Tuesday, August 14, 2007


= short for tsudesootyoon, farewell, goodbye, peace out!

Last day in Hayastan, and it's a sad one. Noush and Alyssa will be returning to Gyumri tonight, and we head back to the states tomorrow morning. Last night we had "VIP" (pronounced "VEEP") status at Cafe Astral, shared a hooka and bottle of Armenian wine, toasting to old and new friends. It was the perfect ending to a perfect trip.

I know my blog entries have mostly been we did this, we saw that, we ate this, we drank that, but really, there is so much more that cannot be captured in words, or even pictures. It's just an unexplainable feeling, understanding, and enlightment that has occurred to me, and I think I share it with Noush, my brother, and certain individuals with whom we have become close. I will do my best to share it with each and every one of you, but I know that each experience for each individual was, is, and will be different. It is now my duty to encourage and motivate you to visit your Hayrenik as well.

All I can say is this: Hayastan uh shot door us yekav (Hayastan was very much to my liking)!!! Sio! (=done, finished, that's all)

Sunday, August 12, 2007


= to fill

I finally made my venture to Vernisage, the bazarre. Very nice! Noush bought a gorgeous painting. After $3 fennels, Noushig and I met up with Raffi (Megh's Armen's friend) to go to The Stop Club, where we saw Bambir perform. We ran into a group of friends back at Opera, hopped in a cab (with a varort (driver) named Vahag that was the carbon copy of Vic's dad, with the same name! plus gold teeth), and headed out to a party by the airport. Basically, Navasartian Games/Serra High School Outdoor Dance times 1000! I felt like we were in a Britney Spears music video- Qami Pachi plus rain! There were even fireworks! I've never danced to so much house music in life, including Bob Sinclar's "World Hold On", which was a huge hit! Side note: we find out a bit more about Nazo: 1) he is best friends with Karin's cousin Saro; 2) he is first cousins with Lara's husband. The madness never stops! Noushig and I went to bed at 6am, and Sevannah woke us up at 8am dancing and blasting Armenian Navy Band. To recover from the night, we ate yummy breakfast at Art Bridge (where Noush and I danced shoorch bar for the entire restaurant while Armenoids was playing), and now we're headed to the Golden Tulip to lay out by the pool. Ahhh, hangovers are fun!

Saturday, August 11, 2007


= let's see!

Back in Yerevan, escaped past the border patrol again. Phew! We finished up our tour of Kharabagh by going to Ghandasar (an amazing church where priests were actually armed and fighting during the war against the Azeri's) and seeing the Mamik and Papik statues. So close to the side of the road, much like how Stonehenge pops up on you all of sudden. I also sampled tutti oghi. Oh dear! Basically, if someone put an open flame close to my mouth, I could breath fire! Hardcore stuff. Some basic differences in Kharabagh: 1) the landscape: more mountainous and forest-like, whereas Armenia has more grasslands; 2) the people: military men everywhere, seems like they're all ready to fight any minute; 3) the language: dialect different, a lot more Russian than Armenia, luckily my knowledge of the language came in very handy, Nini would be proud; 4) Stepankeret vs. Yerevan: much more put together, nicer, newer buildings, well paved roads, more AC in buildings, etc., which I learned is because the current president of Armenia is sending most of his monetary aid to Kharabagh, a sensitive topic for Armenia. As always, "Raffo jan" was an excellent tour guide, I learned SO much from him!!!

Yesterday, Noushig and her friend from Birthright, Alysa (who is third generation Armo from Pennslyvania, and looks a lot like Serineh Abnoosi, and is a down-ass chic!), returned to Yerevan from Gyumri as well. It was so great to see Noush again! I missed her so much! Their journey, however, took some unfortunate, unexpected turns. I'll let Noushig share the details with you, but let's just say, she's going to get her Mafia connections involved to "handle the situation." But thank God they're safe now and with us.

After getting a $3 fennel (!!!, i.e. blowdry), and after the girls calmed down a bit, we headed to Opera Cafe for Caprese pizza, Amarain salad, fri (fries), and of course, Cafe Glases. Noush, the bro, Alysa, Sevannah, and I went to a Spyurk (new word I learned, =Diasporan) party at Champs-Elysses, Noush and my first clubbing experience in Armenia. Despite the sweat, it was a great time! Great music, mix of Armenian, Arabic, House, Hip Hop, and songs I couldn't even recognize the language. Oh yes, on the way there, we ran into Caroline's mama and bro. And of course, ran into a lot of people we knew from back home at the club as well. To name a few: Shariz (UCLA), Edit, Pedro, Arda (UCI), as well as all of our new friends we had met the night before. Let small worlds collide, we see Varouj's cousins from Toronto that we met at Caroline/Varouj's wedding, one of which was Noush's usher partner at the wedding! And then, I always knew that Arda had a boyfriend on the East Coast, who I find out is Nazo (see previous entry). What a trip! Only in Yerevan!

