Monday, June 1, 2015- Kyle Simonsen
First of all, I really love living downtown! The apartment is fantastic, the only issue is the phone number. What you have listed doesn’t ring to our phone, so it is difficult for the other house to contact us right now. I plan on getting SIM cards sometime tomorrow, which should aleviate much of the issue. It is amazing to have everything right outside our door. It’s going to make for a really easy time enjoying the city. Speaking of enjoying the city, because Lance left before shopping and I around 1:00, the group didn’t hesitate to spend some time exploring. I had shown Jessica some of the major places two days ago, so she was able to guide them around. They went to cafe central and managed ordering and paying without an Armenian speaker, which I was impressed with. They seem like a great group and I’m excited to get to know them better. Having this free day was nice for everyone to get acclimated and build good group unity.
So I have done some thinking about why I’ve come back to Armenia so many times. There are definitely more selfish reasons, such as helping my language skills, letting me visit my good friends here, and a good resume builder. But I couldn’t really put my real reasons into words until Saturday morning. I had some free time and decided to take a book down near the opera house and read for a few hours. I found a nice bench in the shade and opened my Armenian copy of Les Miserables, Թշվառներ. At one point, the character Jean Valjean makes the statement when talking to some farmers, “”Remember this, my friends: there are no such things as bad plants or bad men. There are only bad cultivators.” (Armenian translation: Մի մոռացեք, որ ոչ վատ խոտեր կան, ոչ էլ վատ մարդիկ։ Կան միայն վատ մշակողներ” : As I looked out around me, at the older women cleaning the flower beds, the teenagers lighting up cigarettes together, even witnessing a bribe right in front of me, I was reminded that even with all their challenges, there are no bad people. Only poor gardeners. What does that have to do with why I am here for the fourth time? I want to help these amazing people reach their full potential. If I can but change one woman’s perspective towards breast cancer, encourage someone to manage their diabetes, or help one mother understand proper nutrition, I will have made a difference. And my ultimate hope is to help build the programs and relationships that will leave a lasting change upon the everyday healthcare in Armenia. The other motivation driving me is a desire to become a better gardener. I want to develop the skills necessary to make a difference in others’ lives every day. Who I am today is directly related to my many experiences in the Republic of Armenia. I keep coming back because I have so much more to give and so much more to learn.
Thank you հազար անգամ for this amazing opportunity. I look forward to another great year!
June 9, 2014- Stephanie Monaco
Today was one of the best health fairs of this trip so far. Everyone was warm and receptive, providers and patients. I finally understood what was meant by people you when they talk to you, as I had my arm and face pet by a sweet older lady. I gave her a big hug at the end of explaining my handout and her face lit up. Another man my heart broke for. As he walked in to the clinic his arms and hands shook from Parkinsons. He asked me for the nervous diseases, which I couldn’t help him with and by the time I tried to find a doctor he was gone. Later Telyn came by with him and said he wanted to hear about nutrition. I explained my handouts to him, and he asked if there was anything he could do to help his condition. With a heavy heart I said no, but a good diet will keep him healthy. He was grateful and kept saying thank you and shook my hand. After I felt so moved I gave him a hug which he seemed pleasantly surprised by. It is these moments which I know why I love being in this field. I hope even though I couldn’t help him much, just showing that I cared will give him hope to find more help.
June 9, 2014- Ryan Dawe
Giumri: the fourth destination for our outreach here in Armenia. The road leading us there was well traveled and worn, as if foreshadowing the state of some of the buildings whose rubble stands as a witness of the destruction that the earthquake of 1988 left in its wake. Our bus driver was confused of the whereabouts of the polyclinic we would be serving. This led to an extra tour down some of the side streets where we could see some of the humble circumstances in which many of the inhabitants of the city live. Arriving 30 minutes late to our destination, those in my bus hurried in to set up their portions of the program. Tina, Ryan Matthews, and myself quickly rearranged the nurses break room in to our own personal assessment chamber where we would be making our best effort to educate the population on blood glucose levels and the risk factors associated with their elevation. Though the town landscape was weathered and seemingly standing-offish, the people in the clinic were the exact opposite. There was nothing but smiles and gratitude for our presence there. The people that we were able to serve were receptive to whatever information we had to give them. As a team we are really starting to hit our stride. The presenters are spot on with their preparations and delivery, the surveys are being completed according to the goals set, and the outreach tables are helping the population to understand the information presented to them. The interpreters have become an extension of the work that we have set out to accomplish, and many friendships have developed through our interactions. It is evident according to the many thanks that we were receiving that our efforts in Giumri were worthwhile. I look forward to hearing about the further success of Armenia Global Health groups in the region. With only one outreach left our Armenian adventure is rapidly coming to a close.
