One family's diary, journeys and thoughts

Friday, June 30, 2006

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

no mcdonalds

my mom and i went shopping in the city. we passed this cafe that looked just like any cafe that sells sandwiches. guess what it was called? In & Out- with the & sign! and it didn't even have the in n out label. kinda sad. yeah, that's it.

Monday, June 26, 2006


Yesterday, mom and I went out to eat pizza at Pizza Di Roma. Of course, it was past midnight, so they didn’t have much stuff left. I was sitting facing the window, and there were these two guys walking by and staring back at me. I stared back at them, and before they disappeared behind the wall, I gave them a quick glare. Next thing I know, they’re standing on the other side of the street, staring at me. Then they walk up and down the street, all the time staring at me. On one of those up and downs, on of them waved at me. Finally, they went down the street and didn’t come back again. Then, when we were going home, this guy and his friend walked up to me and said, “Hello!” in Armenian. When I ignored him, he said (in Armenian), “Sorry, you looked just like my friend.” but that’s not all. While we were walking on the street ( at 1:00 a.m.), these guys in a car honked there horn and waved at us. I was glad when we finally got home. Sheesh!

My favorite things

Looking over what we posted so far I noticed that, according to my character and the old journalistic habit, I was mainly focusing on the problems, leaving well alone. I hope no one got an impression that everything is really bad, simply terrible here. Because it’s not.

So, what’s good?

The long, fragrant evenings, with the sun setting around 9:30. I missed those, without even realizing it.
The beautiful buildings and the beauty of the city in general. Yerevan was visualized and built as an architectural ensemble where every part complements the others, and still retains that look despite some random construction going on these days.
The history that goes back centuries. It’s everywhere, in everything, and it’s reassuring.
The old memories still lurking behind every corner and some still trapped inside the house.
The convenience of a pedestrian lifestyle. Everything is arranged so that one doesn’t have to own a car. aving a car here is a choice, not a necessity.
The festive mood in the center of the city, where I live. This is mainly due to the fact that our apartment is smack in the middle of “student city”, with the university and colleges within walking distance and dressed up students promenading at daytime and romancing at night in the park.
Many meetings and surprises, friends and relatives, little kids all grown up and new kids and grandkids born whom we haven’t seen.
The warmth and willingness to help shown by many people, including strangers, especially when they find out we chose to come back, even temporarily.
The familiar, not exotic, bugs.
The fruit and veggies that actually taste like they should.
The swallows filling up the skies from early morning till late at night, endlessly patrolling the city from bugs and mosquitoes and feeding their young, nestled in the crevices of the old buildings. There is a nest right above my window, too!

Saturday, June 24, 2006


Yesterday, we watched “The Pacifier” in Russian, since it didn’t have English subtitles. That sucks. Again, I recommend it for all you comedy lovers. Vin Diesel takes a break from action movies and does a hilarious comedy with some action. He plays a Navy Seal that has to protect a family of five kids. You’ll love it. Highly recommended. Well, more later.

Oh, and I think we are finally getting Internet at home. Yay! (I’m just worried about how we’re going to share the computer amongst three people.)

Today, mom and I went to pick up the dry-cleaning. The man who worked there was out for lunch, so another man had to find our clothes and give them to us. Then, when we were about to leave, the owner came back from his lunch break, and told us that he would five us his number in case we needed anything else. He urged us to call him if we had any questions at all. Then he told us again to call him for anything we needed. Then he urged us again to call him if we had any questions. This he did many times until we finally said good-bye and left. After we left, I asked mom what all that was about. She said he was a little more drunk than last time. That explains it. You gotta love the great costumer service here. Then, when we were walking through an inner yard , we saw a construction worker throwing a bucket down on the ground and tossing its contents out. I whispered to mom, “ If you can’t kick the bucket, then just toss it on the ground.” She laughed at this. Ahhh idioms. Well, that’s all for now. Oh, and no internet yet. The guy never came by. This sucks. By the way, fixing up a kitchen (drywall, paint and tile) cost between 150 and 250 dollars. That’s all. Please comment back and tell us what’s going on. We want to hear from y’all beyond the ocean.


