Sunday, June 30, 2013

June 30, 2013

This week has been pretty unexciting.  I have been unpacking boxes and going up and down stairs trying to find where to put things.  Sometimes it seems like I make a bigger mess when I am trying to organize things and get them put away.

Wednesday it was time to venture out of the house to go into the city.  Going up and down the stairs was making my cough worse and I needed a break from unpacking.  I also needed a SIM card for my phone.  I don't like the thought of going out without a phone, but I needed to get out to get a SIM for my phone.

Now this wasn't my first attempt.  We had gone out for a SIM card earlier.  We went to the Orange Mobile store and one of the two employees spoke good English.  Unfortunately, their computers were down in that shop so they couldn't sell me a SIM card.  There was another location down the street.  It turned out being further down the street then we anticipated, but we made it.  I told the employee at the reception desk that I needed a SIM card for an iPhone 4s.  The employee who does that was busy with another customer so I was told it would be a few minutes.  We waited and then I got to go back to the computer.  Pretty special.  I gave her my passport and she asked what kind of phone I had.  Oops.  They didn't have that size SIM card.  They would, however, be happy to sell me one that I could have cut down.  Uh, no.  I realize it isn't a complicated procedure, but I would like to purchase a card I could stick in my phone and try out.

So, this was the second attempt out for a SIM card.  We took a taxi to the Orange Armenia flagship store and were greeted by about 8 employees, none of whom spoke much English.  Why they put English speakers in small stores and not the main one, I don't know.  Now I realize that I don't speak Armenian and this is their country, but I would think that pointing to an empty SIM card slot in a store that sells SIM cards should be pretty self-explanatory to the employees.  Anyway, a woman copies my passport and enters in heaven knows what into the computer.  She didn't require my firstborn child, but perhaps that is because he was right there and she decided she didn't want him or his equally impatient brother.  I get a paper to take to the cashier (a whole five feet away) and pay the 1000 drams (less than $2.50 USD).  I walk back over to the woman with the receipt, which she doesn't even look at, and get my SIM card and I stick it in my phone.  Success!  She then says "20 drams" and I have no idea what she means.  Do I have to go back yet again and pay 20 drams for something?  She mimes talking on a phone and says 20 drams and then tells me the phone costs 20 drams.  She says something to the sales person next to her and that person says 20 drams.  Yeah, I got that.  I query with "simple" which is the name of the plan where it costs 20 drams a minute to call phones, 20 drams per text, etc.  Evidently that was it. 

I promised the boys a treat if they were decent human beings while we were in the store.  We walked across the street and they got some gelato.  Cotton candy and some other treats are sold there too, so we might want to go back.  Good location for things downtown and a good bribe.  There is a small supermarket across the other street from the Orange store, so we went in and looked for canned pineapple that I needed for a future dinner.  It's a small store, but amazing how much they can pack into it.  Of course I couldn't find the pineapple.  Luckily, with the help of my handy dandy google translate app, I was able to have someone help me find it.

We were right at a major intersection, so it was easy to find a taxi to take us home.  We flagged down a licensed cab and I once again used google translate to tell the driver where I wanted to go.  I was pleasantly surprised that he spoke some English.  As we drove through the crowded streets, he pointed out some things including the church where he was married and his baby was baptized.  Whenever we stopped at a light or other minor traffic incident, our driver would turn off the car.  He indicated that he was saving gas.  What he actually said was "benzene small" and pointed to the gas gauge.  I wondered how much he was saving or if the restarting possibly used more than just leaving it running for a bit.  It wasn't like we were sitting for several minutes at a time or anything.

He misunderstood and drove into the driveway of the house next door.  That house appears to be mostly vacant and being used to film movies/TV/something on occasion.  Good enough.  Even though he was a licensed cab he didn't have a meter.  I gave him 1400 dram which should have been enough.  He told me that our neighborhood is out of the city, blah, blah, blah and that I owed him another 1000 drams.  I argued with him  and he gave me the sad story of how expensive it is to fill the tank.  I told him that I had a problem because I didn't understand why he was trying to charge me so much and that I was going to have to call someone to help me sort it out.  He decided that I didn't really owe him the extra 1000 drams.  We got out of the cab and I gave him a dirty look.  I haven't had to argue with a cab driver since China.

