Saturday, August 27, 2011

Marsom em!

It's August, and I am currently wearing my long underwear,socks, and a sweater. I am also under a blanket and drinking hot coco.... What the heck Armenia?!?! Winter just ended in May, this is unacceptable!!!
Also I went to the Peace Corps office today and was surprised by a number of things. First a mailbox full of dog toys and treats?!?!?! Who are they from??? I don't know but I am really thankful and so is Sophie!!!
Second a letter from my Senator Barbra Boxer pretty much telling me I am awesome and thanking me for my service! Senator Boxer, I AGREE with you! It's about time you noticed =)
Lastly A pretty green bag sitting in the middle of the office with my name on it. What was inside??? A volleyball and two basketballs and a pump!!! Awesome little donation to my school for our new gym, which dear God I hope opens this year!! Thanks to a MR. Paul Bloomer for getting the children of Armenia sports equipment donations! I can't wait to give my students a real volleyball. They would beg me to play with them last year, but they played with a soccer ball. It hurt! Now we can play without breaking all the blood vessels in our arms!!

Life is good even though I am currently begging my dog to come sit on my lap so that I don't have to turn the heater on!!! =) Enjoy your heat wave America

Friday, August 19, 2011

Not only did I dance but I....


As we drove back in the direction we had come from, I began to wonder where the reception was going to be. The house that we had met the bride at was a tiny little house, so I knew it couldn’t be the place where the reception would be. I wondered if such a tiny village could have a restaurant. The only other Armenian wedding I had been to was at a restaurant so I figured this one would be as well.
A few minutes later we pull back into the driveway of the house that we had left. As we get out of the car, I ask my counterpart if the reception would be at this house. She looks at me and says oh no we don’t do that… Ok then what are we doing here? Oh we will eat and dance and celebrate here, she answers… So the reception is here.
The bride and groom stand at the foot of the stairs to their home that they will share with his parents and sister. The Grooms mother comes out with Levash, she places it on the grooms shoulder first and hugs him and then she goes over to her new daughter and places it on her shoulder. The groom looks over at his bride, smiling, his face lit up with happiness as his mother speaks into his brides ear.



Next we follow them as they lead us into their house. At the entrance way two plates lie on the floor, the bride and groom stomp on them together. They don’t break. They attempt it again as screams of opa ring out (Armenians say opa a lot, I guess it’s not only used by the Greeks). This time the groom’s plate is crushed but not the brides, so the third time the groom and the bride stomp the plate together and it breaks. I have no idea what it means or if it has meaning to it at all other than its just tradition.
We all pile into the family’s dining room where four large tables are laid out around the four walls of the tiny room. One side of the room is for the bride’s side, the head table the bride and groom and toast master and God parents and on the other side a table for the grooms side. The table in the back is for the Singers and the grooms friends. I sit down where I am instructed to sit by my counterpart’s mother, who I also call mama. People are rushing to try to find seats in this tiny room. As people pile in to my table, I begin to panic a bit as I realize that there won’t be room for my counterpart. We try to save her room but my counterpart being who she is, refuses to sit when others don’t have a seat. So in the end I am packed into a table with the groom’s family, only knowing my counterpart’s mom who is sitting near me and not having a single English speaker at my table. My counterpart goes over to the men’s table where her husband is sitting and they share a seat. I look over desperately, my eyes pleading with the men to tell me to come sit with them, as everyone knows, the men’s table is a lot more fun anyways, but of course they don’t as I am an unmarried women and it wouldn’t be appropriate. So life goes in Armenia. It’s not that I don’t want to sit with the women; it’s just that Armenian weddings last well into the night, and sitting a whole 10 hours at a table where no one speaks English is exhausting. I have the conversation skills to last me about an hour. My time limit at an Armenians house is always about an hour because after an hour of small talk, I simply run out of language skills and begin to feel like a child who cannot express themselves.
After everyone is seated a toast is made by the tomada, the guy whose sole purpose at the wedding is to keep everyone drinking. He makes toast after toast, and if someone else wants to make a toast they must ask him. The old women I am with hesitate to pour their drinks; they instead wait to see what I will drink. I in turn am waiting to see what they will drink, as you can never be sure what is appropriate. My mama tells me they are waiting for me, what I would like to drink. I laugh and tell her today I want cognac. She laughs too and calls over her nephew Mkirtich over to the table to poor cognac for us. If you remember from my Easter blog here: http://felicitypassionrapture.blogspot.com/2011/05/charming-easter-in-armenia.html Mkirtich is the sweetest Armenian boy I have ever met and he happens to have a huge crush on me. He blushes as he approaches the table and smiles at me and tells me he is glad that I came. He pours us all a shot and we toast to the bride and grooms health and some other things that I didn’t really understand. Then the women in the groom’s family come out from the kitchen as a khorovots song is being sung. They take the skewers of meat and dance around the room with them as they bring them to the groom. This dance means it’s time to start eating.

