Tuesday, July 23, 2002

I just got in from being in Yerevan for a few days.

I went for a few reasons, but most importantly to send off Shooshig�s group back to the states. They were really lots of fun to be around and I�m happy to report that none of them wanted to go. They said that if they could have changed their ticket and had a little more money, they would for sure stay as long as they could. I think we may at some point get a few of them back for good.

The night of the 21st, we had a goodbye dinner for Jack and Raffi�s dad at Poplavok. It was great!!! I had sushi, which was really not all that bad. I know I made a pig of myself, but figured since I don�t get to Yerevan every week, I better make the most of it. At the end of our meal, our tradition of everyone paying their share of the bill was broken for the second time. Before I knew it, Raffi�s dad had paid the check and there was nothing we could do about it. Zabel tried really had, but he would not budge. The last time this happened was when we went to dinner with Raffi�s dad when he first got here. I send a big thank you out to Bedros Kojian for 2 very lovely dinners. It brought back memories of my dad, who is known for going as far as twisting someone�s arm behind their back until they cry like a little girl and let loose of the check so he can pay.

As we were leaving for the airport, it started to rain really hard. It went on for 2 hours and the road to the airport had a few cars broken down as a result to driving through the lake that had formed (it was that hard). So we got to the airport and after checking in 26 pieces of luggage, we made our way to customs. One of the last students that went through customs was stopped as she had some paintings that there were no papers for. Fortunately, her relatives were there and one of them was the artist that had painted the paintings. I asked him if he had dated them so they would not question them of being old. He said no. They took her into the interrogation room, closed the door and with the blinds open, you could see them looking over the paintings. Then the artist went in for a few minutes and came out. He said something to his wife and they walked to one side and started to go through her purse. At this point it was clear what was about to take place. So next thing I see is the artist�s father or uncle (I�m not sure who he was, only much older than the artist) goes into the interrogation room and the blinds are closed. He comes out in a few minutes, followed by the customs officer who had a smile on his face. The student goes passed customs with all the paintings. I asked the father or uncle did they shake him down for much? He didn�t look happy and said to me that it was okay. Well I can tell you this much, if there is no evidence of the actual bride being paid, I can say that a rule must have been broken, being that 2 non-ticketed passengers passed into an area for ticked passengers only.

As Lena said, we came back into the city together. Our taxi driver seemed educated so I asked him if he was and what was his education? He told me that he was a music critic and was teaching at the music institute as a piano teacher. He said that he use to do this, but since they can�t pay a living wage, he has to drive a taxi, as that pays better. It�s so bazaar for me to think that this guy is potentially very talented, but because things are so backwards here, his talents are wasted. As one of the non-logging Diaspora Armenians that lives here said best, this place does not provide an incentive to get a higher education. As sad as it may seem, it appears in too many cases that in order to get a good paying government job, one has to NOT have a good education and have been a taxi or truck driver.

Yesterday, I was watching the sidewalk and road work continue. Yes, it�s going at full power and even the 2 hours of hard rain was not going to stop them. Did it matter to the construction people if the holes they were filling with hot asphalt were still soaking wet? Heck no, it�s better that way. This way, when it does dry up, the asphalt will sink in, forming one of those potholes that Armenia is so well known for and then the same construction company can come out and fix it again next year.

The trip back to Martuni was really quite nice and fast. I�ll have a couple of days to rest before I get a couple of guest.

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