Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Disclaimer and Comments to be Now Moderated

I should listen to my friend Artur Papyan (aka Ditord) more often — or at least follow his example. 

Not only because of a recent unprecedented lawsuit against a local Armenian newspaper for libellous comments left by readers (!) on the online version of its website, but also because of an increase in the number of offensive comments left on this blog, I regret but I have chosen to moderate all comments, and, following in the footsteps of said Artur Papyan, am including the following disclaimer:

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Adventures in Baking, or Reading Armenia’s Constitution

Today was Sunday, and one of the few Sundays in a long time where I allowed myself to stay in, read, lounge and otherwise take it easy.

I recently purchased the little 64-page booklet that contains the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia (yes, I know you can read it online AND even get an English-translated version, but I wanted to hold the stapled pieces of paper in my hands and read the original Armenian).

And I found a few rather interesting tidbits: For example, did you know that prisoners can’t vote or be elected (Article 30)? Perhaps I can understand why they can’t be elected, but why can’t they vote?

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Ten Reasons I Love Living in Yerevan

An exchange on Facebook and finding this blog by repats inspired me to write a list of reasons why I’m happy to be where I am at the moment and why I am enjoying my life in Yerevan, Armenia. Here’s the list (in no particular order):
  1. Living in a small city means I’m not stuck in a two-hour commute to and from work every day. It takes me 10 minutes to ride my bike or 20 minutes by foot to get to work from my home.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

(Un)Social Media and the Power of the Media

Lately, I’ve been wanting to spend less time online — or rather, less time on social networking sites. I have found that rather than help my work (I work in news media) Twitter and Facebook are actually affecting my productivity: in short, social networking sites are a big time waster — no surprise there, eh?

I know that it’s all about filtering (this brings to mind artist and comedian Vahe Berberian’s remarks at a recent public forum organized by Civilitas Foundation), but honestly, this simple act takes a lot more energy from us than we realize. Having to sort through all the non-essential, irrelevant news in my Facebook news feed or Twitter timeline is wearing me out to the point where I don’t have energy or any space left in my brain to do other things or… to contemplate life. And I need those moments of contemplation not only for peace of mind, but also to be able to write a blog post such as this one :)

I have become more aware of all the negative content I subconsciously consume on a daily basis and how much of that is through some form of media. More and more I feel the need to hear, read and watch material that is positive and uplifting (and I’m not talking about watching some Hollywood romantic comedy). Because hearing/reading/watching something positive not only makes me feel better about myself and the world we live in, but also makes me want to do stuff, to be active and present in my life, to reach out to people, to create. And oh how much we need more people in the world who are not complacent, not brainless consumers, but active participants, people who create and connect with others.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

When You Live in a City Without Actually Living IN It

A couple of days ago a good Hayastanci (born and raised in Armenia) friend of mine, introducing me to a new acquaintance, commented that she considers me բնիկ Հայաստանցի (bnik Hayastanci, a native of Armenia), citing my experiences of living and working here to be just the same as any local. 

And though it was meant as a compliment (and trust me, I am flattered when those born and raised here consider me one of their own), I can't help but feel like an impostor. And I would hate to represent myself as someone that I am not.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

How Do You Live?

I’ve always been fascinated by how people live: how people spend their days, how they make decisions on what they will do on any given day. I think this stemmed from a childhood belief that everything was possible, that on any given day, at any given moment, you had an infinite number of possibilities of how you choose to spend your time on this earth and so it led me to wonder how people decide what they’re going to do and how they’re going to go about doing it.

Growing up, to be honest, is a bit of a disappointment. I realized that though there are many different ways to live, so many of us are the same, so many of us choose to do things like everyone else, and what I thought was an infinite number of possibilities is now a finite number — even worse, it’s a small finite number. Worse yet was realizing that not everyone is afforded the same possibilities, that not everyone has equal opportunities in this world. The injustice in this world still affects me deeply today — it just doesn’t manifest the same way as it did before.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

On Gay Pride Parades and Why Yerevan Needs One

Even the most well-intentioned people, those who are tolerant of gays — you know the type: they have friends who are gay or they know people who are gay, they say they don't have a problem with gay people, etc. etc. — can be really frustrating to deal with.

In Yerevan, I have met straight people who hang out with queers, who are tolerant (as much as I hate this word), who support equal rights for all peoples. These people would stand out against injustice in any form and if someone attempted to physically hurt another person because he was gay, they would be up in arms in a second to defend him.

