Friday, January 31, 2014

The Second Time Around

Living in Armenia the second time around is different. You are no longer bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. You see beneath the surface. And you don't always like what you see…

We (us second-time-arounders) are congratulated for returning. I mean, we had our chance. We left Armenia, and though we always said we'd return, probably no one really believed us. But we did return. And those who stayed, those who remain here thanked us (though they don't need to, really). We feel like heros. But I find that problematic. You don't get a medal for living in Armenia (living anywhere, for that matter). So why do people feel the need to make us feel like we deserve a medal? If anyone deserves a medal, it's you. You who stayed. You who stayed and fought and continue to put yourself on the line every day (I'm talking about the human rights defenders, the activists). I took the easy way out. I left (yes, it was for a good cause, and yes, now I'm back) and yes, though I did what I could from afar, you have to admit, it's easier from a distance, from behind a computer screen, than on the ground, In Real Life. Trust me, I know

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Dispelling the Myth that Everything is Organic in Armenia

A friend recently shared on Facebook a blog post by another friend of mine, which elicited several comments on the myth that everything is "naturally organic" in Armenia. Though I knew about the use of pesticides, there's a lot that I didn't know, and so I asked the person who left the most detailed comments, Ursula Kazarian (who happens to be the president and founder of the Armenian Environmental Network), if I could publish her comments on my blog. She agreed, so here it is. Kind of like a guest post :)

Photo of farmer's market produce by Aallen courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Welcome to Armenia

It’s Christmas Eve in Armenia, but I’m not really feeling the holiday spirit. For one thing, all the fanfare of New Year’s Eve (especially here where Dec. 25th is not celebrated) has died down, the alcohol’s effect has worn off, and we’re confronted with the reality of having spent half of this month’s pay cheque on holiday preparations and coming to terms with how we’re going to make the other half last for the remaining 25 days of this month. For another thing, I just read my friend Artur Papyan’s latest blog post. He paints a bleak picture of the year to come (which also reminded me of Yerevan Press Club President Boris Navasardian’s similarly depressing outlook on the state of Armenian media, censorship and a return to a disempowering Soviet past, but that’s a different story). But, Artur jan, please don’t feel bad because the good thing about reading your post was that it gave me the impetus I needed to write this blog post, which I’ve been meaning to write for the past few days.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

#Commit2Equality for LGBT Armenians

There hasn't been a week that's gone by that I haven't thought about this blog and more specifically, that I haven't felt guilty about not updating it (... in 4 months!). It is still a very near and dear project of mine and one I'm not willing to let go of yet... that being said, I cannot guarantee that I'll update it regularly, though I will sure as hell try. So bear with me, and check in every once in a while...

Here is a poster of a campaign by Equality California that a few of us helped translate into Armenian. By all no means was it easy trying to find a word or expression in Armenian for "coming out" — the best suggestion and the one we finally went with was «տեսանելի լինել հանրության մեջ», which roughly (and literally) translates to "being visible in public" (which is as good as it's gonna get at the moment).

Friday, May 17, 2013

We Are All Georgian LGBT Rights Activists



Violence erupted in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, today as thousands of counter protestors attacked a peaceful demonstration organized by gay rights activists to mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHO). Protestors apparently threw stones and injured not only the activists, but also police officers. I've seen photos of several vehicles with their windows smashed and videos of protestors attacking the minibus in which gay rights activists sought refuge and with which they were escorted away from the scene by law enforcement authorities. Horrific. And disgraceful.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Civil Society and NGOs in Armenia


Is the existence of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) equivalent to civil society? That is, the more NGOs you have, the more civil society you have. What does civil society mean, anyway? Before I moved to Armenia, I have to be honest, I hadn’t really come across the term. Having spent several years working in the non-profit (or not-for-profit) sector in Canada, I moved to the other side of the ocean only to realize that (a) “non-profit” is more often replaced with the term “non-governmental” and (b) the non-governmental sector and civil society are used almost interchangeably. But are they one and the same?

Monday, January 14, 2013

Protesting Same-Sex Marriage and Adoption: What’s the Real Reason?

A BBC article titled “Mass Paris rally against gay marriage in France” I read this morning has really got my knickers in a knot (excuse the expression).

Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that the issues of same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples has once again riled the masses to the point that they feel the need to take to the streets and protest.

As I wrote the sentence above, I remembered the crowd that gathered to protest the Diversity March held in Yerevan in May 2012. And though those in Armenia protesting diversity (they thought it was a Pride Parade, but still) is not the same as those in France protesting same-sex marriage or adoption rights, there is an underlying thread — it’s called homophobia.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

In all honesty…

I have been contemplating ideas for the title of this blog post for a few days now with contenders such as “Family Portrait” (because I recently visited my family and there’s always so much to say and process after a trip back home) and “Mirrors” (because I noticed how many mirrors there are in homes and apartments in Toronto and I wanted to compare this with the mirrors in apartments I’ve stayed in Brussels which are always fewer and always placed just slightly too high — Belgians aren’t known for being tall, are they? Anyway, the topic of mirrors seemed to lend itself nicely to making inferences about where I am and comparing places and experiences and… well, you get the picture).

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Watching Parada and Not in Armenia

I have mixed emotions over the fact that I was able to watch the "controversial" film Parada tonight — a film screening that, unfortunately, did not take place in Yerevan. The film was screened as part of a festival for European audiences, and I was lucky enough to be at the right place at the right time. 

The mixed feelings are not about the film itself. I thought it was a great film — an amazing film — that more than anything else needs to be screened in Yerevan. I can't remember the last time I laughed AND cried so hard in one film. Parada ("The Parade"), though centring around an attempt by a group of activists to organize a gay pride parade in Belgrade, touches upon so many subjects, many of which will appear somewhat familiar to Armenian audiences... and more reason why this film has to be screened in Armenia. And this is why I have mixed feelings: because I was able to watch the film while those in Armenia could not (though I am told that "many in Armenia have seen it online via not licensed Russian websites"). 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Yerevan Screening of Serbian Film on LGBT Rights Cancelled AGAIN


Sometimes it seems that it takes years for things to happen in Armenia, while other times things develop so quickly that if you blinked you just might miss the latest development.

One of these developments is the screening of an apparently controversial film called Parada, an “internationally acclaimed Serbian drama dealing with the delicate subject of LGBT rights,” according to an Oct. 15, 2012 press release issued by the EU Delegation in Armenia and the Germany Embassy in Yerevan, which planned on screening the film on Oct. 17 and 18 at Congress Hotel in Yerevan.