A night to remember

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July 7th 2015
Published: July 9th 2015
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July 7, 2015 – *Disclaimer – be warned that this entry has disgusting bodily functions mentioned*

The train ride to Yerevan from Batumi went quite well, actually. I left the guesthouse at 2:30pm, giving myself an hour to get to the train station before my train left. It is about 25-30 mins, so it should be fine, right? Well, the traffic was crazy on my street and I had to wait about 10 minutes for the right number minivan to come by, and then we barely moved for a while. I was getting a little nervous, but of course it worked out fine. I gave my ticket and passport to the ladies checking and they studied it and studied it. I think one was learning the job, but not sure. Either way, we didn’t speak the same language. They let me on and it was fine. I had a sleeper compartment for 4 in an old Soviet style train. Kind of fun. I had a lower bunk. So glad, as I had forgotten to request one. I had the room to myself for a couple hours, until a Georgian woman boarded at 6pm. We tried to talk, but it didn’t go far. She shared her pretzels with me, and shared my cookies with her. By the next day, I learned that her name is Maya, and I think she was going to Yerevan to get a visa from the Indian embassy to go to her daughter’s wedding in India. Some combination of English, Russian and Georgian gave me that idea anyway. Seems to be right. I showed her my pictures of Georgia and my cats. She showed me her daughter. We shared snacks. All was well. I did a lot of journal writing and organizational things before she got on. Then I read my book a lot after she got on. We turned off the lights around 9:30 or 10pm, and then around 10:30pm we had to get our passports stamped out of Georgia. Around midnight they came for our passports again to enter Armenia. No visa required – yay internet for being right! Then I could sleep until about 6am, when Maya got up and started munching on something. I’m not even sure I slept much, but it was still kind of nice on the train. Quiet, except for the train. And I liked the rocking motion. I could also see stars out the window at one point, and that was good too. When I woke up, the sky was blue again, for the first time in three days. But that also meant it would be in the upper 90s temp-wise. Some hot days to come – but so it is everywhere but Batumi, it seems.

At the train station I was immediately targeted by a taxi driver who wanted to drive me to my hotel. I said that I was going to take the metro, but he assured me it did not open until 9am, in about 90 minutes. I was pretty sure this was wrong, and like taxi driver the world over, he was just trying to get my money. I told him no and got some Armenian money (dram) at an ATM. He kept talking to me and finally I told him I just wanted to walk around. He pointed me in the direction of the city, sure I would be back. I cruised outside and saw a market setting up, so I walked through there. I saw what might have been the metro, but wasn’t sure. I finally asked an older man where the metro was, and he didn’t know, which is adorable because it was like right there. But he asked another guy walking by, who happened to be getting on the metro, so that worked well. He brought me to the metro, paid for my ticket, and we got on the same one together. Two stops later he showed me where to get off and all of a sudden I was cruising around Freedom Square in the downtown. I asked another guy where a particular street was, to save me time, and he asked someone else, who pointed and said it was two streets down. From there, I had a map and walked to the Envoy hostel.

Hostels can be great for meeting people and getting a lot of information, but at my age, it is also annoying to stay in dorms with 18 year old who come in late. Sleep is not to be had. But I decided to stay in this hostel because they ran two day tours that I wanted to take, and this seemed the easiest. I put my luggage in the storage room and checked email and then eventually started to wander the streets of the town to see the sights. It was in the upper 90s and I decided to wear shorts, assured that it would be fine. Women here are always looking my clothes and shoes over, because they are not nice, but that’s fine. I was comfortable. I tried to find a show-fixing place but to no avail. I even asked at the hostel but I was never able to find any of the places they mentioned.

The streets in Yerevan are well laid out, and well-marked, so it is easy to walk everywhere and navigate. I went first to the Opera square, a large place with many cafes that people hang out in. It’s a very café culture here. But I was surprised that there were not many people around at the time. Then again, it’s almost 100 degrees. Next to the cascade, a large series of stairs leading up to a monument. It has gardens and art along the way, and art galleries inside. I also learned that it has escalators as well, after I climbed the whole thing in the scorching sun. Again, not very populated. I visited the Matenadaran, a museum that specializes in really old books. Many were Christian Armenian books starting back 1000 years ago, all hand written, but some were in other languages as well, and not all were religious. I also visited the history museum, and I was blown away by how big it was. I also made it to a tiny church along the way that is really old, and was actually inside another church that had been destroyed. But this one was left intact. They also have the world’s oldest shoe, dating back to 5500 years ago. It was found in a cave here in 2009. Pretty impressive.