Justin then asked me where we were.  Clueless child.  Hello?  See our house right there?  Guess not.  He'll figure it out eventually.

Thursday and Friday were pretty routine around the house.  Unpacking, playing with the boys, and trying to walk around the neighborhood a bit.  Justin was able to remember the way to his school and it took us 5:28 seconds to walk there the long way at a fairly leisurely pace.  Winter may be a different story.
Friday was exciting because Rob brought home our car!  That will make things a bit easier.  Of course I have no idea where we live in relationship to things, so it will take awhile for me.  Should make things easier for him getting to and from work on his own schedule.

We also got our meat and produce order on Friday. Produce is interesting here.  I ordered some celery because Ryan really likes it.  It tastes like celery and, unlike Namibia, has the right texture.  It just has the diameter of a pencil.

Saturday I woke up and went downstairs to find the boys playing wii (what a surprise) and Rob busy baking our weekly bread.  They have a lot of interesting bread here, much of it is pretty good.  They do not, however, have bread that can be used to make acceptable peanut butter and honey sandwiches.  That is a major staple for the boys, so Rob makes us bread and he does a great job.  He also surprised us with some yummy cinnamon bread. Saturday was also a day to work on the computer room, getting the boys' bikes rideable, and just spending some time together.  The boys miss Daddy during the week.  He comes home around 6:30, we eat dinner, and then it is time for the bedtime routine.  Saturday is catch up with Daddy day.

Sunday we went to church.  We made it there and back without any wrong turns.  I don't think I could find it again to save my life.  Guess it will take time.  The roads are pretty crazy and going straight doesn't mean that you are staying on the same road.  In fact, going straight can mean that you are driving head on into traffic.  The marshrutni, or mini buses, are crazy!  Picture vans that hold about 12 seated passengers (and some standing) dropping people off here and there.  Guess it is better to dodge them than to be smashed in one.

Sunday night we went to dinner at the Hansen's.  They live on our same street and we know them from church Rob's work.  We had a nice evening with them and their two boys.  Their oldest son is three and my kids enjoyed having a playmate. 

Next week is going to be a busy one with two outings for us.  Justin and Ryan will also be starting a summer camp program on Tuesdays and Thursdays as well.  I hope to be able to tackle the playroom and the library nook.  It is frustrating since some of our things are not yet here.  I want to do things like put the DVDs away, but I can't do that before the shelf for them comes.  I need to just do my best for now and fine tune things as I can.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Journey to Armenia


Sunday, June 16th we celebrated Father's Day by leaving the US and starting out journey to Armenia. I was happy that we did not have an early morning flight.  Never good to start a long trip already tired.  It took forever to check in for some reason, and even then they didn't give us all of our boarding passes.  We were given boarding passes for our first flight and a receipt that I was told would work as boarding passes for our second flight.  As the last leg of the trip was operated by Air France and not a code share flight, I was out of luck for the time being.  Fine.  We were allowed 6 suitcases and I checked four.  One suitcase was between half and one pound overweight so I had to throw something from it into another bag.  I thought about pulling out the packed suitcase within a suitcase and making them check 6 bags for me, but I didn't want to have to deal with any more luggage than necessary.    We made it through security without any problems thanks to my easy to remove shoes and the fact that we had no liquids, gels, laptops, etc.  It was hard to say good-bye to Grandma and Papa, but the boys were bouncing off the walls with excitement that we were going to see Daddy at last.

Our flight was delayed since the incoming flight was delayed.  The Spokane Airport is not a very exciting place to hang out, but we managed to wait without mishap even though I did not take out any of the things I had packed to entertain the boys.
Ready for the big trip!  Now we just need the plane to arrive so we can get on it.

As we approached Minneapolis, we were further delayed as we had to circle awhile.  Thunderstorms were making flying conditions a bit interesting.  Much grumbling was heard as a possible diversion to another airport was mentioned.  We were able to land in Minneapolis, but the bumps caused many gasps and squeals.  Ryan was delighted by the fun ride.  There was applause as we finally landed.

