Random Notes and Lessons from Central Asia - Armenia, That Is, by Jody (Summer, 2002)
Disclaimer: These "Notes" were written by Jody during our summer in Armenia, June/July 2002. Originally sent as bulk emails, they are reproduced here. They are tendered in a lighthearted manner, and should be taken as such...
From Lei: You will like the pictures (take me there now!). The pictures include our recent two trips: One trip to an old church site (1300BC), we also did mountain climbing, not as easy as we thought at all. Another trip to paragliding in a very beautiful valley, we streched the wind and run for our dear life, but failed in vain trying to fly. Anyway, it's great fun and great view. Some pictures about the kids in the neibourghhood. Whether we go to play sports or walk on the street, they always gather around us and talk and pose for pictures. There are some other pictures of the city, one was taken through the window of Jody's office, you can see Mt. Ararat at the back. some are in the fruit and veg market, and vernasage market. As you can tell from the picture, it's a beautiful country and has friendly people. We really enjoy the time here. All our best!
PART ONE, JUNE 20, 2002
1. Get Your Water - Quick! OK, so there IS electricity all day, every day, contrary to what we had been told. There is, however, water outages, which means that we have several 1 liter bottles stashed away, filled with boiled water. When these are depleted, boil more water right away; it also pays to fill wash basins as well, because you never know when the water is going off again.
2. Wanna Go for a Walk? Well, it's a pretty small city, and, although cabs are fairly inexpensive, we are far enough away from the main road so that we are doing a LOT of walking; the funny part is, we are discovering that walking to the subway station (cheap - less tha $0.10) to get a subway and walk somewhere else from their is about the same distance as if we had walked the whole way!
3. Men in Black (or, What's the Dress Code in This Place? Part I). You don't have to see the movie; black is easilly the most popular color (?) for men and boys to wear in this country; easilly one out of every three are wearing a black shirt, pants, or both.
4. Disco Anyone? (or, What's the Dress Code in This Place? Part II). The women, on the other hand (or many of them, to be fair), seem particularly enamored of a style of dress that could only be described as "night club tacky."
5. You're Wearing Shorts?! (or, What's the Dress Code in This Place? Part I). No one (like, no one) wears shorts; this of course means that I am receiving as many stares as I did in China. Probably jealousy.
6. Are You From America? Unlike China, people (especially kids) are not at all reluctant to come up and talk to you if you give them the slightest opening to do so; we do. Most popular question? You guessed it.
7. Who Let the Dogs Out? Call P.E.T.A., and don't delay; good thing I don't have guns, because guns don't kill dogs, people do - especially people who are trying to sleep while listening to at times what seems like 30 different dogs in the area discussing whatever it is dogs discuss at night at the limits of their vocal capacity. People like me. Arghh.
PART TWO, JULY 1, 2002
1. I'm Driving a White Car. Yes, you are... This is what two people who I have had to meet in front of the university have said to me; it did not occur to me until afterwards that 50% of the people in Yerevan who have cars also have white cars... so why bother saying it?
2. My, What Beautiful Fountains You Have... er, Had? Well, it's too bad, really. The city has fountains - small, big, grand - everywhere, and, none of them are working. Rather, they MAY be working, but because of water shortages (and previous electricity shortages), they don't. Too bad for them, because it reflcets the relative poverty; too bad for us, because some of them look like they would be magnificent.
3. And the Winner of the 'Oldest Christian Country in the World Contest' Is. In 303 A.D., after St. Gregory cured the King of Armenia of his madness, the king decided to make Chistianity the state religion of Armenia, thus maing Armenia the Oldest Christian Country in the World. That's what they say... and say, and say... I've heard the story about 25 times now. I get it, OK?
4. Armenia: The Land of Churches. If you have not already guessed, the main atraction here is, yes, churches. Old churches. We have seen about 4 already; will probably see many more (including one fairly large one carved out of rock!). But yes, if you want churches, we got some here...
5. If You Don't Like the Election Results, Shoot 'Em. You thought the aftermath of Election 2000 in the U.S. was exciting? A few months after the 1999 parliamentary elections in Armenia, 5 gunmen burst into parliament and shot the speaker and Prime Minister, both of whom were members of the main opposition (to the president, that is) party. That's one way to get results, I guess (the trial of the gunmen is not over yet).
6. Flies are My Friends. Don't get me wrong - I am not complaining. The living conditions here are, especially compared to what we expected, great. But. Fourth floor apartment, summer, no air conditioning. OK then, open the windows, right? Right. But.... no screens... so, flies. Might as well welcome them, because they are here anyways.
PART THREE, JULY 16, 2002
1. Yerevan: The "Windy City" of Central Asia... After 6PM, Please. It's the darndest thing - It happens every day. In fact, like afternoon thunderstorms in Florida in the summer, you can almost set your clock by it. At about 6PM every day, the wind starts coming in from the north (not that it much matters what direction it comes from), and it continues to pick up thru the night. In the morning, all is calm again. Wierd. (I know - not a very exciting story - but it's free).
2. Car Alarms: One of My Personal Favorites. Forget about whether these things should even exist... in the first place, since they go off all the time, does anyone really think they are going to protect the vehicle from theft (like the boy who cried wolf). As you probably guessed, they go off all the time here (they seem to have an arrangement with the dogs mentioned in a previous edition). The best part is, one of the cars right under our windows gets set off immediately by the wind (see above); one night last week, literally once a minute, all (all) night long... you would think the owner would be embarrassed at a certain point and turn it off. If you did think that, you'd be wrong.
3. Apricots Anyone? This is also the land of apricots - it's like they originiated here or something. They are growing, and of course, on sale, everywhere.
4. Turks and Turquoise. There was a genocide of about 1.25 million (more?) Armenians in 1915 by the Turks; I won't bore you with the details (which are not neccessarilly boring); the point is that Turkey has never acknowledged the deed. They are, perhaps understandably, the enemy. Really. In fact, I am told (perhaps jokingly, but even so, tellingly) that the Armenian word for "turquoise" is "armenquoise."
5. Cops ("Bad Boy Bad Boy, Whatcha Gonna Do?"). Hah - want to get rich by being a 'bad boy,' legally? I am told that it costs about $6,000 to become a cop here (a bribe, or several, needs to be paid). You will make that money back in the first year. How? By randomly stopping vehicles on the road, and explaining that they need to pay or they will get a ticket. What, you may ask, was the problem, officer? Won't matter what they say, they probably just need lunch money, to buy the wife a new dress, etc.