Artsakh: a Northern Ireland woman writes

Show your passport and get your handwritten visa as you cross the border from Armenia to the Republic of Artsakh and discover this: some of humankind’s most hellish hating took place in some of the most beautiful landscape in the world.

We saw a cow cleaning her minutes-old calf in a field on a plain where thousands died not thirty years ago. “Hee” “Hoo” the two men securing hay on the back of a truck called to each other in the sunshine– easy, ancient cooperation where previously bullets and rockets had flown. Missile silos surround a 7th century limestone church on top of a steep hill. The bright green of a local lizard is not the only camo this countryside has seen.

If you speak of it all, you almost certainly call this part of the world Nagorno-Karabakh. In Armenia, they call it Artsakh-its name since the 6th century BC when its beautiful forests and mountains, rock formations, and plains were part of Great Armenia, a country stretching from the Black to the Caspian Sea. In Azerbaijan today, they call this disputed territory theirs.

Fast forward nearly two thousand years from the time of Great Armenia to 1918. Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan became independent republics. Artsakh, which had also been part of the Russian Empire, and fought over for generations by Persians and Turks, was once again part of Armenia. It didn’t last of course.

In 1921, Stalin, then Lenin’s right hand man, gave Artsakh to Azerbaijan. So much for independence. No matter then, that the majority of the region’s people were ethnically Armenian, and Christian. The move was probably part of a bigger power play to bring the Turks closer to Stalin’s way of thinking.– though I for one am unclear what difference this might have made. No one really knows, for Stalin was not the confiding type. Not that it made much difference to Azerbaijan– its territory, like so many of its neighbors became subsumed by the Soviet Union. That is how things stayed for another 70 years or so.

With the collapse of the USSR in the late 80s/early 90s, the people of Artsakh thought it was time to let the Azeris know where they stood. They pressed for reunification with Armenia. That didn’t fly. The notion of independence was put to a territory -wide referendum in 1991. The ethnic Armenian/Christian population easily outvoted their minority Azeri/Muslim neighbors in the disputed territory. Independence was declared then using-ironically–the NK name which is Turkish in origin. The Azeris declared war. The Armenians fought for their kinsfolk.

If you look at a population map, it is hard to see how the tiny republic survived. Azerbaijan is a huge, oil-rich country. Artsakh at the time of the war had fewer than 200,000 people. Even with the support of every man fit to fight from next-door Armenia, the numbers didn’t look good.

The ethnic Armenians had a few things in their favor though. First, a passionate determination to hold out against the Azeris. And secondly and most importantly a strategic savvy honed by millennia-long mastery of chess. The landscape eventually worked in their favor too.

Today, the many deep gorges and ravines of Artsakh are all crossed by thin wires, threaded to thwart Azeri planes and helicopters carrying bombs, and men with loaded guns. The pilots couldn’t see the wire. When they hit it, it caused them to crash. Many of the pilots were Ukrainian– mercenaries trying to earn a crust after Soviet jobs disappeared. War does not discriminate.

There is a story, perhaps apocryphal, that the Armenians flour bombed the Azeris. They, thinking they’d been hit by a chemical weapon, fled.

The city of Shushi is on a plateau at the top of a sheer wall of rock. At first it was held by the Azeris who lit truck tires on fire and rolled them over the cliff edge on to the Armenians living in villages below. From their vantage point the Azeris could also shoot people in their houses, firing through their roofs. The situation looked hopeless for the defenders of Artsakh. But the Armenians had a plan. Across a period of weeks, they ignited spats in towns and villages, drawing their enemy out of the strategic center. Meanwhile they assembled many thousands of their own troops to storm the city from the non rocky side. It worked. The city fell to the Armenians and the war was won.

We stood overlooking the gorge and admiring the cliff and the plateau. A cuckoo sang. An Azeri might consider this a metaphor, but there are no Azeris left in Shushi, Artsakh or Armenia.

In the capital Stepanakert, a delightful, clean, open, sunny, white-stoned city there are ancient mosques dating from the time when Persians were in charge. Today these are under renovation as historic sites. In the ancient capital of Tigranakert a partial excavation has revealed a Christian church dating from medieval times. In slightly more recent times, Azeri homes were built using the remains of the old church as a foundation. No one lives there now. The plain is no man’s land, stretching out to the border with Azerbaijan. There were deaths on that plain as recently as 2016, a four-day war between the people of the Republic, their Armenian kin, and the Azeris. Every day still there are incursions on both sides, sniper shootings and deaths. Total deaths are estimated at about 35,000 since the war in the 80s/90s. Hundreds of thousands of people were displaced. Casualties are everywhere today.

