Some Pictures From a Walk

Last Friday I walked over to Dzorakap (which translates to “gorge connection”), PCV Olivia’s village. There we had a classic skills transfer, with her advising me on how to set up and organize English clubs (which will be starting in two weeks) and I showing her the magic of Excel pivot tables. I took a bunch of pictures as I walked, so have a look, why not.

At the top of the hill outside Sarnaghbyur, looking down the road.
Looking back at town from the top of the hill.
We’re past peak, but the wildflowers in Shirak marz are absolutely gorgeous.
Trees and power lines, you come up with a more interesting caption.
Looking back over my shoulder. Ummm, trees and a few small ponds.
Coming up on our splendid old church (creatively called “red church”). In front is a statue whose purpose I haven’t yet figured out, and a covered picnic area that’s in constant use for khorovats.
Approaching our village road’s intersection with the Yerevan-Gyumri highway; my house to the road is a little under an hour walking.
Looking back over my shoulder.
Approaching Dzorakap.
Dzorakap’s dzor.
Not walk related, but a pig head at Karen’s house – always an adventure here to open the fridge!



A Bunch of Sayings, Mostly About Donkeys

So far my favorite part of learning Armenian has been its rich and varied sayings and figures of speech. Beyond entertaining me and teaching me new vocab, these definitely help with integration, as they get good responses from listeners, usually along the chuckling “where exactly did you learn that?” line. About half of these I learned from one of our NGO’s more active teenage volunteers, with whom I swap English sayings for Armenian whenever we meet (examples include, “a watched pot never boils”, “where there’s a will there’s a way”, “YOLO”, etc.), the other half from my counterpart Karen.

I present a number of these sayings below, along with their interpretations and etymology where available. I sincerely hope that this is a representative sample that I’ve learned and that Armenian actually has several hundred sayings involving donkeys.

I’ll start with my favorite so far:

-Դառել ես նոր տարվա լիմոնատ – Darrel es nor tarva limonat – “You have become the New Year’s lemonade”. You say this to someone you haven’t seen in a while, because in the past lemonade was so expensive that you only bought it for the giant celebrations for New Year’s, so this person has become a special treat.

-խոսքդ շաքարով կտրեմ – Khoskd shakarov ktrem – “Let me cut your speech with sugar”. What you say before interrupting someone with a brief interjection. I’ve heard you can also use it when you’re hanging out with someone who is being quiet and you want them to talk.

-Ագռավներն ամեն տեղ սև են – Agrravnern amen tegh sev en – “Crows are black everywhere”. People who are bad in one place will always be bad. I especially like this one because I could imagine any Wildling character from A Song of Ice and Fire saying it.

-Աղջիկը տան ծաղիկն է, իսկ ամեն ծաղիկ իր հոտն ունի – Aghjeek tan tsareek e, isk amen tsareek ir hotn unee – “The girl is the flower of the house, and every flower has its own scent”. Everyone is unique.

Now all the ones about donkeys:

-Էշի զատկին – Eshi zatkeen – “On the donkey’s Easter”. No idea the etymology, but it’s equivalent to “when pigs fly” in English – i.e., absolutely never. This one gets the biggest laughs of any of the sayings I know.

-Էշի մոր թայ – Eshi mor tay – “The donkey’s mother’s age”. Response when someone asks you your age and you don’t want to say. You can also say this to someone who is not behaving appropriately for their age.

-էշը ցեխից հանել – Eshi tsekheets hanel – “To take the donkey out of the mud”. You did something the hard way, but you did it, and that’s what matters.

-Էշ, մի սատկի, գարուն կուգա – Esh, mi satkee, garoon kooka – “Don’t die, donkey, spring will come”. I’m not 100% sure about this one, but in spite of it sounding reassuring I think you use it in response to someone wishing/hoping for something that you believe will never happen.

-Էշի ականջում քնած – Eshi akanjoom knats – “Asleep in the donkey’s ear”. Used to describe someone who is stupid or ignorant.


Note: all pictures courtesy of Thong Do. Check out his website here!

Water is a big deal here in Sarnaghbyur. The name means “cold spring”, there’s a cave filled with holy water, and we can fish in and frolic by a lake that I can only assume is the envy of all our neighbors. So it’s no surprise that Vardavar is an especially big deal here; read the background on Wikipedia here, to keep me from writing something redundant and surely no better researched. I’ve been told the town’s population doubles for the holiday, and we Americans did our part as Thong, Renata, and Sarah came up from Gyumri to experience the madness.

The kids approach.
The shrine housing the holy spring. Normally it’s a damp ~50 degrees in here, but by the end of the day so many people had lit candles that the heat was nearly unbearable.

I decided to take the other PCVs up the main street to see our churches and holy spring, as we’d heard that that was where most of the action was. Things began calmly enough with the mischievous under-10 crowd on my street getting us with a couple of small buckets (including one especially smart little girl who hit us from behind an open gate she was hiding behind, so we didn’t even see her ‘til after impact). As we headed up the main street towards the spring, however, things got a bit harrier. It’s a nice balance of hilarious and slightly terrifying seeing a giant mob of young boys coming at you with full buckets of water, and really once they’ve spotted you and engaged all you can do is stand there and accept the attack. I should note that these splashes weren’t usually simple sneak-up-and-pour-water-down-your-back-affairs, but rather violent and epic soakings – with a large bucket and a teenage boy’s exuberance, you can get some pretty intense water velocity. Total blindings, water deep in both ears, this is what we tolerated for the sake of cultural enrichment and understanding.

Lots of water.
More water.
Pretty accurate visual summary of the day.

Madness reigned outside the entrance to the holy spring – from what I can tell no one is safe except police officers and the tatiks, who would probably beat you senseless with a tatik broom if you soaked them. Tourists to the spring, often fancily dressed Yerevantsis, were hit as soon as they were out of their car, often with their doors still open for maximum property damage. Thong braved the water with his valuable camera to take the incredible pictures here, but as things got more intense we decided to retreat up the hill to an overlook to dry out on hot rocks and watch the melee from out of soak range. We took the long way home to avoid the main road mobs, in the course of which we still faced a few back-street ambushes, but they were amateur at best and no one got much wetter.

Not surprisingly, this group shot quickly fell apart.
Drying off and observing the chaos from above.
Up top, a brief standoff occurred, but with some gentle coaxing the kids emptied their buckets without any more soakings.

Naturally as soon as we dried off my host family invited everyone to sit down for a giant Armenian lunch, including lamb and shots of some delicious pine-infused liquor my host cousin brought up from Yerevan. After this the Gyumri crowd left, at which point I assumed the day’s soakings were over for me. Unfortunately, as their car pulled away, a young woman opened our gate, chased me around our yard, and drenched me with three separate buckets of water she’d somehow brought along before running off, yelling over her shoulder in thickly-accented English “nice to meet you!” Sitting on my bed writing this, my whole body feels sore, not from a day’s worth of walking, but rather from how many times I tensed my entire body in anticipation of a violent soaking.