Notes From Hairenik
April 20, 2014

April 4, 2014
It's hard to believe that three years has passed since my first son Areg's birth. Time flies very quickly, and he's shot up in no time. He is fluent in English in Armenian (as fluent as you can be at that age) and can sing cartoon songs in Russian. He knows is ABCs and can count to 100. He is reasoning, debating, even contradicting me when I think something is humorous (It's not funny, daddy. No, it's not funny). And he's just hilarious, we have nothing but fun together. There's not a day that goes my when I am not thankful for being a dad.

Here's some random pictures of Areg, from the day he was born to just yesterday (wearing the traditional Armenian hat).

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February 21, 2014

I'm pleased to announce that my TEDx talk, "Never Letting Life Go," has finally come online.

Apart from being a father and beating the illness that I describe, this TEDx talk is one of my life’s greatest achievements. Thanks again to TEDxYerevan curator Kristine Sargsyan for valuing my story and her devotion. I’m still amazed by how enthusiastically it was received, the experience was truly humbling. My hope is that anyone viewing this talk will appreciate it.

In the talk I discuss how I overcame the most traumatic experience of my life and moved on, hoping that I would inspire others to conquer whatever personal challenges they face rather than giving in or believing that nothing can be done to reverse their misfortune. I'm thankful that I put that period of hell behind me at long last, I hardly ever think about it any more, and this talk as well as my two boys certainly helped with that. The memories haunted me for years, and now there all but gone from the top of my mind. With every day that goes by, every morning when I look upon my children's beaming faces, I feel more grateful for what I have now.

I want to again thank my fellow TEDx speakers for the inspiration they bestowed unto me. They are all super intelligent, kind and make lasting impressions--I have certainly learned a lot from them. I strongly encourage all readers of this post to watch their TEDx talks; they are all very insightful and persuade you to examine circumstances of life from various perspectives. I am proud to know them.

Please share your thoughts about the talk and tell others about it if you feel so inclined. Thanks!

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January 3, 2014
Another year has passed like a fleeting moment in time. The older I get the quicker the years seem to fly by. Apparently I’m not alone, friends have complained the same to me.

Last year was laden with the typical highs and lows that life offers us. I am thankful for the birth of my healthy, rotund as a compact, naked turkey ready for the oven second son Shant, who is another sweet joy in my life. Back in September I was honored to give a TED talk in Yerevan, one of the most monumental endeavors of my life, third to being a father and actually recovering from the sickness I discussed during the talk, which incidentally was warmly received much to my delighted surprise.

I have many wishes for the new year, not only for myself but everyone around me, for the entire world.

1. Live a healthy and happy life. This sounds like a cliché. Who doesn’t want to be content and well? It’s something we take for granted, though. Those of us who are less fortunate may have difficulty raising their heads above the water, while others are too caught up in the frantic pace of their daily lives that they forget to appreciate what they have. No matter where someone is in his existence, wish them peace, and in turn be happy that you did. We as human beings need to feel empathy towards one another in order to grow and survive.

2. Stop taking things personally. Earlier this year I read a book by Don Miguel Ángel Ruiz called The Four Agreements, perhaps it can be labeled with a “self help” title but actually it is written in a way to simply make you realize things you do every day without fathoming how damaging they are when they constrain you from achieving. Ruiz encourages readers to prevent letting others get to them, no matter what they say or do. When you convince yourself that it’s not worth taking seriously, or to empathize and try to imagine what the person you are in contact with might be going through deep down, you conserve energy for what you need to accomplish. You cease being offended and ignore impulses that you have been slighted in some way. You walk away, dissolving the conflict in your mind and pushing away the negative thoughts that may have germinated in the conflict waiting to happen. This method is extremely challenging; deflecting bullshit demands patience and practice.

3. Taking the previous step further, stay away from energy sapping people or situations. It’s best to avoid contact with others that you feel have been tapping into your valuable emotional resources. Sometimes it’s really hard trying to come to understandings with those who are close to you, whether they are dear friends, family members or co-workers. But if the possibility exists short of separating from your spouse, give the relationship a time-out.

4. Get out of situations where you are unhappy. I know from personal experience that it is pointless to stay in a place or a relationship where you are miserable. Follow happiness, even if it means taking a huge risk or a significant pay cut. It’s not worth your nerves or your sanity to remain disappointed or unchallenged.

5. Do your best. This might seem like another standard cliché, but it will always hold true. Designate something in the day for which you’ll do your best to achieve -- I usually choose being a good father. You don’t have to do or be your best in everything obviously, it’s impossible. So long as you give it your all for something that’s important to you on a daily basis, whether it’s a specific work-related task or more personal in nature, that’s more than enough.

