I was very pleased with what we accomplished today, especially that it was in such a small village. Having the Armenian American Wellness Center present was a great addition and made it all possible. It was great to see that some of our past work has made an impact with regard to the fliers that they used from us. I heard that the presentations went well, and I was happy to see that we had a decent audience for the cardiovascular disease presentation, I was worried that no one was going to come for it.
I couldn’t be happier with the health fair today. The women were so receptive and eager to participate. Many women waited in a long line for free screening, which filled me with joy. One of the patients named Isabella wanted to set me up with her son who happened to be the same age as I. So, I really felt as though I was able to make a personal connection, as well as, a professional connection. The providers of the clinic kept whisking me away for coffee and treats, even though I kept telling them no. One of the interpreters said it best, “You can’t help but feel good when you are making a difference in someone’s life.”
I enjoyed working with this more rural population. The patients and
providers all seemed very receptive to and appreciative of our teaching. Many of the patients were very warm, and there were a few memorable interactions. I’d like to reflect on one of these.
About half way through the day, an elderly gentleman limped slowly into our
blood pressure screening and education room. He had previously been diagnosed
with hypertension and diabetes. His blood pressure was 160/100 on my check, and he reported that he had taken his medication in the morning. I discussed all of the
risk factors for hypertension with him and encouraged him to make healthy lifestyle
changes. As I went through the recommendations step-by-step (reduce salt, eat a
healthy diet high in fruits and vegetables and low in red meats and saturated fats,
get routine physical activity, manage weight, reduce alcohol consumption) he
nodded in agreement and assured me he had already made all of these changes.
However, when I reached my final recommendation—to quit smoking—he stopped
me and informed me he simply could not quit. He stated that everything good had
already been taken from him, and that he didn’t have too many years left anyway.
This made me think about just how hard it is to quit smoking, and how although this
is one of the most important modifiable risk factors for cardiovascular disease, it can
also be one of the most difficult lifestyle changes to make.
Today brought our group back to the drawing board. It was quite instructive to consider the triumphs and struggles we had yesterday. Although there were some speed bumps and unexpected challenges, I believe our group showed resolve and determination. However, it was helpful to investigate the improvements that are needed in order for us to be successful. Though the first battle may have been won, the same tactics may not be successful in the next location. We have to keep improving and developing so that we can be prepared for whatever comes our way.
The trip to the manuscript repository reinforced my expanding understanding of the rich heritage that is the foundation of Armenian identity and culture. I was grateful to see such beautifully preserved masterpieces.
The trip to Grand Candy brought me back to my childhood. It was like a circus inside of a candy store inside of a dream. I partook of amazing Ponchik with enough powdered sugar to break the blood glucose monitors. I then purchased a bunch of candy, on the faith of a good recommendation and had my honor defended against a lady trying to cut in line in front of me. Thanks, Dr. Wright.
The night was concluded with some survey corrections, amazing home-cooked food (we could probably open a restaurant with all of the hardcore chef skills group members are busting out on this trip). We had some good laughs discussing absurd childhood games and building a human pyramid. Our stay here is half over, but I can’t see how it can get better. Cheers to my comrades for making my life a little bit brighter.
There was electricity in the air as we all prepared ourselves this morning. The day for the big show had arrived. We were all running through literal and figurative checklists to make sure we had all of the equipment and handouts we would needed. A cocktail of anxiety and excitement populated my conversation and thoughts. Months of preparation and careful planning had all lead to this point and it was likely this would set the tone for our other outreach sites.
The clinic certainly felt quite spartan – bare stone and mortar. The site of the fair was a simple drive-way of aging asphalt. The presentations took place in what felt like a forgotten basement corridor. When we arrived, it was as if the health fair organically arose from nothing. Within moments their were desks with table-toppers, balloons, screening materials, surveys, handouts, and smiling faces[…]
I was proud of the screening teams and the efficiency with which they managed the crowds of eager participants. They did a great job talking to patients and providing them materials and recommendations in order to make good changes in their lives.
Later, in the evening, some of us went to a Georgian restaurant. The restaurant was below street level and had incredible interior design. It felt like the kind of place that a mobster would spend time – ornate woodwork, beautiful carvings, and artwork. Many of us experienced Khinkali for the first time and loved it. It also felt a little bit more legitimate to drink Georgian Lemonade in a Georgian restaurant[…]
Today was a very exciting day! I didn’t know what to expect going in to our first health fair but it was quite the success! My team and I tested around 120 people in about 3 hours. It alarmed me how many of them had high readings. Most hadn’t eaten the whole morning but wouldn’t mention they had drank coffee until asked. We tested a couple people multiple times because they didn’t believe they were so high. Most of the younger patients had normal glucose levels but the older crowd was the opposite. I also noticed that they measure their glucose in different measurements than we do[…]My team is working on a conversion chart for our next fair so we can readily answer questions. I am excited for the next health fair!
