Thursday, February 28, 2008

Its really good to be home

Thanks Myrthe for the award!! If nothing else is gained I am going to go and read the other blogs now.

It is difficult to imagine what is happening in Armenia at the moment. I hear that there are protests, hunger strikes and it sounds like there is violence also. This is all happening in the rather bleak winter conditions - the protesters have got some committment hanging out in an Armenian winter.

Meanwhile, I am here in safe, warm sunny Nelson. Nelson, where electricity is a given, sewage gets dealt with efficiently and cleanly, drinking water is really drinkable and where I get mad at my nephew for dropping a plastic wrapper on the ground. Where you notice the cigarette butt dropped on the beach, because there is so little rubbish lying around. Kids playgrounds are safe and secure, coffee comes with milk, there 5 brands of baked beans at the numerous supermarkets.

Yesterday i had an almost perfect day, paragliding in utopia (Takaka) then the evening spent camping on the edge of one of the three national parks within an hour or so's drive of Nelson (Abel Tasman National Park). The paragliding was awesome, I had never flown Takaka Hill before, and it was everything everyone had said it was. The views are spectacular when you get above the hill, looking over Nelson, Takaka, Collingwood, Kahurangi National Park and you are flying over native bush.

In the afternoon my twin bro, his little boy and I played at the beach, walked to the resurgence of the Riwaka river (it is a karst landscape - lots of marble and dissappearing rivers) and fed eels at our old house, which is now a cafe. Cody is now 6, articulate, stubborn and adorable.

I am posting pics of my rather cute nephew, and my not-so-cute brother (who i am pleased to say has finally succumbed to the shaving cream-but not before me taking all these pics!). He still has a fishy haircut, Cody (my nephew) thinks it is cool, and all i can say to that is that bad taste must run in the male genes of our family. The thing is that he is pretty ok looking when he scrubs up... Still, it could be worse - right?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Home sweet home

I walked into Kris' office today and she was shocked to see me. It was a bit cruel perhaps as she had no idea i was coming back to NZ and she had been reading my blog that morning with stories of ball's and lunches with ministers. I forgot to mention that i was heading home. So, here is a general warning to anyone else - i am back in NZ for 10 days. It is a quick trip, i was in Wanganui at a wedding on Saturday and now i am in Nelson. I have had a pretty low key couple of days, today i managed visits to the doctor, optician, chiropractor and finances man - pretty exciting eh??
I will get together a few pics soon, but right now i am going to hit the sack. It is tiring running around in the sun all day! Oh, the sun!! It is bliss to be home! Tomorrow is a big paragliding adventure and some camping with my nephew, so some sleep is going to be useful!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The V ball - a sucess afterall

The ball went off without too many problems. We got the mix of Armenian and western pretty right. Things didn’t go quite as we planned, the flutist didn’t play at the start of the night (as we had asked him too), then decided to do his piece near the end when people were keen to dance – not listen to lovely haunting solo’s. The band kept stopping, and starting, but they did play some good variety of Armenian, latin and rock'n'roll music!

The champagne was there- but there was no one to pour it… so I think I poured 10 bottles of champagne in the first 30 minutes. People danced, others watched, the food went well, there was enough alcohol… it was all rather fun. Everyone had more fun than they thought they would (this isn’t necessarily saying much!) and they are already talking about the next one (this is slightly more telling!).

It isn't quite the same in still pics, but people were dancing and having a great time!
This is the only picture i have of me... i am sure there were hundreds taken of me on the night, i have already been shown a few of them. Everyone was rather shocked to see me wearing a lovely dress and heels!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

D-Day, well, actually V-Day

Thanks for the help guys! I am going to spend a bit of time tomorrow playing and get it all sorted.

I am about to sneak away from work early to go and prepare for our ball tonight. I am pretty well prepared, I waxed my legs last night (I had forgotten how painful it can be) and I have my dress organised…. The decorations are at the restaurant and the musicians are hired.

I am still adamant that I will not be organising something like this again. What a bloody nightmare! I think we have got 60 people coming, not too bad I suppose, but it took blood sweat and tears to sell those 60 tickets. It has been interesting seeing how everybody has responded… there are whole departments in the company coming, and whole departments not coming. The redeeming point of this whole affair is that one of our senior managers came to me with an envelope full of money (well, not full really) as he couldn’t make it he wanted to help us out. This means that I will not be funding the blasted musicians from my pocket. Bless him.

Hopefully everything is organised well, cos when I get there I will not be concerned about details, other than – my-glass-is-empty-where-is-the-refill kind of details. I might even manage some photos here afterwards, if there are any nice ones of me.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Help me out here!

Right, I need some help with this site - if you can help me I would be eternally grateful.

1. How do I get a photo on my profile? (I may just be blonde but I can’t see how to do it, help me out and I will drag a picture up from somewhere)

2. How do see how many people are actually reading my blog? This may well be a narcissistic question but I am just a little bit curious! Especially if I can see how people come to my site too - I remember reading on someone’s blog that they could see what search words lead to their blog in search engines.That would be pretty cool, i might even share it with everyone.

3. Is there any limit to photos or volume of photos uploaded onto the site?

That is all for today...

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Angst of an Organiser

I have been doing the hard sell today to sell some tickets to the Valentines Ball. I have decided it was a daft idea. Anyone who chooses to organise anything should be reminded of the stress, problems and possible failure of their chosen event. Right now there are about 6 people going. Ok, well, there are more like 25 but it still isn’t enough to pull it off. We are still negotiating with the musicians and have a set rate per person with the restaurant (which is more than the ticket price for the locals). I have sold at least half the 25 tickets telling people we will have live music and now I may have to pay the blasted musicians out of my own pocket because the chances of selling enough expat tickets to cover the costs is unlikely…

I have been cornering people in the hallway, walking the offices with a translator and generally trying to convince people to go. I feel like I am selling ice to Eskimos…

I am sure it will be fun on the night….But why did I agree to this?? (even worse is that I think I was one of the main instigators…) This is all on top of rather a heavy workload of work that MUST be finished… hence sitting at home after 10pm reviewing documents and writing blog entries!