I'm trying to learn more and enjoy my last few days here, especially with Noush, as much as possible! So far, I've heard a lot of interesting perspectives from both the Diasporans and Armenia-Armenians, as well as what Armenia was in the past and what it is today- I'll save those for my last entry.

Thursday, August 9, 2007


= to go around

And that's exactly what we did. First, we treated the mamas to French Toast and Pomegranate Iced Teas at Art Bridge Cafe, yummy! I was on a mad hunt for my "M" pendant (in Armenian), but was unsuccessful after visiting many malls. We also stopped at what my mama called "Yerevan's Casa de Fruta" where I sampled dried apricots stuffed with walnuts. To die for. At night, we stopped by the Hayrapetian residence (yeah for Linette!) before going to dinner, but Janet (AKA tour guide, AKA personal trainer!!!) had a few stops in mind: Mayr Hayastan and the Cascades. They were both breath taking, but at this point it was 10pm and we hadn't eaten since 10am! We had an excellent dinner at the bottom of the Cascades, where my bro became enthralled by Koko's various stories about his childhood, family, and Armenia (over a bottle of oghi, of course). That man knows how to give toasts! Next, drunk Mikey and I made our way to Opera Cafe where we met up with Sevannah, more Birthright volunteers, AYF Toronto, AYF Michigan, and East Coast Armos that knew our Sara very well (her name was Maral). Two bros from LA were also vacationing in Yerevan and they joined us, one of which was Nazo, who used to date Nune (Lilo's friend) and knows Raffi Kassabian. I knew I recognized him! The great thing about Armenia, both Sev and I agreed, you end up hanging out with the people you thought you'd never hang out with back home. We closed the place down with many (too many for the bro) shots of oghi and singing Armenian songs. We drew a crowd!

Rise and shine early this morning, Raffo jan picked us up to make our way east. First stop, Khor Virap, where my bro and I climbed all the way down the narrow hole. The best view of Ararat (and the Turkish border!) as well! Next stop, Nora Vank. Friends, prepare yourselves for the journey, this is where I will be married. Noushig claimed Tatev, I claim Nora Vank. We also had a breakfast picnic there, pah pah.

Adventure #1: On the way to Karabagh, we ran out of gas- normal! Unfortunately, the car stopped at a blind turn so every time a car zoomed by us while Raffo jan went to get benzene, we had to hold our breaths and pray for our lives. My bro played Borat on his DVD player which calmed us down a bit. We stopped in Goris for lunch and finally made the long drive to Kharabagh (about six hours outside Yerevan). I truly feel like I'm not in Armenia any more, Toto. I can't put my finger on it, but it's just different. We stopped at Shushi first, which is not in the best of state (reminds me of Bratislava from "Euro Trip"). It overlooks Stepanakert, where we are staying. Tomorrow, we will be going around Stepanakert and visiting Jermuk on our way back to Yerevan.

Adventure 2: We have no passports!!! Didn't even cross our minds to bring them. Luckily, it seemed as though border patrol was out for coffee, so we zoomed past their post. Let's hope we get out okay. If you don't hear from me for a while, I'm staying at Heghnar Hotel in Stepanakeret: (+374 97) 266666 (http://www.heghnarhotel.com/).

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Prrroblem chi ka!

= no problem!

After relaxing for a bit on Monday and getting a $25 1-hour massage, yesterday was dedicated to exploring the various landscapes of Armenia. The drive, as Noush describes, is like being on Highway 5, but nicer. Our first stop was Tsakhadzor, where we rode ski lifts to the top of the mountain and had an amazing view of all the mountainous plains. Then we went Lake Sevan and hung out on various shores. The water felt nice. Mikey jet skiied. There were some really nice hotels there too with private bungalows. We climbed over 300 steps to overlook Sevan, and let me tell you, it's massive! You can't see the ends, even from that high up. Then we went to Dilidjian and visited what has been my favorite church thus far, as well as Parz Leedj (Clear Lake). It was gorgeous, but not so clear. The one thing I've realized after yesterday is Armenia is THE BEST PLACE for picnics, camping, and hiking. I can't wait to do that next time. Now I understand why the Armenians in G-dale flood the parks every weekend- they're trying to relive their days in the Motherland!

Sunday, August 5, 2007


= village ways of saying: why?... how much (pronounce "a" as in "apple")?... yes!

All I can say is, what a life changing experience! Saturday morning, Noushig and I were picked up by Yerem and his beautiful wife Valentina, who manage LCO, the program through which Noush worked in the month of July. They took us to the Mashootka (public transportation here) station and we headed to VARTENIS, the "city" outside AZAD, the gyugh where Noushig worked. Prior to arriving, however, I experienced several new things: 1) In order to pump gas in Armenia, everyone has to exit from the car in case it blows up while they're filling up-- normal! 2) I saw my first fight in Armenia, the first of many according to Noush. 3) Finally, the dialect transformed!