Following the April war of 2016, the people of the Republic decided to revert to their old Armenian name. Nagorno-Karabakh is now the Republic of Artsakh. No one outside the South Caucasus much noticed. No one else much cares. Most of the world does not recognize Artsakh, however much they do or don’t know of the history. Azerbaijan has oil and gas, and that buys international friendship

Stepanakert is hosting CONIFA at the moment, a 10-team tournament for teams from unrecognized states. I can’t say I knew any of the team names. 3 of them– situated within territory you probably know as Ukraine– could not even turn up to play.

” Perhaps Northern Ireland should join the next tournament” said my Armenian guide. ” Northern Ireland is an unrecognized State isn’t it?”

“Maybe” I said ” but we have our own football team and we՚re able to compete in all the big tournaments”.

I thought Ara’s eyes began to glaze when I started to talk about the 1982 World Cup quarter finals. I expect if he ever has the chance to join me in Northern Ireland he will be glad our own vexed history is a great deal shorter than Armenia’s own.

Liz Barron finished her Peace Corps service before traveling independently to Artsakh in the company of an Armenian guide. Perhaps one day she will have the chance to visit Azerbaijan and hear their account of the last 2000+ years. That will not be possible however, while her passport bears an Armenian stamp.

Posted in Armenia, Artsakh, Azerbaijan, Cross-cultural understanding, Nagorno-Karabakh, Religion, Stalin, travel, war | 3 Comments

Fish and chips in a seaside poke— and other ways to celebrate a royal birthday.

I had not expected to celebrate the birthday of the Queen, or even to be invited to celebrate the birthday of the Queen. It has never happened in the UK,

Here in Armenia though, I, about 100 others, and a British military brass band, gathered at the Congress hotel in Yerevan. Our host Ambassador Judith Farnworth spoke great Armenian as she welcomed her guests, and toasted the birthday Monarch. The Deputy Prime Minister of Armenia wished the Queen a happy 93rd birthday, and we all ate fish and chips with Sarson’s vinegar, sausage rolls, and scotched quail’s eggs. On the table by the mini Yorkshire puddings with roast beef, there was a giant bottle of Colman’s mustard. Friends, there was Stilton and Wensleydale. There were oatcakes and water biscuits. There was quiche.

Most Armenians don’t expect to have cucumber floating in their drink, and so I had a punch bowl of Pimms to myself. Dark, warm flat beer was served by imperial measure, and there was a gin bar. I had the sense to avoid these options after the Pimms.

In addition to pictures of the Queen, the royal great-grandchildren, and Harry and Meghan kissing, there were a great many pictures advertising Britain as Great. These were illustrated with pictures of English castles and London icons. Being from Northern Ireland, part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, I could have chosen to be piqued by NI’s exclusion. Instead I sweetened my temper by eating Eton mess. I thought about working myself into a foment just so I could follow this with some strawberries and cream and a slice of lemon drizzle cake. Then the band played Danny Boy and I decided to mellow.

I don’t know when I enjoyed a birthday party more. All things considered, I have probably had a better week than the Queen herself. Happy birthday Ma’am. Now get some rest.

Posted in Armenia | 1 Comment

Ways of making him talk

It is a mission I never thought I would accept. I need to find a way to make my most mouthy friend talk more.

Liz Barron with Peter Weil

If you don’t know Peter Weil, well count your lucky stars. If you do you know him, you will know he talks all the time, usually about himself, and very loudly.

He makes Gyles Brandreth look reticent and tongue-tied. Beside Peter, Donald Trump is modest and backward about coming forward. Other famously garrulous Irishmen like Terry Wogan and Graham Norton seem hopelessly reserved.

Rumour has it this Crawfordsburn resident–known locally as the Mouth of Belfast Lough– once became unnecessarily intimate with the Blarney Stone, and that God mistakenly clicked refresh a number of times when endowing Peter with the gift of the gab.

