A woman canning food in Gyumri, Armenia
A charming story about the youth facility of Erevan, in Armenia:
SOS has been working in Armenia since 1988, when a devastating earthquake hit the country. Apart from the village set up in Kotayk, SOS runs a variety of different programmes for Armenian children, such as Family Strengthening Programmes in Gyumri.
Angry, irate, enraged and deeply hurt are mild words for how the two youngsters felt that day. Marine and Hermine marched into the SOS Youth Facility Erevan with nothing but fuming words in between the outraged cries and the few infuriated yells. They had just failed a finishing exam.
Marine and Hermine became best friends when they met almost ten years ago in the SOS Children's Village Kotayk. Their friendship went on all through primary school and continued when they both moved to the SOS Youth Facility in Erevan. In the fall of 2005 both girls enrolled to the tourism college in the Armenian capital. They went to classes together, studied together, took tests and field trips together and in the finishing exam at the end of the second year they - flunked together.
The initial reaction was devastating. "The teacher hates us!" shouted Marine. "He can't stand the fact that we know more than he does!" Hermine was merciless: "Did you see how he looked at us when we walked in the classroom?! I knew from the first moment he'd fail us, that ignoramus! I'm never taking the exam again."
Arnak, the youth facility educator, let them blow off steam. The other youngsters followed his example. "He hates us because we have no parents!" yelled one of the two girls. "No, he hates us because we live in this big apartment! He has no idea there're fifteen of us! What does he know?!" yelled the other. "No! It's because we're girls! I heard some year ago he flunked all the girls!" a few unpleasant nouns followed.
"You didn't say this to your teacher, did you?" Arnak said carefully. "Heck, no! He doesn't deserve our attention!" cried Marine. "Sure doesn't! I didn't want to waste one more minute in that classroom!" said Hermine. "So, did he explain why he failed you?" asked Arnak.
For their final exam, the two girls had to prepare a brochure on Armenia. "He didn't like our brochure 'cause it was done on hand and not on computer!" quickly said still infuriated Marine. "Then he said we could have done better in the choice of hotels and restaurants," added Hermine. Arnak asked to see the brochure.
Flipping through the pages he asked: "How come you only listed hotels in Erevan?" Marine was the first to explain: "Because we don't know any others." Arnak continued "But, we went to Lake Sevan last summer. Surely you'd recommend to tourists to visit this resort for a few days." Hermine had calmed down: "Hm... You're right. We could've found some hotels in the Yellow Pages."
"What about transport to the historical sites?" asked Narine, a girl from the youth facility, as she looked at the brochure over Arnak's shoulder. "You list the sites, but nothing on buses or taxis." Marine was now confused: "Ah, right. We missed that. We should've listed transport."
"You don't have a map of Erevan, but you list all these addresses of clubs and bars. How are tourists supposed to find these places if they want to walk around?" one of the boys, Andrei, was now asking. "Oops!" Hermine bit her finger. "How did we forget that?..." Other youngsters joined in with more remarks.
By now, Marine was writing down all comments on a piece of paper. Both girls were completely calm and aware why they failed the exam. "OK, I know our teacher doesn't hate us," says Marine. "He was right to fail us," added Hermine and continued: "We were a bit hard-headed with this. We could've at least shown the brochure to the others [youngsters]." Marine agreed: "Totally! We messed up. We have another chance in August and we better make it brilliant then."
The two future tourist agents learned their lesson the hard way. But, they know better now so do feel free to ask for their services next time you're taking Noah's route through the Caucasus.