Category Archives: Personal Blabber

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.

 

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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

 

Saboteurs or Hostages: The Hastag Wars #SaveAzeHostages vs. #AzeSaboteurs

it amuses me to no end to read hashtag wars concerning any topic, but when it’s about 2 men clearly coming onto Artsakh (Karabakh) territory and, according to Armenian sources, killed 2 and wounding one, I must say that the Azerbaijani claims are perfectly laughable. When near every post admits those men were captured on “occupied” territory, one must begin to question the level of brainwashing in that hostile nation. Now, you will notice that I used words like “claim” and “occupied” and this is not because I actually believe it’s but a claim or Armenians have occupied the territory, but simply for niceties sake. After all, it’s always good to give one the benefit of a doubt.

Suppose they did not come into Armenian lands to kill, steal, or take back information to their commanders. Suppose they are the innocent villagers  claims them to be. They most certainly were on land that doesn’t currently belong to them, coming in from a country that instills hostility in its people towards the people living in the independent state, and they wouldn’t have come in just for a stroll about the grounds. I’m not sure if it takes a rocket scientist to figure this one out, but no matter what they were doing, they had to pass a border that’s closely guarded by the army (meaning they knew where they may have been openings, how to skirt around the security and exactly where to go once in. And then there’s the whole issue of the dead teenager, the dead soldier and the wounded mother of 2. Suppose they didn’t do it, that they truly were there to visit dead relatives’ graves. I don’t know about you, but that sounds a little absurd to me.

For a look into the fake profiles and the beginning of this particular hashtag war, check out this post by Katy Pearce. Hits the nail on the head as always.

Shahbaz Quliyev, 46, and Dilham Askerov, 54, are charged with murder, espionage, illegal border crossing, and illegal weapons possession. The trial began in Stepanakert on October 27. There had been a 3rd in the group but he was killed during the sabotage attempt in the summer, when the three came in through Qarvachar. The body of the third was given over to Azerbaijan last month, while the trial continues after the first session took place 2 days ago.

What is the hashtag war all about? We have  on one side while  is fighting on the other. The Armenian side does not have any fake accounts (would be pretty useless anyway) while the majority of posters on the Azerbaijani side are controlled by one main account connected to the president of the ruling party’s youth wing. The images below show propaganda from both sides. The first has an image of a little girl asking for her father back (who is she really? is this photoshopped? Lots of questions), while the Armenian side has photoshopped the image to show what the paper in her hands SHOULD say. She does rather remind us of an Armenian child too. Who knows?

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Armenian posters depicting the fatalities of the infiltration onto Artsakh soil show not hostility per se, but truly throw the facts into the faces of those who dare insinuate that a mobilized infiltration into the territory was done to see a single grave. The absurdity of the notion is insulting to those who should have to hear the explanation. A hostage would be if one was held for something in return, say to refrain from war, to have the government give in to a certain demand, etc. In this case, the “hostages” were caught, have confessed to theft, are expected to confess to the murders, and are currently on trial. Should they have been “returned” to Azerbaijan, we can imagine that these men would receive state honours, just like Ramil Safarov.

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On the other hand, should the roles have been reversed and an Armenian caught on Azerbaijani land, torture and death is what awaited him or her. I highly doubt exceptions would have been made if a woman decided to go “visit the grave of her mother or grandmother.” The question now might be, “why would you visit a grave in a place where you know you’ll be taken, tortured, and/or killed (raped as well most probably)?” Now pose that question to Azerbaijan. Unless, of course, the people believe Armenians are kind and allow “innocent” men to come into their territory untouched while there’s a 99.9% possibility that the one coming in is a spy or saboteur. I’m not quite sure which is more absurd: believing the men coming over the border secretly were thinking benign thoughts or actually concocting such a silly tale in the first place.

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Drugs Should be Banned From Parliament

It’s been a while since I wrote an opinion piece and even longer since I touched upon a political subject. Somehow, when one lives in Armenia and breathes her air, it no longer becomes so vital to follow religiously every turn of event and sound an outcry for every wrong identified in the system. Once here, you learn that news is most definitely rarely the full truth and nothing but the truth, and more often disregards majority opinion for the sake of sensationalism.

