- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
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 September 26, 2003 

Outside Eye: A non-Armenian's view of life in his adopted home

Seven years ago this week I discovered Armenia. She had been here many millennia before me of course. All my life, though, this whole region had been hidden under the cloak of the USSR, which in my incomplete education lumped everything as "Russia".

So here I am now living among a people I didn't know existed, learning, if nothing else, how little I knew.

An assignment sent me here the day after Levon Ter Petrosyan was re-elected President, to find tanks in the streets and stern faced soldiers attempting at every turn to confiscate my notebook and my partner's film.

"What are you doing here?," the officials wanted to know. It is a question I still can't answer.

Four of my past six years have been spent here, and the question I get now is: "Where are you going next?"

Next? As if Armenia were on some "next" list that I had drawn up in mapping out my jagged career slide. I figure this place is just about enough "next" for anyone.

A couple of stories on this week's site remind me of changes that have made this Armenia different than the one I landed in seven years ago.

In a travelogue that I wrote from that visit, I remember commenting how remarkable it was that in such a poor country, there were no beggars. Vahan Ishkhanyan's story about vagrants might not have been so easily documented in those days.

That first trip also included a visit to Karabakh, where I found hulls of buildings and fresh cemeteries in a land that seemed ready to implode from oppression. Suren Deheryan's story this week about an expo includes information about goods produced in Karabakh now being exported to the world market.

On my now-rare trips back to the States I am always asked if things are getting better here.

Yes. No.

When a former scientist freezes to death in a place that once provided him with a heated home (see Vahan's story), there's not much improvement to be seen in that society.

But when a devastated enclave unrecognized by most of the world rises from war to show even a spark of economic recovery, surely it indicates a trend toward the better.

Better? Worse?

Is life getting better in the States? In Europe? In the Middle East? I don't know.

I know my life has gotten better in the past seven years. But, like Armenia herself, the reasons are confounding. I am embraced and despised here, just like any other place where a byline has been my biography. I work twice as long and make half as much money. But reward comes in the denominations by which I first measured this place: In community and family and a sense of place - factors that are likely to diminish here as the bad and good of change are equally felt.

I like my neighbors. I like my work. Beer is cheap and women are pretty.

What am I doing here?

Living, I guess.


According to Agnes
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The Naghdalyan Case: Murder trial moves on with details of meetings and plots

Full story


Minding the Media: New law draws protests from journalists

Full story


Help for the Hurting: Health care specialists learning new methods of treating childhood depression

Full story



The Week in seven days


The Arts in seven days


  Photos of the week
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Celebrating independence from construction

On Independence Day (September 21), Yerevan residents got a first look at the newly rebuilt Republic Square. Pavement packers led the parade.



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