Bedbugs! Yup, I had an encounter with a bedbug a few nights ago. (yes, there are really such things as bedbugs.) Don’t know where it crawled out from, but the second my mom saw it, she said, “Shoot! Kill it immediately!” So that’s exactly what I did. Turns out it was like a tick or something. Later, my sister found a huge spider in her room, that probably crawled out from the old bookshelves. Did I mention a grasshopper flew into our room one night? It’s a zoo out here! But the worst was the bed bug. Ugghh! (for those of you who don’t know, that sound is accompanied by the violent shudder of the body.) On a happier note, there are little ice cream stands in every yard, and at least 20 on each block. For some people, all they have to do is step out of there houses and walk a few feet to buy ice cream. And life goes on. Well, bye 4 now. We’re still looking for a church to go to. Can’t find one. Great. I’ll write back later.


We all went to a town called Tsakhkadzor today. It is very beautiful. We hiked, climbed stairs (Vicky’s complaining included, of course), and there was a magnificent view. There was a hotel and resort that was cool. There’s a sauna, pool, basketball courts, gym, and dinner served to you. Also, there is great hiking. One of my grandma’s friends invited us to eat in the hotel. Then we walked down a long street, took a ski lift up and down a mountain, and went horseback riding. My horse followed Vicky’s horses butt. Of course, she talked to one of the horse owners. Then, when we were looking for a bus, a guy offered us a ride. Then, when we were waiting for the bus, some guys in a car pulled up by us and started to talk to Vicky and me. They got annoying, we took a taxi to another town. There, we took a bus back to the city. On the bus, there was a group of guys that talked to us. And a woman that gave Vicky a dirty look and talked in an annoying way. Finally, we got home, and Vicky fell asleep almost immediately.

Assumptions, assumptions…

People do it everywhere. They make assumptions. And it’s always annoying. I should know, I’ve annoyed people myself by making assumptions about them. Here are a few we heard over these last couple of weeks:

- My ex-mother in-law (showing up at my doorstep with a load of food she cooked for the kids): “Well, you don’t like cooking, so I just wanted the kids to have this.”

Her information is just a little outdated - she was thinking about when I was 18, had a baby and was going to college. Yeah, I didn’t cook much then, especially because she was in the kitchen most of the time anyway…

- The guy at market who was selling nice sharp pocket knives we looked at: “Oh, come now, what do you need a knife for? You’ll end up stabbing someone and getting in trouble.”

U-huh, I do it in my free time - go around stabbing people. It’s a hobby of mine.

-A woman in a bus, who was right between us and some guys who got into a conversation with us about living abroad: “It can’t be that hard living in the States - look how young you look for you age.”

Jeez! Bite me!

One of my mom’s friends, warning me against a mutual acquaintance: “Watch out, she is going to sweet-talk you into selling that house to her for half the price.”

Right. And I was born yesterday.

My uncle, over the phone, after I told him about us horseback riding: “You guys are crazy, you could have fallen and broken something.”

Yeah. The pavement.

And so it goes, on both sides of the ocean…

Flower Valley

Yesterday we took a day trip to Tsakhkadzor (translates as Flower Valley) - a small resort town about 60 km north of the capital. The organization my mom worked for (The Writer’s Union) had a guest house there for as long as I remember. Back at Soviet times everyone working at the organization as well as members of the Union could spend 24 workdays a year there either free, or at a discounted price. Needless to say, the place used to be a second home to me. It was nice to see that it hasn’t changed much. The house, that is. The town changed a little, but not so drastically as Yerevan. We met the director of the guest house, reminisced a little about my mom and the old times, after which he offered us a lunch at the hotel restaurant - free. He also told me that should I like to stay at the house for a week or so, he will arrange a discount for me. Now that’s an offer I am planning to take an advantage of, and soon! Since the place now has a pool, sauna, gym, Internet access and a bar, even the kids agreed it’s a good idea.

