Our mission president called yesterday to tell us that all the senior and regular missionaries are supposed to stay close to our apartments and do indoor activities today. We had a district meeting, lunch at our apartment with the missionaries and then they went home to do planning and studying for the rest of the day. This is the day that the Armenians honor all the lives that were lost in the Genocide. In 1915, the Turks told all the Armenians to leave the country of Turkey where they lived. It turned into a situation like the Germans and the Jews. The Turks killed between a million to a million and a half Armenians. Many of the Armenians, we teach, are still upset about it even though it has been almost a hundred years ago.
Our city where we live is only 8 miles from Turkey. In fact, in one of the villages we teach in, you can see the guard stations of the Turkey Army. The good news is that America and Turkey are friends so if something happens, we grab our emergency preparedness bag they gave us and head toward the boarder. Since we are here trying to share a religion that is different from the national religion and some people want us to go back home, it is a good day to lay low. The worse that has happened here on a normal day that I have heard about is that the missionaries are yelled at and a few spit on. For us, nothing like that has ever happened. There are some people that don't say anything when I say hello in Armenian on the street, but for the most part they are very friendly to us.
We have had a very busy week helping the families without men prepare the ground to plant their gardens. Even the church grounds behind the church in Gyumri are being prepared to plant vegetables for members to can in the fall. Most people here have some kind of little garden if they have any soil at all. In the villages that we go to there are very large garden plot all very well groomed like beautiful brown carpet with large ridges about a foot and a half high. They use the ridges to plant carrots in on both side and trap the water to water the plants. Most of the people grow their own seeds for the plants from last year. The animals that we didn't see all winter are now everywhere. I have seen cows, sheep, horses and pigs wandering freely everywhere in the villages. Children are now playing outside because it is warm and they're not worried about getting sick from the cold.
When we were teaching in Vanadzor, one of the sisters gave me a large sack of greens she had gotten from the mountains by her home. She told me how to prepare them and I thought I would go home and try it. However, the next day after church an another sister invited us and a set of missionaries to come out to her home for lunch. She had also been to the mountains to pick the plants that grow wild there. There is a mar/shoot/knee (van) that take them up to the mountains about 8 and picks them back up at 4:00. They take a lunch and pick like crazy the whole time they are there. She showed me a green trash bag (33 gallon size) full of bundles of what looked like spinach, she had picked to sell in town on the street. Guess what we had for lunch?
She cut up a big bunch of these greens and started cooking them with a little salt. When they were cooked, she stirred in 3 raw eggs and cooked it until they were done. It was served with bread and fruit tea. Some people put sour cream with garlic on it but I liked it so well, I just ate it plain. I might have to do some exploring in our mountains when I get back to Cache Valley to see what I can find. I was very impressed. Even the mountains have fertile soil.
The soil is really rich and great for planting. When I commented on how wonderful the soil is here one time, a sister reminded me that it is because Noah's Ark landed on Mount Ararat in Armenia and the land is blessed. In fact, she told me that everyone in the world has an Armenian heritage because Noah's Ark landed in Armenia. It is on the border between Armenia and Turkey. In fact, that was one of the reasons that there is so much bitterness between en Armenia and Turkey. Not only did Turkey kill all those Armenians but they moved the boarder to during that war to have Mount Ararat part of Turkey. Armenia was the first Christian country. They have a lot of traditions and are very proud of being Christian.
Let me end this letter with a very cool note, Do you remember me telling you about we were finally able to get ice cream over here? Well, Armenian has become an ice cream bar heaven since I wrote you last. Most little stores now have two or three ice cream chest freezers instead of one full of different kinds of ice cream bars. There are at least 30 different kinds. They even included kinds made with American candy bars and ice cream like Snicker ice cream bars. My favorite is an orange ice cream bar dipped in banana topping like you get at Artic Circle. You see many people eating ice cream bars while walking down the street. As missionaries, we try to do what the Armenians do as long as it fits church standards. You know that old joke about how many Mormons does it take to change a light bulb. Three, One to change the light bulb and two to bring the ice cream for refreshments. So we buy their delicious rich ice cream and join them. After no ice cream all winter, everyone is making up for lost time. No, I'm afraid, the mountain spinach is not as good as the ice cream. But the mountain spinach is free and the ice cream bars are a whole quarter. Stay cool and eat some ice cream and think of us. Remember we love you.
Your Senior Armenian Missionary Couple