Kyle’s Journey in Armenia

Just Another Peace Corps Blog

  • Kyle? In Armenia?

    My name is Kyle, and I am a Peace Corps volunteer in Noyemberyan, Armenia. I will live here until August 2008 and am an Information Technology volunteer. In addition to my primary assignment developing my region's WiFi internet, I also teach computer and English classes to area youth. Thank you for visiting!

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3
Aug 2008
Moscow and Our Chinese Visas
Posted in Peace Corps by Kyle at 5:48 pm |

As you may have figured out, it’s been about 5 days since I’ve updated this. That’s because I just finished my trek from Moscow to Ulan Bator (almost…) on the Trans-Siberian Railroad! The train trip, which from Moscow to Ulan Bator alone covers over 5,000 km, has been something I’ve always wanted to do in my lifetime. Today we settled into a hotel and had a chance to have a nice shower after 6 days and 5 nights of train travel. I will post all of the pictures and an extended narrative about the trip tomorrow, so stay tuned.

Before I move too far forward, I wanted to mention our 3 day stop-over in Moscow after we left St. Petersburg. Moscow is a very interesting city. First of all, we found it was far less touristy then St. P. There has been almost no signage in English (even at the Kremlin!) and English speakers and restaraunts have been few and far between. The city doesn’t have nearly as many attractions or history as St. Petersburg, but is instead a functioning capital for the people of Russia. As such, the Metro system is far more developed (it could rival London’s), and there were many more people coming and going from work. Regardless, we spent our time poking around near the Kremlin and saw some amazing sites.

We stepped off the Metro near Red Square, and the view was nothing short of stunning:

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(sorry for the bad photos - I’ll fix them tomorrow)

This is St. Issac’s Cathedral, probably the most well-known building in Moscow. The entire Kremlin complex is huge, and features vast gardens, beautiful churches, a state history museum. Here were my highlights from the three days:

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Outside a tiny, tiny church is a golden circle; they say that if you stand in the middle, facing the church, say a wish and then throw a coin over your head, your wish will come true. That’s all well and good, but the part that amused us most were the 6 grandmothers standing behind the thrower to intercept the coins! I think there is a minimum age requirement of 70 to participate, but these old ladies were ruthless and cutthroat. One lady even brought a baseball cap, and she was literally able to grab the coins out of the air. It seems like they have quite a business operation going there!

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World’s largest bell. Soviet ingenuity at its best - it’s never actually rang. Another thing to check off the list though (just wait, I’ll post photos of a much better “world’s largest” tomorrow!)

Lenin's Tomb

Lenin’s Tomb. Yes, the one and only Vladimir Lenin’s body can be found, perfectly preserved, in a creepy tomb right outside the Kremlin walls. The tomb is like a dungeon - very stern faced security gaurds, very strict, and when you walk into the room with his body, it’s an incredible experience. Every six months, his body is cleaned, then dipped in wax and other chemicals to preserve him, and then fully dressed in a new suit. He is then put on display for tourists to see. It’s one of the most… compelling… tributes to a man I’ve ever seen. I was happy to be out of there - only to see the graves of other Soviet big-wigs, including Breshnev, Yuri Gagarin (the first man in space), and our favorite Communist, Josef Stalin himself.

Anyway, there was a lot more we saw in Moscow, so be sure to check out all the pictures and videos tomorrow on Flickr. Until then, you can revel in this good news: we finally have our Chinese visas!!

Fortunately, most of you aren’t up to date on the drama that has been our Chinese visa. To make a long story short, we spent about a month trying to get our visas through the Chinese Embassy in Yerevan. The Embassy there was quite possible the least helpful and least welcoming place on Earth. Every time we went (pretty much every Tuesday and Thursday for the last month) they came up with a different excuse as to why they couldn’t get us a visa. We tried and tried, and finally asked the man who worked there if he knew anyone locally who could get us the documents we needed. Of course, he produced a cell phone number for his friend Artur, and we dutifully called it, I met him at a Metro station with an envelope of cash, and he got us the letter we needed. Or so we thought. Turns out the Consulate in Yerevan is just a jerk and would not have given us the visa no matter what (his parting words to us were, “Go apply for a Chinese visa in America”) and so we did just that: we mailed our passports home.

“What?!?!”, you are probably asking. Fortunately, Peace Corps provided us with a second passport during our service (aside from our personal passports). So, we mailed our personal passports to a wonderful company in Washington, DC, VisaHQ, who got us our visas quickly and professionally, then mailed them back to us in Mongolia, stamped and ready to go. It’s been quite an (expensive) ordeal, but the good news is, we’re finally going to China and the Beijing 2008 Olympics!!!


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The views expressed herein are the views of the author and do not express those of Peace Corps Armenia or the United States government.