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!!