Monday, September 28, 2009

Snow in September

Looking outside this morning seems to bode ill for what's possibly to come this winter. It's only the end of September, and already there's a snow storm blowing outside my apartment here in Vanadzor. Granted, it's clearly a very heavy and wet snow and it's not going to stick at all--especially considering that it rained for a while last night until it got cold enough for snow--but I fear what that means for what this winter's going to be like. The last group of volunteers had told us any number of horror stories about nasty winters here, but they didn't bear out in the mildness of this last winter. The current group has not had to experience the kind of winter we've heard tales about; but then, in conversations with Armenians it seems that particular winter was a bit of an aberration in terms of its extremity. I hope that this early cold snap and snow storm doesn't end up being bringing with it a terrible winter, but I suppose it's possible.

Actually, perhaps I wouldn't mind so much if it meant a lot of snow. One of the problems I had last year--and I why I was so terribly unhappy--was that I wasn't prepared for the depression that would set in with winter. Coming from Idaho I'm quite used to both long winters and extreme cold, and so thought I'd have no problems with any of that here. And it really wasn't either of those things in and of themselves that caused my depression--what I wasn't used to was the extreme inactivity that came along with winter here. I'm used to being very active during the winter. Winter brings with it several of my favorite things: snowboarding and winter camping/snowshoeing. Unfortunately, I could do neither of those things last winter outside of the one time I went up snowboarding at Tsaghadzor, and so I fell into a funk.

This winter, however, I'm hoping to avoid those things. One of the departing volunteers bequeathed on me his snowshoes, and I plan on making good use of them. While I likely won't do any winter camping (it's just not something I want to try here since I don't have some needed equipment) I do plan on doing plenty of snowshoeing on day trips. I've also heard tell that the Marine embassy guards here are willing to let PCVs borrow their snowboards so I'm going to try to get in on that. There are some mountains near me with potential to be really good boarding if the snow gets deep enough. I also plan on taking my kite and a board out on the high plains that get lots of snow near Mt. Aragats, assuming good wind conditions that is.

I'm actually looking forward to winter this year, under the assumption that I'll actually get myself out and about instead of being lazy (always a danger). I've got a comfortable and warm setup in my own apartment so the cold isn't too great a fear for me so long as pipes don't freeze; let's hope this early snow doesn't forebode that.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Late post is late

Really, third week of coming back to blogging and I'm already late? Shame on me; shame. So here's the post, 4 days late.

As you should all know by now, I've been working with an organization for the last 8 months called Peace Dialogue whose work focuses exactly one what it sounds like. In that time we've managed to do a couple of research projects that were quite interesting (check out our activities page to see them if you're interested). But the perpetual source of frustration for me is our inability to come up with funding for our major projects that go beyond mere research. One of the major problems we have is a funding trap in which we can't start projects until we get funding for them, but organizations won't fund us unless we have past evidence of successful projects--this regardless of the fact that my director previously worked on projects for the past many years in another organization before starting Peace Dialogue. I suppose this is the bane of any new NGO, so we're likely not unique in this, but it is incredibly irritating regardless. If any of you out there happen to know organizations funding conflict resolution or peace building work, please pipe up and let me know (or have some experience in starting an organization and finding funding). It doesn't help that most of the current funding in the Caucasus is going towards the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict, but I think that's actually the least of our problems right now.

More to the moment, we had another earthquake here the other day (I say another, but I didn't hear about the one that happened a couple months ago). Actually, the epicenter was in Georgia but we did feel it down here in Armenia. It was extremely light by the time it hit here, and I'm actually surprised that I even woke up and felt it. I think it's perhaps because I haven't been sleeping well, but I awoke to my bed lightly shaking and then realizing that it was the whole apartment that was lightly shaking; it was really nothing to get terribly worked up about, but the fact that I live in a Soviet-era apartment building (though a friend told me that they're at least designed to handle these minor quakes), that it was 4 or 5 in the morning and I had just woken up, and that a large earthquake in 1988 decimated the nearby town of Spitak as well as parts of Vanadzor and Gyumri (also resulting in the shutting down of the nuclear power plant) all combined to make me right paranoid until I fell back asleep.

Goal for the next post: do it on time (ie: by Monday morning). See you then.