Once in Minneapolis we hurried so we could get our boarding passes for the Air France flight.  We were in a hurry to do that and catch our flight.  We waited in a huge line.  It seemed that our flight to Paris was delayed.  Good news: Easy to get our boarding passes (including the passes needed for the flight to Paris since they receipt was worthless).  Bad news: We were going to have less than an hour in Paris before our last flight.  Time to wait for boarding.
iPads at the airport make waiting a little less boring.  Ryan goes for the iPod though since it has his games on it.


I am happy to say that this was a rather uneventful flight.  I wish that Justin and Ryan had slept at the same time, but they were well behaved so I shouldn't complain.  Ryan slept for a great deal of the flight, but of course Justin didn't think that sleep was really very necessary.  They had been excited to see "Wreck It Ralph" on the plane and of course it had to be one of the selections that didn't play very well.  We had power at our seats so I let the boys use the ipod and tablet as much as they wanted on the flight without worrying that we would "need" them later and have them drained.

There were some movies that I wouldn't have minded watching, but Les Mis just doesn't work on a plane.  One of the others I would have liked seeing was not playing very well.  I decided to try to rest and went for TV sit-coms rather than anything that would require brain power.

As we neared Paris, we were informed that the airport was closed due to weather.  Justin pointed out that on the flight map we were moving away from Paris.  He kept misunderstanding the message (in French) to remain seated as we were having an emergency.  Kind of exciting for a child who dreams of a crash landing with the slides and/or the rafts.  Unfortunately, it just meant a bumpy ride.  Thankfully, we were able to land in Paris.  Five more minutes and it would have been off to some other airport.

We landed in Paris to find that our plane was already boarding.  We hurried down the moving sidewalks and up and down escalators and then rode the train.  We had to dump out water bottles and go through security and then on more moving sidewalks to our gate.  I pulled out our boarding passes (very grateful that we had been able to get them!) and we were among the last passengers on the plane.  A man offered to switch seats so we could all sit together.  We were tired and sweaty, but we made it.

Then came the announcement.  Yep, our flight was delayed.  Justin was a bit annoyed with me and asked why we had to hurry so much if we were only going to wait on the plane.  Would have been nice if we hadn't been dashing through the terminal like wild animals, but sure beats waiting for the next flight, especially since they only have four flights per week.


Another uneventful flight.  I thought I was going to puke when they served dinner.  Not only was my body telling me it was not time for dinner, but I am not a seafood fan to begin with.  Thank goodness for lots of crusty bread and butter.  The boys ate from my stash of snacks.  Plenty of battery life for watching shows for five hours.

We landed in Yerevan and got right up to immigration.  I swear it was just as slow as in Namibia.  We had our diplomatic passports and our visas, so how long does it really need to take?  Longer than my kids can stand still when they know Daddy is so close.

Our luggage was already going around the carousel when we got there.  The man who had switched seats on the plane said he was going to get us a cart and refused when I offered him money.  Not like the carts are expensive, but it was nice to have someone bring a cart over and help hoist up the suitcases.  He says that his wife often travels alone with their children and that people are always kind to her and he knows that it makes things a lot easier.  Customs is basically non-existent, so once we presented our luggage receipts we were able to go out and see Daddy waiting for us!


Almost 9:00 PM local time and I have no idea what times our bodies thought it was.  I sat up front with the driver and Rob sat in the back with the boys who talked to him the entire trip.  They had to take turns and they had so much to say.  It isn't the most scenic drive from the airport to our house.  It was getting dark and many of the buildings were dull and dreary looking with bright lights.  Lots of casinos and clubs that made it a bit depressing.  Kind of reminded me of a cross between a less populated Chinese city and an Eastern European city of the past.

Pulling up to our house was great.  Sure there were (or should I say are) boxes everywhere and things are a general mess, but the journey was over.  Unlike the boys, I was ready for sleep.  They slept very little that first night.  Rob spent a lot of the night up with them and estimates Justin slept for less than two hours.  I am just glad that they are old enough to be told to play with my phone or watch a show.


