Letter from Armenia – No 8 Peter Gay

petergayNo8Au revoir until April

Readers may be relieved to know that this is the last letter in this series. We arrived back in Yerevan and met the Ministry to present our findings. There were 8 senior people including a Deputy Minister. These meetings are always tricky but we were well received and all went well. Then we had meetings with the Resident Representative (for which read UNICEF Country CEO) and her deputy who is in Italy so that one was by Skype. Between all these meetings we managed to get some serious work done on the Situation Analysis which for the UN is always the starting point. It’s a serious document and runs to nearly 40 pages. It was a joint effort between myself and my partner and today (Saturday) we will complete it and submit it in draft for comment when it will be examined by the UNICEF team.
I have to say that the UNICEF team is a very strong and nice team to work with and they are doing excellent work here. They are introducing case management and strengthening the Social Work function and I have their manual and it is excellent.
Last night I was invited to the Mezzo club to listen to some live music and drink some wine. We all had a great time, finally getting back to my apartment on the 13th floor at midnight. From my apartment I can see the main square and other view points take in the cathedral and Mother Armenia.
Its time to tell about Armenian wines, they are good. I have never seen them anywhere else but they are very nice. Last night we polished off a bottle of the Armenia brand red which was very tasty but I think the whites are better; they are crisp and flavoursome.
It seems strange that 2 weeks ago this was a country about which I knew nothing, now it’s a familiar and friendly place that I look on with affection.
When I come back the elections will be over and the expectation is that the existing President will be back with a new mandate. No real changes are expected. One thing that is surprising here is the ease with which it is possible to set up meetings at very senior level, this must reflect on the standing that UNICEF has in the country.
Happily for me I was invited to a farewell lunch today, those who have done international assignments will know how relationships are built up very quickly and firm friends are made. By the way if this doesn’t happen the project probably will not go well. So there was an easy conviviality about the warmth of friendship made in all the hours of working and travelling together and I am happy to know that I will be back after Easter for another week.
If you have worked internationally you will know that you face a steep learning curve, not just about the country, its policies, systems and procedures but so much professionally as well. But perhaps more important are the things you learn about yourself that you would never learn staying at home.
Armenia is such a beautiful country it’s a shame its so remote and so expensive to reach; if you get the chance – GO!
You can send your comments to Peter here – Peter Gay, Yerevan, February 2013

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