Saturday, June 14, 2008


And the livin is easy. The first two Green Camps shot by in a blaze of sausage, macaroni, chanting, experiential learning, and sausage. We took a field trip from the lowlands of the Ijevan Valley up over the pass to Sevan, via an appropriately striped 80s French Tour Bus, during which there was much dancing and merriment and only one kid barfed -- a miracle considering the switchbacking mountainous roads. At times, the newest and greatest Green Camp toy -- the Megaphone -- was used to project cell phone tunes, orders, information, and even held up to the already ample Tour Bus ceiling speakers to further project the wavery pop lyrical stylings of "Sirusho" and "Arame" while the girl half of the bus danced in the aisles.

Kids love Green Camps. This much is clear. The campers are curious and actively engage in the fun experiential games and lessons, including everything from animal charades, predator/prey tag and leaf and bark rubbings, to water use/pollution simulations and community clean-ups. Armenian and American counselors work together in pairs to teach games and lead discussions among the 11-13 year old campers, with focus on community action and environmental responsibility. What's best, the kids and Armenian counselors show that they get it, that we are raising at least a basic awareness of the value of natural resources and environmental stewardship.

Also, some of these children live in villages where school ends at the eighth grade. For some this camp is their first trip outside their own villages. There is of course a range of attitudes and talents, from quiet and shy to raucous and insatiable, but overall the kids are highly capable and throw themselves into the critical thinking and discussion -- opportunities not usually abundant in Armenian schools. Green Camps are so unusual that I know none of them will forget the experience -- I only wonder how these kids might be able to manifest their learning in the future.

Went for a great hike yesterday, from a little village in a wide valley North of Lake Sevan, uphill for five hours to a grassy ridge which helps form the huge Sevan Basin, ringed on all sides by 8,000 foot peaks. A beautiful clear day -- a wondrous, expansive view of a place whose post-Soviet stylings can look so dull up close.

Now I'm back in Martuni for the day, leaving tomorrow for the next Green Camp near Stepanavan in the North. Talked to my friend Kevin today, one of my oldest friends from Phippsburg, a guy born exactly a week before me who I knew as a baby and who I fought in first grade, rolling in violent embrace down the side of the old kickball pit at Phippsburg Elementary, when it still had gigantic tractor tires as bases and before they filled it in and made a "real" field out of it.

I have a lot I want to write about, and not much time to write it. I must sleep now, but I will say that the ticket is bought -- I am coming home, and will be in Maine from mid August thru the first week of September, kayaking, swimming, hiking, picking delicious vegetables on the farm. I can't wait, and I hope to see as many of you as I can when stateside.

If you want to contact me soon, I'll be back in Martuni with internet access June 21st, Saturday, thru at least June 30th, though I will be busy running our community's Green Camp. Best to all, hope you get outside and enjoy the summery weather, wherever you might be. There's a lot of enjoyment to be had and mysteries to solve.