View Larger Map
Snapshot of Armenia – The official language of Armenia is Armenian. The Armenian language has its own distinct alphabet, and the western and eastern halves of the country each have their own distinct dialect. Russian is also commonly spoken among the Armenian people. The Armenian Apostolic Church is the largest religious denomination in the country, though the Armenian Catholic, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches also have a presence. Armenia has unique folk music, using instruments such as the dulcimer, davul (a hand drum), lute, and others. Rabiz is the most popular type of modern music, though rock and hip-hop also have smaller followings. Armenia also has a long tradition of dance. The traditional art of carpet weaving is still done in modern times, and these and other traditional art forms are frequently found at open-air markets such as the Yerevan Vernissage in the city of Yerevan. Soccer is Armenia’s most popular sport, though wrestling and weightlifting are other popular sporting events. Chess is also extremely popular in Armenia. Wheat is the most commonly-used type of grain in Armenian cooking, and spices are not used very often. Typical Armenian dishes include dzhash – a watery stew using meat and some type of vegetable (generally peas, squash, or pumpkin); byorek – a popular appetizer pastry stuffed with cheese, spinach, or meat; and grilled meats called khorovats, which are similar to kebabs. Different types of breads and soups are also popular.
Georgia (also part of Armenian mission!)
Georgia’s official language is Georgian, though Russian and Armenian are also spoken within the country. Over 80% of the population belong to the Georgian Orthodox Church, and many classical pieces of Georgian art reflect this tradition. Another 10% of Georgians are Muslim. Georgia has strong traditions in music, theater, and art, as well as folklore. Traditional vocal singing, classically-inspired music, and stage choirs continue to have a strong presence in modern-day Georgia. Soccer and rugby are popular team sports in Georgia, though wrestling is also considered to be an important part of Georgia’s historical culture. Examples of Georgian food include Chakapuli (a stew made using lamb chops and several herbs), Khinkali (a dumpling that is usually filled with spiced meat, mushrooms, and cheese), and Khachapuri, a cheese bread that contains different fillings in different regions of the country.
The Armenian people first experienced the Gospel outside of their country in the late 19th century. It wasn’t until 1992 that Armenians were allowed to get baptized in their own country. The first man and woman baptisms occurred in the Spring of 1992. The first branch was organized in 1994, and the Church was finally registered in the country of Armenia in 1995. Currently there are 3,024 members of the Church attending one of 11 congregations. The mission of Armenia covers the entire country.
Armenia has its own traditional cuisines, and incorporates other Eastern European dishes. Bread and Potatoes are frequent meals at the dinner table in Armenia. They are cost effective, especially for people living outside of the big cities.
Fruits and vegetables are grown and used throughout the year. In the summers melons and apricots are enjoyed, and apples are welcomed in the fall time. Most families have a space in their town for a garden. Their homegrown produce is canned to extend throughout the year. Soups like Borsch, are common meals too. They’re also found in other European countries as well. Xorvat is the Armenian Barbecue. Meats such as pork, beef and chicken are put on a sheath over smoky embers and cooked.
Street food is very different than food in the home. There is a tortilla-like shell filled with meat and spices, which are called Lama Joe. There are kebabs sold, along with drinks and other quick meals for the road. There are also stands that sell the Turkish Schwarma, but the meat is cooked differently.
The water needs to be filtered or bottled. People drink a lot of soda, because it is a better substitute and cheap.
There are a variety of transportation options in Armenia. Each mode of transportation is relatively very inexpensive. Taxi rides are the most expensive, but there are some public taxis, and you split the cost between you and the strangers you’re riding with. There are only subways in the city, which is a very economical way to travel. There are vans called “Marshutni” and they have been redesigned to fit more people in them than a regular van. Each van has a number, which declares its specific route. The majority of the people stand in the van squished together, although there are a few spots for sitting. The buses are another way to travel throughout the cities. They are old, Soviet buses and each has a specific route too.
The safety within Armenia is regulated and kept very well. Moving towards the borders of Turkey and Azerbaijan, the intensity of safety cautions increase. These borders are guarded with guards to prevent anyone from crossing the border lines. There are two regions known as conflict zones, which have tried to clear all of the mines, but may not have been able to find all of them. There are occasional political rallies, which all travelers are encouraged to stay away from. Years have passed since violent outrages have broken out during these demonstrations. The safety of the transportation is questionable. There are many accidents on the roadways because of the impatience of drivers and heavy traffic. In regards to the crime rate, it is important to be alert of the surroundings, but Armenia does not suffer from great crime instances.
Armenia is one of the first countries to accept and hold strong to Christianity as its primary religion. The people of Armenia are very proud of this heritage. They are unique with their 39-letter alphabet, which was invented in the 1st century. Over 95% of the country speaks Armenian, and a majority of those individuals also speak Russian. English is becoming more integrated into their education as well.
In Armenia there are traditional dances that have been danced for centuries. There are records from the 5 B.C. of these dances and paintings of these scenes. Dancing is a way to express devotion to God, pride for the country and enjoyment during celebrations and events. The costumes for these dances are a beautiful, deep red, with intense and beautiful beading. There are even international folk teams that travel throughout the world to share of the rich, Armenian history.
Armenians celebrate New Years with a two-week celebration. There is a country-specific holiday during the first Sunday of July called Vardavar or Vartavar. It was a pagan holiday that the Armenians liked so much, they accepted it as a christian holiday. It is basically a country-wide water fight, where anyone can drench anyone with water. The people don’t stop work, but water balloons, buckets of water, etc. are thrown at strangers, friends and family throughout the whole day.
It is important to acknowledge everyone. If an individual shakes one persons hand to greet them in a group, that individual will need to acknowledge and shake everyone else’s hand who is standing in the group.
The Armenian people appreciate and honor their heritage. They are grateful to people who have learned about their history and show an interest in their culture.
Sending packages and letters to Armenia
The mailing system in Armenia is dependable. From the United States it’s best to send priority, flat rate boxes. Send all the boxes to the mission home, and they will distribute them to the missionaries. Although many places recommend parents and friends to send items such as shoes in separate boxes, the Armenian mailing system is very honest. Items are rarely taken or lost in transit. Shoes or other important items can be sent in one package. Letters go through the system well too. It will take a couple weeks for a letter to get there, or maybe less time.
Vratsakan # 5
Straight from the Armenia Yerevan Mission field:
*What items were hard to get or not available?
“You could find pretty much anything. The rare things were just expensive”
*What did you eat the most of?
*What is the craziest thing you ate?
“Cow hoof soup”
*What was most surprising about the culture?
*What advice would you give to someone going to the Armenia Yerevan Mission?
*What do you wish you had known before you served?