Dispatches from Yerevan: Day One, Part onePosted on 2010.03.30 at 06:44
Current Location: Europe Hotel, Yerevan, Armenia
Current Mood: tired
The “S7” Airlines plane to Yerevan is much smaller than the one we took over to Moscow (I still have a hard time believing I was there, if even for a flight connection.). The seats are much wider but the leg room is far less. We are finally taxiing onto the runway. Feeling a little tired now-probably a little jet lag. Lots of side-to-side turbulence on take-off, but we quickly got airborne over the taiga outskirts of Moscow. Too bad it was such a short layover for the connecting flight, as I missed what may have been my only chance to poop on the land that was only 2nd to the Mongols in terms of running rough-shod over and pillaging the land of most of my forbearers (forgive me Triumph!). Gonna try and get some shut-eye. It is a 3 hour tour ahead for TJ and myself, but it is far less than the butt-breakingly grueling first leg to Moscow.
Interesting in-flight meal that included a aluminum foil hot-pack that may be my first taste of Armenian food if not central Europe/West Asia minor cuisine. The coffee served at the end was STRONG- almost worthy of a café Cubano rating. The hot part of the meal was a nugget of some sort of ground meat similar to that described in our printed briefings (definitely NOT spoo!). It rested in a “pilaf” of what I think was cracked Bulgar wheat with a smattering of tomatoey stuff, diced carrots, and a chopped green veggie of unknown origin. The cold portion in the colorful card board box whose many commercial messages were lost on me due to my inability to read Russian, was the fixings for a mini-sandwich in several cellophane-sealed plastic containers. The container that held the 2 slices of cheese (one Colby and one Colby-jack, I suspect) also contained what appeared to be a single VERY small prune and a solitary shelled almond. Desert was a rectangular slice of a fruit tart-esque pastry. All in all tasty and not bad for an light lunch.
Even though I am still a bit at a loss grasping the time, I think I’ll adjust via the sun thanks to the naps I have been sneaking in. I’m thinking about getting a cheap watch after we land. I had thought about taking a non-cell phone based timepiece with me at the last minute, but none of mine had working batteries. I’d not fully realized how much I’d come to rely on the cell phone as my timepiece. Ever since we were over the Baltic, my cell phone has read 12:00AM- most likely due to the lack of signal broadcasting the date and time. We will see upon landing if that rectifies itself.
Just checked the cell and it says it is 2 something AM. Maybe I can set with World Clock function once I know what time zone Armenia is in. Very little in the way of turbulence for most of the trip.
We are landing and TJ is going to try to get pics of Mt. Ararat out the window. Landing a little rough, but not warranting the applause the rest of the cabin break into upon touchdown. Either they are not as used to flying as I am, or they know something about these Russian pilots that I don’t know, and most likely don’t’ want to know.
Our driver is waiting for us after getting our visa, exchanging some money to pay for the visa, and clearing customs. Ride is somewhat uneventful, although the local drivers seem to have a penchant for making up lanes where they see fit. The above pics are a few of the “best” attempts to take shots of the area through the window of the moving car. My skills as a photographer are highly suspect if one uses these as a sample of my ability. We arrive at the Europe Hotel and pay him about $5 US for the ride.
We met with our main coordinator, Tigran, and some other teachers here on various exchange programs, including Ms. Kriewald, in the hotel lobby to discuss our missions and our itineraries. Later we went with Ms. Kriewald and a teacher from Ann Arrundel County schools to shop for a light dinner to eat in our rooms.
Monday, March 29, 2010
After thinking my ride was late, I got to my destination: Yerevan School #150. Most of my observations and collaborations were of the biology and social studies teacher, Ms. Knarik Gyulumyan. Helping with translations were 3 English teachers including head English teacher Ms. Nune (??SP?) The school has a little museum of Armenian artifacts, antiques, and student artwork. Several very old Armenian rugs were displayed on the floor and I kept embarrassing myself by stepping on their edges as I clumsily moved about. I learned about a number of Armenian historical figures, including the beloved priest-composer Komitas. Most of the faculty here are female. The low pay for teachers is believed by most of the people I am interacting with to be the reason for that, although TJ, who is visiting another art and trade oriented school headed by the former Minister of Education, sees less of a disparity in the gender ratio.
After meeting the principal, assistant principal, and a brief tour of their school’sI observed several classes, including a special ed physical therapy/training session (inclusion/mainstreaming is practiced in this system), a middle school level social studies lesson freedom, a science class on fish taxonomy and anatomy, and a slightly older class on democracy.