The view I get each day of Mt. Ararat

Բարի առավոտ from beautiful Armenia! I’ve finally arrived to the Caucasus after months of waiting and preparing! After a brief orientation in Washington D.C. (where I finally met the great people I would be serving with), we left home and took a red eye to Paris. Even though I couldn’t sleep on the flight, it was still an ok experience (mostly because I got to watch the new Star Wars movie for a third time). Unfortunately, our layover in Paris only lasted a few hours so we didn’t have time to leave the airport and see any sights. The only real definitive thing I can say about Paris at this time is that they have some great airport cuisine! After another lengthy international flight, we finally landed in Yerevan at roughly 10:00PM local time on March 23. Despite our exhausted state we were beyond excited to be in the country we spent months dreaming about!


Our group of A24's, moments after we landed!

We collected our small mountain of luggage from baggage claim (imagine 39 people with four completely full bags), we breezed through customs and met some of the friendly Peace Corps staff who support the volunteers here. At this point in my post, I wish I could give you the most vivid description of Armenia as we drove through Yerevan and the country side in the dead of night. I wish I could properly convey to you how the ancient churches seemed to exist outside of time and rule over the surrounding landscape. I wish I could make you understand how the countryside is sheer proof of God’s love for humanity. Instead, I passed out for most of the trip and I only remember seeing the outside of a building labeled “Crazy Nightclub” in English. 

Next we spent the next four days at a beautiful resort in Arzakan, a small town tucked in mountains north of Yerevan. Being surrounded by snowcapped mountains was a fantastic way for the Peace Corps to introduce us to the country. Since I’m terrible at describing things related to nature, I’ll include a few pictures of Arzakan instead.  Needless to say, seeing snow on the ground was incredibly surreal to me (an Arizonan who four days before was wearing flip flops and cutoffs). Hearing such a wide variety of birds singing each morning coupled with the sun rising over the mountains made me feel like a Disney princess. 

While these were our first few days in country, it felt like we were still back in the United States simply because we were sequestered in this remote area interacting with mostly other Americans. Of course there were Armenian staff members at our orientation too but they all spoke good enough English that I often forgot I was on the other side of the world. 

After our brief orientation in Arzakan, our group of 39 volunteers was divided and moved to the small villages we would be living in for the next ten weeks. I was selected to live in Mrgavan (in Armenian it literally means fruit town) along with seven other American volunteers. The village is one of five which surround the larger town of Artashat (other volunteer clusters are living in those other towns.) Mrgavan has a population of about 2,000 people, all of whom are incredibly kind and welcoming. I’m told it’s pretty dry and hot here but so far the weather has been a bit chilly and it’s rained twice. 


The A24's visited a small museum in Shahumyan on our afternoon off.

The greatest thing about this village is, obviously,  the view we get of Mt. Ararat each day. For those who don’t know, Mt. Ararat is one of Armenia’s most treasured landmarks. This perpetually snowcapped 16,000+ ft volcano dominates the surrounding landscape with ease. Supposedly, this mountain is the same one that Noah’s Ark landed on after the flood in the Bible (Genesis 8:4).  If you’re facebook friends with any of my fellow A24’s or you follow them on Instagram, you’ll notice each of us has posted a picture of this mountain at some point in the last few days.

We all live with different host families in our respective villages. I live with the Hakobyans, a family which coincidentally mirrors my own in that there are three children who are the same respective ages and genders as my siblings and I. They’re incredibly welcoming and kind, especially since they put up with my very broken Armenian and my enthusiasm with using the words eharkeh (“of course”) and absus (“what a pity”).

Those of us living in the same village are to take more than 40 hours of classes a week together. Each class attempts to teach us Armenian, Armenian culture and how to teach English. So far learning Armenian is easily the most difficult aspect. Each day is filled with new words and grammar rules that need to be memorized if you want to be understood here. While it’s certainly overwhelming, there has been improvement in our language abilities since we got here. Hopefully, 36 hours of language classes per week over the course of about two months will allow us to develop our Armenian quickly. 


The view from our classroom features both Mrgavan's elementary school and 100 year old church.

As some of you know, there has been some fighting taking place in Nagoro-Karabakh (a contested region between Azerbaijan and Armenia). Luckily, Mrgavan is far away from this area and I’m not in any danger. If any sort of violence were to come near us, we would be quickly withdrawn from the area (if not the country). Please keep the Armenians and myself in your prayers but don’t stress about me. 


Day 1 of Preservice Service Training!


15 thoughts on “Arrival!

