Yerevan, Armenia - After countless hours of planning and a sixteen hour flight, we have finally arrived in Armenia to begin our adventure! We eleven volunteers from the US and Australia are here for the next three weeks to rebuild a 16th-century church, in the remote village of Shikahogh in the southern Syunik region.
To make this journey a reality, most of us used our school break or vacation days for 5-6 hours of daily manual labor and an unprecedented personal experience as LCO volunteers. For most of us, it's our first time in Armenia, and half of us don't speak the language. We don't know what to expect, but we are all very excited - not only to learn about and connect with the land and people who live here, but to make a difference for the Armenian heritage! Read more about LCO's mission here: http://www.lcousa.org/about-lco/our-vision
So far, Yerevan has given us a very warm welcome, both literally and figuratively! Daytime temperatures exceed one hundred degrees, and we have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know our fellow volunteers, group leaders, and locals.
After our LCO leaders greeted us at the airport, we arrived at the centrally located Travelers Hostel. The owner, known as "lovely Alice," has welcomed us with legendary Armenian hospitality. Every morning, she ensures we eat delicious meals of fresh eggs, cheese, yogurt, and homemade jams of fig, boysenberry, apricot, rasberry and cherry. Everythings healthy and local, of course!
Yesterday we did a walking tour of the city to visit the beautiful modern art museum, cascade steps and opera house. Yerevan is pleasantly modern, with wide, tree-lined, walkable streets that lead to many public squares, with countless water fountains spouting natural spring water. The sounds of chirping birds perfectly accompany the live street music on nearly every corner, from flutes, to jazz, to acapelo singing. For lunch and dinner, we ate savory family-style meals at outdoor cafes with both familiar and new cuisines!
Today we were lucky to participate in Vardivar, a traditional festival with Pagan roots where everyone in the country throws water on each other all day long. There must have been a thousand people, young and old, participating in Republic Square alone! Folks used buckets, hoses, squirt guns, and even dunked each other directly in the fountain, all in the spirit of fun. We had no choice but to join in, and we ended up touring the National History Museum soaking wet, squeaking shoes and all!
Tomorrow we will drive to Shikahogh village, where we will live and work for the next three weeks. Wish us luck that all continues to go great!
*** You can follow our progress via photos posted in our Flickr Album ***