Sunday, January 02, 2005

Happy belated New Years everyone!!!

I hope your New Years celebration were as good as mine.

I didn’t have an internet connection for almost a week since my return to Martuni and you know what? It felt really good not to be connected to the outside world.

New Years was quite pleasant. I also have an American-born Armenian who joined us in Martuni to welcome in 2005.

Our return to Martuni was for the most part was uneventful and the trip only took 6 hours.

At the Lachin check point, which according to a friend at the Armenian Assembly in Washington DC is better known as the 500 dram crossing (due to everyone expecting to pay a 500 dram bribe), the President has posted someone from the prosecutor’s office to make sure that the bribe taking stops.

When we got to the post, the guards and the person from the prosecutor’s office were sitting inside keeping warm and watching the cars pass. On the outside, out of view from the guards window was one of the guards smoking.

Our driver stopped just past the checkpoint, next to the guard smoking, didn’t go up to the window to register and instead walked up to the smoking guard, shook his hand and slipped him 500 dram, which we watched as the guard put in his pocket.

My guess is that the guy from the prosecutor’s office is in on this continuing lucrative deal, as no one said anything when our driver got back in the car without going up to the checkpoint window to present his document and drove off.

When we asked what that was all about, our driver said that the guy from the prosecutor’s office was there just for show, so people think that the President is on the job.

We got to Martuni, where I presented our driver with 25,000 dram, which was 7,000 dram per person, plus 4,000 dram for extra gas he has to supposedly use since we brought with us a gas heater and a carpet that I had made for my mother’s room. When he counted the 25,000 dram, he told me that I had to give another 5,000 dram, as the holiday rate was no less than 30,000 dram.

I was a little bit surprised, as he didn’t pre-warn me to the holiday gouging and when I asked him if the rate was 7,000 dram, he told me that yes, but around this time of year, no one would take us for less. I paid him, but you can be sure that this will be the last time I will ride in his car and after my fiancé repeated what happened to a couple of people, word will get around.

As for our New Years, like I said it was nice.

We spent the first part at the Mayor’s house, where I took with me a bottle of wine that one of our readers sent.

After dinner, I went to Rosa Myrig’s house, where I took a bag of Swiss chocolates that the same reader sent for her. A cup of tea and a short visit, I headed to my future in-laws house.

We welcomed in the New Years after listing to Kocharian spew some BS, we clinked glasses and sat for a meal.

At 1am, we went to the city center to join some friends and stayed for a good part of the morning.

The following afternoon, I talked with my parents as they welcomed in the New Year in California.

For those of you who didn’t get a holiday greeting from me, don’t feel bad, no one did. Fear not, you will hear from me on January 6th (as long as my connection holds out).

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