Big trays of grilled pork are brought to each of the tables and my counterpart’s mom who pretty much acts as my mom grabs the meat first to make sure that she can grab the best piece for me. I have to say I am usually not much of a pork fan but this was the best grilled pork I had ever had. While we eat toasts are made and people are dancing. There comes a time when all of the groom’s family is asked to make a toast. The tomada goes from person to person and they say some words to the bride and groom and drink. Well when they get to my counterpart’s mother she announces that I would like to make a toast. She tells me that I have to because I am a part of the groom’s family. I look around the room and everyone is staring at me. The Tomada introduces me as the family’s American and tells them that I would like to make a toast. I beg her not to make me but she is relentless. I stand up feeling as though I am going to pass out, we are in a tiny little room with no air conditioning in the middle of summer, I start to say something like I want to thank everyone for inviting me to be here and then I froze. I had no idea what to say. I mean I don’t believe I have ever even made a toast in English, let alone Armenian… so I stand and stare and start giggling. They begin to yell to me to say something in English if I don’t know how to say it in Armenian. So I just say in English I don’t speak Armenian very well but I wish you all the happiness in the world and I quickly sit down. My counterpart translates and it’s all over. I bury my head into my Armenian mothers shoulder and she laughs at me. She asks me why I am so shy. I tell her I am not really shy, I just don’t like it when everyone is staring at me. We both kind of laugh because considering my situation it’s a bit silly, everyone is always staring at me in Armenia. Something about me just screams foreigner.
After the last of the grooms family makes a toast people begin to dance again. As I am sitting at the table I hear my name being called across the room. It’s my counterpart’s husband and Mkirtich, they are holding up their glasses to me and single for me to take a shot with them, so I take a sip of my drink. Then Mkirtich comes over and asks me to dance. I tell him that I can’t, I am not ready to dance but I will dance in a little while. He shrugs and says ok. Then another dance with food begins, this time a huge pig is lead out on a tray and once again they dance with the meat and present it to the bride and groom. I have to say I was a little bit surprised because not once did the bride and groom get up and dance nor did the bride’s family. One time they got up and walked outside, but they didn’t dance. It actually seemed to me that the bride seemed a bit sad. I asked who the people sitting near the bride were and they explained that they were people in the grooms family, his godparents and his sister. I asked why the bride’s sister was not in her wedding party and they said that she couldn’t be because she was already married. I tried to explain to them that it made me sad because American weddings are all about the bride and her friends and family surround her and her husband and she is the happiest person in the room but that Genya didn’t seem so happy and none of her friends were there. They told me that the wedding was a very small wedding and that she was from far away so her friends could not come. I realized how lucky I was to be a part of everything.




As people were eating roasted pig, the tall skinny boy in the picture above holding the pig, asked me to dance. I told him I don’t like to dance, but he wouldn’t take no for an answer. Mkirtich, seeing that I was uncomfortable, came over grabbed my hand and took me to the dance floor and away from the other guy. We danced a little and my counterpart joined in but as we were dancing the music changed and a Russian song came on. Everyone began to make circles, all holding hands and began some Russian folk dance. They grabbed me in as if I knew what the heck they were doing. Whatever it was, it was way too complex for me, and I think they got that because some little old women came and grabbed me by the hands. She lead me in the dance showing me what to do and soon enough I was doing some kind of Russian dancing too and actually I was having a lot of fun. She pulled me into the middle of the circle. All of the other dancers circled around us and we danced. They went one way and her and I the opposite. As we spun in circles I realized that they were all watching me but I didn’t really care because it was so much fun. Soon the dance ended and it was sweltering hot. They told me to stay and dance some more but It was just too hot so I went outside. As I was standing outside a boy came up and began to talk to me. He asked me all kinds of questions about me and why I was there and what I did and the like. Then he asked me how old I was. I told him and he shook his head no. He said I was mistaken. I looked at him like he was an idiot, how could I be mistaken for my own age. I told him that I know how old I am thank you very much, and he simply replied that It wasn’t good then because I was too old to not be married. My face must of scrunched up because my counterpart’s husband Tigran came over and told the boy that he must be on his best behavior with me and that he must be clean and stand up straight. The boy asked Tigran if he knew how old I was and Tigran told him. He asked Tigran why I am not married, at which point my counterpart came over and told him that it’s not in my culture to marry young. He started to say that no one would ever marry me, and I looked at him and told him he was stupid. Everyone began to laugh at him, and he quickly got defensive saying that he wasn’t being rude, but that if I wanted to have a family I should have one now. I told him that I am not disadvantaged that I get to travel where I want when I want, be friends with whoever I want to be friends with and do as I please so he shouldn’t feel sorry for me. He looks at my counterpart and by this time her mom is with her and the mom tells him, she just went to Bulgaria a few weeks ago, have you ever been to Bulgaria? He says no, and she says, well then don’t open your mouth, she has a good life. I feel vindicated and go back inside to dance some more.