But too often I find that this "tolerance" has a limit, a boundary which cannot be crossed. Sometimes this limit has to do with queers raising or adopting kids, sometimes it has to do with gay marriage and sometimes it's just simply being out as queer. And then there's the disparity when it comes to men and women (and let's not even talk about the disparity when it comes to acceptance of sexual preference vs. acceptance of gender identity): Too often in Yerevan (as I have no doubt elsewhere) I have come across straight guys who say they have no problems with lesbians but thinking about two men having sex is just disgusting (զզվելի) and unnatural (բնական չի).

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Not All Queer Bloggers are Hoaxes

Last week I (as well as my friend Kara Leva, it seems) was contacted by Elif Kayi for a story on the opinions and experiences of real queer bloggers following the cases of a Gay Girl in Damascus and LezGetReal.com — both instances where straight men were masquerading as queer woman online. I’m republishing Elif’s article (originally published online at EMAJ magazine) in full below:

Everybody has heard about “her.” For a few days, “she” had become the most famous queer woman in the Middle East, maybe even in the whole world. Amidst other worrying news, such as the violent repression carried out by the Syrian regime against segments of the population, the abduction of “queer blogger” Amina Abdallah Araf al Omari, presumbably by a group of armed men supposedly members the Baath Party security services or a militia, provoked a massive outcry amongst the international gay community. Support pages were immediatly created in mainstream social media such as Facebook, with slogans such as “Free Syrian Blogger Amina Abdallah a.k.a “Gay Girl in Damascus”.

Bloggers and journalists active in social media closely followed the story, which once again reminded us of the vulnerability of bloggers in some countries, when they try to inform about their situation in those places. In this case, the blogger was said to be a young lesbian woman, describing her everyday life. Some people thought that her story would bring to light a reality often hidden: the everyday life of gay people. And despite the turmoil surrounding the “abduction,” the story was in fact  revealing an issue to the general public, including readers who might normally be hostile, or at least indifferent to such stories. At least, it was news.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

When We Don't Speak the Same Language

At the roundtable on sexual violence against women in Armenia yesterday, listening to co-founder and executive director of the Women’s Resource Center of Armenia (WRCA) Lara Aharonian talk, followed by remarks by deputy head of the Department for Crimes Against the Individual of the RA General Prosecutor’s Office Artur Davtyan and finally, deputy head of the Armenian Police Department of Juvenile Affairs Artur Vardanyan, I came to a very simple conclusion — we don't speak the same language.

We all seem to be talking about the same thing and sorta-kinda saying the same things, but not really. While Lara was speaking about public perception of sexual violence, gender stereotypes and lack of resources in Armenia to support survivors of all kinds of abuse (and waiting till the end of her remarks to start throwing around some numbers), the two Arturs were, understandably on their guard, praising the work that their respective state agencies have done and apparently continue to do.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

My Life Revolves Around Nikol Pashinyan (She Says with a Sigh)

(I started writing this post on May 25, 2011, on the threshold of the release of journalist and opposition activist Nikol Pashinyan, who had been imprisoned in Armenia since 2008 under questionable charges related to his involvement in the events of Mar. 1–2, 2008, in Yerevan. Bear with me as this post goes in a direction you might not have expected, considering the title!)

These days my life revolves around Nikol Pashinyan: what he says, what he writes, who he talks to. Pashinyan is revered like a god by some people while, as I mentioned in a previous post, I’d rather hang on every word that my yoga teacher says rather than any politician — be it from the ruling party, an opposition member or one with no official party affiliation — or opposition activist says (and these days, they seem to be saying a lot, while saying very little — how convenient).

Monday, April 25, 2011

A Placeholder Name

I decided I just couldn't live with "Le Retour in 3 Parts" for another day and so, to make things easy on all of us I am temporarily renaming this blog "Adrineh's Blog" — till I can come up with a better name of course.

This happened as I was organizing the blogs I subscribe to and realizing I had to rename a few because the titles the bloggers chose didn't fit with the content that I was seeking in their blogs. And of course I figured you might be doing the same things as you organize the list of blogs that you follow in Google Reader or Blogger or whatever you use to organize the information you seek online.

That's why they say writers should read and journalists should scan the news. By becoming informed and seeing what works and what doesn't in the work of others, you improve your own work.

A little bit of insight on a random Monday evening!

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Panic attack

I kept putting off writing a blog post because I never felt like I had enough time, energy or the ability to compose well-thought-out, composed blog posts. Now I realize that’s exactly what I should’ve done: taken a break from all the things I HAD to do to focus on something I LOVE to do in order to feel just a little bit more in control of my life, which lately I’ve seem to lost my grip on.