The town being a skiing resort, there is a ski lift. It’s in three parts, and takes you all the way to the top of a very high mountain. In the summer, only the first part works, and we took a round trip on it. The views were spectacular, I’ll post some pics when I get a chance. Half way to the ski lifts, there is an 11th century monastery, which is now renovated and looks great. It’s a special feeling, to touch those ancient stones warmed by the sun and think of the people of faith who laid them 1000 years ago. There are tiny little rooms where monks used to live (I know they are called something, but I don’t know the term), and a small cemetery behind the main church. There is a beauty and peace in all that, that is hard to express in words.

On the way back from ski lifts (which are about 2 miles from the town) Vicky started complaining. Her ankles hurt, her knees hurt, she is hurting all over and apparently I don’t give a rat’s behind and what kind of mother am I anyway and she thinks we should take a taxi back to town. Lucky for me there were guys on horsebacks passing by, who offered us a ride. Not free, about $3 per person for the ride. We took the offer and rode back into town in style. Those horses were quite capable of a gallop, we witnessed that when the guys were riding them, but with us they were going at a trot and we didn’t even had to hold the reins (not that I knew what to do with them anyway.) Mounting and dismounting was something of an embarrassment for me, not very elegant, because the horses were pretty tall, but who cares - we had fun.

Since by then we missed the last bus back to the capital, we had to get to a nearby larger town which is a transportation hub for the entire area. I offered to walk there (it’s only 4 miles or so over the mountain) but the kids were tired and refused to walk. So, we had to take a taxi after all. City kids!

Overall, I think everyone had fun. Me, the kids, the village folk… The guys were hitting on us something crazy, especially on Vicky. After a while, it gets pretty annoying. We are an easy target, because the kids are speaking English, and I speak Armenian, so the conversation starter is a no-brainer: “So, where are your guests from?” And it goes from there. Guys on the bus, guys at the bus stop, guys with the horses… Grrrf!


Still working on the house, trying to finally bring it back to normal. Since most of the work is done by friends and relatives, it’s going pretty slow. Still, I am grateful to God that people are willing to come and help. My dad brought a friend who is good at - how do you cal it - drywall? What do you call the stuff that goes over the stones and under the paint? Anyway, they spent two days patching up two big holes in my ceiling, where the drywall or whatever you call it had fallen off and you could see the wooden beams and metal armature.

Then two of my mom’s hiking friends showed up. One brought cement and fixed the mess the plumber made, the other volunteered to help me take out the trash. I must say, this last task was quite a problem. My apartment is at 3rd floor, there is no elevator and the dumpster for our area is ½ block away. And the trash I had accumulated included an ancient washing machine that weights a ton, a broken toilet, an old TV and a water heater out of which we couldn’t dump all the water… There was some construction rubble, as well as bags and bags of your regular household stuff, all broken, rusty, torn or otherwise unusable. Together with my mom’s friend e took out most of the stuff. We couldn’t take the largest things out because they were too heavy even for the two of us, considering he had a heart attack only a couple years ago. I have no idea what’s gonna happen to all that. For now, it’s just sitting on the staircase, probably annoying the neighbors. Good thing they are so patient.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

So far so good

Mariam again. Roxy erupted in a series of posts, which I had to post all at once from my login. Next week we will hopefully get Internet at home and put an end to all this nonsence with posting randomly or not at all. Love and miss you everyone. How did the cancer walk go this year?

And, if anyone is reading from Deluxe, how is Oswaldo's baby?

Come on everyone, we really want to hear from ya'll.


