EXPAT LIFE: DOING LUNCH IN ARMENIA

by missfootloose on September 10, 2009 · 21 comments

in Armenia, Expat life, Food

While living abroad in various foreign climes, I do lunch with friends, just like I would do at home. Have something nice to eat, do some chatting and philosophizing, admire each other’s nail polish, that sort of thing. So here’s a simple tale of one such event, lunch with my friends in a small restaurant in the center of Yerevan, the capital of beautiful, far-away Armenia in the Caucasus Mountains.

Mount Ararat of Noah’s Ark fame looming over the city of Yerevan. Photo by Tom Allen

SHARING SORROWS

Because I have the good luck of living near the center of Yerevan, I am able to hoof it almost everywhere important, like shops and restaurants and markets.

Walking is good for you, but you also see things you wouldn’t necessarily notice while driving a car. Such as, along with laundry, newly sheared sheep’s wool hanging on a washing line (second floor apartment to the right of the blue truck). When was the last time you saw that?

Photo by giocomai

When I arrive at the restaurant I find we are six around the table and much agonizing is going on.

My Dutch friend Annette has landlord problems. She’s steaming with outrage. The man’s teenage son used her computer while she and her family were away on vacation. He downloaded games and generously left them there for others to use.

The word privacy does not exist in the Armenian language, I’ve been told. To be grasped, the concept must be described and explained. Which doesn’t mean it’s understood by landlords, who often will wander in and out as if they still live in their rented properties and you are merely their live-in guests. I heard a story from another expat friend who came home from leave earlier than expected and found a big party going on in her house.

Fortunately I have no such problems. We have a fantastic landlady. She lives in Moscow. The caretaker she has appointed is a man of many talents and comes the moment we call with a problem. We are the envy of all our expat friends living in Yerevan and no I am not kidding.

Anoush, an Armenian friend, is having problems with a co-worker. “She has a unique mentality,” she tells us. “All the time she causes artificial difficulties and hardships.”

We commiserate, agreeing that people with unique mentalities can be a pain in the neck, and artificial difficulties and hardships are a waste of energy and not conducive to peace in the office. Armenians have a magnificent ability to learn English without ever leaving their country. Their verbal dexterity is fantastic and I’m all a-wonder every time I listen to them speak.

Lara is distraught too. Lara is an Armenian who grew up in both Syria and Lebanon before settling with her businessman husband in the new, no-longer-Soviet, Armenia seven years ago. She’s 58 years old and bubbles with joie de vivre. She’s loud, smokes with abandon, has wildly curly hair, wears flashy clothes and uses make-up copiously and creatively. She’s a flamboyant sort, you might say, with the gift of gab as her crowning glory. My Dutch mother would not approve of her, but we all love her.

Lara’s life is a hectic one, with a constant stream of visitors – relatives and friends from all over the world coming to stay, business people to entertain, and so on. Her house is small, her capacity for putting up guests is limited. We hear her many stories of all the cooking she does, and how people just stay and stay and stay . . .

And today she has a truly harrowing tale. Words gush like a waterfall from her mouth. We won’t believe what has happened to her! She waves her hands, she rolls her eyes, her bosom heaves in memory of the perils she’s about to relate to us. We hang on her every word.

Two days ago, Lara, her husband and two of his business partners went to a night club for a civilized postprandial drink, as they often do.

Photo by mira mira

They discussed the fact that their little house was full of guests and two more cousins were coming over from Syria and where, oh where, were they going to put them? They knew the owner of the night club, who somehow became part of the conversation and he told them that the little hotel upstairs belonged with the club and why not rent a room there? Lara, all ears, wanted to know the price and said she’d come back the next day to have a look at the rooms.

“We’ll give you a discount,” the owner told Lara. Well, why not. She and her husband and their visitors often come for a drink at his place. Next day Lara went back to the hotel with two of her sponging male relatives in tow to help her check out the rooms to see if they were suitable for housing her guest-overflow.

The owner was not present, so a hotel employee took the threesome upstairs, showed them into a room, then left and closed the door. Lara and her two male house guests were left by themselves in the room.

It was then that enlightenment struck and all the bulbs were red. She realized that the hotel people assumed she was a working girl looking for a place to ply her trade.

