(Click on the images to see them larger)
Left - Emily : The first snow of the year on the mountains above Yeghegnadzor.
Right - Paige : This is my sister, taken at night at my Grandmother's house. We used to share a bed when we were little and always at least a room after sharing a bed. We are night and day in personality, but when we are both together like this, alone, we end up talking until the both of us eventually don't have to say anything about being too tired and then we turn over and fall asleep. It's also about the moment that we get before we turn off the lights, the half hour or so that magazines and books soothe us into a slumber and we think about all that is possible. The time that doesn't require our attention on something or someone, cherished like a sanctuary.
Left - Emily : Catching a cold in Armenia, according to Armenians, can happen a lot of ways. As a result, most Armenians are very weary about getting cold themselves. Slippers and socks must be worn at all times, when sitting on cement you must put something under you for fear of becoming sterile and an open window in a house causing a draft could be one of the biggest contributing factors to colds in Armenia.
Right - Paige : It has been a really a busy Monday and time moves fast, especially in America. The light this man was working under with the dust and the leaves was the prettiest thing I saw all day while on my way to get groceries this evening.
Left - Emily : Everyday on the walk into town I pass these tatiks sitting on their bench outside their homes. Satik, left, lives alone and after a year of saying hello to her every day she has just now started saying hello back. Emma, right, is notorious for cornering me on the street or in the store while munching on walnuts and telling me stories about her relatives that live all over the world. The two are always very curious about me, my activities and the numerous foreign guests I bring by their bench. This is the first time I've taken their portraits.
Right - Paige : I've known Glen since I was 8 years old when he worked for my Dad's construction business as a framer. He still frames houses, and he still calls me Paigey Waigey or most of the time just P-Wage. I go to his house in Austin about once a month and we'll cook dinner (and if it's not chicken then it's sausage), drink beer, and I'll listen to him tell me about something I should know that I don't know. He perpetually jokes with me that knowing Armenian is going to give me a leg up in the world. It's always a good conversation, despite his misunderstandings of my linguistic wealth and power.
Left - Emily : Armen owns the store we foreigners like to call "Bah Vonts." Bah vonts in Armenian means "of course," and we call his store as such because anytime you ask if he has something in stock, he says "bah vonts," or something like "of course we have what you're asking for, what kind of store do you think I run?!" Armen also makes the best homemade wine you can buy. Every time I walk in the door he greets me with an ear to ear smile, throws in a reference to how we are "barekam" or relatives and asks if I want four liters of wine today or ten.
Right - Paige : A friendly reminder.
Left - Emily : This hand gesture, accompanied with the sound "eeeeyaah," is one of the many things I have picked up in Armenia. I even find myself doing it to the ATM when it refuses to give me cash. I'm sure when I come back to America, this, along with many other odd things will, at least for a while, single me out as someone that spent the last 2+ years in a foreign culture.
Right - Paige : I haven't been bowling in a long time, but I have seen The Big Lebowski recently so it kind of felt like it hadn't been that long since I ran one in the gutter. My game has improved though, a double strike was witnessed and revered from my fellow bowlers tonight.
Left - Emily : For the past month I have been helping Meag, my site mate, brew beer and finally tonight we bottled them. Sadly, in Armenia the only beer you can get tastes something like a wet dog that just got sprayed by a skunk. Needless to say, I am pretty excited to taste this beer in just 2 weeks!
Right - Paige : It is still a little dizzying for me to walk into a grocery store here in America. The pace is fast and there is an unspoken shouting of messages trying to get your attention. I wanted to capture that feeling with this picture. There is also a huge population of Latinos here, and "Gracias! " is just an example of how embedded the language is within our frame of normal everyday interactions.
Left - Emily : My house sits right in the part of town that the sun hits just before it tucks itself under the mountain for the evening. This time of year, as the light spills across my once abundant garden, over the yellow crunchy leaves and right through my front door, is my favorite.
Right - Paige : My mailbox, at 1102 Mahan. The sun was setting quick as I was taking the picture, and it reminded me of watching sunsets while my Mother counted down from 10 until they were gone. I bought a new CD today, it's so good. Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes. "Home" is the best track on the record, and rightly so. As it goes..."Home is wherever I'm alone with you."
Left - Emily : One thing I love about walking around in the streets here is that around any corner you can find a small group of men sitting around, smoking cigarettes, playing nardi and joking with each other.
Right - Paige : My friend Kristi's adorable son, Cypress. I went to visit them this evening in Burnet, TX. Cypress loved playing hide and seek in his playhouse, and so did I. Days like this, I wish lasted a little longer.
