Blogs from Yerevan, West, Armenia, Asia - page 10


Asia » Armenia » West » Yerevan July 31st 2006

So what is Armenia all about...? Well, there are a lot of old beautiful monasteries and the nature is fantastic... But be warned it is also a country where you are constantly fighting with waiters, taxi drivers, marshrutka drivers and store clerks... Non existing drinks are put on the bills in restaurants, the taxi drivers always grossly overcharge you and nobody seems to be happy with your business... When you enter a shop you get the feeling that you have disturbed them from drinking coffee or the fine art of staring at the wall and that they rather have you leave... You ask for 500 grams of something and you will get 700 grams and when you point it out they insult you and reluctantly take a bit more off... After a while it really tires ... read more

Asia » Armenia » West » Yerevan July 17th 2006

Each morning I pull myself out of bed, shuffle into the kitchen, and light a burner. I can usually do this without opening my eyes. This morning the match burned down to my fingers before I realized something was wrong. No gas. I'm good at thinking under stress. It must be from my days working as an orderly in the ER. Even in my half conscious state my mind quickly mapped out plan B: Art Bridge. Every Third World capitol has an Art Bridge. In Colombo it was Deli France, in Harare it was Italian Bakery. This is the cafe where the ex-pats hang out, the little European oasis that serves decent cappuccino and maybe croissants. I normally avoid Art Bridge, but I was desperate for a caffeine fix. The local coffee, essentially Turkish coffee, is ... read more
sidewalk cafe
Pedestrian's view
my park 1

Asia » Armenia » West » Yerevan July 10th 2006

I'm bracing for tomorrow's onslaught. I passed back the midterms on Friday, but told them no grade grubbing until Monday, tomorrow. The students at AUA have taken the art of cajoling the extra point to an extreme that I have never before witnessed. They managed to reduce my TA to tears the night she handed back their homework assignments. I had been warned to take extra precautions against cheating, so I gave the midterm in the Great Auditorium. AUA used to be the commie equivalent of a corporate retreat. Every year faithful party members would pack themselves into the lecture rooms to hear motivational speakers ranting about the party line. The culminating event might have been Khrushchev delivering a rousing closing address in the Great Auditorium: thirty rows of thirty seats on the main floor steeply ... read more
behind the facade
Lucky Fish

Asia » Armenia » West » Yerevan July 3rd 2006

Dilapidated minivans called marshrutkas are the preferred mode of travel in the Caucuses. They are cheap and fast and will take you across town, across the country, even across international borders. The downside is that they can get crowded. To make matters worse, Armenians have a strange fear of drafts, believing that a single gust virtually guarantees pneumonia. As a result, all of the windows are closed tight in a marshrutka, which makes it like a rolling sauna. This morning I took a marshrutka an hour out of town to Echmiadzin, the "Vatican" of the Armenian Apostolic Faith. Founded in 303 CE by Gregory the Illuminator, the Church celebrated its 1700-year birthday a few years ago, making it older than the Coptic churches, the Orthodox churches, and certainly older than Roman Catholicism. The theological differences between ... read more
The Spot
praying hard

Asia » Armenia » West » Yerevan June 26th 2006

The turnstiles in the Yerevan subway work the opposite way that turnstiles normally work. They are open all of the time, unless you try to walk through without depositing a token, then they snap shut. There is a line of turnstiles at the entrance, so it's not clear if the token goes in the right slot or the left. Despite surging crowds behind me, I always hesitate as I approach. I notice the other men in line doing the same. +++++ When I moved into my apartment I commented that the numerous valves and pipes reminded me of the inside of a submarine. Well now the pipes are leaking, so my apartment is the submarine in Das Boot. The sweaty engineer who frantically worked to plug leaks in the doomed vessel is my landlady's husband. Wearing ... read more
to barf or not to barf
kosmonaut cereal
expanding my web

Asia » Armenia » West » Yerevan June 19th 2006

It's Sunday night and I just returned from the third annual AUA School of Engineering picnic. The students (and some of the faculty) had to be coaxed into going this year because the previous two picnics weren't well organized. That's an understatement. In both cases they simply loaded 80 people into a couple of busses and spent the next few hours aimlessly driving around the countryside looking for a place to spread out. In one instance they set up in a meadow owned by a farmer who became irate when he discovered 80 people trampling down his prime grazing grass. They had to flee back to the busses while throwing money over their shoulders. Things got off to a bad start today when one of our busses broke down a couple of miles out of town. ... read more

Asia » Armenia » West » Yerevan June 12th 2006

When I left for the airport two weeks ago my sister handed me a copy of Elinor Burkett's book "So Many Enemies, So Little Time." It's about the year she spent as a Fulbright Scholar in Kyrgyzstan, which is a few Stans east of here. (In fact the Armenian word for "Armenian" is "Hay," descendants of the legendary archer Hayk, Noah's great-great-grandson, hence the Armenian word for "Armenia" is "Hayastan" or "Place of the Hays.") I finished the book this morning while sipping coffee on my little balcony that overlooks Yerevan, courtesy of William Fulbright. I feel so lucky to get to experience the world this way, by having the time to live and work in a place instead of just passing through. Although Kyrgyzstan is more backwards than Armenia, many of Burkett's observations are also ... read more
door bank
get rich quick 1
get rich quick 2

Asia » Armenia » West » Yerevan June 5th 2006

Even though a meal at a fancy restaurant is only about $8, I managed to spend over $200 this week, so tonight I'm celebrating the end of my first week in Armenia with a home cooked meal. I only have one pot, so it will have to be stew. Unless I buy pans, I guess it will have to be stew every night for the next two months. What I dread the most are solo trips to the grocery store. Armenia is not a service-oriented country. It's the post-Soviet hangover. For example, it's not unusual for customers to stand in a queue without complaining because the cashier needs a break to call her boyfriend. I guess we all divide our time between being workers and being customers, so I can't figure out if this system is ... read more
Khor Virap
The Cascade
Wilcomen zu der Cabaret

Asia » Armenia » West » Yerevan May 30th 2006

Sometimes living my life feels like being the only passenger on some relentless train. Sitting in Heathrow waiting for my flight to Yerevan, I wondered what it would be like to be left behind at the train's next stop. I suspected the preoccupied man sitting next to me was Armen Der Kiureghian. With the support of UC Berkeley, Armen founded the American University of Armenia in response to the 1988 earthquake. The original mission of the university was to train graduate students to become earthquake engineers. I had heard that he would be on the same flight. Indeed, five hours later, when the driver met me/us at the airport in Yerevan it turned out that this was Armen. (Note: it seems like every other Armenian man is named Armen.) For the next two months I will ... read more

Asia » Armenia » West » Yerevan October 24th 2005

Yerevan is the capital city of Armenia. It is historically and culturally a fascinating place. Some type of settlement has existed at the same location for over 2787 years. While my wanderings were mostly confined to where I could get on my own two feet (and microbus/metro/taxi), I was able to get an excellent feel for the city, especially it's center. The earliest record of settlement was found at the ruins of ancient Erebuni. Cuneiform records found at the site of the ruins mark the castle as having been built by Argistisi I in 782 c.e. with the help of 6,600 captured slaves. Armenians are a proud people, and Yerevan reflects this. Galleries of Armenian artists, monuments and statues dedicated to Armenian composers, authors, architects, poets, and heros are everywhere. They are only outnumbered by cafes, ... read more

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