Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011: Year in Review

I tried to find photos that I haven't posted here before - click on the name of the month to read through my blog archives!


Thursday, December 29, 2011

My Kids Are So Cute

I'm enjoying a day at home alone today - an introvert's bliss! Here are some cute pictures for your enjoyment. Now I'm off to watch a DVD and knit. Thanks to Owl, Rabbit, and the other Owl for taking Pooh and Piglet out on a grand little excursion sans Eeyore!

Is this not the cutest little boy you have ever laid eyes on? You know he is.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Gabriel says "no" - and other things!

Gabriel has been adding some new words to his repertoire - "Nana" (banana), "Nena" (Grandma), "Up," "Gja" (Giraffe), and, most charmingly, "Noooooo." Don't believe me? Behold:
There are more - all the time. I'm still trying to catch him running around trying to jump, with his hands over his head, kicking a ball and shouting "Gooo! Gooo!" [Gol] My little dude is getting SO BIG!!!



I've been trying to upload some videos of the kids and it takes so long it never finished uploading.

Meanwhile, life continues apace; Terry was home for 24 hours and then went to Cyprus; it's been raining and cold; the kids have been exceptionally cranky and clingy although today was a better day (especially for V).

Terry gets back in just a few hours and we're so excited!

I'll try to get the videos up soon.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Snapshots of a Phantzi life

1. This is the view from our balcony looking south. I think we are in for an obnoxiously noisy couple months ahead of us...

Seriously. Noise reverberates like crazy through this building. Apparently the recent change in government means a lot of people are suddenly flush with cash and are looking for ways to invest it.


2. Multi-generational households contribute positively to the socialization of young children: all eating breakfast together at the table! Unheard of in the Phantzi household.

3. Cardboard tube from a package of saran wrap plus rope and two kitchen chairs = a fun swing for a little plastic toy (see yellow spot near V's elbow):

4. Gabe is experimenting early with body art:

5. They've finished renovating Skenderbeg Square, finally - just in time for Christmas! Also: the rains have come at last!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011


From Terry:

"I found out that evidently Armenians don't like to be called Orthodox. Georgians are Orthodox, Russians are Orthodox, Greeks are Orthodox, but Armenians are in the Armenian Apostolic Church - NOT Orthodox. I made a comment that the church feels like an Orthodox church and my host sort of shuffled and mumbled that yes, the Armenian church has a lot of overlap with the Orthodox church but there are a lot of differences too. So I asked for an example of a difference and she said, "the Orthodox church believes that Jesus was God and Man, but the Armenian Church believes that Jesus was God and Man"... What?

"So what the implications seems to be that the difference between Orthodox and the Armenian Church is an italicized emphasis on the word 'and'...maybe after 1700 years of debate, this type of thing is important …

"I'm sorry to be leaving the ADP [direct implementation site outside the capital] today … The area is gorgeous plus the people are nice and there is tons of history here - like 8000+ years worth of history. The two positives for going back to Yerevan will be a warm hotel room (they don't heat the hotel rooms in the ADP for some reason - much to the annoyance of the WV employees from Yerevan who come here) and internet access in the room.

"I gotta admit though that this last day here does feel like a slog - I'm sort of guessing we aren't going to hear anything new :)"


Three more days until Owl comes home!

Monday, December 12, 2011

Postcards from Armenia

So five days after Terry left for Armenia, his parents arrived and we are having a grand time Chez Pooh. I plan to head home shortly for a nap but meanwhile I've culled some gems from Terry's e-mails, should you care to get a feel for his time in Armenia. He gets back Saturday, then turns around to leave Sunday again for 5 days in Cyprus. Then Vacation! Yay!

Things that are cool about Armenia:

1) Mt. Ararat (found the ark, btw).

2) Armenia was actually part of the Soviet Union

3) The Armenian Alphabet

#2 sounds odd because of course it was - but I didn't actually make that connection before. So this is the first country I've been to which was actually inside the old Evil Empire as opposed to just a satellite state like Montenegro, Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia or Mongolia. Also the fact that everything is connected to Moscow is kind of cool. Makes me want to go there (Moscow).

#3 is for the linguists among us -but I found out last night during a long (very long) dinner that Armenia is the center of the Universe. But also that the Armenian Orthodox church was established in the 300s and shortly thereafter the alphabet was developed here. It seems to have been made up by the Church fathers and isn't connected to Latin, Arabic or Cyrillic scripts. It looks totally different from any of them.

The fact that Armenians developed their own alphabet system and didn't draw on any of the three major standard international scripts should give you an insight into all you need to know about Armenia culture. I would say it's like Albania but it's not - Albanians have borrowed heavily and freely from everyone around them except for the Hoxha era. Armenia is the exact opposite on that - they didn't borrow from anyone and preferred to reinvent the wheel than borrow a neighbor’s.

I also found out that Armenians invented wine. They introduced beer to Europeans thousands of years ago, plus they taught the Greeks how to make those little grape leaf rolls that are supposedly a Greek traditional food.... I'm sort of guessing that some of these pieces of information may need to be triangulated for confirmation.... but the very fact that I was told these things should tell you something about Armenians at any rate...


In general, Armenia reminds me a bit more Soviet and a bit more down at the heels than Albania - although similar in many ways too. I do like the fact that there aren't very many vehicles (in comparison) and no new vehicles. Lots of old beat up Ladas from Russia but no Hummers (at least in the circles that I am moving).

The weather is cold, but not so cold as Mongolia. However, there's no heat inside the hotel either - so win some lose some.