Mental Note: Don’t organise stuff. Ever.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

An exciting day...

It has been quite an exciting day for this kiwi. I woke up to find the world transformed into a better (well, cleaner) place witha a few inches of snow cover. I dug the car out and got to work on time (this could almost be classed a miracle) and then we had a visit from the Environment Minister. He gave a talk to the staff in the snow, well, actually, he stood under the veranda and we all stood out while it snowed heavily. It was pretty much a vote-for-my-party-cos-we-are-the-best kind of speech, and then he looked at a laboratory. I wandered along with the caste of thousands. It was there that I was asked if I would like to attend lunch.

So, I had lunch with the Minister for Environment. There were some other officials as well, but in the end there were only 9 people. In true Armenian style we ate and stood to toast, ate a little more then stood to toast, eat, toast, eat, toast. The toasts were for the company, success and happiness, the minister, the mayor, the martzpetyran (government appointed head of region), to the women in the room (there were two of us), to cooperation, to success, to the new manager, more to the minister, the local environmental staff, the future of Armenia, to success in the elections… I hope you get the drift. I managed to minimise the vodka consumption to the point where I could return to work which was miraculous.

The best bit of the whole day was definitely the Minister presenting two bouquets of red roses to us girls. He didn’t know we were coming to lunch, so he must have sent one of his bodyguards or advisors out to buy them. So, although I didn’t get any photos I did have a lovely bouquet of red roses (7 – the Armenians believe odd numbers are good luck and even numbers are only for funerals).

Btw- check out my lovely mink fur cap, it is so warm i hardly even feel guilty about buying it... It came in handy standing around in the snow listening to election promises...

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Myth Busting #1

On another note, Charles de Gaule was NOT born in Armenia. Even more disturbing is that his father was a professor of philosophy, not a mine manager as so often told to me here.
How do I know this?

Well, I was driving around with some consultants and they told me that Charles de Gaulle was born and raised in Lori, a northern Armenian mining community, they had this on good authority from the locals up there. I was obviously shocked as I knew the truth, he was born in Suynik village, just a couple of hundred metres away.

So I began to think… and after some careful consideration of the issue, along with the knowledge that Armenians claim everything as their own, I turned to google.

De Gaulle was born in Lille, the third of five children of Henri de Gaulle, a professor of philosophy and literature at a Jesuit college, who eventually founded his own school.[1] He was raised in a family of devout Roman Catholics who were nationalist and traditionalist, but also quite progressive.

The result is that I now know he was born in Lille (the first stop of the Eurostar!) and his father was a philosopher. The only question left – what will I say next time someone tells me that Charles de Gaulle was born here???

Inaugural Valentines Ball

Another week has passed only 9 days to go before I am heading home to NZ on leave. I have been busy with work, we had consultants visiting last week, I cooked dinner for people and ate at my new dining room table, went to dancing lessons, did my usual Sunday morning routine of washing, cleaning up and cooking a yummy breakfast. Then went to work to catch up a little.

Exciting news - we are organising a ball – a Valentines Ball. To be held on the 16 Feb (as in Saturday). So far we have got a venue and managed to negotiate with the owner to get some food and alcohol at a reasonable price. The Armenian band can apparently play music other than Armenian big hand dancing music… although I have my doubts. We have started ballroom dancing lessons and even these have been Armenianised (do you think that could be made into a real word). We have been learning a waltz, but it isn’t like any waltz I have done before. There are arms in the air step together then apart things which I have never seen before, ‘graceful’ arm movements for the girls (I can do arm movements but they aren’t graceful!) …. The girls get to twirl though, and that is fun. I am helping to organise it and at the moment I am worried that no one will turn up…

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The bird, the people and the fruit

I am finally starting a new with a new address. I spent hours trying to figure out what to call this, and when I finally made a decision I found that my first 12 options were all unavailable. I am nothing if not unoriginal!

Still, I quite like this name. It came to me as I was driving last night to the X bar (this isn't quite as dodgy as it sounds) it is the expat club in Kapan. It is a western style bar opened by some entrepreneurial locals to attract to attract the expats to drink. Anyway I was driving on the rather icy roads and I had my first half decent skid - I went sideways around a round about. All was good, I corrected and at some point after this had my idea.

There is something funny about flying kiwi’s (after all the birds don’t fly). I like being a kiwi (New Zealander), however has anyone else noticed that we (New Zealanders) associate ourselves with a large, flightless bird which, if we are honest, is actually pretty stupid. I do have some evidence of this, as I am one of a very few people who has ever seen a kiwi in real life. I was walking the North West Circuit on Steward Island and we saw three kiwis over the 10 day walk. One of these happened to see us (after we had spotted it) and it promptly stuck his beak in a bush and stood really still. This is all very well, except the kiwi has a rather large behind (it really is just a big bum with a beak) and a large kiwi bum is not inconspicuous. The not-inconspicuous bird continued to stand with his head in the bush except for the occasional looks over his shoulder to see if we were still there. This standoff continued until we decided to leave the kiwi in peace. Now tell me that this behaviour isn’t rather stupid??

So, despite the dubious intelligence of our fat flightless birds we (New Zealanders) like to call ourselves after them. The only redeeming feature is that we don’t eat our national icon (like Australians do) although they have named a fruit the kiwi (this is in spite of the fact it comes from China).

Right, I do believe I have drivelled on enough to post my first new post.

Ciao for now, L