Around 3pm I was starving and went into a place to get a kebab. I got something different than I expected, and after waiting ages, I also found out that I was waiting in the wrong line. There is more than one line? Eventually I got my food and sat with an Armenian American professor from Minneapolis while we ate. That was nice. He was here with his students so they could continue their research.

After lunch I walked to another church near the hostel, and then I came back to the hostel and waited for it to get cooler outside. I checked email and found out that the hostel is overrun by Peace Corps volunteers. Some people were leaving the country as their time was up, and others were here to say good bye or for meetings. It was weird to see so many Americans in one place, and specifically, in this place. Finally went for some dinner at 8pm and found a café that advertised a special of Greek salad and a veggie wrap. I have been eating very heavy meat-based foods lately, so I thought some veggies would do me good. I enjoyed the meal and came back to the hostel for a night walk of the city at 9pm. I normally have no night life, at home or on trips, so this was something different for me. On trips, I usually get up early and start and am busy all day, and then come back after dinner and relax. On this walk, the guide pointed out many parts of the city and explained monuments, and so on. I also saw the more social side of Yerevan. The streets were crowded with people just hanging out, or walking around. Especially at the Opera, Cascades, and other main squares. I started to feel a bit sick as we walked – my stomach felt off - but the walk ended around 10pm at the singing and dancing fountains and I walked back from there with the guide.

Just as we were about to turn the corner leading to the hostel, I had to stop. I thought I was going to throw up, and was overwhelmed with how embarrassing that would be, as cars went by. I was able to get back to the hostel and went to my room where I met my roommates, two Peace Corps volunteers. One leaving, one staying. Experiences in Armenia seen to be mixed. Some really like it and the town/village where they live, and others do not.

Either way, I found I had to leave the room quite quickly to throw up, several times. And stay to sit down. Surely, when you’re ill, it should be one or the other, not both. I think it was food poisoning and I’m guessing it was the veggie dinner, since it was in close proximity, but it could have been either meal. Actually, it was probably the meat. I just ended up throwing up the veggie meal, and seeing it over, and over and over. This happened to me three more times through the night, until about 8am, each time worse than the previous time. The third time, I had to throw up into a garbage can while sitting down. Hideous.

July 8, 2015 – I didn’t sleep much last night, and I got up around 8am to tell the hostel that I could not go on the day tour today, because of the illness. I had to walk upstairs to do that, and it was too much. I had to sit down, against the wall, while I told the guy. He got me my money – which was so far from my mind – and asked if I needed help. I said no and walked back downstairs. I was wrong. I started to feel weak and got almost all the way into the bathroom, but then I thought I would faint, so I sat down on the floor. And threw up several more times. On the floor. At the hostel. At the entrance to the bathroom. Luckily no one came by. My hands were curled up into claws that I could not open for a while. So awful. At this time, I was just throwing up the water that I had been drinking. I finally realized how people can die of dehydration.

I called for my roommate, as I knew she was up, talking to someone around the corner. I asked her to get a towel from reception so I could clean up, but she said they would send the cleaners soon. She sat and talked to me for a while until I told her she could go. Eventually I made it back to my room and lay down for a while. I stayed in the room for a long time, and was so bored, but could not sleep. My roommate Adele came back from her run (the other roommate had left at 4am), showered and packed her stuff, and then stayed with me until about 3pm. We talked in the room for a while, and two Swiss guys moved in. Seriously, most of the tourists in this area speak German. They went out and I changed and Adele and I took a walk to the store so I could buy some water and crackers, in case eating ever seemed like a good idea again. Once she left, I chatted with another Peace Corps girl for a bit until her friends came back. Now here I am, being offered some watermelon that the whole staff and the other girls are eating, and I don’t know if I should take a piece. Maybe it’s worth the risk? Mostly water anyway? (Didn’t do it)

At the urging of Niki and Jeroen on email, I went to the pharmacy in the evening and bought some rehydration salts and activated charcoal for my stomach. I also had a few of the goldfish shaped plain crackers for dinner. It seemed ok.

I’m disappointed that I had to miss the day tour today, but if I feel better tomorrow, it’s possible I could still go to some of the locations on the list on my own. We’ll see.

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11th July 2015

I've discovered your blogs recently and I'm really enjoying your writing style. Never good to be sick on the road. Happy travels.

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