While dancing with my counterpart I ask her about the bride and why her family doesn’t dance. She explains to me that the bride’s family will only dance the last dance with their daughter before they leave and then the rest of the night the bride will dance with the groom and his family as they will be the only ones left at the wedding. Soon the bride comes to the floor and dances with her family. Her mom has tears in her eyes, all too quickly the song is over, the bride throws her bouquet and her family leaves. The bride and groom also hand out presents to all of the single people at the wedding. Its’ a small I don’t know what that is pictured above. They also hand out chocolate and tell me I must put it under my pillow so that I will dream about the man I will marry.
The bride and groom dance some and then Ice cream is brought in and we eat it. Now my counterpart has come over and sits with me and explains things to me. We talk a little as others are dancing; only about 20 of us are still at the wedding. I look over and her cousin Mkirtich is over at the singer’s table. He whispers something into the piano player’s ear. The music changes into a slow song. My counterpart gets up and dances with her husband, as I reach for my camera to take a picture, someone grabs my hand. It is Mkirtich. He pulls me to the dance floor, leaving my camera behind. As we dance he tells me that I look very beautiful and that I am the most beautiful girl he has ever seen. He is actually really sweet about it. He also tells me that it really is too bad that we don’t speak the same language because he would like to talk to me more. I laugh and make a joke about my Armenian and he laughs too. I look around the room and his mom and sister are standing together watching us. Uh oh I think to myself. He tells me that I am a good girl in English and asks me if I understand him. I repeat it back to him in Armenian saying yes lav agchick em. He says no no, I mean I love you. I laugh at him and tell him he is a very nice boy. By this time we have been at the wedding for about 10 hours so I am pretty sure he is just intoxicated, as he is normally painfully shy. The song ends and he kisses me on my cheek, I look at my counterpart and we both laugh a little. I walk over to her and tell her that I think her cousin is in love with me. She begins to laugh and says she knows. She told me it was his birthday the previous week and he had really wanted me to go to his party but I was in Bulgaria. He soon comes over and begins to whisper in her ear. She laughs and tells him that I already know. When he leaves she tells me that he told her he likes me. I feel like I am in high school again.
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The bride comes out as new music begins and the family is cleaning. She tells me to dance with her. My counterpart and I do, and my counterpart tells her that I thought she was unhappy. She laughs and assures me that she is very happy. I have to say she is the most adorable thing I have seen. Soon her husband joins us and his whole family is dancing with her and the truth is she really does look happy. That is until she is called away to help clean!!! I couldn’t believe it, so soon she has to step into her duties!!! I couldn’t imagine having to clean up after my own wedding while my husband gets to drink and dance and party with his friends!!! Oh well, I guess that is Armenian life for you. Another reason why I have so much respect for Armenian women!!


