Yerevan – Saturday Evening

We got back into town from Garni about 1:30 and walked around for a while.  It was cloudy, grey, and chilly, certainly not the best way to see Yerevan.  All over
Ben with his video camera on his head

Ben with his video camera on his head

Armenia they use a stone of a light pink colour for building; on our way down from the border there were many houses built from this stone, and the colour itself is quite nice.  Sadly, virtually all the buildings they erect with this stone are ruthlessly boxy, often with rusting roofs of corrugated iron, and so are pretty unattractive and fail to compensate for the incredible drabness of the surrounding houses.  The town of Alaverdi quite near the border, for example, must be one of the most hideous towns in the world–blocks of dispirited, sooty grey-black houses in the midst of groaning blackened concrete apartment blocks, some large crumbling warehouses and a factory or two with charred chimneys still sputtering smoke over the town, all connected with a sort of membrane of rusting twisted fences, trash, skeletons of old trucks.  All this against a volcanic, black-brown-grey blasted lunar landscape.  The handful of structures built from this faintly blushing pink stone had the look of having been battered into submission by the oppressive surroundings; they too had acquired that demoralized, grey-black sooty appearance of fatigue and dejection.  Pretty depressing.  In the city they use this stone too, and for buildings that have been designed with a modicum of care and creativity, and one can imagine that in the sunshine they’d be quite pretty, but otherwise they seemed as drab as their surroundings.

Elene enjoying Ben's video about the temple music

Elene enjoying Ben's video about the temple music

After walking around for a while we stopped for tea and looked at our pictures.  An amusing language situation: Elene and I would speak Italian to each other; with Ben she’d speak Russian; with Aleko Georgian; while Ben, Aleko and I spoke English to one another.  This kind of thing crops up pretty frequently; on another occasion, with another friend, she and I will speak German, with Ben she’ll speak Russian, and Ben and I will speak English.  An odd situation in which everyone can communicate while being excluded from others’ conversation. It’s pretty amazing how so many people in Georgia are multi-lingual: they all speak Georgian, and most speak Russian to one degree or another; many speak the dialects of their home-towns–Megrelian, Svan, Abkhaz–and then many have acquired another language, generally English, German, or French.  Elene is fluent in most of these.

Dinner at an Indian restaurant

Dinner at an Indian restaurant

We stopped for an early dinner at this Indian restaurant that Aleko had been to a number of times.  He’d been agitating to come here for most of our trip, and joyfully ordered his favourite items from the menu.  “Best Indian food in the Caucasus,” he’d mentioned occasionally.  I haven’t tried the sole Indian place in Tbilisi, on Perovskaia, but this was pretty good.

Going-away party for one of the repats

Going-away party for one of the repats

Around 6 we went to Maro’s house, where Ben and Aleko were staying.  Aleko had to get the 7:30 night-train back to Tbilisi, so he got his stuff and made his way to the train station.  Ben, Elene and I chatted to Arett, Maro’s flatmate, for a while, drinking tea, sipping the chacha that Ben had brought, nibbling on churchkhela. Arett was a friendly, voluble guy; another repat originally from California, he had apparently known Maro from back home, and was now sorting himself out in Yerevan.  At one point he was telling us how his grandfather had been a Mason, and how they’d helped him when he first went to the States.  “The Masons are awesome.  God I can’t wait to be a Mason!” he said passionately.

Areg, Ani, Maro & the others

Areg, Ani, Maro & the others

Maro showed up after an hour or so, and we chatted for a while in their living room.  They had been invited to a going away party for one of their friends, another repat who was going back to the US, and finally around 8:30 we went with them.  For some reason the guy who was leaving had decided to have the dinner at a children’s restaurant place, with little colourful tables and cartoons on the wall, with toys scattered about the place.  By the time we got there they were finishing up, and about to leave, so, after having been introduced, we all left for the bar in this picture.

Arett, Areg & Ani

Arett, Areg & Ani

We’d met some of the people there the previous evening: Areg and Ani (the wholesome American couple) and Armine (the other Fulbright), and a Greek guy with Icelandic roots.  A lot of talk about Armenia, politics, society, religion, with Arett to inject a note of enthusiastic levity everywhere.  The guy who was leaving read the first page of his Yerevan diary, an amusing story about his feeling of dislocation on his arrival.  He also played a song on his Armenian recorder that he’d studied during his stay here.

Me & Armine

Me & Armine

Most of the time I chatted to Armine, who was great.  She’s planning a trip to the Stans in the spring with a few of her friends who were at the party, which sounded pretty interesting.  I’ve been trying to get Ben to go on a short jaunt through Kazhakstan and Uzbekistan, but he’s already been, and doesn’t seem to be up for it.  Shame.

Ben at the karaoke bar

Ben at the karaoke bar

After a few drinks we went to a sort of karaoke bar, with booths along the walls and a large screen at one end of the bar upon which music videos were projected, with the text of the songs flashed along the bottom, changing from white to red as the song progressed.  Most of the songs were Russian, which the other people in the bar would sing.  Our crowd requested three or four songs, invariably American pop songs, which we’d all holler out together.

Me & Elene

Me & Elene

Around 3 we decided to head back home, so I walked with Areg and Ani who lived near Trixi & Judith.  I found my way back to the flat, arranged my make-shift bed on the floor of the living room, and fell asleep.

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