Left - Emily : This "golf ball" and abandoned hotel are at a high vantage point over Yeghgnadzor and can also be seen from the village Malishka. From this point you can also see all the abandoned Soviet factories that litter the south end of town. I've heard the golf ball was a weather station, but I also heard someone say it used to be a satellite monitoring device. Now on this lonely ridge all you can find are some broken beer bottles and evidence of once well maintained roads all while being harassed by a flock of crows.
Right - Paige : Laundry has become as easy as 123 again. My hand-washing days are over.I have no problem going to a laundry mat and plugging it with quarters and letting it do the work. Instead of half a day, it takes an hour and a half. These girls told me they were playing "bus" underneath the table while their Mom folded their clothes.
Left - Emily : My neighbors operate a lavash bakery and I often go there in the winter time to hang out because the ladies are always good for a fun conversation and it is nice and warm in there. The process is fascinating to watch, obviously these women have had a lot of practice. They can roll out hundreds of perfectly sized, perfectly baked and perfectly delicious pieces in just a few hours. My favorite bread they make is called "bocon" they use the same dough as lavash but instead of rolling it out, they stretch it with their hands into a round and bake it a little longer. I always head home from here with a smile, a belly full of fresh bread and a few more pieces to eat later.
Right - Paige : I read a review of Dan's Hamburgers, "Dan's is like a second home to me. ... You can taste the history in the grease, and it tastes delicious." The history in the grease might be something worth trying to take a picture of? This is the best I think I'll do.
Left - Emily : Serian, the guard at the university, is one face I see almost every day. He sits in a small room with just a table, phone, chair and a small bed at the bottom of the stairs of Gitelik University, also the building that houses the NGO I am working for. Every morning before I head up the stairs we exchange a greeting and a wide smile with each other.
Right - Paige : The Broken Spoke, Ladies Night! There's always a good crowd at the Spoke on Wednesday nights, and it doesn't matter if you didn't bring anyone to dance with or if you don't know what you're doing on the dance floor. The circulation of people asking each other to dance is enough to make up for it. I always feel a slight return to my childhood when I am at a country western dance hall. Good honest people, good enough music.
Left - Emily : My counterpart's mother, Gaya, always cracks me up when I go to visit them. I brought my camera along with me the other day, as I am working on this project, and started to take her picture. She obliged, then left the room for a few minutes and came back dressed in her finest clothes and asked me to take her "death picture." That is, when a person in the family dies, they place a photo in a black frame on the wall in remembrance. I couldn't get her to break out of a pose, nor to laugh so I kept telling her smile, don't stand so still don't stare at the camera but she wouldn't break, she would just give me a little slap on the face and smirk.
Right - Paige : Everyone brings their dog everywhere in Austin. Maybe if I still had a dog I'd do the same, but for now I just observe. I've been thinking about getting a puppy, but it just isn't the same. Old dogs, while stinky and blind, are still the best.
Left - Emily : The Lada, economy car of Armenia. This one even features a hot wire starter, two broken front seats and a slipping clutch.
Right - Paige : The weather today has been gray and rainy. It has the effect of making me feel pretty reflective, and even the blowing trash on the fence had some kind of beauty to it. Some days are for thinking anyway.
Right - Emily : Artush is my landlord Samvel's son. Trying to be just like his handyman dad, Artush is always following Samvel around hammering nails, washing the car and shoveling piles of dirt.
Left - Paige : I never really liked palm trees. I thought they looked cheap, too much 80's nostalgia or somethting. But all it took was my friend Jon's love of them and his way of describing them as "silhouetted explosions in the sky" for me to think about it another way. I also saw some new Bruce Davidson work, he's specifically photographing these trees in black and white - and of course they are beautiful. I was walking around this evening and I thought I would try my own hand at foliage photography.
Left - Emily
Right - Paige
Right - Emily : Zoya works in a small room just off the shortcut I take into town every day. She says she learned how to sew when she was 17 at classes she the cultural house in Yeghegnadzor over 30 years ago. She along with her soviet era sewing machine patch up dozens of articles of clothing a day.
Left - Paige : I need to read Ulysses. There's only so many hours in a day though.
Left - Emily : Downtown big city Yeghegnadzor.
Right - Paige : I love lamp.
Left - Emily : Shady whispered dealings in an old dusty office. This woman has been doing the same job for 40 years, no wonder she knows how to work the system.
Right - Paige : A downtown church in Austin.
Left - Emily : The stairways in the old soviet apartment buildings here are always a sight to see. The exposed and incredibly complicated electrical system, the usually constant smell of natural gas coming from some mystery pipe and the lack of lights in the evening are all things normal to this set of stairs.
Right - Paige : Its always is late in Texas, and sometimes just a few weeks long, but winter is almost here if you ask the trees.