  1. Totally enjoyed reading about your first few days, thousands of miles from Tucson…I can relate to the first couple of months being busy learning a new language at the same time how to teach which is right around the corner…..Do you think you might be sent to a village that’s close to where your at now..??
    So happy for you Sam…Be Safe always, have fun and your very much missed…The very best always and Thanks again for sharing your experience with us….Love you much…Rah and Poppy


    • Thanks guys! I won’t know what village I’ll be teaching in until May I think. So for now it’s totally up in the air where I’m going. I think there’s a small chance I could be placed somewhere nearby but it’s unlikely. Love and miss you guys!


      • Thanks for the info Sam..I’ve forwarded Mike these last two emails between us as he had no knowledge how this works…Kelly is going over to his house tomorrow evening and will inform him, so expect a email or two from him….Hope you get many for all your family (Or, your so busy you might just not have time..??)
        Was really warm yesterday, 91 here in Tucson, I believe summer is real close…Much warmer than you have now…Do you know if you will have the 4 seasons there or possible rather mild or cold with no in between…Best be going, will keep in touch and you be safe….Much love…..Rah and Poppy


      • No worries, I’ll always make time for family! I can’t believe it’s already so hot back home! Theres no snow on the ground here but it’s still super cold (to me). The weather will vary depending on where I live but I’m sure I’ll live in a place with four seasons and snow.


      • Good Morning Sam……At least its morning here…..
        Summers a-coming, although we had a nice rain last evening, first in over a month….
        Am sure by now your about settling in a routine, maybe getting used to the food and liquid
        refreshments..?? Just wondering, do they have beer there and if so, how does it compare
        to ours..??
        I expect we will be taking our annual trip to Missouri in a couple of months, have no definite
        date as yet…Know the kids want us to fly, but I’m not ready to turn In my Drivers License
        yet…Still prefer to drive and make my own schedule…
        Just wanted to touch bases with you again..I know my 35 months in Japan and Korea was a long
        time to be away from home and I did appreciate letters..(That’s all we had back then.)

        Be safe…Love you…….Rah and Poppy


  2. Many Thanks Sam for all the information about your first few days so many thousands miles from here…Certainly glad we are on your email list, keeping in touch this way is about as good as can be expected….Seems you will be kept busy most of the time and this is a good thing…Time goes by quickly when your busy….The pictures you sent are much appreciated, the country looks beautiful and that 16,000+ mountain you awaken to each morning is beyond beauty and the history about it….. Above all keep safe and have fun….We love you lots., Rah and Poppy…


  3. What an adventure Sam! You’re always in my prayers and never far from my thoughts! Ձեր շատ են սիրում ու կարոտում , Sam


  4. Good morning Sam., at least it is here….Summer is a-coming, although this morning it was 49 outside..
    Last Friday we had dinner at Macoya’s here in town, along with Steve-Kelly and Liz…Probably last time with Liz as her graduation I believe is the 14th of next month and she is busy with a lots of things to include resume’s…Rah may have to have rotator-cuff surgery, indications are looking that way according to latest X-rays…Know she does not want this, but may be necessary…..
    I heard that your dad finally bought a new BBQ and anxious to give it a try soon….Believe there is a after graduation party coming up for both Liz and Kyle at your home…Really looking forward to it..
    Mike got his new wheel-chair., really nice and very light, so maybe we can convince him to get out more often..
    Dan is getting much better from his motorcycle accident., I’ve texted Him and Sandy/Margie to see if they want to meet up in Casa Grande this afternoon for a late lunch or early supper…Have not heard as yet..
    Best be going Sam…Really enjoy hearing about your adventures., so keep the emails coming..
    Be Safe….Much Love…..Rah and Poppy


  5. Hey Sam!! Sounds like you’re super busy what with learning a new language as well as a completely new culture. What a fantastic adventure! 🙂 We’ll miss you on the 13-14th when your sibs graduate. Your Pop’s guitar will not sound quite the same without yours, too.
    Dan & Marjorie lived with us a few weeks as he recuperated from the accident. He still has awhile before he’s completely recovered but he’s getting better all the time.
    You and your Armenian family stay in my prayers. St Tim’s band doesn’t sound quite – they have some BIG shoes to fill!


  6. Hi Sam, thanks for sharing your blog with us! You have such a detailed way of describing your adventures that I feel like I’m there with you! Dan is back to work and is working on building his strength back up again. He and Marjorie put a bid on a house not far from me. Sure hope they get it. Steve did real well in his classes and has a full-time position so no more Obama care (much more expensive and limited than what you’d think). We miss you especially during the family get-togethers. Enjoy your adventures and I’m looking forward to your next post. Love you lots! ♡♡


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