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Quiet week before my life changes

I spent the week away from Vanadzor in a town called Tsachador at a weeklong Peace Corps training program. We learned new skills, practiced our language skills and then did group exercises, this week we explored coaching techniques. Apparently we have these a couple of times a year. It is good to get together with my fellow volunteers to share experiences and network. It also gives many of my fellow PCV’s a chance to sleep in a warm room and more importantly to take a hot shower in a modern bathroom. Unlike lucky me, many of them are in villages where heat and hot water may be a luxury. Many of them still take bucket baths in unheated bathrooms, yuch !!

I am really excited by the fact that on Sunday I will be moving into my new apartment. LIfe will change drastically for the better and it is going to be great. I will send pictures in next week’s email. I will also be sending out Chapter 2 of my Big Adventure Video Blog right after the first of the month and that will have some pictures of my new place.

And if you are in the area next Friday night, please do stop over for Shabbat dinner.

Shabbat Shalom

Steven

And a new phase begins

Change happens, and so another big change is taking place for me here in Armenia, on March 1 I will be moving into my own apartment. Between now and then I will be at a hotel doing Peace Corps training and other interesting things and then next Sunday I return to Vanadzor pack up my stuff and move, incredibly excited. I think that of all the adjustments I have had to make in this great adventure being 64 and having to live with another family has been the most difficult. Peace Corps policy to help us with cultural adjustment But next week this will change and best of all I can start inviting friends over for Shabbat dinner…

Another big thing is happening. I have been helping out a local band that got invited to South by Southwest the big music festival in Austin Texas. They will be the first band from Armenia to play there!! They needed some help with the english for an online fundraising campaign. Well, the campaign is working but the Ministry of Culture for the Republic of Armenia has decided to help them and will pay for their airline tickets. And if that is not cool enough, during our discussions on the campaign I mentioned a poem I had written about Armenia, which they have since turned into a song and will be playing in Austin…very good fun..

So all in all another great week and with the change in living conditions, I will be able to report on my celebration of Shabbat in Armenia, with a roasted chicken some potatoes, no challah yet, but I have a recipe, kiddish, candle lighting.. and maybe even a little Torah study….

Shabbat Shalom

Be safe

Steven

Another great week

My luck and good fortune continues as a younger PCV is also looking for an apartment so she is scouting ones for me at the same time, then she brings me pictures. I will be moving out of my present living situation on March 1, and will have room for some of you when you come to visit..My English language class is doing fine, more people are coming and I have now decided to teach two afternoons a week. I must say being a teacher does present an interesting position of what authority, leadership I am not sure what to call it but it is certainly a new and interesting thing for me to do. The students seem to like it as they are bringing their friends and the class is growing, I am up to 20 people. I am making it easy on them though, no grammar, no A B C ‘s just learning the 500 most common words in English, 20 at a time and learning to use them in conversation.

My work with the other NGO’s is going slowly and it seems like I may need to reach out to all of you for some help in raising money, more on this in future emails, but nothing big. Money goes a long way here. For instance my pizza and soda lunch is 800 dram or $1.75. My shave, I took the beard off today, cost $2.00. Thinking this could be a regular Shabbat preparation thing.

This will be a quiet Shabbat as far as I can tell but in a couple of weeks when I get my new apartment. I plan to hold regular Shabbat dinners and exposing the locals to what I think is one of our best traditions.

Love and miss you all,

Shabbat Shalom

Steven

And it gets even better

This week I celebrated Shabbat with a couple of other Peace Corps Volunteers (PCVs). I also found out that I am now able to move out of my host family and can get my own apartment as of March 1. Then I can host regular Shabbat dinners and invite friends, you are all always invited. A the more mundane level of my service things have continued to get even better. First, I taught the first beginners English class in Vanadzor, apparently it is the first ever. Some fifteen people showed up and as I channeled all the great teachers I have had over the years it seems to have turned out well, we will see who shows up next week. That was Tuesday afternoon, on Tuesday evening, I got to try another experiment that I call Conversations for Critical Thinking in English. This is a discussion group with two purposes, one is to allow the students to use their knowledge of English to build complex sentences and refine their use of logic and language. I t also gives them a forum to discuss issues critical to their society in a safe and structured environment…

All else is good, feeling fine and missing you all. Luckily, I have Facebook and email and Skype and cheap international phone rate so I can stay in touch.

Shabbat Shalom