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I am in the airport in Yerevan, Armenia

As I wait for my flight home thoughts of all of you are on my mind and in my heart. I am coming home, at least for a little while, and the excitement just keeps growing.

It has been a great week. I helped plan and facilitate a with a wonderful program called Gender Equality – Women’s empowerment and Entrepreneurship with some thirty people, mostly Armenians. The positive understanding and energy that was created during the program and was wonderful. As part of the program they will go back to their communities and share their new knowledge. It was a very successful program.

My trip home is filled with beach time on T street, praying and Shabbat dinner at my friends Jeff and Jodi’s. I will also be celebrating with Max and Kyra at the Watertown Armenia Community Center in honor of their wedding last year. The reason I am in Armenia is because Kyra is Armenian and when they cancelled my service in Ukraine I had the choice of Macedonia, Botswana or Armenia, why Armenia of course, my son’s wife family is Armenia.

Thanks you Kyra it is a great place to serve.

Shabbat shalom..

Almost home and I can hardly believe it

It is Friday July 24 and in one week at this time I will be on a plane home. I hope that I will get to see so many of you.

Last night my Beginners English class celebrated learning the 500 most commonly used words with a party. I have attached some pictures. Most of these students will be joining me in September for my second English Club called Basic English conversation with songs. In this club we will learn the lyrics to songs as a way to expand vocabulary as well as use the song itself as a a topic to discussions in English..

Summer here in Vanadzor is like living at the beach, hot days and cool nights, it is so delightful. Many of my other PCV’s are suffering with temperatures in the 90’s that do not go down all that much at night.

Be well until I hopefully see you.

Love and miss you,

Shabbat Shalom

What did the Beatles say, life is what happens while you are making other plans

SO it has been a difficult week with a little bad news because of a kidney function number (creatinine) level being a little higher that expected, especially after I thought I had adjusted my diet enough to deal with this issue. Anyway, I was asked to go back to Yerevan, the capital city where the Peace Corps medical office is and get retested today after i made some adjustments in my diet. I think the issue was I had cut too far back on the amount of water I was drinking and was becoming a little bit dehydrated and I was consuming too many peanuts. The new test results will tell us more. So, I had to go back to get retested on Firday (today) and figured that I would be home to late to do a Shabbat dinner. BUT as these things happen, my new friend Hovanes invited me to Shabbat dinner and I said sure I would come when i c=got back form Yerevna. And what a great shabbat we had. He also invited another Jewish family from Vanadzor and together we made the most wonderful Shabbat yet in Armenia. With song and study we spent a most delightful evening talking all about what it means to be Jewish and how the things we do , like Shabbat, re-enforces this.

I was exhausted from the trip back and forth – two hours each way in a marshutni, an old minibus that seats 15 hot sweaty people and no air conditioning.

But now I am home and th eair is cool and I will be in bed soon reliving tonight’s wonderful shabbat and wishing you all a Shabbat Shalom.

Three weeks and I am back home for a short visit.

It is just so exciting to be coming home and seeing many of you, although leaving again is already something I am dreading. But I will soldier on and enjoy the good and not focus on the difficult.

In the meantime, last week I enjoyed Shabbat dinner with my new friend Hovanes and his family. We spent time discussing Parsha Balak and helping him understand more about what it means to be Jewish. We spent a lot of time on mitzvot and the connection between them and tikkun olum. It was so nice, his mother who is not Jewish, lights the candles, “because she is the woman of the house”. I did tell you that he is not Jewish, but he loves the ritual of Shabbat. Hovanes turns off his phone and computer and really tries not to work. It is incrediibly nice to have someone to discuss torah with. Oh, he reads it in Hebrew every week also. That is more than I can do.

Speaking of Jews in Vanadzor, I FOUND THEM. One of my beginners’ English students introduced me to a man who is part of the 40 strong Jewish community of Vanadzor. He had apparently seen me and my yamulke but I didn’t stop when he called out to me – “JEWISH ?” I will see him again today and wish him a Shabbat Shalom. Soon I will invite him and his family to my house for Shabbat with Hovanes who will translate for us.

Speaking of Jews at my house, tonight I have a number of people coming to dinner. PCV’s, couch surfers from Chile and some teachers from Vanadzor who have lots of questions about Judaism. If I haven’t said it before, for many people here I am the first Jew they have ever met.

Many of them are getting to meet me in a rather strange way, the music video is out and I am the primary character. I am a guy who is sick who gets a shot of some special blue stuff stuff, goes a little crazy and then becomes a meglomaniac (only acitng) demanding that people pay their “soul taxes.” YOu can watch it on youtube here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0pwrtO9-Jhc

While you are online please take a look at another project I am involved with called GOALS Girls of Armenia Leadership Soccer. They could use donations to purchase One World Soccer balls for the girls of Armenia. Girls here usually are not included in sports and since their development is soo important to the growth and success of Armenia I ask that you PLEASE consider making a donation at http://www.oneworldplayproject.com/campaign/girls-of-armenia-leadership-soccer-goals/

Shabbat Shalom

Shabbat Shalom – A quiet week

Most of the office is in Tblisi doing another workshop so things are slow around the office. Many other of the people outside the office whom I work with all the time are also out of town so I get to play on the computer a little and plan my short visit home at the end of the month. Now that is exciting, I will be coming home for the GREAT Appelstein cousins club which by the way is in its eighteenth year. So it is our “CHAI” year coming together as cousins, how cool is that.

I am hoping that the weather will be good and I can get to see a lot of you.

And two more firsts, I have been invited to a friends house for Shabbat. Now I must tell you he is not Jewish, but he loves Judaism and is learning Hebrew. He travels to Israel regularly and we are planning on discussing the parsha tonight at his house – which is very cool, especially since it is the first time since I have been in Armenia that I can actually discuss Torah with someone else. (Any insightful comments on Parsha Balaak are appreciated)

Shabbat Shalom to all of you.