June 5, 2014- Blake Burton
What a good day. I found meeting at the medical school to be very helpful. We went into a good amount of time talking about consenting the surveys. I thought that was some good advice as it will help solidify how important the information is when we are speaking with the people at each of the health clinics. Talking about things it makes me think where this program will be in 5 or 10 years. Will there be more people involved and what other health programs will be implemented? It is really neat to think that our group helped move it forward.The activities today were sweet as well. I was really impressed with being so close to Mt. Ararat. The dungeon hole was also a very unique experience. The event of the evening was the ballet at the Opera House. I was skeptical going into it. I have never been to a ballet and I never thought I’d enjoy one. I was really impressed. The dancing was fantastic, the music was riveting and the skills required by the performers were astounding. I really enjoyed the different types of dances thrown into the mix. The outfits were bright and colorful and I could sense the rich tradition and sense of pride the performers conveyed to the audience. It has been so neat to have a little insight and peek at the culture and traditions.
June 5, 2014- Alec Daghlian
What a day! Today after our small classroom session we had the great privilege of visiting the Armenian Genocide Memorial. I thought I knew most of the history behind the genocide, but was surprised when I learned even more. The memorial site was unbelievable. The fire burning in the middle was bittersweet tome. The fire to me reminded me of the sacrifice, pain, and suffering my grandparents along with millions of Armenians had to go through to protect their belief. The journey of the Armenian people has always been shadowed by heartache and struggle for centuries. The genocide was the most recent showing of fighting for your beliefs, even when it costs the ultimate price. The fire also reminded me of the everlasting burn within the Armenian people to overcome any challenge or obstacle that may be put in our way. People will always try to smother the brightest flame,but no one will ever be able to put it out. The trees of support from different countries and foundations reinforced the support I thought Armenians to have throughout the world.Once we left the memorial site, our next stop was the monastery of St.Gregory the Illuminator. I was able to go down about 25 feet into the small pit,where stories tell of the imprisonment of St. Gregory. This was truly an amazing experience. I was finally able to see Mt Ararat up close. I had always seen the mountain in pictures growing up, but finally got to experience it in real life. I took many pictures so hopefully I can re-live this moment many times over again
June 4, 2014- Kyle Simonsen
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.
June 4, 2014- Amanda Woods
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.”
June 4, 2014- Diane Chapman
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.
June 3, 2014- Eric Leishman
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.
June 2, 2014- Eric Leishman
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 organic-ly 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 wordwork, 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[…]
June 2, 2014- Tina Haroutunian
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!
June 2, 2014- Blake Burton
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.
June 1, 2014- Ling-Kuan Hsu
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 the “Russia Department Store”. 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.
June 1, 2014- Valerie Tran
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.
May 31, 2014- Alec Daghlian
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.
May 31, 2014- Diane Chapman
Today I woke up just before the sun was cresting over the eastern ridge, grabbed my yoga mat, and went for a jog down to the Cascades […] Although we have been walking a great deal while here in Armenia, I am used to more formal types of physical activity. It was so quiet and serene as we made our way through the city, and it was nice to see Yerevan in the early morning hours. We reached the Cascades just after sunrise and ran the stairs. Upon reaching the highest tier, I placed my yoga mat on the ground and welcomed the rising sun with sun salutations. We spent time stretching, greeting well-kempt Armenian dogs out for their morning walks, and snapping a few photos.
May 30, 2014- Eric Leishman
Today was a good day of work as we had our final prep session. I felt like a member of a team in a locker room before we run on the field for the big game. I think we are ready and I’m proud of my teammates for their preparation and hard work. We left the medical university and quickly headed to our excursion to Sevan to enjoy the lake and surrounding scenery.
Upon arrival, we got old-school for a minute and skipped rocks on the lake. When we had tossed half of the beach back into the lake, we embarked on our journey to the Sevanavank. I had an epiphany as I climbed to the monastery – Armenia should have the subtitle: land of stairs. By the end of this trip we are all going to have the calves of minor-league soccer athletes. I felt at peace with the sun sinking deep into my skin as the wind softly tickled the wildflowers and tall grass.
