Once in Avetaranots …
By Marut Vanyan & Nick Wagner
9 November 2008
On a foggy Saturday, the 8th of November 2008, we traveled via taxi to Avertaranots, a village in Western Askeron Region (formerly Varanda) to wish Araxya Babo a “Happy Birthday” and to meet her grandchildren. Little did we know that the day would be filled with many, many delightful adventures!
The taxi driver turned south from the Stepanakert -Goris Roadand drove to the Avetaranots turnoff, which was covered with more fog than in Stepanakert. The scenery didn’t change much, yet the temperature dropped. A quick stop was made to take a photo of icy tree. This, the three of us agreed that the first snow left a pleasant wonder.
Then, the road changed from asphalt to mud. We arrived in Avetaranots where there was more mud and the need to find Araxya Babo. Directions to her home were obtained, and the taxi driver left us in the center of the Village where her street began and circled downward.
As the mud quickly coated our shoes and pant cuffs, we trudged and found her home. Alas, there was no one home except the chickens! Who greeted us with “Cluck-cluck.” A nice neighbor said that Araxya Babo was in Stepanakert, her son Sergey and daughter-in-law Emma at work and the three children had walked to school. In a little shop, we learned that Araxya Babo would be home at six and, that Sergey would be at the shop sometime. Thus, another short walk through the mud and pools of water to the school to find the grandchildren was begun.
AtAvertaranotsSchool, after cleaning our shoes as the children do, warm greetings were given by Director Alvina Khachatryan. She sent for Meri, the granddaughter of Araxya Babo, who confirmed that her grandmother would be home around six. Meri returned to class; we enjoyed a cup of tea, then were escorted to Meri’s 8th grade English class where we were greeted by Ludmilla Melkumyan, the teacher, and her 15-students. The lesson was about Bill’s apartment inEngland. The children were sharing two books for the reading of the short selection, and then answering questions given by their teacher. The lesson was interesting and the teacher and the students did very well interacting! There was a photo of Avo along with other Artsakyan War soldiers at the front of the classroom. When asked, “Who was Avo?” the response was “A Hero!” Later in a military training classroom, we noticed a small sign, which announced the celebration for Avo’s 50th birthday last November 25th.
The bell rang and the children went to their next class.
Over lunch with the Director Khachatryan and the Assistant Director, we learned that many positive things are being done in the classrooms and that the government is assisting more financially for the school teachers, children, and facility. Even so, there are many items still in need of improvement especially books, playground, and internet access.
The opportunity of visiting a 7th grade Russian language class was the next adventure. During the 12-minutes, which stretched into20, apleasant dialogue ensued between the students, their teacher, her two colleagues, and us. The main question was, “Why are You in our school today?” That was answered. Then, during another discussion, someone said “Mud,” and a Haiku (Japanese poem style) was composed with an Armenian translation on the board.
Mud, mud, mud, mud, mud
Mud, pools of water, mud, mud
Mud, mud, and more mud!
The final great adventure, after visiting the physics classroom with its fascinating, functioning Soviet-era equipment, was to the Kindergarten with only 15 of the 25-children present. They initially were unable to understand us and were quite shy, yet our smiles, games, and their laughter especially that of Vahe, Araxya Babo’s grandson! made the activity an exciting, joyful one. The bell rang; school was over for the day … the children donned their coats and walked home. We thanked Director Khachatryan for her hospitality and set out for Araxya Babo’s home were we found Emma and Vahe. “Where was Araxya Babo?” we asked? “She is on her way home Meri and her Father.” After a short wait, they arrived and Araxya Babo was elated because to see us.
When she learned we had met Meri and Vahe at school, she was happier! We learned that today’s Stepanakert trip was to meet with Prime Minister Haroutunyan regarding village needs especially one related to mud! Araxya Babo arranged for a face-to-face meeting rather than in letter form because of the importance of the issues. Her speaking ability and personal strength enabled her to present the Avertaranotyans’ desires well. She and the villagers anxiously await a response.
This delightful village of Araxya Babo and her Family was truly an excellent way to spend a foggy November Saturday even with the mud … it was great to find her, and extend a wish for many more birthdays!