I realize that I miss my imagination and I miss being passionate about something. Too much of my time in the last little while has been spent on work-related things or things that I just had to do. And the fact that I work in news media means time is always an issue — whatever has to be done has to be done NOW. And I’m slowly buckling under the weight of this pressure of Time.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Back pains and other struggles

I wrote this post on Feb. 22, but wanted to tweak it before posting. As you can see, nearly two weeks have gone by… so keep in mind, some of this news might already be old news ;)

Here goes:

For the past two weeks or so, I’ve had this knot in my back that’s made it unbearable at times to sit still at my desk (whether at home or at work) and do work. And it won’t go away.

I find that we adapt ourselves to all sorts of irreconcilable situations, and so it is that I find myself trying out different chairs and different seating positions, while performing all manner of stretches in 10-minute increments. This, along with once or twice a week yoga, riding my bike to and from work and occasional massages from my loving partner, has made the pain at least bearable. Like I told my parents yesterday: my back is so much better than it was before.

The same, however, can’t be said for the state of affairs in Armenia.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Moving soon?

Words I received today from my favorite psychic, my friend's mom (and also a friend) who lives and works on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada:

"I glanced at this new photo of you and had to email you to tell you the feeling I got. You are wiped out, arent you? And I also feel a move for you and your love soon to a French-speaking community. You will be abundant, happy and peaceful."

Wow. Who knows what tomorrow will bring, eh?

Friday, January 28, 2011

What to do when the lights go out

So I came home from work, walked in the apartment, and switched on the lights (as I usually do). And what happened? Nothing. Yes, nothing. No lights, no electricity, no humming sound from the fridge. Oh oh, what did I do? Quietly backing out and closing the front door, I rang the doorbell of my next door neighbor.

Me: “Um, my lights don’t turn on, do you have electricity by any chance?” (Thinking the electricity’s off in the whole building perhaps, but asking a stupid question as I can clearly see the lights are on in her apartment.)

Lovely neighbor that she is, Gayane helps me troubleshoot the situation. After a few questions, she gets to the kicker:

Gayane: “Do you have any outstanding payments on your electricity bill?”

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

What Happens When You Can't Go Back?

What happens when you can't go back? Not because you physically can't go back, but because you're no longer able to adapt, to that pace, to that lifestyle that is North America. What do you do then?
(some thoughts after meeting with a fellow repat and strolling the streets of Yerevan)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Being the Bridge Connecting Armenia to the Diaspora & Vice-Versa

Probably the hardest thing I find about living in Armenia is being The Bridge. The Bridge between Armenians living in Armenia and those in the Diaspora (interestingly, this feeling of being a bridge doesn’t arise in quite the same way with non-Armenians).

Having just returned from a few weeks visiting family in Toronto, I feel like I have to make time to visit various family members in my first week back. Honestly, I haven’t had a day off from family (and family drama). The expectation of news from abroad and most likely gifts and — ideally — money. I am an unofficial Fed Ex employee, Western Union agent, and carrier pigeon all rolled into one. None of these are roles I particularly enjoy or wished for myself. But, alas, it comes with being Armenian and visiting the homeland (more so if you have family in Armenia).

I have spent the better part of my week back meeting with family and sharing details of family in Toronto. How can I explain to someone who’s never lived or even been abroad how life is not only difficult in Yerevan, but elsewhere too? How it’s colder in Toronto, takes 1–2 hours to get around (especially in traffic) and the sheer volume and variety of products in stores is enough to make your head spin (not in a good way). How it’s not what you imagine it to be, though I understand how life in Yerevan is not perfect either.

Being in Toronto makes me miss Yerevan and being in Yerevan makes me long for the smooth sidewalks and roadways of Toronto, government agencies that function and the availability of eggs (and other items) in stores year round.

But who to tell about the wonderful Yerevan weather (more sun and always much, much warmer than Toronto), the 10 minutes it takes to get around town (and, if you choose to, you can even walk or bike it), and the people who call you ջան (jan) only a minute after meeting you and who make you feel like you’re family.

The important thing I’ve realized is to appreciate the beauty and make the most of wherever you happen to be. The other important thing I’ve realized is though I understand and empathize with my family in Toronto and my family in Yerevan, I find it difficult to explain the experiences and viewpoint of the other to them. Too often I take on the burden of explaining, but no avail. In the end, the only thing I achieve is burn out.

Have you experienced this feeling of being a bridge between two cultures or two communities? If so, how do you deal with the issue? Do you manage or do you feel burned out (like I do)?