Letter from Armenia – No 7 Peter Gay


On Armenian Bread and how to make sustainable change

This morning we started out from Kapan. Its surrounded by high mountains and it has a special feature, there is the shape of a heart in the mountain. It took me a while to see it but with help from my Armenian friends, I got it, and once seen, its never forgotten. The shape of a heart in the mountain; fantastic.

Robert, our driver put on the radio for music but when the speech started it was in Farsi, the closest radio station was in Iran, 60kms away!

We headed back to Goris to learn about the social work assessments of families of children in the special school  there and this is where one realises that all that glitters is not gold! More work to be done!

At Goris we stopped at a bakery that produces Lavash, the Armenian special bread. It’s a flat bread but I saw how bread is prepared in small bun shapes and then worked into a thin sheet, even thinner that a pizza dough. Then it goes to the fire. They have an underground fire blazing away and they stick the uncooked bread onto the side of the furnace. It quickly rises and cooks and is then taken out. We bought it fresh from the fire and I can tell you it was delicious. It was just as well it was delicious because we had little chance to eat anything else in a very busy day. Also our driver, Robert bought some fresh bread and pastries to keep us going.

We visited the Special Needs school in Sisiain. If you ever wanted to see a case of doing the wrong things well, this was it. Genuine people trying their best to educate children with learning disability but with no guidance and working on their own. Most of the children had mild disabilities and could be accommodated in mainstream schools.

We then visited the Community based after school centre which was set up on the same lines as the one we saw in Kapan and which I described in the previous letter. This time I was underwhelmed. Poor leadership with no or limited vision coupled with limited networking abilities resulted in an under performing centre. What a shame as this centre is definitely needed.

Next we visited an integrated school.

What I have to get used to in this country is that its quite acceptable to call in and ask to see the Director and be accommodated, at home one wouldn’t get past the security door. We were greeted politely by the Director and it became clear that she was doing a good job with mild disabilities but was in no way prepared for moderate or severe disabilities.

More work to do again!

We set off to Yerevan and stopped off at the Areni winery. There it was possible to buy nice red wine in 3 litre plastic bottles but I bought 2 normal bottles. I could and probably should have bought pomegranate wine which was semi sweet but very nice.

As we approached Yerevan we passed Mount Ararat, 5165 metre above sea level, a majestic sight. Back to my apartment and I decided to eat in tonight with some very fine Russian smoked salmon.

Tomorrow we put it all together and report back!

You can send your comments to Peter here – Peter Gay, Yerevan, February 2013

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