Recap of last few days

I can’t believe how quickly these last few days have passed by. So much have happened and at the same time not necessarily so much that I shouldn’t have time to reflect about it. Anyway. I’ll try to give a short recap of the last few days bigger events and hoping reflections can be squeezed in between without making this post all too long for you guys to read.

My first work week has come to an end
I stand by my first impression of amazement of all initiatives here in Yerevan. Also, the culture of my colleagues is really nice when I compare to other volunteers. Even though my colleagues mostly speak Armenian they still invite me to join the lunch breaks, small walks to nearest store and give me fruit at the office (though that is something common for ALL Armenians; wherever you go, everyone offers you their food even if you don’t know them). What I’ve heard form other volunteers it is a bit less inclusive and some are left completely alone. Glad I’m not at that type of office, especially given that we are placed in a suburb outside the suburb – there’s nowhere to go unless you are shown the office food court. How I will get there and back every day is another story, right now I’m taking a cab but I need to figure out the buses this upcoming week. Will get back to you on how that goes.

My first international game
This thursday, AVC and Birthright gathered all volunteers who wanted to join to the game Armenia-Italy. It was played at one of the stadiums in Yerevan and it was around 14 000 spectators there, and so were we. I haven’t really been a fan of football before when watching Swedish league games but this was a fun game. All Armenians cheering, the drums and the songs, the atmosphere when they actually scored a goal against Italy. Feels odd that we paid 20 SEK to see the game, and also feels odd that during my first international game, I was cheering for Armenia. Life is full of surprise.

Our first community service
This saturday we had signed up for Community service for Armenia Tree Project. Every month (or if it was every second month), AVC and Birthright do community service – on top of the volunteer work we do every day. This time the assignment was to pick stones and shuffle soil in a park out in the middle of nowhere. The area around the park was just fields, but fields that are soon to be built on so the park would soon be part of a small community.

It was an interesting experience as we found scorpios (and nobody gave a heads up or could tell if they were poisonous or not), talked to city kids (other volunteers from LA and similar) who thought this was slavery, had really nice food prepared by the staff and got to meet with many of the other volunteers. Both Leo and I have felt that we haven’t got opportunity to meet the other volunteers so it was fun to finally chat with some of them and get some new faces. The game from Thursday also was a really nice time to meet some friends and both feel a bit more into the whole volunteer society now.

Excursion to Vanadzor
Yesterday we had been invited to go to Vanadzor with my host sister, who was holding an contemporary art exhibition at Vanadzor’s only pub. Vanadzor is Armenia’s third largest city, however there is a huge drop in size compared to Yerevan and the second and third largest city. Gyumri, the second largest, is around 130 000 inhabitants if I remember correctly, and Vanadzor just around 100 000. Yerevan has about a million inhabitants. And there is a reason for that, development has mainly been focused in Yerevan and the other cities in the country is clearly behind on many aspects. Nevertheless we were very excited about going there and it was nice to get 2 hours bus ride on a comfortable bus not having to be on our toes socially; a nice break from the last week.

Vanadzor proved to be a photogenic but slightly depressing city under a stormy sky that darkened the whole scene. Remainings from the Soviet era was everywhere, tucked in between hills covered in clouds chasing each other over the tops. Abandoned industry facilities, overgrown railroads and apartment buildings left to the hands of nature greeted us when we drove in to the city. A sad feeling overwhelms you when you see so much infrastructure already in place that could make a daily life better in this city, but it is just standing there waiting for someone to care. Probably also too badly maintained to ever be used again. I can’t help wondering what they will do with all of it when they try to revitalise the city again; will they just build new areas further away or will they tear it down and start over? Will they care for some of the legacy and do something cool out of it or is everything just going to waste?

In the city centre it isn’t as gloomy, but still the weather didn’t help making Vanadzor to a touristic pearl exactly. We walked around, took in the scenery in the cities as well as the hills around us, dropped by the art exhibition which was really not our cup of tea, and thanked my host sister before taking a cab back home for the 2 hour drive. It costed 220 SEK. Sometimes it really feels like you are robbing the people here.

The upcoming week
Is already filled with plans; work with EIF and Engineering city Mon-Fri, evening language class Tues & Thurs, visit to Impact hub on Wed (so excited about that!) and weekend trip to Gyumri on Fri with AVC. Also I need to find time for better food routines as I have barely eaten anything but apples and nuts these last few days, find a gym, go to the gym, find an apartment and figure out the bus route to work. It’s going to be an interesting week!


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