Thursday, August 11, 2011

Dasht Dasht Dasht... Dance Dance Dance

My counterpart informed me a few weeks ago that I was going to be a guest at her cousins wedding. It wasn’t so much an offer as a statement of fact. Ok by me, I told her excited to once again be a witness to such an amazing cultural occasion. The thing she didn’t explain to me however was that her cousin was the groom, and that by inviting me to go to the wedding I was actually going to be an active participant in the wedding. This I did not find out until much, much later.
On the day of the wedding, I asked my favorite neighbor if she would come to my house and do my hair for me. I got just about as dressed up as I can be here considering I don’t even have a pair of high heels in country with me. When I walked into my counterpart everyone made a huge fuss over me, as if I am some kind of tomboy that never wears dresses or something, it was very strange.
As we take pictures at my counterparts house I notice a white basket covered in tool and all glittered up. I recognize the basket as the bride’s basket which contains her wedding cloths. I thought it was sort of strange for my counterpart to have the basket as I know it plays such an integral part later in the day. But I didn’t think to question her about it as we soon we were piled tightly into a car and on our way to the festivities.
When we arrived at my counterparts house, where the festivities were to be held, there were cars piled outside of a house. Everyone jumped out of the car, people shouting that we were late. I didn’t quite understand what it was we were late for. I asked my counterpart, whose house is this. This is my cousin’s house she told me. The bride is upstairs in a room waiting for us. Your cousin is the bride, I ask. No my cousin is the groom. I look as her aunt grabs the basket with the bride’s cloths in it, and a bell goes off in my head. I’ve seen this before, the groom’s family is going to have a precession to the bride and they are going to dance with the cloths. I can hear the music begin as we walk around the coroner to the house. A group of girls from the groom’s side of the family are at the gate waiting for us. My counterpart tells me to come and they begin to dance up to the house. My face drops; you mean I have to dance?? Yes she tells me, we are the grooms family, we must dance. I follow at a distance behind her, videotaping it, so as to not have to dance. We get to the yard and people are yelling and whistling and the girls are all dancing, with the brides cloths and flowers up in the air. For about ten minutes they dance, before someone notices I am not dancing. I get thrown into the mix. We dance for awhile and then the groom comes out, wearing a shinny white coat, white shirt and white pants. People scream louder and louder as he joins the dancing party. He throws up his hands, lips pressed together and a face that says, yes this is my party and I have arrived. Confidence and exuberance radiate off of him. You can’t help but to dance when he is dancing. The party dances for about 20 minutes and then we head on up the balcony to the bride’s room. Once in the room the family begins to sing a song. The aunt and the grooms mother place a glove on each of her hands, we all shout shnorhavor (congratulations). They take her shoes off and place the new shoes on her, we all shout shnorhavor again and they burst into another song. It is such a beautiful song, welcoming the bride into their family and telling her congratulations, it kind of reminds me of one of our sorority ritual songs. The bride takes candy from the basket and begins throwing it out to the large group of women gathered in the tiny room. The women around me push me forward and tell me I must take some candy and put it under my pillow tonight. They tell me that who I dream of this night will be the man that I marry.
Soon the footsteps of men are heard approaching the door. The women all turn around and face to face them and make a blockade in front of the door. A little boy in a suit waits at the threshold. The groom approaches and the little boy shakes his head no. Laughter from both the men’s side and the women’s side erupt. The groom hands the boy 5,000 dram (I think) and the boy takes the money but still shakes his head no. The groom hands the little boy more money and the boy allows him to pass. All the women create an aisle and the groom walks to his bride, huge smile on his face. They link arms and we escort them out of the room.
Then it was off to the church!
The church was in a nearby town called Stepanavan. It’s a very old 13th century church and was very beautiful. As we piled into the church the priest person (I have no idea what they are called in Armenia, bisop, minister?) began to speak, even before we were all seated and quiet. I soon learned that is because even during a wedding ceremony Armenians talk!! I was pretty shocked, though I guess it didn’t matter so much for me because I couldn’t understand a word of anything. The only word that I picked out of everything was Genya, which as it turned out was the brides name… good thing I didn’t ask anyone to translate for me, I would have felt really stupid!
During the ceremony the priest sang, placed a crown on the bride and grooms heads, read from a bible, and sang some more. After the ceremony was through we each had to go up to the pulpit and congratulate the bride and the groom and the grooms God parents. We kissed them each on the cheek in a precession ending with the priest whose ring we had to kiss as well as a cross.
Overall I thought the ceremony was very beautiful, though I didn’t understand the words. There was a part of the ceremony where the bride and the groom stood forehead to forehead and the god father placed a cross over their head. They stood like this for a minute or two, just staring into each other’s eyes as prayers were read over them. For me this was the most beautiful part of the ceremony. The one thing that I did feel was missing is that they didn’t have to say any vows, which I think is the most beautiful part of an American wedding.
After taking a few pictures at the church, we drove around the city center three times honking the horns of the cars. Now I have seen this done before, and have always found it to be the most annoying thing, and actually I can sometimes hear horns honking even here in Spitak, but somehow being in the car while it was happening was kind of fun! Next we were off to the reception… To be continued








