Welcome to the first post of “Ar-mania: My adventures in Armenia.”
I’m spending the summer in Armenia as part of a fellowship with Kiva.org. I’ll be blogging about micro-finance on the official Kiva website, so this blog is more about my personal travel experiences and observations in Armenia.
[Full disclosure: I’ve always thought bloggers were self-absorbed egotists, but this seemed like the easiest way to keep family and friends updated.]
When I found out in late April that I would be assigned to Armenia for the summer, I had heard of the country, but frankly knew nothing about it…. so here is a quick primer on my temporary home.
I quickly learned that Armenia has had a turbulent and sometimes tragic history, but through it all, Armenians have maintained a strong cultural identity. Armenia has been an independent country since 1991 when the Soviet Union broke apart.
About 3 million people live in Armenia, and they speak Armenian. It’s a unique language with its own alphabet. About 8 million people of Armenian heritage live outside Armenia. They’re known as the “diaspora,” and they have a big impact on Armenia even though they don’t live here.
Armenia is a relatively small geographically – about the size of Maryland. It’s a landlocked country, bordered by Georgia, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Iran.
Some famous Armenians include:
Cher (who was born Cherylin Sarkissian).
Financier Kirk Kerkorian
Notre Dame football coach Ara Parseghian
And (unfortunately) Kim Kardashian
Here’s a hint – if someone’s last name ends in “ian” or “yan,” there’s a good chance they’re Armenian.
I was surprised to learn that Armenia was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as its official religion – way back in 301 AD.
Armenia is also world famous for its apricots, and I’m lucky because they’re just coming into season.
Ok. Ok. Enough random facts about Armenia…. This blog is about me in Armenia. Stay tuned for the next post where I navigate the local real estate market and look for an apartment.