Rob had to go off to work.  The boys and I had plenty of food and definitely a lot of work before us.  It seems like every time I would go to put something away I would create a bigger mess.  I moved some furniture around and focused on the boys' rooms.  That seemed like the easiest in terms of furniture placement and unpacking.  The boys needed encouragement to stay awake throughout the day.  I spent a lot of time playing with them and taking little walks around the block.  Wouldn't you know, of all the nights, Rob had to work late.  The boys both fell asleep before he got home.  Poor Ryan fell asleep eating dinner.

An American neighbor on our street brought over some rice crispies treats.  Yum!  She brought over a lot and we enjoyed them.  It's nice to have a couple of other American families from Rob's work living nearby.
Lots of stuff to unpack and put away.



Wednesday was not as productive as Tuesday.  The boys had slept well, but I have an annoying cough that makes it hard for me to sleep even though I am tired.  The excitement of seeing their things again had worn off enough that the boys really struggled with staying awake.
I tried really hard to keep the boys awake, but they both managed to sneak away for a bit of a rest.

Sometimes the boys actually get along with each other.

Ryan hard at work at his desk.


Thursday was a lot like Wednesday.  My cough was super annoying and I feared that I would lose my voice.  Since our stuff has been in boxes for months, we have been washing the dishes before putting them away.  It means that it takes a lot of time to get much done and it sure doesn't look like any progress is being made.  Nothing is packed in a logical manner so much running up and down the stairs is required.  Guess what that does to my cough?
View from Ryan's room includes Mount Ararat.  The house on the background on the right makes me think of the model home on Arrested Development.  Maybe they manufactured homes in Armenia too.


Friday afternoon the CLO took me and the boys downtown to walk around and to go to the grocery store.  Downtown is interesting.  I am not sure what it reminds me of.  I think it is the kind of place I would enjoy wandering around on my own, much as I wandered around Shenyang, China.  It is not a place that is fun to explore with the boys.  Traffic is crazy, it is somewhat crowded, and of course they are bored.  I don't know how much time I will end up spending there.  Maybe once both boys are in school I will have time alone to do that.

The grocery store was interesting.  I don't know what I was expecting.  Not a huge supermarket like in the US, but I had known that.  The produce seemed really hit and miss.  The cherries were in season and around $1.25 US per kilo.  They are quite delicious too.  The pears, which were also quite good, were just over $1 US each.  Produce will vary according to season and when it is really out of season probably not an option at any price.  It will take awhile to discover what is and isn't available and how it is priced.  Milk is expensive, sour cream is cheap, yogurt about the same as the US.  Bread is cheap and good, but not suitable for peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Rob has become quite the bread maker for us though and we appreciate it.  Online grocery ordering is available from one store with only about $1.25 US for delivery charge.  It has an English website so that is very helpful.  It is hard to guess what some of the things in the store are.  At least this way you know what you are getting.
This is Republic Square.  Didn't have the chance to take pictures because I had to keep my eye on the boys.


Pretty laid back day.  The boys craved their time with Dad.  Having Rob home meant I could get furniture moved that I hadn't been able to move myself.  We talked about plans for some of the rooms.  We have done a lot, but I don't think it looks much better than the day I arrived!  Some stuff gets moved from room to room rather than actually put away.  It is kind of like a puzzle.  For example, when looking for our cordless phones we found the handsets and batteries in one location, the chargers in another, and the cords for the chargers in yet another location.  When digging out these items from various boxes it gets ugly quickly.

Even though Justin hates having to leave the house, we went for a little walk to his school.  We are super close so that is going to be nice.  We also walked to a nearby mini mart and had an ice cream cone.


Took a cab to church since we don't have our car registered yet nor do we have insurance or driver's licenses.  The boys thought it was pretty cool to ride in a taxi, at least for the first 5 seconds.  There were 16 total people (including our family) in our English speaking International congregation.  We meet the same time as Armenian congregation.  I am grateful that there are other people who speak English since I don't know any Armenian.

Our furniture has been inventoried so tomorrow it will be back to the ever exciting task of putting things away, or at least moving them from one place to another.