Sunday, August 7, 2011

Alyssa in Bulgaria (Sofia)







Bright lights, big European city… well not exactly, but I am starting to learn that almost anything feels big compared to Armenia. I never feel the smallness of the place that I am in until I leave it. As soon as that plane set down in Sofia I felt a pressure lift off my chest. As I observed skate boarders, couples walking holding hands and kissing, dog walkers and a plethora of McDonalds and Subways I realized that I Dorothy was no longer in Kansas anymore. Not even close.
When I selected Sofia for my summer vacation, I figured it wouldn’t be too different from Armenia. I mean both are post soviet countries, both have Peace Corps, so both should be pretty similar, or so I thought. I couldn’t be more wrong. In fact I am struggling to make comparisons between the two, so vast are their differences.
As the taxi driver escorted me from the airport to the hostel the first thing that I noticed was the graffiti in Bulgaria, it’s everywhere! It almost has an old school Los Angeles feel to it, except for the architecture, everything in Bulgaria is very cute and what I would imagine to be very European. Everything is so old, and yet so modern. Next to a 10th century church sits a McDonalds and just down the road is a Turkish Hamman which is across the street from a Metro station. Upon my first glance at the city I wasn’t very impressed. Why I chose to come here again, I asked myself.
The Taxi driver took me to my hostel where right away I noticed that this wasn’t your ordinary hostel. I walked into the reception area and bags upon bags were piled around the room and close to 30 people were hanging around playing pool, sleeping on bean bags, and talking. I sat down with the receptionist and she highlighted the places on the map of Sofia that I should go to. To be honest, I was overwhelmed a bit and a little afraid to go out into the city alone. So I sat down for about 20 minutes working up my courage.
Finally I was off, map in hand, going to see the sites of a new country. I was afraid that I would be bored alone, or that I would lose my way, but in fact, I had a great time. The best thing was that I could do whatever it was that I wanted. If I was tired I could sit down and people watch for a bit before going on. If I wanted to skip something that didn’t seem interesting I did. It was great to not have to worry about anything at all. My first stop was for some Bulgarian Ice Cream. The Ice Cream stand was so colorful, and the flavors looked so interesting, though I didn’t know what any of them were because everything was written in Cyrillic. So I essentially pointed to what colors looked best and was rewarded by some of the most delicious ice cream I have ever had. I’d put it right behind Reineers Ice Cream Shop at Sequoia National Park. I took a seat at a busy intersection and ate my delicious treat as I watched people walking by. The thing that surprised me right away was that Bulgarians do not have an autonomous look. They all look very different and sometimes it was hard for me to tell who the tourists were and who the host country nationals were. The second thing I noticed was the way the dressed! Men wearing board shorts and tank tops, men wearing no shirts, people wearing flip flops and girls in nice sun dresses. I almost felt as though I was back in the states, except for one glimpse at the architecture would remind me otherwise. As I sat there a man began to play the violin and people gathered around to watch. No one got pushy with each other, people just calmly stood by to watch. I stayed sitting and closed my eyes for a minute to enjoy the peace. Ahhh vacation!!
After my ice cream was done, I walked to the nearest Church St. Nedelia’s. Once I stepped inside I was amazed. Frescos covered every inch of the walls. Beautiful images of the gospels were everywhere on the walls, while the front of the church was brightly gold. It was somehow exactly as I thought it would be and still breath taking all at once. I walked around staring at each picture, trying to figure out what it was depicting. I lit candles for each person in my family and let the peace of the church refresh me as I sat taking it all in for about an hour. It was nice to be able to take all the time I wanted and not feel as though I had to rush. After this I walked to a few more sites, I basically hit up all the monuments and sites to be seen in Sofia, all in just one afternoon. My last stop was at Alexander Nevsky Cathedral and I can’t even describe it effect on me. I have never seen a more beautiful cathedral in my life. The fact that this was made for the glory of God impressed me and while trying to take it in I was overcome with emotion. I lit more candles and I prayed and prayed and prayed. I felt so much pressure unloaded from my shoulders and before I knew it I was sleeping in the church!!! I think I was only asleep for a half hour or so, but when I woke up I was so embarrassed! I wonder if that happens often?!?
After day one of site seeing, I had already come to love and appreciate this charming little placed called Sofia. Not the way I adore Istanbul, nor the way I cherish Armenia, but in a way that I could walk around light hearted, smiling and being smiled back at, comfortable in my own skin, not being stared at, melding in as just one of them kind of way. I felt invisible in a fantastic kind of way that I have not felt once since I have left America. I felt as though I could belong there and no one would know the difference, I felt that in that time and place I did belong there. I was lighthearted and free for the first time in a loooong time!