Left - Emily : Construction continues on the three houses just above mine, even late into the evening.
Right - Paige : Changing the sheets, cleaning the bathroom. Weekend work in America.
Left - Emily : Lately I have busy working with some ladies in Vayots Dzor trying to help them market and sell their beautiful crafts. I became associated with Tim Straight of Homeland Handicrafts, who has been helping these women get started by supplying them with material and thread for embroidery and a network in which to sell their goods. Meag and I have been working on designs and finally I was able to pay them for their first completed piece and give them more projects to work on. It has been an exciting and very rewarding experience.
Right - Paige : I met Gayane at the Armenian Dance Party/Fundraising Dinner tonight at a church here in Austin. She talked my head off. She grew up in Tbilisi, Georgia, and speaks Georgian as well as Armenian (which is extremely rare). She feels a big part of herself is actually Georgian although she is Armenian, and we had a really interesting conversation about her life here, her feelings about her identity through her ethnic upbringing, and her bleach blonde hair. When she left she wanted a picture of the two of us as well as my phone number. I'm sure I'll hear from her soon, at least I hope so. It felt great to be there.
Left - Emily : For the last year I have been working with a few other PCVs making a movie for the 50th anniversary of Peace Corps. This weekend Zoe came up from Goris and with the help of Meag we busted out a 3.5 minute clip to show the other volunteers at the upcoming All-Vol conference. We spent three nights awake until 3 a.m. slamming coffee munching on popcorn and chocolate and joking about out volunteer experience.
Right - Paige : This little monkey was only 25 cents at a thrift store sale today. He was just sitting there on the ground waiting for the right kid to take him. My childhood doll was "Kimmie", and I cut her hair so many times that she was bald when I stopped carrying her around. Bald, sporting ratty oversized t-shirts but well loved.
Left - Emily : This time of year the sun sets right as people are getting off work and picking up groceries before heading home. I was caught today by the nice fading light the movement of people and cars around the city and the chance encounters with friends in the street.
Right - Paige : Dogs are so prevalent in the world, some places as animals that roam around practically unnoticed by people and other places like members of the family. Their characters are easily personified, which is why I like reading 'The Adventures of Hank the Cowdog' books which are made for kids, but driven to make us all laugh. I was watching my friend Nadia's dog tonight while they were cooking dinner; watching him wait, watch, wait, hope, watch.
Left - Emily : Inside "Gitelik Hamalsaran" or "The University of Knowledge" in Yeghegnadzor.
Right - Paige : You are always being watched by "Juan in the Water" (the name I have given this painting) when you eat at Taqueria Jaliscos #2 on Cesar Chavez Street in Austin, TX. I didn't mind the first time, I actually drove back there just to take his picture.
Left - Emily : This year I will be spending my second Thanksgiving away from home with some good friends in Shaghat, a village in Syunik marz. We went for a nice walk in the mountains yesterday around sunset. After heading back our little gaggle of Americans drew a lot of attention in a village of only a few hundred people.
Right - Paige : Driving to my parent's house for Thanksgiving. Dark Texas roads, solitude at last.
Left - Emily : Pies for my second Thanksgiving spent away from my family. Though we may live in Armenia, no trimmings were spared, stuffing, twice-baked potatoes, carrot souffle and many more.
Right - Paige : Sitting in a hot tub with my sister, at the golf course my parent's live on. There was also a group of Muslim girls on a break from school taking advantage of the same warm, bubbly water.
Left - Emily : The walk to "Sur Kamurj" in Yeghegnadzor, a mandatory visit for those new to the area.
Right : Paige : My Pops, reading the newspaper. Don't we all need a picture of our Dad's doing this?
Left - Emily : While walking around, I spotted one bright spot of color in a scene full of dull grey and brown, Sona and her brother Garik playing outside.
Right - Paige : Fall light, there is nothing like it. A house that sits on the east side, who knows who lives here; I pretty much just adored the colors and random port-a-potty sitting in the yard.
Left - Emily : Danny has been working on remodeling the bathrooms at his school in the village Verin Getashen near Lake Sevan. While visiting some of his neighbors they were all joking that they'll always remember Danny after he leaves when they use the bathroom.
Right - Paige : My roommate Jess, after a long night of doing Jess things (dancing, Whole Foods checking, bike riding, quinoa cooking) brushing her teeth to mark an end to the day.
Left - Emily : Black shiny pointy shoes, a must for every Armenian man.
Right - Paige : I wake up in the morning to bright beautiful sunshine streaming across the floor, and there is always something to admire in the kitchen or just the room. Light inspires, it changes moods, it brightens days. Someone left these boots out from the night before, they were gleaming red and our dog, Gracie, seemed to be noticing.