On May 24, Peter has decided to stay silent for a day. He’s not in a huff, nor on a meditative retreat. There is no suggestion of oral surgery. No, Peter is trying to raise funds for a good cause by belatedly showing he knows how to shut up.

The idea was suggested by his long-suffering colleagues on the board of Belfast Central Mission. Even one day without Peter’s opinions, ideas and oft-repeated anecdotes will provide them welcome respite. Normally, I’d be with them. 24 hours of blissful quiet– what’s not to like?

Well, Peter has booked himself into Belfast’s newest hotel– the Grand Central. He knows he couldn’t go through an ordinary day without spouting forth on the bus, in the office, over lunch, and on the phone, but he thinks that a day lying on a comfortable bed binge-watching TV will allow him to do the impossible: keep his big mouth shut.

I think this is too easy. I am already plotting how to trick him into talking.

“Will it brighten up do you think?” I’ll bribe the hotel doorman to ask, for it is unlikely Peter can resist the chance to share his thoughts on Northern Ireland’s weather.

Perhaps I can prevail on the receptionist to ask him if he would like an upgrade to a Junior suite. Fond of luxury, it will kill him not to be able to say ‘Yes please’.

Once I know he is in his room I will need to arrange a series of phone calls and knocks at the door.

Maybe I could get someone to ring from Stormont issuing a special invitation for Peter to join the faltering political talks.

“Peter” I’ll get Mary Lou or Arlene to whisper “We need you here to tell us the way forward”. A long- frustrated pundit, Peter will be there just as soon as he can hail a taxi.

Then I’ll get Northern Ireland Railways on the line. Could Peter fill an immediate need for a guardsmen on the Belfast-Dublin line? Train-loving Peter has always wanted to announce the 3:33 to Portadown stopping at Lisburn.

If he still hasn’t cracked, I’ll arrange for a bewildered German tourist to stumble into his room, seeking directions to the Crown Bar. Peter prides himself on his linguistic talent and won’t be able to say Nein to showing off.

I don’t know if laughing out loud counts, but if it does then maybe I could persuade the gegsters from Queens Comedy Club to drop in on Peter during his silent vigil. The craic could make him crack.

Another weak spot of Peter’s is food. Unless he is permitted to pack a picnic, he will have to dial room service if he wants to eat. Hard to place an order if he can’t talk out loud. Maybe I can rig the TV in his bedroom so it carries only food and cooking channels? This way I can make sure he works up a massive appetite and has to dial for a starter, main and dessert. Come to think of it, there is probably no need to go to this trouble. Peter can’t work even his own remote control and so is likely to have to call Hastings Hotels’ Housekeeping for assistance long before hunger sets in.

The rules of Peter’s challenge say he is not allowed to use Twitter or other social media to get his needs met. This is not a particular hardship for Peter. He is of a vintage that prefers talk to text. But while he is not allowed online, I can be busily crowd sourcing mean tricks to get him talking. Share your ideas using #WeilWiles on May 24.

Peter Weil is attempting a 24 hour sponsored silence to raise money for Copelands – an eldercare facility that Belfast Central Mission hopes to open in County Down. You can support him and the Copelands project here. https://www.totalgiving.co.uk/mypage/peterkeepsquietforcopelands. If Peter succeeds in staying silent despite Liz Barron’s ruses, you might want to pay him double.

Posted in Armenia, Belfast, friendship, Fundraising, Grand Central Hotel, Nortgern Ireland Peace Talks, nortgetn Ireland railwsys, Northern Ireland, peace and quiet, Peter Weil | Leave a comment

To say I Love You—right out loudl

I used my involvement with Armenia’s Public schools’ Recitation contest as an excuse not to go, but even if I had been in Belfast, I wouldn’t have turned up at my school reunion. I keep in touch with a lot of girls I went to school with, and the ones I don’t see or hear from, I can’t say I miss. I am sure they feel the same about me. But maybe the truth is deeper and darker than that? As Joni Mitchell had it: so many things I would have done, but clouds got in my way. Who wants to reveal that she failed to fulfill her early promise?

It is 40 years since I left high school, and 40 years since I have seen a photo of me that featured in the 1979 Victoria College Belfast magazine. A good friend who did go to the reunion posted and tagged the old photo on Facebook. In it, I am clutching a cup awarded to the schools debate champion for Northern Ireland. That was me.