The health fair went really well. We got there and got all set up. I ended up going around helping give out and collect surveys for the vaccination study[…]It was really cool to see a lot of people that were glad we were out doing this sort of work. One family invited us into their home and we got to talk more about their concerns about vaccinations. I had always assumed that people who didn’t vaccinate were uninformed or something else, but this opportunity gave me a whole new perspective that I hadn’t considered before. Negative portrayals and lack of confidence in the current system played a big role in many not getting vaccinations. They had several valid points and it was a very eye opening experience. I didn’t get to work the glucose table, but from what I heard there were many grateful individuals. It is really rewarding to know we in a small way are making a difference in the lives of those in this area. I hope as knowledge and awareness continue to spread that more Armenian’s will have better access and understanding and that general health practices will continue to improve.
Every culture is a spectrum; one can have everything that makes it vibrant and charismatic but perplexing and paradoxical at the same time. Today, I, along with a few fellow travelers, formed a small expedition group and had ourselves an adventurous shopping day trip down to Russia. Well-rested and light-spirited, we walked through the circle park, passed by the St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral, and finally reached “Russia Department Store”, ready to hunt down some nice knock-off purses and good-looking shades at the busy covered market. We were greeted by many eager merchants and were able to barter some decent prices, partly due to our peculiar foreigner looks, I suspect. Surprised and somewhat confused, Valerie and I were stopped by some strange Armenian ladies for a quick photo shoot session half-way through the market; I suppose it is a rare sight in Armenia to see a group of Asians walking around. It was the most interesting and almost flattering experience to see their extremely friendly and welcoming reactions to us. Not long after that, we were greeted by some passerby with enthusiastic “welcome to Armenia!” on our way back near the cathedral. Seeing that how hospitable and friendly Armenians were to foreigners, it was surprising, yet somewhat anticipated given our lack of language proficiency, to find out that we were absurdly overcharged for both our lunch and dinner at two different restaurants. Having to experience the slow service and failed communications, I wondered how much have I missed by not being able to speak their language and understand their culture? This same question I have been asking myself since we visited the various museums and monasteries; it was such a shame that even though I was impressed by everything that I have seen, not having enough knowledge of the language and history of Armenia hindered myself from achieving a deeper appreciation for their arts, artifacts, and architectures. It truly takes a humble and observant attitude to approach an unfamiliar culture, not only to respect the host of that culture, but to protect oneself as well. While our spirits were slightly dampened from our carelessness at the restaurants, it was nonetheless an exciting and satisfying day in Armenia.
Today started very similar to the other days. A group of us walked to the park that surrounds the city, and ate lunch at a little café. Then we walked past St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral, on our way to do shopping at the
“Russia Department Store”. Similar to the Vernisage, there were many vendors selling their goods. But instead of being art and souvenirs, they were selling more quotidian items, like bags, watches, and sunglasses. We did improve a little on our bartering skills. We learned how to walk to a competing store and shop both places, to find who will give us a better price. When the vendors saw us looking at another store, they were more willing to come down on price. We also learned the skill of showing interest in an item, bartering down, and if the vendor disagrees, to put the item down and walk away. The vendor ended up calling us back and agreeing to our asking price.
Then an interesting thing happened. As we were walking by, a lady tapped me on the arm, and was signaling at me. I didn’t understand at first what she was asking, but then I figured out she was asking if she could take a picture with me. […] It was the strangest and funniest thing. I guess today I got a small taste of what it must be like to be a celebrity.
Afterwards we went to dinner at the Diamond restaurant, which is where we had gone on Independence Day. We sat on the balcony again, which has a beautiful view overlooking Republic Square and the fountain water show. On the opposite side, there were fireworks, which we could also kind of see, from our seats. The food was delicious again, the same as it was the first time we went.
I felt very traditional attending what felt like a classic Armenia flea market. After hours of wondering and bartering, I found several items that fit perfect as souvenirs. My best purchase of the day was probably a set of customized Duduks with names engraved on them. We stopped by a pizza place after, which was very good and pretty cheap. We only paid about $5 for some delicious pizza.