Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Getting settled

Airports get me going because they're so full of energy and mild chaos, so after leaving the Yervan airport I was wired. The city was very dim as apparently even most of the street lights are turned off after a certain hour.

We were taken to the apartment we'd be staying in for the next month and got there around 530 and collapsed into bed. The apartment was a modest affair, though very nice for Armenian standards, and more than adequate for our needs. It had a rather large entry way that served as the main hall. I felt this was wasted space as you could easily have turned half of it into a small bedroom. Branching off this main room were a bedroom, kitchen, the main living room (which was about the size of two and half normal rooms I would say) and separate room each for the shower and toilet. So a standard city apartment, I guess. There was a washing machine in the room with the shower. Oh, and did I mention it was on the twelfth floor? Did I also mention there was only one elevator that did not do multiple stops? And did I mention it only held about three people before it became claustrophobic?? My one issue with the apartment!

The building itself was in downtown Yerevan, almost at the corner of Sayat Nova and Abovyan Streets. From our twelfth floor balcony we had a nice view of the city, especially at nite. Unfortunately Mt. Ararat was on the OTHER side of the building, lol.

Around 1300 (after going to sleep at 530) we were picked up and taken to meet the people we would be working with. Let me say Armenian hospitality is on par with the old time Southern Hospitality I grew up with. We were IMMEDIATELY taken in, welcomed, hugged, kissed, and I've never felt so welcome with total strangers, though only a few spoke English, and I spoke no Armenian.

Armenians like to toast, A LOT, and they like cognac and vodka (I'm not a huge fan of hard liquor). So, when we first arrived with the lab crew, they had graciously prepared a feast for us, with about as much alcohol and food, haha! Before we even sat down to eat they raised a toast to our arrival, and gave us all double shot glasses full of STRONG cognac. It tasted great, and went down smooth, but my stomach didn't quite care for being soaked with strong alcohol with no food in it, haha. After two shot of cognac in ten minutes I could see where this was going , so I grabbed a bottle of wine and prudently kept my glass full as to avoid a very unpleasant encore of cognac, haha.

The initial moments of the conversation were a bit awkward as we all took each other in, the language barrier initially being something we had to feel our way around. A little time and a lot of toasts ;) later we were a lot more comfortable with each other and began to get to know each other.

Side note, this initially through me for a loop. I noticed that people 40 and up tend to speak a lot more Russian in conversation, and 30 and down Armenian, (the in between crowd was a mix) and they would do this with each other! Add our English and some Georgian (not mine) to the mix and there were three and four languages floating around the table. Also, my Armenian friends got a kick out of telling people I was from Georgia. I would then get spoken to in Georgian. I was tempted to talk MY Georgian back just to even the playing field! No, I don't have a stereotypical Southern or country accent (there is a difference) but I grew up hearing them and can mimmick them if I want to. I have though been told that there is a trace of a Southern accent when I speak, so who knows.

Many people were there to welcome us, but we would mostly be working with three of the students there: Astghik, Hayk, and Nare.

Astghik (the closest English pronuncian is Astrick, like the *, but that's not really it, the name means "Little Star") is very quiet, reserved, very sweet, and very smart. We spent a lot of time working together in the lab and I learned a great deal from her.

Nare is very outgoing and bright. She is very open to new experiences and ideas. Nare took us around Yerevan on our first day and showed us what her city had to offer, which we found was a great deal.

Hayk is a normal 20-something guy. He is VERY proud of his Armenian heritage, but very eager to learn about America. He was the only one of the three to never have been "abroad." But he didn't mind at all. He loves Armenia and his family.

So those were the students. We also had the pleasure of working with :

Susanna, who ran the IR. It took me a while to stop pronouncing it the American way, "Soo-zannah." She was a very sweet, loving lady who was sort of a surrogate mother for us while we were there. She spoke no English other than "good morning." Being Russian-educated, she used mostly Russian in the Russian-Armenian tennis matches at the table. I learned a few phrases. Matt and I were usually called "Miela" which means "darling" in Russian. We were often told "Maladyetz" in response to whatever helpful/useful/insert good adjective, which means "well done/good job." Susanna made our coffee several times per day and would sometimes tell our fortunes using the grains.

Gohar. A middle-aged lady who ran the UV/Vis instruments in the lab. She used mostly Russian as well, but could understand English better than she let on.

So that was our little family for a month. Dr. G and Dr. B were only there a week, and Tigran left after two to spend Christmas with his daughter in Germany.

No comments:

Post a Comment