I remember that contest. The thrill of winning. The joy of making listeners laugh. My dad giving me a Chambers dictionary to commemorate my achievement.

Today, here in Armenia, I work with boys and girls who are much as I was then. Imaginative, funny, cynical, bright, ambitious and scared. The 80 who made it to the national finals of NPRC had beaten 1550 other competitors to get there. (This is rather more than competed in Northern Ireland’s debate contest in the Dark Ages). They were word perfect, high energy, original, passionate and will live in my heart always. They, of course, are competing in their third language. I still speak only Northern Irish English.

Northern Ireland in the 1970s was a grim place and any sentient teen felt isolated from real life and real opportunity. Many of us would have to get out to get on. Our Poetry kids here feel much the same way–but ask them where they see themselves in 40 years and most will say Armenia. They know they are the future of their country, and everything they do today is helping to ready them for their responsibility.

Joni Mitchell’s song Both Sides Now was one of our 11th form choices this year. Two weeks after the contest, the words are still running in my head in a loop.

Poetry people: I’ll say I love you right out loud. May your next 40 years be filled with work you love, and may you and Armenia reach your evident and glorious potential.

Just as my close school friends have championed me over the years, I hope you will keep in touch with your NPRC network and cast off other classmates who you don’t get, and who don’t get you.

https://share.icloud.com/photos/0bk7Byx0aS-1ipUZfjfAD3mbQ#Armenia

Alla recites Liz Lochead’s poem: For My Grandmother Knitting

Just as I had teachers and mentors who helped me grow in skills and confidence– and who ferried me to contests far and wide– so I hope you will stay in touch with me — and other volunteers, teachers, judges, and sponsors– who can help you now and in the future. There will be clouds. Don’t allow them in your way.

Click this link to see Martin recite Both Sides Now

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1kMupf6nxe3JRq9N4XMMPd4TJayeTG648/view?usp=drivesdk

Posted in Armenia, Both Sides Now, Joni Mitchell, Mentoring, opportunity, regrets, school reunion, Victoria College Belfast | 6 Comments

The Secrets of the Stones

There are 64 Graves –some of them inscribed in Hebrew. They are the only evidence of a small community of Jewish people who lived in South Armenia in the 12th and 13th centuries. Today, Armenia is 98% homogenous.

Apart from the ethnic Armenians, there are small communities of Yazidis–often working as shepherds and herders– and of Malakhans –often red-haired, and unfailingly peaceable and modest– who are ethnically Russian, and who are usually found in the North of Armenia. Since the 1400s there have been no Jews.

All that remains of the Vayots Dzor Jewish community is this small graveyard. There is no history of where these people came from, or what happened to them. It probably wasn’t good.

The graveyard was excavated only a few years ago. Then, some of the stones were are used to form the base of a bridge. Luckily, someone quickly recognized the rarity of what they had found. The graves were not looted or further tampered with. Jewish communities from other parts of the world were told of the discovery. Some clubbed together to build steps from the river up to the graveyard, near the village of Yeghegis. There is now a wall and a gate with a blue Star of David.

The anniversary of the discovery of the graveyard is in a couple of days. Then, there will probably be many people visiting from all over the world to honor the long dead. Today there was no one. We walked among the graves– full length and piteously short –and listened to the water, and the birds, and smelled the wild garlic.

Previous visitors, almost certainly Jewish, had placed stones in neat lines on top of many of the graves. I am not sure why. Perhaps you know?

The Jewish cemetery of Yeghegis is only one of the mysteries of Armenia. Around every corner there are more rocks and stones and carvings with secrets they will not tell. On the way to Vayots Dzor we stopped to visit Armenia’s Stonehenge. I love it there and try to visit every season. The situation is glorious, and I am hooked on the ancient intrigue. The settlement is believed to be at least 7000 years old, meaning it predates the standing stones in the south of England by a millennium or two. Many of the stones have perfect circles somehow cut in an age before Precision tools. No one knows how or why. Clearly, there are graves and the remains of ancient dwellings. Locals and international experts bicker about whether the surrounding stones are evidence of an observatory, or were placed to make a wall for defense. It’s impossible to say.

As more and more tourists come to visit Armenia, the mysteries and ongoing discoveries only add to the fun.