Monday, August 1, 2011

Can I have a glass of water please?

Last year as I was visiting Spitak in preparation to move here, I had a meeting with my counterpart to be at my host families’ house. She called about an hour ahead of time, informing me that she was on her way to meet me. I quickly threw on my best cloths, wanting of course to make a good impression on this woman who I knew would be everything in Spitak. After I got dressed I ran out to the porch to wait for her. I waited and waited and waited. Finally I gave up and went back inside; not knowing what was taking her so long.
About an hour later as I was taking my mid-day nap, I was woken up when my counterpart walked into my room, laughing. The first thing that I noticed was that her hair was wet, dripping in fact. When I shook her hand, I noticed it was not only her hair that was wet but she was completely drenched. I must have looked puzzled because she began to laugh as she told me that kids had dumped water on her. As she said this, I vaguely remember that I had heard about some kind of Armenian water holiday. She explained to me that it was Vardavar, a day when all Armenians celebrate by playing in water in general, but mostly by throwing water on each other. The greatest thing, she told me, was that you could even throw water on Tatiks and they don’t get mad.
At the time I was a little disappointed, I was staying with a host family and they had told me nothing about it. Not a single splash of water was made that whole day with my family. They never even mentioned it to me. I was sad that I didn’t get the opportunity to experience my first Armenian holiday.
So this year, now that I live in the city center, I was a little bit excited to finally get to experience this water day. The truth is it’s so hot here, that a bucket of water on your head actually sounds nice! As I prepared for my morning run, I wrapped my Ipod in plastic, prepared for the day. I walked to the park, and surprisingly enough I didn’t see a single person outside. I ran for an hour around the lake, and not a single soul was around, which is defiantly not the norm, usually I have groups of boys that sit and watch me run… It was actually a little bit eerie. It was so hot outside too! I began to walk up the stairs to go back to my apartment. There were two Armenian women in front of me dressed in nice cloths and high heels. I began to think that maybe this holiday wasn’t really celebrated in Spitak that much. Then I hear a splash of water hit and screams erupt from the women. I looked up and saw a group of boys waiting above the stairs with buckets of water, water bottles and plastic bags of water. The women began to yell at the boys telling them that they didn’t even know them so they couldn’t throw water at them. They were really pissed off, I had to laugh as it reminded me of my mom a little! She would hate this holiday!
So as I reached the top of the stairs, I braced myself for a splash of cold water, to tell you the truth after running miles in the hot sun, I actually wanted water to be poured on my head. But there was nothing. Just the group of boys standing there all looking confused. They had the water ready, but seemed as if they didn’t quite know what to do. Then I saw that they were looking directly at Sophie who was out in front of me on her leash. They began to walk away in the other direction, one asking the other, can we water the dog? Maybe it bites. So I had my first brush with vardavar but I came out un-scathed.
As I walked to my building, there was a 10 year old up on the balcony, waiting with a bucket of water. He politely waved to me and said hello Miss Alyssa. Once again he didn’t dare to dump water on me.
So I went on with the day as normal, me and Sophie came back home and took our mid-morning nap, but after awhile we were awoken by screams outside the window. I walk out to the balcony where I see a water war going on between kids below. On my neighbors balcony a group of my younger neighbors have gathered all with buckets of water. They say hello to me and ask if I know that it is a holiday. I laugh and say I do. They tell me that they feel the need to throw water on me. I laugh because I know I am too far for them to reach, and on the top story so there is no chance. They try anyways and waste bucket after bucket of water in hopes that it will hit me. Downstairs there is a commotion as a young man dumps a bucket of water on a mom who decided that she was untouchable because she had a newborn in a stroller. Apparently she wasn’t. They boy then begins to taunt me, telling me to come down and play with them. I laugh and decline. The girls on the balcony next to me attempt to throw water on me once more, I laugh at their futile efforts. As I am laughing cold water covers my head. I am drenched! I look behind me and see the back of one of my neighbors running out my front door. She had run into my house, out on my balcony, as I was distracted, and dumped a bucket on me. My door wasn’t locked! I had no idea that someone would just come into my house to get me. I am completely stunned, as I am standing there soaked. Everyone looking up at me, suspended, waiting for a reaction. I begin to laugh, and they laugh with me.