We soon found ourselves dining on fresh greens, traditional breads, and fresh fish (complete with their heads), washed down by Georgian pear soda, as we gazed across the beautiful lake. Some of us even risked trying the cheese BEFORE we found out it wasn’t super salty. The experience was elegant, yet simple.
While traveling back to Yerevan, we found our bus pulling over. My first thought was an image of being broken down on the side of an Armenia highway and how I wouldn’t even mind that with the awesome group we have. To my surprise, we were encouraged to collect rocks. I couldn’t quite understand why everyone was grabbing huge chunks of obsidian until I was informed there was a man who could carve the obsidian into essentially anything. It seems in Armenia, there is always, “a guy” who can do pretty much anything you can think of. Why do you need souvenir shops when you can just pull over and pick up rocks. Armenia, you rock my world. Pun intended.
Upon our arrival home we decided to check out a place that made ice cream spaghetti. Ice cream cubes, ice cream spaghetti… what’s next? Ice cream stairs? That makes sense. Or may there is “a guy” who can carve something out of ice cream. I’d pay at least 1000 dram for that. I mean, that’s only like $2.50, right? Man, everything here is so cheap. Wait, does that include tip? Can someone break my 10,000?
May 29, 2014- Eric Leishman
The double windows were closed tightly to encapsulate us and reinforce our close separateness from the humming city just on the other side. Something in the aging walls whispers in accented English, “You are a visitor here”. Just when I felt my body beginning to fuse with the chair upon which I had planted myself, it was time to give the presentation that had plagued my dreams, aggravated my sweat glands, and nearly broken my resolve. The time is now. I arose with a heightened self-awareness as I clocked in for my shift to hold the world on my shoulders and bid Atlas a good night’s rest. Anoush joined me at the front of the classroom and we promptly began our short seminar with a frenzied crash-course in interpretation. At some points it seemed as though the language barrier forced me into a mechanically measured tone, however, it also allowed for flexible interpretation and helped me to trust my interpreter to provide the cultural mortar to the the bricks of knowledge I was offering. Our language difference is both our weakness and our strength. We concluded and I drew in the air that proceeds the sweet and rewarding sigh of a completed task.
Later in the evening, decompressing from the sheer force of performance pressure, some classmates gathered around tables drawn together by joint effort into a beautiful representation of how we have come together in this last week – as if it had always been that way. We feasted upon light-hearted conversation and “family-style” Indian food. We have become a family with a history and a future. I couldn’t help but crack a smile thinking about the ironic beauty of a group of Americans eating Indian food in an Armenian basement. I also couldn’t help but smile as I scanned the group and thought about how proud I am to belong to such a group of truly unique and talented individuals. I was honored to dine with them.
Following our physical refueling, we ventured to The Cascades. As I gazed upon the beauty of this grand staircase, my mind was drawn to another great staircase constructed in biblical times when languages were confounded and peoples divided. I felt the frustration of a confounded tongue. The Cascades are Armenia – a magnificent and rich heritage, lacking the final steps that will complete the masterpiece. The materials and tools lay atop, abandoned and weather-worn. They plead for completion so that they may draw all Hyastan above its sorrow and nostalgic burden to a future full of absolution and promise.