Posted in Archaeology, Armenia, Cross-cultural understanding, History, identity, Jewish, Jews in Armenia, Judaism, Karahunj, Syunik Marz, Things that gladden the heart, travel, Vayots Dzor, Yeghegis | 3 Comments

I get by…

Ara came the whole way to Yerevan to pick me up and drive me smoothly back to Goris. I was so glad to see him, I nearly wept. He opened the passenger door and once he got in his own seat, helped me with my seatbelt. I couldn’t manage it with my broken right wrist in a sling. His concern as he maneuvered around the potholes on the five-hour drive south was very touching. When we arrived in the city, he stopped off at his mother-in-law’s in order to pick up some fresh cooked beans and other bits and pieces, so I wouldn’t have to try to cook.

He needn’t have worried on that score. When I arrived back at my spotlessly clean apartment, there was a bunch of fresh-picked daffodils on the table and Aleta and Haykush were waiting to welcome home the invalid.

“Come upstairs” said Aleta, taking me firmly by my one good arm “Haykush will make you zhingalov hats”

They know the homemade flatbread stuffed with fresh herbs is one of my favorite snacks. Later I got into my own bed made up with clean sheets and felt very glad to be home.

My sister had offered to fly from England to help me manage. “I’ll be fine” I’d said, without really realizing how difficult life without my dominant hand would be.

I slept in my clothes, as I had done for the previous couple of days. The next morning I managed to wriggle off my leggings and underwear and to find replacements. It turns out though,that my girth is such that my left hand will not reach to my right hip. Try as I might, I couldn’t pull up my nether garments to what passes for my waist. Aleta to the rescue when she brought me the first of many cups of coffee, always served with a piece of chocolate or two.

Peace Corps volunteers rallied too. Ashlin and Bianca brought wine and wielded the corkscrew. They made huge batches of soup and salads I could eat for days. They provided cheering company.

Work was piling up. This is our busiest time of year, preparing for the finals of the National Poetry Recitation Contest. Kristine and Davit, who are overworked at the best of times, very graciously said they would manage my workload. They both sounded unfailingly upbeat and adult about it, but I knew it had to be a pain. Besides, I am not very good at letting things go. I found myself getting twitchy and anxious. If my mental health was not to go the way of my physical prowess, I would have to get back to work. I discovered the little microphone symbol beside the space bar on my phone keyboard and began to use voice dictation. It is how I am writing this post. I love artificial intelligence. I just wish it was more intelligent. It’s good – but it can’t understand either Northern Irish vowel sounds, or Armenian names. Let’s just say it works better for other people than it ever will for me. Slowly, I made corrections with the thumb of my left hand. Often I had to delete cursewords yelled in frustration and faithfully reproduced. After fewer than a dozen emails composed in about half a day I was exhausted. I thought apologetically of my friend Richard who suffered a stroke in his 20s and lost the use of his right hand. I realized I had never been quite sympathetic enough about the trials and frustrations he faced. Sorry Richard. I get it now.

I had a school to visit. A bra seemed a necessity for the first time in just under three weeks. Perhaps I should also attempt a shower? Aleta was on hand with a towel and did Yeoman’s work manhandling my damp mammaries into sturdy foundation wear. Our Armenian hosts baby their American volunteers all the time, but washing, drying and dressing us is surely outside the scope of work. Aleta bore it bravely.

Worse was to follow. If there is anything more incapacitated than an unfit adult with a broken arm, then it is an unfit adult with a broken arm and a serious gastrointestinal complaint. Among the things Aleta has been forced to clean in the past few days include clothes, bedding, the bathroom and me. I have decided that the only thing to do is consider this humiliation as practice for being old. I also doubt if I will ever be troubled with shame again. Thank God for Aleta and her no-nonsense good cheer.

Fully dressed and upright for the first time in weeks

Zhingalov Hats and flowers from the garden

Easter lunch with Aleta and Ashlin

Posted in accident, Armenia, Blessings, bras, broken wrist, clothes, Cross-cultural understanding, Easter, Embarrassment, family, Food, friendship, Goris, havjng a bad day, health and safety, injury, Jingalov hats, kindness, life lessons, personal failings, resilience, shame, Sickness, Social niceties, Things that gladden the heart, Things that make a difference, travel, Underwear, You Tube | 9 Comments

The Two-Soup Day

Yesterday was a two-soup sort of day. Snow on the ground, frost in the trees, and a bone-chilling fog which hung around damply.