I quickly lock the door and change into my bathing suit. This is going to be messy. I sit out on my balcony and watch the festivities below as secretly I am preparing buckets of cold water in my house. I don’t throw a single bucket while I am on my balcony, as the kids are already soaked, and really I just have revenge on my mind. Everyone thinks I must not be into it. Finally the kids go inside and so do my neighbors. This is my chance, I know that my target will have to leave the apartment next door to go downstairs to her apartment. So I wait, bucket in hand at my peephole. Five minutes pass and nothing, then ten. I am about to give up, when I hear a door open. I look through the whole and see her plaid shirt. I throw my door open and release a whole bucket of water right on top of her dry head. She screams and begins to laugh and run away from me. She screams to me that she will get me back. Not likely I say.
So I lock my door and go back to doing whatever I was doing. I vow not to go outside for the rest of the day, which seems easy as it’s already 4 pm. I watch a movie and begin to make dinner all the time hearing splashes of water and bursts of screams. I laugh, knowing I am un-touchable. I realize I have no bread, but decide to do without it for the night. Then my cell phone goes off. My best friend sends me a text. Uh-oh I think when I hear the ring, I hope I have dram on my phone. I look at the text, it’s asking me if can meet her in Yerevan. The type of text you have to answer. I press *122* into my phone and wait for it to respond with the amount of dram I have left. It beeps and lets me know that there is 6 dram left on my phone. Not enough to send even a single text. So I drop call her, thinking she can call me back… She doesn’t call back; maybe she has no dram either.
So I have to go to the local hanoot to get a cell phone card. I listen at the door, and hear screams but they trail around to the back of the building. Everyone is at the back of the building playing, so I can simply go around to the front. Sophie intact, we sneak out of my door and go out the front of the building. Not a soul to be seen except an old tatik and the end of the pathway. She smiles at me, I take it as a sign of encouragement and quickly Sophie and I are off. As we are walking there are basically three rows of balconies that I have to look out for. I look up and all seem to be clear. Then I hear a splash behind me. It doesn’t hit me and when I look up I see nothing. So I walk faster, and splash splash splash, people fill the balconies and are laughing as I walk under them. Nothing hits me; I escape to the stairs un-scathed. I go into the store and they begin to laugh. I ask them why, and they tell me Sophie got jurvesed, or had water thrown on her. I look at her little face and water is dripping from her. She looks miserable. I laugh too. I buy what I need to and am on my way. I walk up the stairs, and the same tatik is there. She offers me a bowl of cherries, and tells me to go around the back. I decline her advice, not fully trusting her, as I had a feeling she was in on it last time. I tell her I will take the front, and she takes my bag of bread, wraps it tightly and turns it upside down. I look up and people are in the baronies laughing. I laugh back, they won’t hit me, their aim sucks, I think to myself. So I begin to walk very calmly to my apartment. Bags of water, essentially acting as water balloons come crashing down as I walk. Not a single one hits me. I look back and Sophie hasn’t moved an inch. She is in fact trying to get out the other way, back down to the store. Crap! I have to go back under the balconies to get her. One bag hits my foot, but doesn’t explode. I grab Sophie is soaked with water, tuck her under my arm and begin the other way again. Once again the bags are tossed but don’t hit. VICTORY is almost mine. One more door to pass and then I will be at my apartment. I begin to pass the door, almost home I think, prideful. And then I feel a crash upon my head. Cold water shocks me into confusion. I look up and see nothing. There is no bag around my feet or on my head. Then I sense movement behind me, a big fat man with a huge smile on his face is standing there laughing at me. I guess they learned they needed a new tactic. He had ran all the way down stairs and threw a bucket of water on my head. I begin to laugh and a little girl runs over and dumps a cup on Sophie’s head. I take off running, trying to protect my bread!
When we get to my apartment, Sophie runs under the bed, where she stays the remainder of the night. When I call out to her, she glares at me, as if I had thrown the water on her head. She made it very clear, she is not a fan of Vardavar, but in all honestly I am! I can’t wait for next year. Now that I know no one expects the water early in the morning, I am ready to wage water war!!