While we were at the river, swimming, talking, and staring up into our surroundings for minutes at a time, a car drove up with two men in it. They began to walk toward us, carrying some huge pile of junk. Great we said, another person coming to dump trash in this beautiful river. I don’t know why, but Armenians see rivers and streams and lakes as places to throw their trash. It is absolutely horrible! The trash problem here is huge. They do not have trash collections as we do in the U.S. For the most part, with a few exceptions, you are responsible for disposing of your trash however you see fit. This means people do one of two things: they either burn their trash, or they fine some place to dump it. On countless hikes I have taken here, I have run into old abandon cars in the middle of meadows and fields.
So we watched as they came closer, thinking of what we could say to them to convince them not to throw their trash where we swim. But as they came closer we saw that they in fact did not have trash, but a huge net! They were going to fish! Seriously? I thought. I mean who fishes with a huge net like that and actually catches something?!?! We watched as the man stripped down to his boxers, preparing to go into the water.
Me: He is not about to go into the water is he?
Ashley: Looks like it, but isn’t he going to be cold?
Me: Yeah, Armenians don’t go into the cold, isn’t he afraid he is going to get sick?!?!
Chad: Oh wait, he is leaving his socks on, everything is going to be fine!!
Ok so the number one thing here that I get scolded for is not wearing my socks. Socks are the old faithful protectors of one’s immune system according to Armenians. If you even think about going outside without socks you are asking for tatiks to chase you around with a pair of their own socks to protect you from germs! Even in the middle of summer, I fell asleep on the top of my bed without my socks, my host mom came in to check on me, noticed that I wasn’t wearing any and got some out of my dresser and began to put them on me. Let’s just say I woke up pretty freaked out! The word noskies is enough to give me nightmares!
So don’t you fret reader, the man wore his socks as he made a splash into the river! There was no way he was going to be cold!
Me: He’s not going to catch anything….
Splash, Splash Splash, a lot of commotion as the net is thrown and the man dives to recover it.
Me: Oh My God! Is that a fish in his MOUTH??!!!
Ashley: No, you’re not serious?
Chad: The head is in his mouth!
Me: OMG, that is so hardcore!
Scott or Chad: That guy is Gollum!!!
Me: The fish is in his MOUTH! He caught the fish and it’s alive, in his mouth!
All of us: nervous laughter
Chad: We are watching the Discovery Channel but it’s like right in front of us!
Ok, so you might be thinking, why would he put the fish in his mouth? I know that is what I was thinking. I mean he had a bag for his catches! Well the truth is I have no idea. I mean maybe it was because he has to go through the huge net quickly before the rest of his catches get away… but I really don’t know.
So as the man repeated this process over and over again, his friend made his way over toward us. He popped an Armenian squat right next to Scott.
He asked what we’re doing here, where we are from, how we like Armenia and all the usual questions. He told us about the bridge and that it was built a long time ago, I wish I could remember what year he said. And then he asked the most important question. Would you like some vodka? Scott politely declined. Why not, he asked? In English Scott said under his breath, uhh because it’s like 1 in the afternoon. The man acted as though he understood Scott. Well would they like some vodka? It is very good Armenian vodka, my wife made it. No thank you I tell him, a little surprised that he would offer it to them women too.
Soon the other man was done fishing. He only caught the one fish, but he did bring us over a surprise. A crab! He tried to hand it to us; Scott was the only one who would take it!!! He tried to explain to us something about its exoskeleton, but we didn’t understand. Our new friends had to leave, so we bid them farewell, but not before asking them for a ride back into town (sorry mom), but the day was young, there were more fish to be caught, and vodka to be drunk! As they drove away we threw the crab back into the water, so it could live to tell it’s tale of the crazy Americans it met one warm autumn day.