Our return trip would see a comical ending as all 6 feet 5 inches of Blake was jammed into the front seat of an aging taxi that nearly matched its driver in personality and mileage. The taxi driver struck up a conversation with Blake, who clearly had no idea what he was saying, but shook his head in agreement and continued to say “yeah” after all of the older man’s statements as if speaking to a child who was uttering jibberish. At some point the main ascertained Blake’s lack of comprehension and investigated if he spoke Russian, French, Turkish, or Greek only to find that Blake claimed none. The main proclaimed his “Greesy” or Greek heritage. Blake concluded the interchange with, “I don’t get out much,” and a characteristic charming and innocent chuckle that only Blake can manage. Those of us packed in the back seat nearly died of laughter muffled by the bags ridding on our laps
May 29, 2014- Ryan Dawe
Beep, beep, beep….. the alarm clock signaled that it was time to embrace a new day on this Armenian adventure. Bleary eyed I hit the snooze and tried to sneak a few more minutes of sleep before rolling out of bed. Normally I am up well before the alarm sounds but I took advantage of a late night video chat party with my wife and kids. I can’t believe how rapidly the time is passing here. We have already exhausted a week of our time here! After arising and getting ready for the day I enjoyed a couple of pieces of french toast that Ashleigh was kind enough to make for our house, then it was quickly out the door and down to the Yerevan Medical School to resume our preparations for the outreach presentations. The presentations really look great!. Everyone has spent a lot of time polishing their delivery and working with the interpreters so that we can have the type of impact necessary to help advance Armenian healthcare. We watched and critiqued the presenters on their content and execution. Man of us were also working on additional assignments that Dr. Wright had delegated to us. After 6 to 7 hours of run throughs we finally called it a day. With a group as large as ours there are often two separate directions taken. Half of us typically head back to the houses to get changed into more casual clothes, while the other half will head straight to a restaurant to grab some food. I departed with the group heading to the restaurant. It really has been nice getting to know the other members of the group better. I feel that everyone gets along very well. There is never any harsh judgments or unkind words exchanged, and we all seem to associate with multiple members of the group, effectively floating from conversation to conversation without any bias. Telyn and Kyle have been great interpreting for us whenever we have had any questions, and Alec and Tina have also been great in helping the group to get along in foreign circumstances. After we had the opportunity to share dinner at the restaurant we decided to hike the cascades. What a beautiful sight that was. It was fascinating to see how varied each of the sculptures were and to behold the beauty of the cascades from the bottom. The view form the bottom, however, could not hold a candle to the view from the top!! It was absolutely breathtaking! You could see most of Yerevan from where we were able to stand and (according to the tour guide at Zvartnots) Aragat (the sister) must have let her guard down because we could see Mt. Ararat perfectly! We all took the opportunity to get a picture of ourselves looking out over Yerevan with Mt. Ararat in the background. Our evening did not end here though. We decided to walk a little bit further so that we could see the statue of mother Armenia up close. It was well worth the walk! While we were walking Telyn filled us in on the circumstances surrounding the construction of her statue and the destruction of Lenin’s statue there. After another few photos we explored a little bit further and found a free carnival. There were many unique sights at the carnival, like a full size angry birds carnival game, a giant Angelina Jolie mural, and a shooting range with Osama Bin Laden as the main target. After a ride on the ferris wheel for a few of our group and a delicious ice cream treat, we decided it was time to head back to our homes. We hailed a couple of taxis since we had walked so far. Simon, Eric, Blake, and myself shared a cab. Of course we let Blake sit in the front seat since he is so much taller than the three of us. It was a great ride home. The driver of the cab kept asking Blake if he spoke any languages, while speaking in wither Greek or Armenian, and Blake kept saying “uh-huh” or “yeah” while the driver kept talking. This led the driver to ask more and more questions of Blake, who had no idea what the driver was saying, but still he was answering in the affirmative. I wish I could have reached my phone so that I could have recorded the exchange. It was really funny! We really do have an excellent group of people here in Armenia. I believe that through our efforts we will be able to make a difference!
May 29, 2014- Simon Lee
Today’s experience started off like a typical day, working with our Armenian interpreters and going through our presentations, etc. Then as the day rounded after 17:30, we were excused and allowed to walk around. Many of us went to get Indian food, where I met a nice Japanese lady that either owned or cooked for the place. We chatted for a little bit and she shared with me some wines that were made in different villages in Armenia and also shared a sample of her coffee liquor that she had personal concocted. As we talked about alcohol and eventually asked what had brought me to Yerevan and I told her of what we were there for. She sounded very excited about sharing with me some of her thoughts. She started to share with me about the typical Armenian diet and how much salt the people like to consume. She talked about the cheeses, the water, the meats, near everything contained an exorbitant about of salt. The Japanese lady talked about the mass amounts of carbohydrates in a typical Armenian diet, due to all the breads consumed. She also mentioned that because of the harsh winters and the lack of money, which forces Armenians to pickle many vegetables during the wintertime. Because of the cold and snow and the lack of money, this also contributes to the increased intake of high-salt meals. But what I found most interesting, is that she talked about how many of the poor people of Armenia are not able to eat meat regularly, and those that do, may do so once or twice a week. However, she also mentioned that the people here are poor, yet they wear the latest fashion, dress very well, males and females, and drive nice cars. It was interesting to hear the echoes of Dr. Wright, about Armenians and their priorities in life. Just as we had learned in class, this is often the case. They are showy, yet they may live from day to day, whether not they eat is a different matter…
What I hope to get the most out of us coming here is that we can continue to plant the seed of healthy living and to get the Armenian people thinking more about their health. This is definitely an uphill climb, but with all these efforts and students who want to make a change, things are at least progressing towards a healthier and more sustainable future for the Armenian people.
