to that promise. Most of the rest of the 9 parties/alliances barely made it to 2%, with the Communists falling towards the end. Hopefully, that means that Communist mentality is now squarely put behind us and we look ahead towards a social capitalist republic that thrives under its rulers over the next 5 years, no matter the party to which they belong. The people need hope more than anything else. Bring them that, give them the care they crave, and they will be ever loyal. That we can easily see.

We had been promised a fair vote this time of course, as with every other election, but once again there were problems. More on that later, though. First, the basic facts:

  • Elections began at 8 am and continued until 8 pm. The counting of the votes continued well into April 3rd.
  • There are 9 parties that one can vote for, with the number of candidates per presented here in accordance with the lists placed on elections.am (minority candidates include Yezidi, Russian, Assyrian and Kurd individuals):
    • 1- Yelk Alliance “Election, Change, Victory” – 121 candidate names, 3 crossed out
    • 2- Free Democratic Party “We Can” – 101 candidates
    • 3- Armenian Renaissance Party “Vote for Change, Vote for Renaissance” – 300 candidate names, 15 crossed out + 3 minority candidates
    • 4- Tsarukyan Alliance “Time to Change and Build” – 188 candidate names, 1 crossed out + 3 minority candidates
    • 5- Armenian National Congress-PPA Alliance “A Program of Telling People the Truth” – 139 candidate names, 5 crossed out + 5 minority candidates
    • 6- Republican Party of Armenia “Security and Progress” – 197 candidates + 16 minority candidates
    • 7- Communist Party of Armenia “Motherland, Labor, Socialism” – 173 candidate names, 10 crossed out
    • 8- Ohanyan-Raffi-Oskanyan Alliance “Heritage, Unity, Victory” – 148 candidate names, 8 crossed out
    • 9- Armenian Revolutionary Federation Party “A New Beginning, A New Armenia” – 171 candidates
  • With a total of 4 Alliances and 5 Parties, 1539 possible candidates exist to choose from
  • The Republican Party is the only one with competing candidates for the four spots reserved for minorities
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  • Parties require a 5% threshold to pass, while alliances need the 7%. If no party or alliance manages to obtain a 54% majority, a second round will be held after a 28 day period, unless a coalition is formed between two parties or two alliances.
  • The election live cameras were not working for many hours, until after 11:30 pm – they could be found at http://electionsonline.am/
  • Bots and trolls from Russia and Azerbaijan began spreading misinformation from the very beginning
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  • According to Mediamax numbers, there have been more voters before 11 am this year than in 2007, but less than in 2012
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  • Live Coverages were available through CivilNetTV and Azatutyan Youtube channels, as well as a live blog off EVN Report by Maria Titizian
  • Citizen Observer’s coverage:
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  • TUMO centre has created a lovely infographic on the average age of the MP candidates per party/alliance:
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  • According to Samvel Martirosyan, a total of 28,021 observers from 49 NGOs participated in these elections. The full list can be found on his Facebook post.
  • As of 8 pm, exit poll takes into account 30,000 individuals, taking place at 125 polling stations. Those who pass are the Republican Party, Tsarukyan Alliance, Yelk Alliance, and ARF Party
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  • Voters from each province did not reach 70%. Only just over half of Yerevan’s population came out to vote:
    • Yerevan – 56.7%
      • Between the 4 regions, will have a max of 54 MPs
    • Ararat – 68.6%
      • Max. 14 MPs
    • Armavir – 55.5%
      • Max. 15 MPs
    • Aragadzotn – 66.6%
      • Max. 7 MPs
    • Gegharkunik -67%
      • Max. 12 MPs
    • Lori – 58%
      • Max. 15 MPs
    • Kotayk – 59%
      • Max. 15 MPs
    • Shirak – 57.8%
      • Max. 15 MPs
    • Vayodz Dzor + Syunik – 66.9%
      • Max. 10 MPs
    • Tavush – 66.3%
      • Max. 7 MPs
    • All together – 60.86%

17629978_1240382722678095_1538508383445928014_nparticipation2000-1024x496For more infographics about #ArmVote2017, check out http://armvote17.infographics.am/