6-17-06 (by Roxy)

My mom and I went to the zoo today. Tickets are 36 cents. Zoo trip anyone? It’s altogether sad, really. Most of the animals have small enclosures that don’t look too comfortable. But there were some cool animals that we don’t have in the LA Zoo. Like badgers, martens, servals, raccoon dogs, and white bears (not polar bears.) The panther had one foot amputated, and a few animals had strange growths on them. Clearly, the zoo can’t afford good vet services or nice enclosures. There aren’t many volunteers. But it’s still okay, because you can get really close to the animals, even to the point of petting them. I got to pet and partially hold a large python, about 10 feet long. Cool. And there was a reticulated python, but it looked a little too small.

6-16-06 (by Roxy)

Not much reaction from Vicky on the new do. We went to a Chinese restaurant yesterday. It was so Chinese. A little too Chinese, in fact. I got orange chicken, of course. Vicky got oriental chicken, and mom got chicken curry. But it was more like peppered chicken. And the orange chicken had real oranges in it. And it was expensive. But it was pretty good. On our way there, we walked through a small park, and there was a path with about five benches on it, and on each bench there was a couple sitting, most with their arms round each other. Awkward. Well, that’s all for now. Oh, and we watched “Sahara” translated into Russian. It was a little weird. To hear them talk in a foreign language. Good thing I already had the movie memorized in English! I highly recommend “Sahara” for all you action and comedy lovers. It’s funny and well done. My mom says she likes the movie more than the book! More later. I’m going to the zoo tomorrow! Yay! Bye.


We went to a farmer’s market today. Then we passed by the meat area. That was something. There were whole pieces of meat shaped like pigs and stuff. Then there were pig heads and hooves lined up along the street. My favorite one was the head with the back facing us. You could see the brain and all the stuff inside the head. Then there were livers, guts, and such by the tubful, literally. Then we saw some sheep’s heads being sold. But the best part was a large, whole cow udder being sold in one of the mini marts. Vicky was ready to puke. She refused to look at the other pig heads sitting on the ground ( there was one more with the inner guts showing.) Sausages, anyone? Hopefully, my mom will get some pictures so you all can get grossed out. Well, that’s life here. No sense of sanitation. The guys just hold the meat with their bare hands. Good thing we don’t eat it raw! Did I mention they were bringing in huge legs of cows in the trunks of their cars? Only in Armenia…Have I grossed you guys out enough? I’ll write back later and report more disgusting goings-on. Oh, and sorry to all of you weak-stomached people. Bye 4 now!

Me again! I saw a store today called “Armo’s Shoes.” Classic, Huh? There are so many stray dogs here. The breeds are all so mixed that there are random looking dogs everywhere. I feel sorry for them. They are all so cute. One followed me once for a little while. Then it went away. Again, people are staring at us. Is it because we talk in English? Sheesh!! Oh, and I saw an African-American guy here. Before that, the only African-American things here were the mannequin dolls in the stores. And that guy was near the Marriott Hotel where all the foreign people are. Well that’s all for now, folks. More later.


Hello again! I went to a beauty salon today. We live two stories above one. Turns out the owner knew my grandma and my mom, and she’s the best in town. I needed a trim because I had split ends. I came out with a shampoo, trim, and blow-dry. Now my hair is straight!!! And I got all that for just $8.50. Haircut in Armenia, anyone? Yep, there’s another upside to coming here. Well, more later. I’ll tell you all about my sister’s expression when she sees my new do. Bye!

6-13-06 - ROXY’S TURN

Hey there! More stuff about Armenia. It’s so light here. The sun doesn’t set until about 8:30. At 10:00here, it looks like 7:00 there . And that’s in the summer! Wow!

