Friday, March 27, 2009

Morning Routine

After Dr. B and Dr. G went home things started to settle down and we settled into a daily routine. We would usually get up between eight and nine, shower first thing, and then make our way to the lab. That was usually an adventure in itself!

For starters, in Yerevan (I can't speak for the rest of Armenia, haha) the water only physically runs between 6 and 10 in the morning and evening. Now, according to our friends there was supposed to be a tank that held water so you could use it throughout the day. This mystery tank however never seemed to make a worthy shower or water pressure in the sink, though we never had trouble using the washer. WTF mate. To add to the ridiculousness of our plumbing, whenever we did take a shower the toilet room (remember it's next door) would flood, badly. So either way we were SOL. You either got a cold drippy shower between 10 and 6, or flooded the next room between 6 and 10 and then froze to death when you got out of the shower. Well Sheisse!

Once we had showered and layered (I consistently wore at least four layers of clothing) we head out the door. Ok, this was always interesting because sometimes the elevator just did not want to work. We had two elevators at our use up in the nosebleed seats on the twelfth floor. One just outside our door, and one in another "half" of the building we had a crosswalk to. Since ours never wanted to work we usually took our chances with the one across the way. More than once we ended up schlepping down the stairs.

At first we were taken to the lab by Tigran, who lived just down the street, but that only lasted a few days, haha. After that we were on our own to get there. Nare was kind enough to meet us our first day and go with us. She gave us a crash course in minibuses, which are basically large minivans that criss-cross (no, not the kid rappers) the city. Thankfully they are all numbered because otherwise we would have been SOL. Our stop was the sight of at least fifteen routes, but only four or five took us where we needed to go. Now, each of the routes has a list of stops, but I could never decipher the Armenian script. It is an alphabet, but to me it looks like scribble and even after five weeks the letters still looked the same. Compare that to the Cyrillic Russian alphabet I had down after a day. Ahhh, if only there had been Russian on there as well. But, that added to the adventure.

The bus would only stop if somebody hailed it, that of course was easy. Once on the bus you sat about this close to twenty of your closest friends who all had coats as big as yours on. The floor was usually wet and the air stale with cigarettes. 90% of the time somebody was getting off at our stop "Armentel" which was a telephone company. The other 10% of the time we tried to be as discreet as possible about the fact that we spoke very little Armenian and quietly ask the drive for "Armentel, khndrem." (Armentel, please). And then "Shnorakhalutsyun" or "thank you very much".

I'm not really sure why I was trying to avoid drawing attention to myself. I was the only fair skinned, blond headed person in the city (an exaggeration I'm sure but not by much! haha). Initially I thought I stuck out like a sore thumb. As it turns out often times when I was on my own I was addressed in Russian very often and once or twice in German. Once I started speaking the guessing game was over as to my nationality, but everybody was so friendly I never felt uncomfortable.

Sometimes I took the bus back alone because either Matt or I were staying late and the other was heading back. Once it was dark and I missed my stop and basically just said "stop". Incidentally "Stop" is the same in Russian or English so a simple thank you and I was on my way.

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