  • Electronic vote results:
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  • Final results appeared April 3rd at 11 am. Winners are:
    • RPA: 49.15%
    • Tsarukyan Alliance: 27.37%
    • Yelk Alliance: 7.78%
    • ARF: 6.59%
    • Armenian Renaissance Party: 3.72%
    • ORO Alliance: 2.08%
    • Congress-PPA Alliance: 1.65%
    • Free Democratic Party: 0.94%
    • Communist Party: 0.75%
  • Read about the new government in the next post…

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Top News

  • Before the start of the elections, there were reports of top independent journalist Twitter account suspensions, including 
  • Robert Kocharyan was not in the country and did not vote. All the rest of the former presidents and prime ministers were seen at the voting stations.
  • As of 11 am, citizen observer confirmed 33 reports of violations
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  • As of 11 am, 13.32% of voters had already voted
  • As of 12 pm, 436 violations have been registered, 14% pertaining to voter anonymity, 7% to voter guidance, 5% to voter identification verification, 5% to helping voters, and 3% to procedures at the polling stations
  • As of 12 pm:
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  • One particularly strange violation is the appearance of 30 non-local individuals with newly printed passports, according to the Bright Armenia Party twitter page.
  • Another strange moment was when an invalid passport became valid within a 15 minute time period
  • Certain villagers having trouble with getting their fingerprints accepted by the voting machines. Other places claim that only 1 out of 10 fingerprints are recognized.
  • Overcrowding and problems with equipment were registered all over the country
  • At the 20/01 precinct in the city of Sevan, voter cards were handed out with the ruling party already voted for. 220 people had already voted before this was found out.
  • At around 2 pm, “Azatutyan” reporter is attacked by Republicans when filming bribery attempts – https://t.co/HYLf0uOhuy
  • At around 2 pm, Citizen Observer registers 162 electoral violations.
  • Some police clashes have occurred throughout the country as per Twitter posts from different precincts.
  • As of 2 pm, General Prosecutor’s office received 729 reports of violations, 75 with instances of criminal activity, according to EVN Report
  • An observer in Vanadzor was attacked
  • As of 2 pm, 33.46% of eligible voters had cast their votes, meaning that there is a total of 865,884 out of 2,587,706 persons who have already shown up:
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  • Rather interesting was the fact that in Hrazdan, the 1000th voter was given chocolates :D
  • As of 3 pm, the General Prosecutor’s office recorded 970 violations
  • As of 4 pm:
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  • As of 5:20 pm, 1551 violations had been registered through Citizen Observer. Most alarms received came from the following precincts:
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  • Specific violations have been recorded on the EVN Yerevan live blog. It appears that by 8 pm, 1838 violations had been reported, a mich higher number than the 1077 during the 2015 referendum
  • Azatutyan TV presents 226 violations that have been confirmed and addressed throughout the process
  • Ombudsman reports 49 violation reports on hotline
  • Citizen Observer’s overall count:
  • Independent Observer’s numbers:

  • As of midnight, going into April 3, the Republican Party leads with 47% of the 100,560 votes counted. Within 30 minutes, 54% of precincts have been accounted for, RPA leading with 63.03%, followed by Tsarukyan Alliance at 19.47%.
  • As of 1 am, RPA leading with 55.58%, Tsarukyan with 23.04%, Yelk with 4.29%. However, there are reports on Twitter that RPA is holding only 48.16%, while the Central Bank gives much higher numbers at 59.99%. The official numbers can be followed on the very badly coded elections web page: http://www.elections.am/flash/web/default.aspx 
  • Hraztan’s Vanatur village marks first precinct (26/14) where Yelk is the clear winner, with Hraztan in general looking towards Yelk for its way to a better future.
  • As of 9 am, April 3, the votes are still being counted, with the top 4 still keeping their positions, albeit with a slightly weaker Yelk. For a while, the RPA was leading with over 65%, before dropping under 50% as the numbers kept trickling in.

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Interesting Observers and Voters Around the Country

And then there are these:

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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!

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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!