6-12-06 - ARE WE THERE YET? (by Roxy)

Yeah. So we’re here, in Armenia. Well, physically I’m here, but mentally, I’m still in America. When we’re not out somewhere, I sit in my room and listen to music or play games on my mom’s cell phone. I listen to songs we sing at church, and it makes me so homesick. Especially when I listen to “Homesick” by Mercyme. Everything’s so different here. People stare. a lot. I don’t know if it’s just me, but I feel like an animal in a zoo. You know, one of those exotic ones that everyone wants to look at? I wish I could just crawl into my cave and hide from everyone. And the stuff!! That’s a whole other story!!! Did you know you can buy a roll of toilet paper here for about 13 cents? And they have many of the brand names that we have in America, only they’re tweaked a bit. Honestly, some of the stuff here just makes me laugh. My mom brought home a “Wizardly DUSTER” today, and the label made me split my sides laughing. Here is some of the stuff written on the package it came in (and I quote):

Throw out old clout or plume clearance, with now use Static Duster clearance not at all spend labor.
Nowhere absent dust let you bother, use Static Duster let you bother a sweep light.
lightly sweep fiber, curtain, TV, and so on, dust cling in Static Duster up, or forcibly yawing, dust dissipation in air-mid.
Let you can see no way cleaning difficulty place, such as wardrobe rear, car interior, computer keyboard etc, as long as Static Duster lightly a-put dust a sweep light.
Static Duster yet distension- to immediately clean out lightness- equipment, such as electric fan folium, TV screen, cobwebs etc and more.

(having fun reading these? The duster is made in China. Ha ha ha ha.)

Easy to clean, out of doors yawing or hand washing, and blow turf.
Prohibit cleaning heat object, such as lit light bulbs.
Directions for use: handful Duster of brush of kernel nearby fiber, TV, clothing, textile, and so on, lightly turn surface namely may, in cleaning finalize rear, handful Duster bring to out of doors yawing or by means of cleanser to clean and blow steam.

Product quality: lastest advanced technology project manufacture, elect stuff goodness, quality three bale. Product may custom made, magnitude no go begging, too may come sample custom made, free expansion pipe Duster, computer Duster, and so on.”

(No spelling mistakes here. I wrote it as it was written.)

I also saw a shirt in a store that said “Make love, not children.” Hmmmmm. Also, cigarettes are between 50 cents and a dollar here, per pack.
For my birthday, we went to Sevan lake. (not Sevan chicken.) It was fun, but I got burned pretty badly. I’m not peeling yet, though. All of you in America, cherish the sandy beaches. Here, the beach consisted of hard rocks and strange black stuff that looked like black seaweed but wasn’t. And I wont even mention how many times I hurt my feet on the lake ground. But it was worth it, because I got barbecue. Yummy. I’ll write more later when something worth writing about comes along, which will probably be the minute I step out of the door. Anyway, I’m not complaining.(hee hee. Cough cough.) well, bye for now, y’all.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Sevan, no chicken

Sevan is not only a chicken restaurant. It is also a lake in Armenia. It’s the biggest lake, so big that Armenians call it “The Armenian Sea”. That is, of course, for the lack of a better one. Still, it’s big. And nice. And that’s where we went to celebrate Roxy’s birthday.
My dad and Roxy’s dad made barbeque. We swam, we hiked, we burned…um, got suntanned. We ate cake. I took pictures of bugs. My ex took pictures with all four of his kids. The half sisters and brother got acquainted. The age difference between the oldest and the youngest one is 15 years. Nonetheless, everybody had fun together.

Here are the three sisters in the little bungalo on the beach...

...and Roxy with her half brother catching bugs on a short hike up the hill.

A disclaimer

If you noticed any gaps in the previous posts - those were supposed to be pictures. Each post had a few pics to go with it, but I can't upload them as of now. So stay tuned, the pictures will be uploaded. Eventually...


