On the Road with NEF in Vardenik, Armenia

I just finished editing my story about Victr Badalyan and how NEF helped him keep his beekeeping operation going. Reflecting on my time with Victr always makes me smile.

I remember we left Yerevan very early in the morning. My driver, Arman, drove us an hour or so North toward Lake Sevan. The route we took is very similar to the route Vasily Grossman described in An Armenian Sketchbook. I’m really glad I brought this book with me. I think it will be very insightful about how far the Armenian people have come since the days of the Armenian SSR.

We stopped at the NEF offices in Gavar and had a coffee. The building also serves as a USAID office, an office to combat corruption in the area, an office for Business Paretta, NEF’s microfinance partner in Armenia, and for GCCI, the Gegharkunik Chamber of Commerce and Industry, which helps NEF conduct business and marketing training to their partners. I was given my schedule by Arpine Baghdoyan, the new country director for NEF. It’s wonderful to see that this office is so organized, and yet very friendly and relaxed. My first day will start right away. We’re going to the hills around Lake Sevan to a village called Vardenik.

This is where I meet Victr Badalyan. Victr is a beekeeper with a specialty education in applied mathematics. He uses his abilities to improve his beekeeping operation and he does it to great effect. We sit in his living room and talk a little before Victr’s wife comes in with a “snack.” This was my introduction to Armenian hospitality.

Victr Badalyan is a great beekeeper. He takes meticulous notes, makes calcuations based on his observances, and changes his methods accordingly. He is very scientific in his methods and it works really well.

Victr’s personality is less a humble, methodical beekeeper than it is a force of nature. Victr has true passion for his work, a passion not found in even the happiest of workers anywhere in the world. He has truly found his calling in life. He was so excited to talk to me and tell me about his operation that I didn’t have to ask any questions during our initial interview. I barely got the camera rolling in time to catch him when he started. He told me about his queen bee hives, and then immediately was ready to take me to his main hives in the hills near the village. He even stopped to show me how beautiful his country is. This is the view of Lake Sevan he showed me near his hives. No wonder Grossman fell in love with Armenia.

Until that point, I had never met someone so positive and upbeat as Victr. When he was discussing his financial problems, he still had a cheerful look in his eyes. When he talked about problems with his hives, he still wore a wry half-smile. And as he drove us through the hills in his 60-year-old, Soviet-built car, it overheated and began to smoke through the glove compartment as it stalled to a halt.

We arrived at his hives to find them manned by his son and his nephew. He took the time to show me the whole area around the hives, and how it was covered in a special flower on which the bees really thrive. He ran around those hills like a teenager, excited to show me every aspect of his life there. He has a special trailer parked there, so he can spend days at a time, tending to his bees. He dared me to jump up onto one of the hives (I later found out the bees were especially nervous this time of year, and taking Victr up on his dare was pretty dangerous). But it was fun. He invited us in for some honey and lavash with a cup of coffee. As we talked, I began to understand Victr a little better. Beekeeping is more than a job, this is his life and he loves every minute of it. We should all be so lucky to find our calling.

In the end, I used the footage I captured to make Victr a promotional video.


He showed his gratitude the best way he knows how… he sent me a generous sample of his livelihood. It was every bit as sweet as he promised it would be.

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