May 29, 2014- Diane Chapman
Here in Armenia, days like today serve as a nice contrast to all the fun and excitement that was had yesterday. The majority of the day was spent within the walls of the Yerevan State Medical University, and we were hard at work. It was very valuable to have the opportunity to practice running through the presentation with the interpreter. I am going to practice the presentation several more times throughout the rest of the week and weekend, and solidify and memorize exactly what I plan to say on each slide. I feel that I will be ready to go when we have our first outreach next week. Although today was a lot of work, I feel that it provides a nice juxtaposition to days like yesterday. The work is engaging and worthwhile, and it also makes the fun days seem that much more worthy and enjoyable.
After the work day ended, I went to dinner with a number of the group members, and then we went on a mini excursion to the Cascades, up the stairs, and over to the Mother Armenia statue. It was really just a pleasant evening with a beautiful sunset, and provided an opportunity to take in the full expanse of Yerevan and (mostly cloud covered) Mount Ararat. I am thoroughly enjoying every moment here in Yerevan.
May 28, 2014- Simon Lee
Today was an amazing day of learning and experiencing. Going to the museums was just absolutely beautiful and to study and learn about old Biblical history and to see actual artifacts and ruins was so surreal. It still amazes me how i had the opportunity to literally walk up to these actual items and be in their presence. We’ve always learned and heard about these things, but to see them in actuality is very surreal.
Another thing that my house and I had the opportunity to experience was the concert and festival. It was just amazing to see the people, their culture and to just see them celebrating. People were so sincere and honest. One thing that really struck me was during the concert, a performer showed images of the Armenians who went into battle. Then it triggered thoughts and images about the genocide. It got me really thinking about how it’s so crazy that people could hate another people so much that they could kill them on the basis of their residence. I mean, from my understanding, the thing that divides the people of Armenia and surrounding countries is nothing but culture. It’s just absolutely crazy that, nearly 100 years later, this hate is still going on. But, seeing the amazing personalities. the friendliness and the happiness that I saw in the Republic Square, Armenia has come a long way and is working towards an even better future. And I’m fortunate enough to opportunity to have experienced even a little bit of this.
May 28, 2014- Ryan Matthews
Today was really cool. I really enjoyed learning more about some historic sites of Armenia. The first place we visited was the Cathedral of St. Hripsime. It was a cool little church that was impressive in looking at how it was built so long ago. The Cathedral of Echmiadzin really made me realize how close we are to Israel and Jerusalem. It is pretty crazy to think that the spear that was in that cathedral is possibly the spear that was put into Christ’s side when he was on the cross. The history of religion in Armenia is very intriguing. Zvartnots was a lot of fun as well. It was different in that it was in ruins. Eating berries, jumping off a wall semi-simultaneously, and being in a quick rainstorm all added to the experience. It was a really fun day on this day that is celebrated as independence day here in Armenia.
May 28, 2014- Diane Chapman
I am sitting on the beige leather couch of my temporary Armenian apartment, my stomach is full of shawarma, and I am content. There is a light breeze blowing outside, and the comfort of this place is welcome after a long but wonderful day seeing the historic religious sites around Yerevan today. From the church of Hripsime, to the Echmiadzin Cathedral, to Zvartnots, today was rich with history, religion, beauty, and good friends. I absolutely think that visiting these important cultural and religious sites of Armenia is valuable for me personally, but also is very essential to the global health work that we are doing here in this country. Experiences like these help me gain greater insight into the beliefs and lives of the people of this country, the people to whom we will be targeting our outreach programs in the coming weeks.
Today is Armenia’s independence day, and I am looking forward to completing this reflection and then heading downtown to take part in the festivities. What a great opportunity to be here on this important day for the Armenian people! I am looking forward to discovering what tonight might hold.