I had to call my friend the plumber again, this time to install a water meter. These are mandatory in every dwelling and there is a heavy fine for not having one.
He came, elegant as always, with his apprentice. They installed the meter and changed some of the pipes. Then they tried to turn on the water to check how everything works. There was no water. The building’s water was turned off.
-Try turning it on in the afternoon, - they told me, - and let us know if there are any leaks.
The afternoon came and still there was no water. Toward the evening I got suspicious and knocked on the neighbor’s door.
-Yeah, we have water, - he told me. We were only out for a couple of hours in the afternoon.
I had to call the guy again. It took him another couple of hours to arrive. By then, all my plans for the day had to be altered - we simply could not take a shower to leave the house.
-I still have no water, - I told him when he finally arrived.
-No way, - said he and tried to turn the water on. Nothing happened.
He stood there, puzzled, for a few minutes.
-Sorry to suggest this, - I finally ventured, - but are you sure you installed it on the right pipe? See, this one feels cold, there must be water in it, and you guys plugged it.
He looked, then turned to me and said:
They had to redo the whole thing. Made a mess all over. The funniest thing is, in the end he left offended.
-Next time call someone else, - was his parting comment.
But of course!

Do not fasten your seatbelt

Little scenes from driving in Yerevan:

The main means of transportation in Yerevan is a minibus or passenger van. They’re everywhere, connecting any two points in the city in a complicated network of routs. The cost is 25 cents. We were riding one of these, coming home after some hardware shopping, when the traffic slowed down and finally stopped. Of course, there was some street work going on, and of course there were no sign posted anywhere, so the drivers could learn what’s causing the traffic jam only after running right into heavy machinery digging in the middle of the street. So what does an Armenian driver do when he runs into an obstacle on the road? Undaunted, he drives right onto the sidewalk (which is, fortunately, almost as wide as the street) and makes his way through the pedestrian traffic, bypassing the construction. So picture this: mounds of dust and dirt on the road, a bulldozer and a couple of trucks blocking the narrow street and a two-way traffic on the sidewalk, with the unruffled pedestrians looking on and the lowest branches of the trees scratching the roofs of minivans. Only in Armenia…

I was riding in my ex-husbands car, once again returning from hardware shopping. Being a person of healthy habits, I pulled on my seatbelt and fastened it.
-Please don’t, - said my ex. – The police will stop us.
-They will think we are foreigners, and foreigners are considered an easy prey. They will find any excuse to give us a ticket.

Only in Armenia…

The apartment

The keys I had for my apartment didn’t open it. The locks were changed. So we hired a specialist. A break-in specialist. He asked me what the story was. I told him I was away for 9 years and someone changed the locks to my house. He nodded and went to work. He climbed the roof of our four-story condo building and descended to my balcony on the ropes. He broke the glass, opened the balcony door, went in and opened the front door from the inside. He didn’t ask to see any papers, just asked my name and got a phone number. The fee was $10 and the whole job took 15 min. Need a break-in job, anyone?

The apartment was in shambles. Worse – it was in ruin. Literally. Old to start with, it was badly taken care of for the last 9 years. In fact, it wasn’t taken care of at all. It was so bad I almost cried. Not only the place was falling apart, but everything I knew and remembered was gone. My cousin got rid of everything that was not his and replaced it with the stuff from his house, which he emptied and rented out prior to coming to the US.
Okay, not everything was gone. The books were still here. I was reunited with my library which I missed a lot. Some of the books I was able to find in US in English, but many were never translated and I missed them. It was like meeting old friends.

I had to vacate the rented apartment in three days, and there was no way I could move into mine without some major cleaning and renovating. The three of us wouldn’t be able to do it in a month. But God is good and he delivered once again. That evening I found one more of my mom’s friend. A very able and well connected businesswoman, and a very nice person. Much younger than my mom, she was one of her best friends nonetheless. Anyway, she grasped the situation immediately, jumped right in and pretty much took charge. The next morning we were already cleaning the apartment. Us three, my mom’s friend and a hired help.

It took the five of us three days to make it look habitable. By the third evening none except the hired help could move a muscle. AND I hurt my back (ouch! It still hurts.) But we moved in.

