Raughley Goes to Armenia: Part I

Life has been far less blog-worthy of late.  I debated saying “less exciting,” but that’s not really true.  I love my job and it’s always a fun challenge.  I have a fair amount of responsibility and a huge workload, which I enjoy.  After work, I commute for 45ish minutes to teach for 1-2 hours on Monday through Thursday and then on weekends I totally crash.  I think I left my house twice this weekend.  I loved it.

But the thing is, all this excitement–the excitement of regularity and the sedentary life style–is a far cry from the nomadic, adventurous, ceaseless joy of last year.  I enjoy the students I teach privately and I really enjoy working in the Ministry.  Neither of those is conducive to blogging.

And so, I will write about adventures of old!  Tales from long ago!  Ancient History!  The time Marissa and I spent two and a half days in Yerevan!

Yes, this is my well-kept secret! Not only did I never write about going to Armenia (or did I...?), but I also failed to share pictures with my travel buddies!

In a time that feels like forever ago, Marissa and I were departing Georgia.  It was a bittersweet time, as we contemplated everything we were leaving behind.  I traveled out to Zugdidi one morning to help Marissa with her bags on the night train that evening (this was the day or so after I got my wallet stolen) and was present at her teary fairwell supra.  As she said goodbye to her host family and toasted her final toasts with Zviadi’s homemade wine, there wasn’t a dry eye in the apartment.

We took the train to Tbilisi and attended my 12th graders Prom.  It was really nice, but honestly kinda boring, and so we headed into town for more exciting things.  Finally, on Sunday, we boarded a Marshrutka to Yerevan.

Yerevan, the City of... ?

We drove for a solid hour and a half in a direction out of Tbilisi that we had never traveled before (in the one direction out of Tbilisi that we hadn’t been).  Eventually, we arrived at the Georgian-Armenian border.  We had to get out and walk while our Marshrutka drove through.  Foolishly, I tried to take a picture of a lovely river.  The thing about this river is that it is the border and I was standing on a bridge spanning it.  It took me a moment to realize why there was an angry-looking Armenian running toward me.  He checked my camera and waved me along, none too pleased.

As we bought our badass Armenian visas, a French couple behind us chattered away, sorting out their passports.  Despite Marissa’s encouragement I clammed up and didn’t say anything to them (I’m shy!).  Whoops!  So much for making European Friends in Armenia!  I guess that would never happen… (Hint: Foreshadowing!)

We arrived in Yerevan and immediately withdrew thousands and thousands of Armenian Dram!  We were the stinkingest rich people we knew!

We contemplated literally rolling in our money.
Instead we bought wine and proceeded to live it up like the pimps we are in some square in downtown Yerevan.
Turns out the statue behind us was the guy from the 20,000 dram bill!

We wandered around downtown, getting caught in the rain.  (Incidentally, we like pina coladas)  That night we crashed at a couch surfing location–our first!  It was this very popular couch to surf up near the American University of Yerevan.  This Iranian Engineering PhD student hosts people there all the time!  He knew Yev, and Tall Paul, and Max, and lots of other TLGers!  It was kind of a trip meeting him and having him know all our friends.  His dad was visiting and they cooked some delicious fish and rice.  Or, in Marissa’s case, some delicious rice.

He and his roomies all had big papers or finals the following day, so unlike the raucous party atmosphere that others experienced, we had a much more subdued evening.  We settled down fairly early (we were pretty tired) on the hardest floor I have ever felt.  We were on a thin, dirty carpet under one blanket and sharing a double-wide pillow.  We felt like shit the next day, aching and sore.

We didn’t let that get us down, though!  We had adventures planned!

Plans that involved a rainy ravine in the middle of town!

We had heard about this hostel.  The Envoy Hostel, I believe it was called.  Envoy offered walking tours of Yerevan every morning and night.  And they were free!  This was our kind of tour!  We met up, bright and early, eager to leave our dirty uncomfortable floor behind, and headed to the hostel.  When we got there, we found the tour guide waiting with a few other tourists.  There was a guy from Hong Kong, or Shanghai or someplace, a girl from Spain, a guy from Slovenia, and a Ukrainian woman who got dropped off part way through the tour.

We began our joke-filled journey with a stop at a huge indoor marketplace.  Marissa bought some fruitleather and we tasted everything the vendors inside let us sample.  It was really cool and there were incredibly fresh fruits!

Here's a church in downtown Yerevan.

We all crushed into a cab to zoom back to the hostel as the rain really picked up.  ‘Twas most unfortunate, but we got to hear some jokes about Georgians during the ride back and the hostel gave us towels and coffee!  Even though we weren’t guests of the hostel!!

We sat there warming ourselves in the chic basement and ruing the day we decided to couch surf.  While we sat, we chatted away with two of our tourmates, the Spaniard and the Slovene.  Their names were Leire and Uros and they are awesome!

Uros and Leire chillin' on the megasteps to the WWII monument. Also, we all just took a detour to pee on a sidestreet mere moments before this photo (or moments after, depending). Marissa took me aside and said, "Raughley, I have to pee really, really bad. These guys seem really cool, but I don't know if I know them well enough to go pee in a bush. They might hate us!" Then Leire disappeared to pee in a bush and we knew that this friendship was meant to be!

Talking turned in to cooking, and we ran out to buy tomatoes and some fresh zuccini.  Leire cooked us all some delicious Spanish pasta and we shared it around a table, with me on dishes at meal’s end.  We decided that we would spend the rest of the day together, walking, talking and sight seeing!

What a ragtag group of adventurers!

Our primary goal was to climb to the top of the main hill in town and get to the WWII monument and the Mother of Armenia.  We accomplished both in spades.

And in shades!
Soviet Monument to the War.
There was a strip of awesome little shops. Sadly, I did not purchase these glasses.
Both girls regretted not buying the awesome hats/glasses combo.
The People's Ice Cream.

So at this point I am going to go ahead and publish the first half. I don’t have the time or energy to do it all in one go!  As I mentioned above (and technically yesterday, but you all don’t know that), I work and/or teach basically all day.   Today entailed working 9:30-6:30 followed by two hours with my students from 7:30-10.  I’ve just watched Police Squad’s final Episode with Dear Angela (who is leaving tonight!! [Sad Face {it looks strange with an open parenthesis followed by a closed parenthesis.  It looks more like a open mouth face.     :() See?}]) and I’m going to go to sleep soon, but I figure at ~1300 words, why not publish “Part I”?  So here it is!  The first half of my adventure to Armenia!

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