Armenia is starting to grow on me a bit. Amazing scenery in the area I am in now - reminds me a lot of Lesotho - big grassy mountains and snow. Of course, Yerevan is kind of a pit… The only thing I like about Yerevan more than Tirana is that there are far fewer cars here and much less ostentation - there's a lot of corruption, but it looks like they keep the earnings offshore. But other than the cars (oh, and the insane construction - Yerevan doesn't have that either) but aside from those two things - Tirana is nicer I think. However, I really like the Armenian countryside.


Not much to say, went out this morning to small beautiful village in the mountains, breathtaking scenery, blah blah. Did an interview with the local mayor. Very pleased with WV - blah blah blah. Child well-being blah blah blah.


Some more things to like about Armenia:

1) Armenia has Cilantro! The most common food I've eaten here: Take a tortilla-like piece of dough, put a slice of cheese on it accompanied by a handful of Cilantro. Roll up - eat - rinse- repeat. It's amazing.

2) Red beet salad. They have this red beet salad that combines red beets, walnuts, pomegranate seeds and cilantro. I've eaten about 3x the amount of the average Armenian just because it's so great.

3) The Armenian Orthodox church. I don't know how to describe it, but it's one thread of history that Albania doesn't have in full force.

4) A really really long history. While it's kind of annoying to be in the center of the cultural universe, it is true that Armenia is part of the "out of Africa" migrations of humanity which spread up through the Middle East and then up through the passage way between the Black sea and the Caspian Sea (the Caucauses) - so there's a lot more history here then in many places outside of Africa simply because people were here for much much longer.

5) There's an Armenian version of Stonehenge (just about 10 minute drive from the ADP offices) plus there is a 1200 year old Monastery within an hour's drive - one of the oldest in the world.

6) The Soviet thing is really really cool.


Long day - but interesting. Google "Tatev Monastery" and "Armenian Stonehenge" to check out two places I was at today. We interviewed the Abbot of the monastery as part of the evaluation. It was interesting. I think you'd like Armenia - it's gloomy.

So evidently the Armenian Orthodox church is the oldest national church in the world - predating Constatine by a decade. The Orthodox are kind of like Catholics from an alternative universe. The Armenian Orthodox church is about 1700 years old. So picture a Jantzi and a Phelps having 1700 years to decorate a cathedral in the best way they know how. The Jantzi would be all like "hey, let's put even MORE curly-cue gold fillagree everywhere - shiny stuff" and the Phelps would say "Let's make it big and dark and gloomy so people feel their insignificance in the universe" - combine the two and viola – Armenian Orthodox Church.

The Armenian priests are interesting - they can marry - but they dress funny. They reminded me either of the Deep Down Dwarfs from Pratchett - or Darth Vader...or maybe those desert sand people from Star Wars. Either way I sort of half expected either light sabers or chainmail throughout the evening.

We got there about the time evening prayers were about to start - so we stayed through that service (about 30 minutes) and then had tea with one of the head priests who is connected to some of WV's projects.

It was an amiable chat - but I kept thinking how odd my life is. If you could put little picture slice montages of my life and show it to me as a youngster, I think I would be puzzled ... Candle-lit drum music in African huts, motorcycles in Bolivian jungle, meat feasts in Mongolia, chatting with Darth Vader bearded priests over tea in Armenia...etc. I bet I could put together a really pretentious blog!

Thursday, December 08, 2011

from last week

Here is a video I took near the old Tirana castle on Flag Day last week; some traditional Albanian dancing. It was very cool.

Wednesday, December 07, 2011

Tuesday, December 06, 2011


It's raining, so we were somewhat housebound today (actually very glad for the rain as it's been terribly dry this year). Terry is gone to Armenia for 2 weeks, and my in-laws arrive Friday. Shpresa has gone to see her mother for a few days. So we're just doing our usual thing. Here are a few pictures to while away the time.

A word of explanation in this one: the baby doll has been put to bed under her blankie. The frisbee is her hat to keep her head warm, and the carrot peeler is an iPod. I can't remember what the other item is supposed to be! Whatever it represents, it bears absolutely no resemblance to that thing, I do remember that much. *Just remembered: it's supposed to be a head-lamp :-)
Gabriel loves music.
We put up our Christmas tree today but I don't have pictures of it yet. I'm off to take a quick nap while I still can before the kids wake up.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

photo post

I finally got around to downloading pictures from my camera, and here is a somewhat random selection - mostly the kids and some of our artistic endeavors.

Does she look like an intellectual yet? Maybe not the Dora T-shirt...

Valerie provided the art direction on these little cards I made. The green rectangle in the owls wing is his iPod. Of course.

This, in case you couldn't tell, is a monkey. Riding a horse. Here's the key, from top to bottom and left to right: 5= butterfly resting on the monkey's hat, which is the A. H= monkey's head, B= monkey's tummy. L and 7 (both sideways) = monkey's arms. He is holding a fish and a balloon (the Q). M and M = monkey's legs, with little toesy-toes. R = grass, U= horse's head, 1 (sideways) = horse's body, and Y Y (upside down) = horse's legs. Can you see it now? Try squinting. Or maybe just close your eyes and picture a monkey riding a horse that's eating grass. There, that's better!

Moments of lovely sibling harmony

I actually finished a pair of socks!

The first day I got out these paints, Valerie sat and painted for 3.5 hours straight. Right now she's into drawing with markers - she drew her first face! She's been drawing families of faces with arms and legs and wild sunburst hair. The best part is the little grin and chuckle she makes every time she puts a smiling mouth on one of her faces.
Of course, everything big sis does G has to do too. He usually gets bored after five minutes though. (By the way, his shirt says "Little Rascal" - very apropos!)