(A very nice lady, that hired woman, and a true professional. She worked so fast and so well, I have no idea what we would do without her. And for only $10 a day. Somehow, it doesn’t seem fair, but such is the price of labor here. In fact, it’s a pretty good pay compared to what others earn.)

One the women were done and there was a clean spot to put an ashtray, the guys came and held a pow-wow. My dad and my ex. They discussed in detail everything that needs to be done. They told me what I need to buy and how much it should cost and not a penny more. Then they took turns coming with me to hardware market to buy stuff. (The hardware market is a chapter in itself, so I’ll tell you all about it later.)
The toilet was leaking. We expected it will, but wanted to make sure. The downstairs neighbor came and told us it’s leaking for sure. In fact, he took us downstairs and showed us. He wasn’t angry, just trying to be helpful. We figured it needs to be changed. So I went to the neighborhood services department to look for a plumber.

I walked in and told them who I am and why I am here. They told me my building is not their territory, but I can ask the guy over there. The guy over there walked with me outside and called another guy. I asked who the plumber is. They told me they both are. Both looked more like Italian movie stars, trying for a mafia part in an action thriller. Spotless white shirts, pressed black slacks, black lacquered pointy shoes… They came, looked at my cracked toilet and the puddle on the floor and said they will do it. Tomorrow, and in no more than two hours. 130 bucks. And they need 100 now to buy the materials. Again, no papers, nothing to sign, just their word. I said a quick prayer and asked for a name and a phone number. I called the number and made sure his phone rings. Then I handed over the money.
They came the next morning as promised. This time the shirts were black. The work clothes, apparently. The work was done in two hours, the rest of the money handed over.
-Where are the old bewhiskered plumber guys in overalls? – I asked my dads when they were gone.
-They no longer exist, - said he. Plumbing is a big business now, and makes big money, so these guys are more businessmen than handymen.
Okay then. At least we can pee without prompting neighborly visits…

So, did you bring your kids?

The “surprise” part went seamlessly. We walked into my ex’s office from the street and he was there. We stopped by my dad’s house and he was home. He stared at us for full 30 seconds, uncomprehendingly, until he recognized me. We were taken to grandma’s and grandpa’s, who were warned there are guests coming, but weren’t told who the guests were. Grandma started crying when she saw her little Tatevik who was now taller than her.

We visited two of my mom’s friends, my friend’s mom and some neighbors. Everybody were home. Everybody were surprised and happy to see us. The best part was when my mom’s friend, after half-hour conversation with me asked if I came alone. I nodded toward the kids.
-No, I mean your kids, - say s she. – Didn’t you bring your kids?
She thought Vicky and Roxy were my friends...
Cool, huh?

So we're here

“I can’t believe we’re here. This is so weird.”
Yeah, that’s Roxy again.
I can’t believe it either. And yet we’re here.
We’re walking the streets of Yerevan.

The flight

I still can’t believe how smooth everything went. After two days of frantic packing and trying to fit our entire lives into the baggage allowance and under the weight limit, I found myself with two extra suitcases, one of which was heavier than it should have been, and a few very questionable carry-ons and “handbags” that weighted more than other people’s suitcases… Of course, there was no way we could fit all that in the old faithful Billabong, so I had to ask Sam to pick us with his van. We stopped by Ruth’s, where the Memorial Day BBQ was in full swing, stuffed ourselves one last time on American soil and headed to the airport to find a longest line I have ever seen waiting to check-in on our very flight.
The line moved much faster than I thought it would. A nice-looking girl going around was handing carry-on luggage tags. She didn’t agree with me on the size of Roxy’s “handbag”, which was, in fact, a huge backpack. We had to reshuffle and leave my film camera with Sam. But my own over inflated backpack and Vicky’s heavy one passed. Altogether, I had to pay a fraction of what I expected for the extra luggage. The security check-in went smooth, too – even though my laptop was carefully checked for explosives and my shoes for diamonds and drugs. J
The flight was long and tiring, but with very little turbulence along the way. For the first part of our flight, it was still light outside and the views were magnificent. From LAX and the Pacific coast…

We flew over the Angeles National forest…

Over strange-looking round thingies in Nevada…

Glaciers off the shores of Northern Canada…



And of course, the British isles.