What I find especially interesting from the past couple of days is the level of propaganda and opposite poles Armenians and Azeris seem to be sitting at. In Yerevan, at least, things are quite calm. No one actually believes there is an impending war, but tensions are high and the air bristles when someone mentions Turkish products or Azeri invasions. For the most part, however, we are all proud of the show our boys on the front have put on and both men and women have been taking up arms and heading to the borders as volunteers should the opposing side decide to launch an offensive. It is interesting to see more and more women in the army, both as volunteers and chasing a military career. At the moment, 1 in 5 soldiers is female, amounting to about 20%.

The difference between the 2 sides (the first image shows eyewitness accounts of Armenians continuing with their honey harvest while those on the Azerbaijani side fleeing as shown on meydan.tv)- FB propaganda

According to certain online sources, the Kashatagh region has been a major source providing volunteers, both local and Syrian repatriate, as well as now working on supplying food and necessary items to those serving on the borders. Hundreds of volunteers have taken up arms at the moment to defend our country if need be. It is most definitely a bittersweet sight.

Armenia seems to ever be on the defensive. International media might paint Azerbaijan in a victim’s light, but the truth is that both sides have suffered casualties and it’s not news that Azerbaijan has violated the ceasefire time and again. Whether it was their side or ours this time, we might never know. After all, the wheels of propaganda are in constant motion and both side gain by appearing the wronged party. Considering the words the Azerbaijani president has been tweeting though, one would undoubtedly start pointing fingers towards the internationally acclaimed “victim” his country appears to be.

wtfwtff

It appears the president of Azerbaijan has been smoking something other than the beloved cigarettes of the Caucasus, which has addled his mind once and for all. He’s a class A comedy act all right, but the scary thing is that he wields weapons of mass destruction which have the ability to hit Yerevan from what I’ve heard on the streets. I cannot prove this, but it is a bit of a cause for concern when there’s a fool seemingly on drugs controlling the situation. Furthermore, local media in the country is apparently claiming that Azerbaijani forces have taken Agdam and other regions within the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) enclave, as mentioned on Radio Free Europe’s Azerbaijan portal. I wonder what lovely Mr. Putin has to say about all of this during his meetings with the presidents this weekend.

In the meantime, we can all have a laugh at Mr. Aliyev’s expense. After all, we don’t get to see many clowns acting like fools for the amusement of us little children too much anymore.

 

 

Winter Wonderland in Armenia

Nearly 6 months and counting. That is how long I have been in Armenia, drinking the icy mountain water and enjoying the perfection of life from the homeland. Nearly 6 months later, I am still constantly in utter awe. Perhaps the initial childish excitement will fade over time, or perhaps it will not. No one can claim either as truth. All I know, at this moment, watching the world blanketed in white, wearing a bright pink Canada Goose jacket that the cold here is no match against, and trying to catch snowflakes with my tongue, I feel free. I feel whole. I feel strong. My smile is brighter than ever and my heart as light as a feather.

I live in Armenia. Why? Because I can. Why would I not? I can easily live anywhere in the world, teach, further my studies, get another degree, create the grounds for a great career. And then I wonder why. I ask why. Why are you asking me why? I have a great position where I work, I learn a lot. I teach on the side when I desire to and can easily find a job teaching anywhere within the country. University is so much cheaper here and I would probably not have to take out a loan as is the case in Canada and the US. I am setting down the groundwork for a future career. And for a family. I check out the best schools, learn about the best doctors, understand how traditions are incorporated into modern life. I build a network and create a circle of friends that are good for me. I have settled into Armenia. So why do you ask me why I came?

It is winter now in Armenia, officially. Ice has covered the roads, snowballs are flying about, traffic’s all that worse and I don’t miss Canada for a moment. I’m laughing here. I’m a child once more. Except I am an adult as well. I take care of my own needs, pay for my own lifestyle and am responsible for my own actions. An adult with a child’s heart. People around me are similar in nature too. I belong here. I belong in this part of the world and would not trade it for a thing.

Christmas is around the corner and I look forward to spending it with family in Toronto. Is it strange that I’m more excited about the flight back to Armenia? I’m nervous about going back to Canada for the holidays actually. I’m so used to Armenian everywhere on the streets at the moment. I’m used to the simplicity of life here. I like walking to and from work. I love watching people as they smile and laugh on the streets. I’m happy when my country is so alive and full of joy. Watching the children throw snowballs yesterday made me laugh. I joined in the fun, as well. And they started making snowmen. I love every moment I see thus. Those smiles, the excitement lighting up the eyes, the joy emanating from young lovers and parents as they watch their children run about in the white world around them; I can’t think of anywhere else I would rather be.

Winter is here and I am in wonderland. Good thing no one else can see my goofy grin!