The first bowl of soup was offered upstairs–part of my family’s desperate mission to expose me to every  Armenian culinary delight before I go back to the land of burgers and Twinkies.

Tan soup is a bowl of hot buttermilk to which is added a mix of chopped herbs, and finely chopped shallots fried in butter. Raw garlic, not so finely chopped, is sprinkled on top, together with square inches of dried lavash. It is eaten at breakfast time and is homey and satisfying without having the heaviness of khashil. I heartily recommend it for days when you plan to stay home breathing only under a blanket.

After the soup, I spent some time with 14 year old Natali who will perform in the National Poetry Recitation Contest in a couple of weeks’ time. Natali is reciting the lyrics of a modern Irish folk classic which has some resonance here–young men in Armenia must join the army after school and dying for their country is presented as a noble sacrifice.

Please help me through the door

Though instinct tells you no.


We were practicing the English th sound , which is difficult for most Armenians. Unfortunately for Nata, saying th requires the speaker to blow out softly while relaxing the tip of the tongue just below the front teeth. Nata recoiled in horror from the garlic stench as I ran thoroughly through the thoughs and thous, and shared my thoughts throughout.

I spent the rest of the morning brushing my teeth. Then I picked up an odd number of flowers (even numbers are unlucky) from our local florist (the poor woman was exhausted after a week featuring the days of both St Valentine and St Sarkis, the international and homegrown patrons of passion) a gift for the second soup-maker of the day.

Rita is my work friend Anna’s mum. Rita and I could be sisters and despite our language differences we recognize each other as kindred spirits. I was thrilled to get an invitation to spend the afternoon with her at home.

Anna was raised in a village about 20 minutes from Goris. Samson, another work colleague, drove us there, with Anna’s ten-year old daughter Mariam in tow. I noticed that despite the freezing fog Samson rolled his window down a little. I wished I had some chewing gum.

Rita lives with her husband, her mother in law, her son, his wife and their two kids, both under ten. The age span in the house runs from 7 to 79 and she is in the middle.

Roma, Rita’s son has actually only just moved back in. For most of his children’s lives he was working in Russia as a mechanic, sending home money every week to feed his family. Now, daring to hope that fortunes may change in Armenia, he and his dad have bought a plot of land, built a garage,and dug a mechanic’s pit. They did all this work themselves, so they have reason to be proud of it. We drove through the frozen mud to visit the garage ,and see Roma at work on a car for one of his first local customers. He didn’t have time to join us for lunch.

Lunch at Rita’s reminded me of similar meals at my Gran’s when I was a child. Giant amounts of comfort food, proper china and everyone around the table talking at once. Rita always make Anna her favorite soup when she visits. This was a tomato-based broth made with wild sorrel (aveluk) and dried plums. Lentils and potato gave it body, and the taste was both bitter and sweet. I liked it, but not as much as Anna did. There were two chickens, roast potatoes, green beans with egg, a beet and red bean salad, a pepper salad Anna had brought, cheese, bread, lavash and probably some other items I missed. We drank juice made from homegrown raspberries and toasted each other with cognac.

The kids had left the table by the time the cake, popcorn, chocolate, dates and fresh fruit were served. We had coffee at the table and then tea by the fire. Rita picked a lemon from the tree in the corner of the living room and sliced it to add to the black brew

Anna and one of her 2 sisters lay against each other on the sofa and bickered with their dad. It could have been my own family, except Anna and Meline are thin with enviably long legs.

A neighbor– everyone said she was crazy– pottered by to sit by the stove with Anna’s gran. The cousins– four of them by now–showed off their English to me, and practiced karate moves before disappearing into another corner of the house. Ruzan, Roma’s wife washed the dishes.

“Do you want nuts?” said Rita after we took some photos “biscuits?”

When I said I might never eat again Rita tasked and went off to prepare a to-go bag for me and Anna.

“Come back” said Rita. But that was before the garlicky good-bye kissing. I hope I see her again soon.

Posted in Armenia, Armenian food, aveluk, breakfast, Cooking, Cross-cultural understanding, family, Food, friendship, Garlic, Goris, gratitude, Great weekends, Local delicacies, National Poetry Recitation Contest, Things that gladden the heart, travel, Village life, Winter | Leave a comment