The London Heathrow airport looks very big and messy compared to LAX. You exit the plane and follow the signs to transfer to another terminal. And you walk-walk-walk, and then walk some more, and then some, and then at some obscure location across the bathroom some chap tells you “ the bus will arrive momentarily”, which is in 20 minutes, and then you ride-ride-ride, in and out of building, across all the airport service facilities, out in the fields, back into the airport again, and then walk some more….and more, and more… and of course the gate for your flight is not on the information screen, so you have to walk back and ask the customer service, and they tell you it’s gate 23 but they don’t know why it’s not on the screen, and then you run back because it’s 25 min to your flight departure time, and the gate 23 is boarding to Bangalore, India, so you look around and you notice that the whole room is filled with forlorn-looking Armenians, so you sit and wait and 15 min to the flight they finally announce British Airways flight to Yerevan, and all Armenians start pushing each other as it is the national custom and miraculously everyone gets on the plane in 15 min and it takes off almost on time. Phew!

The second plane we took wasn’t a jet, just an aerobus, the turbulence was more noticeable, but still pretty tolerable. It was going to Yerevan and then to Tashkent (Uzbekistan) so mix of people on the plane was quite interesting. Toward the end of the flight a few, ahem, gentlemen were drunk and flirting with the flight attendants (who didn’t seem to mind). Otherwise all went well again, we landed uneventfully and didn’t even had to go through customs! Our rented car was waiting, and even though it took the two guys who came with it some brainwork to fit us and our luggage into the advertised “comfortable minivan”, they eventually did and we arrived at out rented apartment soon after 1 am. Yoo-hoo!

Some confused first impressions:

Faces staring at us from behind the glass while we are waiting for our suitcases. People are gathered along the glass wall that separates the secured arrival area. They are pushing each other, trying to spot a loved one a second sooner. Now I know how fish feels in an aquarium…
They finally got enough sense to relocate all the casinos out of the city, so now they are crowded along the 15 km “highway” to the airport right outside the city.
The American Embassy got themselves a new building, and quite a big one. They say it’s the biggest US Embassy building in Europe. Why does the smallest country get the biggest embassy? Beats me… (Any taxpayers reading this? It’s your tax dollar in all it’s glory. I’ll be posting a picture as soon as I get one.)
Lots and lots and LOTS of traffic. This ancient city wasn’t built to handle so many cars.
People stare. Even before they hear us speak English. Not because we look different. They stare at each other too. I am kinda used to it and don’t care anyway, but the kids feel uncomfortable.
Cafes everywhere, and the closer you get to downtown, the more cafes you see. The park across the street from my building is so full of them, you can’t walk straight and have to make your way around. Like mushrooms after the rain. It’s the new Yerevan craze…

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Many partings

Last week was a week of farewells. Farewell to family...




(All this was played against the backdrop of Roxy repeating “I can’t believe we are leaving. This is so weird!” every now and then.)

We had a wonderful lunch with coworkers at a very nice steak restaurant, where, alas, I could not partake of the steak to Carrie’s utter disappointment.

To top it all off, our church family made our last Sunday at church very special. Pastor Daniel delivered a message of advice and encouragement for us and food for thought for everyone else. The message was followed by a slide show, which, as I later learned, took a lot of time and effort by a group of conspirators to put together. Yes, Donna and Angela, I heard about those trips to Apple store and tryouts at Monday practice… The slide show was wonderful and made everyone teary-eyed. Then everyone prayed for us… I am humbled by so much love. I love you guys right back!