Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I'm a TV star

Yesterday i joined the Red Cross in Armenia while being filmed by a TV crew. It was almost reality TV. I just wasn't very glamorous (i might have looked out of place if i had been dressed only in a bikini or tried to sing my rendition of My Heart Will Go On by Celine Dion) but that didn't stop them taking some disturbingly close up pictures!

I went to the opening of a Red Cross programme our company is funding to help elderly with no family or support. There are several hundred of old people in Kapan with no family and no income. The superannuation amount you get depends on your job when you retired, apparently it is between $20 - $60 USD per month. This is not enough money to pay for utilities let alone food, medicine or clothing. After being part of the opening I joined the Red Cross and gave a donation as I felt really moved by the sad situation these elderly are in.

This lady is in charge of the programme, she was telling me how people are really, truly desperate. How some of the old people come in and are so happy to be given a pack of tea that costs less than $1. The agency gives out food parcels to the elderly, the food below is a normal week supply.

Each week they receive a small amount of sugar, rice, pasta, cooking oil, tea, soap and detergent. This is to feed the person for a week. No vegetables, no protein.

The day we were there one of the old people was having a birthday, so as something a little special the old woman was being given a packet of biscuits and a nightgown (see the bottom of the picture). It just cuts me up to see this.

The agency also provides medical services and some very basic medication if the old people need it. I left feeling very humbled and rather sad that these people have managed to work their whole life, and now they have nothing to show for it. It horrified me when i was told these people aren't the truly unfortunate as there is apparently a house in Kapan for the homeless, destitute elderly which houses about 28 people.

I sometimes get the feeling that many of the NGO's out there are really not helping, they are profiting from the huge amount of sponsorship and donor money in the world.... but this is one case that i see real need being met by sponsorship and the truly needy benefiting.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

From beast to beauty?

I have been the cause of some pretty amusing rumours in the company in the last week or so. Apparently i am chasing one of the expats. I haven't decided to be amused or offended... It is pretty funny really, as living here i dont need to chase (i am one of two expat women, and the only single one living amonst around 35 or even more expat men - the ratio is slightly in my favour!).

It all escalated when I went to a beauty salon last weekend with a friend and spent an enjoyable evening of pampering. I saw a woman from work in the salon. I thought nothing of meeting her, but the next day rumours were flying. Apparently I was only going to the salon cos I was chasing a soon-to-be-divorced expat (who just happens to be her boss). I didn’t realise I was such a hot topic… So, when I showed him my lovely hairless leg at work the next day he must have gone straight back to his office and told her. She took that display to confirm her worst fears – she has competition!!! Hilarious. (No offense to the guy involved, but she is welcome to him!).
The best bit of my weekend of pampering are my new nails.I bite my nails, and the beutician suggested I get some acrylic tips put on, they look natural and now i can't eat them!

I am enjoying my nails – I have never nice ones before. Perhaps i will even break my biting habit and have my own nails one day...
I am not sure if I would undergo the full two hours of strong paint stripper smell required to get them attached again in a hurry but you never know - It might improve my chances of hooking them into a nice rich expat man...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

A little about work

So i thought i would try to show some of where i live and work. i have talked plenty about this place but haven't shown any pics. I am sitting at my desk. One of the others has taken the photo (people here love photographing themselves - half of the pictures on the camera of of people rather than work!). I thought i would be the only person in Armenia wearing a bright coloured Earth, Sea, Sky (made in NZ) fleece, however i was wrong. The first day i wore this i had dinner with a couple of Ozzies living here and she just happened to be wearing the bright red version.

Here I am working with M she is working on her comp and we are discussing - if i can recall it was monitoring data. I reckon half my time is spent teaching, it is both highly rewarding and at times bloody frustrating!

We now have some pretty cool equipment, these are some of the meters we use on the laboratory bench. The guys are calibrating them before we take them outside.

When that is all done, we get outside to do the monitoring.