6. Give yourself a break. No matter how relaxed and ecstatic you want to be in your life, something discouraging or unnerving might come your way and set you back. I’ve had to deal with some rather surprising and frustrating episodes during the last two months, and I felt myself slipping away from my sustained level of contentment. But I always caught up again. If you focus and never stop loving life you will always reach happiness.

This list will get longer as the year progresses, and it should. To dwell in happiness you need to continuously identify what will sustain it and the steps that must be taken when you lose your footing. That’s what makes life so wonderful.

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January 1, 2014

Wishing all my friends and family a wonderful year in 2014. Health and much happiness to all. 

Hard to believe this blog will be celebrating its 10th anniversary. Thanks for all your support over the last decade.

November 11, 2013

Here he is! Little Shant, born on November 4 around 9:30 pm. He weighed 3.2 kilos and measured 51 cm in length, apparently not bad for a 37 week-old preemie. But as the photos attest, he is gorgeous. As a newborn he looks like a photocopy of his older brother. They may be mistaken for twins as they age, who knows?

Shant can best be described as a peanut. I think he has grayish blue eyes, just as his older brother did, he keeps them shut most of the time. His hair is dark chocolate brown, like his mom’s.

Not much has changed since last time around with Areg in terms of the administrative headache--infinitely worse than two years ago--and the hospital amenities. But to remedy the latter problem of sitting in a room with crumbling plaster and drafty, dried-out wooden windows, we opted for the “lux” room at around $25 a night. It is equipped with plenty of furniture, a good size refrigerator, new vinyl windows, a decent bathroom and a proper bed, as opposed to the wire hammock Anush and Areg were made to endure last time when the fancy room was unavailable to us. This suite is the only part of the entire maternity ward that’s been renovated in what must be several decades. And make no mistake, it is a moneymaker for whoever’s running the place, the overall dilapidated condition both inside and out is unacceptable. Sad that the entire floor doesn’t have similar comfortable living conditions for all.

But we’re all obviously ecstatic that Shant has made his grand appearance, and as we get to know him more, he will be continuously dosed with love and affection, just as Areg continues to be. Can’t wait to watch them play together. Mom and baby are due to come home Monday.

I am so honored to be a father. It’s without question the best thing that ever happened to me, besides getting married.

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If anyone in Yerevan is looking for authentic lahmajune (i.e., not 'lamajo') look no further than a tiny place called Gaydz. It's the real deal.

Lahmajune is sometimes known as "Armenian pizza" although you can eat it throughout the Middle East. A mixture of ground beef (or lamb, depending on the recipe), tomatoes, onions and parsley is spread on round thin dough, similar in shape and size of a large flour tortilla, about 8 inches in diameter.  Bake it for five minutes, take a bite and indulge in a wonderful melange of flavors bursting in your mouth, if it's done right. Wash it down with cold tan, the perfect, forever fun snack.

Except it is extremely hard to find lahmajune in Yerevan. Had not a friend of mine, Hrant, checked Gaydz out yesterday I would still be clueless about where to go. There is a famous place on Tumanian Street mostly frequented by tourists that claims to offer "Aintab-style" lahmajune, it's been there for over a decade. But there's something not quite right about it, the consistency, look and feel are all off. The meat is too greasy for one thing, and the expected savoriness is just not there. But the proprietors of Gaydz are from Aleppo, and the place has been in business for about 6 months.

Here's a photo of what the ideal lahmajune looks like. I didn't have a chance to photograph what I ate. This is what to expect at Gaydz. Photo courtesy of

What is found in abundant supply in Yerevan is something known as "lamajo," which is basically imitation lahmajune. The crust is thin and round, but instead of ground beef, salted pureed fat is used. They also sprinkle a little chopped cilantro for some color, since it's usually lifelessly gray. I've had it about five or six times in my life, and it was never anything special. It's actually kind of gross.

To get to Gaydz, drive or walk down Khorenatsi Street from Mashtots. Just before you get to the Zakyan intersection on your left you will see a supermarket and some other storefronts and then an archway will be visible that leads to the courtyard behind the building. At the end make a left and on the right beside a garage you'll see the unobtrusive place. It looks like a shack basically. There is zero ambience, but the food is fantastic. They also offer lahmajune with some pomegranate molasses (what they call Arabic lahmajune) and the Yerevan lahmajune has a kebab ground beef topping, neither of which I've tried, yet. And the people there are very friendly.

The official address of Gaydz is Khorenatsi 9/4. Place your order ahead of time by calling 094-27-84-90 or 077-33-21-18. If you love lahmajune you will certainly not be disappointed.

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