Yesterday as I was sitting in the living room reading my host mom came to me and said put your pretty cloths on, we will go to a party for my nephew. They asked for you to come, so do your hair and get ready. So I went and threw on some jeans, not really all that excited, but hoping at least to get a little meat to eat. My host father came to pick us up and when I got in the car he explained to me, You will meet my nephew who is home from the army on holiday. He is a very good boy, a lot better than his brother here who is slow (his brother was sitting in the front seat of the car, they always call him dumb or slow in front of him). He speaks English very well, you will like him, he is a good looking boy. Ok I say back not really knowing what you are suppose to say to that. You will marry an Armenian boy, you are a good girl, very pretty, you will be married in a year. Hahaha no I will not. I don’t want to. You will, you will.
We drive about 15 minutes away to a part of Spitak they call Glendale. No joke, after the earthquake different parts of the world donated money to rebuild and each little sub part of town is named after the people who donated the money. As we arrive at our destination there is a group of five boys standing outside, I get out of the car and they all stare at me. My family give the boys hugs and introduce me to them and we go inside. This is my good nephew Gor, my host dad says. Hello he says to me. Hi I say. My name is Gor what is your name? Alyssa I answer. She he speaks very well my host dad says with a huge smile on his facing that is telling me I should like his nephew.
My Tatik calls to me and tells me to sit near her. She tells me what a good boy Gor is, and looks at him on the other side of the room where he is sitting surrounded by the other men at the party. They are obviously very happy to have him home and have a lot to say to him. As we sit, more and more people begin to arrive. They are all excited to meet me but really don’t have much to say. One girl in particular asks Gor how to tell me something. I forgot he answers. Time goes by, maybe two hours and the room is full of people all talking loudly and much too fast for me to understand. After awhile I stop trying to, and start playing cell phone games, yes that is how bored I was. So much for this cousin who speaks English I thought.
We are then called to eat dinner. There are three different tables, two in the kitchen and one in the living room. I am told to sit at the one in the living room, so of course I do. I soon start to notice that everyone else that sits at the table is a young male, with Gor sitting directly across from me. I have two twins to my right who look like stereotypical Russian gymnst, one is even wearing a tight tank top and they both have bowl cuts. Finally my host dad sits beside me, the last to fill the table making me the only girl. He fills my cup with vodka, and I politely tell him I do not like it, so he fills my other cup with wine. The men then start talking and for an hour I am sitting at a table in a tornado of sounds and words that I do not understand. The only thing I know is that as they are talking they are all staring at me. Every time I look up I meet Gors eyes and feel so awkward. He smiles at me as I sit helplessly not knowing anything that is going on. Occassionaly I hear the boys ask Gor to translate something for me, I forgot how to, he says. Four hours have past since I arrived; I am beyond exhaustion and beyond the point of caring what these people are talking or laughing at. One by one the boys get up after they are finished eating and leave the table. The women come in and begin to clear the table. I try to help. Nesti (sit) I am told. I look up and Gor is the only boy sitting at the table still. The table is cleared; people are still talking only they are sitting at the back of the room. About twenty of them. I take out my phone game again and start to play as chocolate and wine is set in between Gor and I.
I feel his eyes on me, but I try to ignore it, when all of a sudden I hear, do you think we are all crazy. I look up and he is smiling at me. No I say, everyone is nice. I sometimes think we are all a bit crazy. How do you like it here? I like it. Come on tell me the truth. I honestly like it. You speak English? Yes didn’t they tell you that? Yes I answer thinking to myself well why the hell did you sit here for four hours and not say a word of English to me. We quickly fall into conversation, talking about Armenian, his time in the Army, the book I am reading about Azerbijan and Armenian conflict, my language classes, and other things I don’t remember. He speaks English almost perfectly. Do you have a boyfriend he asks, my cheeks turn bright red, no I answer. That is not right he says, you should. I turn even redder. Tell me what you know in Armenian he says. I begin to think of something to say when all of a sudden I notice it is silent. I look to the back of the room and realize we have an audience. I want to crawl in a hole and get away from all of these eyes. No I say, they are all staring at me. He says something in Armenian and the room bursts into laughter. Now I just want to die. They are laughing at me, not you he says. They are just wondering what we are talking about, because they don’t understand a word. We fall into conversation again.
People begin to leave all coming up to our table kissing him and winking at me. It’s so awkward. His mom comes over to the table, bringing with her a box. She puts it on the table. He takes a bunch of letters and certificates out. He explains to me that the previous volunteer in Spitak a few years back helped him with his English. He did very well, just because he thought it was fun. He won a few composition competitions and corresponded with a number of kids back in America. He kept every letter from them. He even wrote to them when he went away to University and kept in touch with them. And before he went to the army they all sent him good luck letters. He explained to me how much it meant to him. He told me he was invited by a program to study in America, and how the volunteer had gone back to America and found a program where he could study finance and English at NYU. He was accepted to the program, but had to go to the Army. He tells me how important his country is to him and how no matter what he would never have deserted his obligation to protect it. He tells me that he is not sure what he is going to do when he gets back from the army in 10 months. He asks me if I want to do programs with him when he gets back. I ask if he wants to do any of the programs, his face turns red for the first time (he is a pretty confident guy) I do if you do he says. All of a sudden I realize we are not talking about English anymore, I am pretty sure by programs he meant something else. I don’t answer because I am so confused. When I get back I will call you and if you want to, if we want to, we can hang out together. I laugh, face red not knowing what to say, and my family in the back laughs with us. They say its time to go so I walk outside and get into the car, trying to escape as fast as I can.
But then Gors mom comes out and opens my door and grabs my hand. I want you to stay she says. My son wants to talk some more. So my whole family piled back into the living room and Gor and I continued to talk, only each of us feeling a little embarrassed now. More chocolates are brought out. I guess the family decided our date portion was over at this point, and they moved closer to join us. They put on a dvd of family pictures and Gor tells me about each picture, and who everyone is. It’s a dvd of family weddings, awkward! He tells me, I hope very much that before you leave you will get to see an Aremenian wedding, my family has beautiful weddings. Yes they are very beautiful I say. She would like an Armenian wedding he says to his family in Armenian. Che I say out loud and they all laugh. His brother grabs the camera and takes a few pictures of Gor and I. I do not pose, I feel way too awkward. Finally its almost 2 in the morning and we leave. Gor and his mom walk us to the door. We will see you again the mom tells me. You are a very good girl, we like you a lot and are happy you are here. I smile genuinely happy to have been there this night. Thank you for everything I say and hug her. I look at Gor, he smiles and I wave goodbye. I will see you soon he says….
When I get home, my cheeks are red, and as I fall into bed I still have a huge smile on my face. I am pretty sure I was just tricked into having my first Armenian date, and all and all I actually think it was kinda fun!