Then finally, we are back at athe start to get the data put into databases and interpreted....
If only the rivers weren't full of sewage, eh?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Impossible is Nothing

I am back, having arrived in Kapan a day late. I have signed onto a new roster, my old one was 6 weeks work and 2 weeks holiday and working 6 days per week. Now i am doing 6 weeks with 3 weeks and working 7 days per week. I will have to see how i manage without my usual Sunday morning sleep-in who knows when i will get my laundry done either! The three weeks hols make up for all the hardship though.
The workload is increasing and i think one of the main reasons is that we are becoming more competent as a group. This results in more work being passed our way and the end result of that is higher workload.... Hmmm... I believe some in my department would like to go back to the good old days of sitting around making elaborate cups of coffee and discussing how nothing ever happens. It feels like this when i try to push people through the general inertia that prevails.

Impossible is Nothing.

I was venting alittle this afternoon and discussing how things never get done and he mentioned this Nike quote above... II would like this to become the new motto of our team, i am SO sick of hearing how things are impossible. Or even worse, getting the instantaneous response that it is too difficult or that we can't do something because some other department is holding up the process. The funny thing is that when you force the issue then it is miraculously completed - so impossible or too difficult is really just a mindset.
There are times when impossible really does exist, like trying to transfer money from Armenia to New Zealand in NZD is not possible. However, after 40 minutes of heated debate we managed to get the problem sorted out in a different way.
Oh yeah, we had a meeting with the Mayor yesterday and he presented us two women with even bigger and better flowers than the Minister for Environment did - he was at the lunch when the minister gave us flowers and i just cant help feeling there was some testosterone involved - The reason: International Women's Day which has just past on the 8 March.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Heathrow - Its a fact

You can not get from Terminal 3 to Terminal 1 in under 45 min. I had an unexpected night in London because of this. I arrived in Terminal 3 with 45 min until my flight to Armenia took off. However by the time i got to the check in desk there was 10 min and the man wouldnt let me on. It must be the only time in the history of the London-Yerevan flight that it has been ontime.
Yesterday when i did get to the check-in desk on time we were delayed over an hour while they changed planes as there was a problem with our orginal one. I would have made that flight!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

What am I heading back to?

I am in Hong Kong now, and have finally had some time to check out the news from Armenia. It isn't looking particularly happy right now. The elections two weeks ago triggered deomonstrations which have got out of control and resulted in 8 deaths and a big number of injuries.
There are lots of media coverage up to 1 March but nothing afterwards. It is now difficult to get the real story from the media as there is a media blackout going on. What news there is is not great:

Things are calming down, or the media coverage is so controlled we dont know what is going on. The other story i am reading which is also of concern is that the has been a break in the ceasefire with Azabaijan. The Armenians are saying the Azeris are taking advantage of the political situation and the Azeris are saying that the Armenians are doing it deliberately to take the heat off the political situation. Either way this conflict is a long way from where i live (its ok Mum!)and it sounds like things in Kapan is still pretty relaxed.
The emails i have had from work indicate that that things are fine in Kapan, and we should just be careful when we stay in Yerevan. They have recommended we dont leave the hotel in Yerevan. This brings a rather serious consequence for me, that means that i wont be able to buy any red wine or other treats to bring with me to Kapan. This could be a very long 6 weeks!!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

More Photos

Its a bit difficult to upload lots of photos at the moment as i am using Megg's computer. I couldn't get mine to work on the internet here. The photo was taken at the Boatshed where we went for dinner when Jamie was here. It was a lovely evening, Cody used his knife and fork (I started training him in Wellington) and we all enjoyed the food. Tric had a crawlie (freshwater crayfish) as part of her dinner and Cody took the head home to take to school show and tell the next day.

Tric gave it to him and said it had to be thrown out after school. His grandmother tells me that she smelled it in his school bag after the weekend... I think he may regret not throwing it out on Thursday when his school bag smells bad for a while.