In Vartenis, we bought fresh pork from the butcher, veggies and fruit, sok (soda) and oghi to take with us to the village. We spent about $25 and fed about 30 people! After taking unpaved roads with a taxi to Azad, we were warmly greeted by the Stepanian family: Zorab (husband), Gohar (wife), Anna (daughter), Vahan (son), Arsen (son), and Bobbi (dog). Noush is absolutely adored by everyone in the village, and in about five minutes, we were surrounded by all of the village children. We walked with them to the school which Noush had been reconstructing (wow, they've done so much, but there's so much more to do). We played volleyball with them for an hour in their very dusty gym (you can see the dust particles in the pictures I took) and headed home for khorovats. From then on, let the oghi drinking and eating begin! The town sheriff, the town principle, as well as various relatives of theirs joined us. The best meal I've had so far! I drank a toast to them (one of about 15). Noush and I were planning on leaving later that afternoon, but they wouldn't let us leave. Before I forget, some things you learn in the gyugh: all of your hygiene needs go out the door, no running water, no toilet (it's an outhouse), all sense of sanitation gone, etc. etc. Luckily I have years of girl scouting and camping experience under my belt so I didn't mind at all. You just learn to adjust. Plus, I think the oghi drinking kills any bacteria which may have arisen. So after a nap, we decided to stay the night in Azad. In our honor, oh yes, gar mortan (killed and skinned in a lamb). I saw it alive, then dead, I avoided the decapitation, but I was fascinated by the art of the skinning and butchering. Mind you, this is all happening around 1am at this point. And then, let the kef begin! We listened to Aram Asatouryan, danced, ate, and drank more. Noush and I went to bed at around 3:30am, but they didn't stop! We left at 7am the next morning and headed back to Yerevan.

In Yerevan, my bro, mama, and I went to Echimiatzin. I saw the spear that poked the side of Jesus while he hung on the cross, as well as a piece of the Crown of Thorns and Noah's Ark. Next stop was Sardarabad, a monument dedicated to fighting off Turkish invaders. It was very hot there, which our doorman described as, "Hayastani Africa na endegh." On the way back, we saw Aram's grave as well. At night, we ate dinner at a restaurant overlooking a valley and listened to great live music. Finally, we finished the night off at a cafe with some Birthright members, Noush's new group, which included Sevannah (Leanna's cousin, Lilo's friend!), and also met up with Raffi (Megh, Armen's friend). Oh yes, and Lilo, I want to Anoushik's, Arsineh's, and Ani's dance performance Friday night; I have pictures with all of them to show you!

This morning, both Noush and Shaunt left, Noush for Gyumri and Shaunt for SF. Sad day! Noush will be back on the weekend though. Until then, we have Lake Sevan and Kharabagh planned.

Thursday, August 2, 2007


= not at all (aslan)

All mornings should begin this way; read Harry Potter and do yoga on a balcony while looking at Ararat! Armen, Noushig, Mikey, and I visited Garni (pagan temple) and Geghardt (church built INTO the mountain) yesterday. JP and Shaunt did not join us because JP has fallen in love with a Parskahye girl named Vegi, and wanted to make the most of his last couple of days of seeing her (wink wink). We keep teasing him that we're going to his wedding on Sunday. It's cute though, they can barely communicate with one another; she can barely speak English, and he can barely speak Armenian, but they seem to manage somehow. Anyway, back to siteseeing: "Raffo jan," Shaunt's relative, was our driver for the day, and boy, he is a character! The sites were wonderful and quite amazing. Noush and Armen, being the foozools that they are, overheard an Italian girl asking a worker at Garni to get her a taxi to get her Geghardt. We offered her a ride instead and she spent the rest of the day of us. Raffo's car turned into a clown car! We bought excellent gata (after being attacked by all of the ladies that worked there). From Geghardt, we returned to Yerevan for our Cafe Glases at Paplavok, dropped off Mara (our new Italian friend) at her hostel, and headed home for our afternoon naps. Everyone, parents and all, went to "Old Yerevan" for dinner, where we ate traditional food, listened to traditional Armenian with musicians wearing traditional Armenian clothes, and danced traditional Armenian dances (after two bottles of oghi, of course). Then we ended up at Opera Cafe, Magnolia, and finished the night off with more Cafe Glases and Budweiser (which is 17% proof!). Through the boys, we have made friends with three brothers that run the cafe, Arthur, Arman, and Arthur; yes, two brothers, both named Arthur. Because the boys have been such loyal customers of theirs, they bought them a bottle of Armenian wine to take back and open on Shaunt's birthday. The youngest (and shortest, you'll see in the pics!) Arthur gave Noush and me sugar flowers and a blue pineapple drink. Yummy. Cafe glases that late at night was probably not the best idea because Noush and I stayed awake yapping till 4AM, and then I woke up before 8AM. So I'm looking forward to our afternoon nap before we go to the Djanbazjian dance concert (yes Lilo, can't wait to see Arsineh, Ani, and Anoushik!) and celebrate the last night the boys are in Yerevan. Tomorrow, Noush and I will be traveling to the village she lived in for the month of July. Can't wait! Until next time...