May 27, 2014- Alec Daghlian
Today was the best experience I have had so far in Armenia. We started off the day strong in the classroom finishing up our presentation and clearing up the interpretations with the translator.I enjoyed the presentations on nutrition, epidemiology, and demographic relating to Armenia. Once we were done today, we went downtown to the square area and found a nice Italian style café to have lunch at. I had the pleasure of translating for everyone and asking different questions from the menu to our server. Although some parts were tough, I did better then I thought and ordered correctly for everyone. Once we arrived at the museum, I immediately became obsessed with the rich, sad, and strong history and culture of the Armenian people. The first room I walked into, which was one of the most significant ones, was the displaced families and villages of Armenia from 1915. This room really brought out deep my roots. Looking at the before and after population of each village around 1915, brought attention to how bad the genocide affected the overall population of Armenia and the people. Walking through the museum brought the pictures to the stories I heard growing up, of rich Armenian tradition, which was never lost. I loved gathering a historical view of my family’s history and the sacrifices they made to survive throughout the many years. Today was a very memorable day for me, which allowed me to get in touch with my history for the first time in my life. Very thankful to my elders and grandparents for being able to make the necessary moves to keep the legacy going for another several generations.
May 26, 2014- Eric Leishman
In life there are many important questions that pave the road to discovering the type of person that you are, and who it is that you may become. Some of those questions are related to your intake, such as:
Do you like mineral water or pear-flavored fizzy Georgian beverages? Is adulterating your favorite food (pizza) with Ketchup acceptable when you are only hours away from feasting on meat wrapped in assorted styles of leaves? Can I absorb enough of the language and customs so that I don’t feel like a toddler in an adult man’s body? Will I absorb too much of the local food and feel like an adult man trapped in a toddler’s chubby body?
Other questions are related to your output, such as: Am I giving my fair share in support of food and items to the household? Am I portraying a favorable image of my nation and my personal beliefs, not only to the Armenians, but to my fellow classmates? Am I really offering the best of my talents and abilities, or am I simply doing what is asked of me, and explaining the margin between the two states of action as lack of opportunity?
Finally, some questions are considerably more complicated, less black and white, and more meaningful, such as:
Do you have to be the center of attention or can you be satisfied making others feel like they are they important? When I leave Armenia, will I have contributed something lasting to the people I see on the streets, or will I amount to little more than a extended-stay tourist? What is the real meaning of the pomegranate?
Today, I took constructed a few feet of my pathway with inspiration from the ornate Armenia walkways. I also took a few steps along that pathway to discover what lies ahead and how I can reach that point. Some of those questions are still unanswered. However, I can honestly say that I laughed more today than I have in a long time, made new friends, tried new foods, gained perspective, and challenged myself to do better tomorrow than I did today. Though I still can’t see where that path ends or the person I will be when I arrive there, today, I simply do not want it to end, or at least hope that I can find a way to make it continue in my heart when I leave this special place.
May 25, 2014- Ling-Kuan Hsu
The most important reasons that I initially decided to join the Global Health in Armenia program were an opportunity to build my personal capacity as a healthcare professional and unique cultural experiences in a country that I have never been to. Growing up in another country before coming to the U.S., I have always been interested in the differences in the culture, the health system, as well as public health issues between the two countries. The meaning of “building personal capacity” to me, therefore, not only includes essential professional and research skills as a pharmacy student, but also entails growing a skillset and being exposed to an experience that I can may one day use to provide a similar service for my home country, Taiwan. I believe that traveling and experiencing a foreign culture not only enrich one’s life in a beautiful way, but also provide inspirations and deeper understandings about oneself and one’s own values. I found this particular true when I arrived at this country and each challenges and surprises just gave me new revelations and understandings about my capability and limitations.
I have also been contemplating about the purpose of global health, the reason of traveling half way across the globe to another country and conduct services. In the end, I concluded that the essence of service is the same everywhere. Challenges in helping a non-English speaking diabetic patient in Navajo reservation may be surprisingly similar to that of a patient in rural Armenia. However, sometimes unexpected opportunities present themselves in the most interesting way, such as our Armenia Global Health program. Sometimes, it takes a change of setting, a dramatic “culture shock”, and that process of adaptation to create a humble mindset to accept and appreciate the cultural differences, no matter where people are from. In fact, I found it the most interesting to observe the culture and the interactions between the Armenian people on the street and in the markets; the obvious and subtle differences and similarities from cultures that I am familiar with, both American and Taiwanese, were both entertaining and inspiring. In a way, it motivates me to discover more about and sympathize with the people of Armenia. In the end, I found that to be the most critical and core characteristic to be a healthcare professional: to have human sympathy and a humble attitude equally regardless of whom you are serving.
In conclusion, I find this program to be a unique opportunity to learn, to explore, and to serve in an amazing country with colorful history and people. With a mindset of making this an experience of a lifetime, I plan to work and play to the fullest in the next three weeks!