“I cried!” Lara wails now. “To think that, at my age, they thought I was a prostitute!”

That was lunch today.

* * *

Have you ever had a memorable lunch-with-the-girls/guys experience? Or do you remember a fun incident while you were out with your friends? Please share!

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{ 18 comments… read them below or add one }

Elizabeth Bradley September 12, 2009 at 6:58 pm

I felt as if I were there with you all! Great writing, I could see their faces and hear their voices. I loved this post. You sure do live a rich and varied life.

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Mara September 12, 2009 at 8:13 pm

Oh my, I nearly choked from laughing!

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♥ Braja September 13, 2009 at 5:19 pm

Oh dear….:)

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Kaiserin Sisi September 14, 2009 at 6:47 am

Your stories sounds so familiar to me… living the life as an expat wife is never dull 🙂 I could write a book or two about it! But then again, I’m not much of a writer… I just rambles!

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Jungle Mom September 14, 2009 at 3:13 pm

Life is full of excitement and interesting people. I feel as if I was along with you on your lunch!

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GutsyWriter September 15, 2009 at 3:09 am

Miss Footloose, you did it again. Your writing is more than ready for Random House. What the hell are they waiting for?
I remember in Belize expat women having love affairs with Belizeans, leaving their husbands for their young lovers and then getting beaten by them. Very sad.

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Miss Footloose September 15, 2009 at 12:53 pm

Hello girlfriends 😉 Thanks for your kind comments.

Random House, Gutsy Writer? I wish! I’ve been told that:

o Americans don’t want to read about places they wouldn’t go to on vacation.

o There’s no market for this kind of book (my blog stories are excerpts from a finished book).

o That publishers have too many travel memoirs in the pipe line. (Only my book is not really a travel memoir, it’s about expat life.)

Sigh. So I started this blog to see if anyone IS interested.

And yes, you are, so I thank you from the bottom of my heart!

Now, if anyone knows a publisher or agent . . .

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LadyFi September 16, 2009 at 6:43 am

Oh goodness me! No wonder she was upset…

The way you tell it is delightfully funny…

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A Cuban In London September 16, 2009 at 1:42 pm

Never mind the sheep’s wool, my eyes were glued to the Soviet truck at the bottom of the photo. I have not seen one of those since I visited my homeland back in Feb this year. You never know what you’re going to miss in life until it is not there anymore. Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

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Bunny, THE PARIS HOUSE September 17, 2009 at 12:52 pm

You are a riot!! I love your blog (thanks for stopping by mine, now I am following yours ) You need to keep pursuing an agent etc. I just had a children’s book published that I wrote 15 years ago!!
keep at it you have a fabulously intereting life
Bunny

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Shellbelle September 17, 2009 at 1:18 pm

Philosophy and nail polish in the same sentence — I knew right away I was going to enjoy this post and you did not disappoint! Laughed so hard, I think I might of wet my pants.

Well, I’m an American and I love reading your words. Have you thought about self-publishing on Amazon? It’s a great way to start and costs you nothing. They do print-on-demand and you’re free to later publish it elsewhere. I’d promote your book on my blog, sounds like it would be a great beach read.

You can find more info by googling CreateSpace, it’s a division of Amazon. I’m designing a cookbook for a bunch of bloggers who are using this outlet to sell their cookbook to raise money for the United Nations World Food Programme. I never knew you could publish this way, no inventory and no charge. They, of course, get a large percentage of each sale, but it is a way to get started.

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Sylvia Dickey Smith September 17, 2009 at 1:39 pm

Now that I’ve found you–definitely adding this link to one I follow on my blog!

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Miss Footloose September 18, 2009 at 2:15 pm

@ Cuban in London: Yes, the soviet cars! They are all over Armenia, some very old ones, as you saw in the photo. thanks for visiting and glad you got a kick out of the car!

@ Truestar, what a wonderful story! Thank you for sharing.

@ Bunny, glad you liked my story. I live to entertain 😉

@ Rhonda, I’m considering self-publishing, but have not decided yet. Still looking for representation. I’ll check out Amazon!

@ Sylvia, welcome to my blog! I hope you’ll be entertained.

@ Helen Ginger. One of the advantages of living in foreign countries is that you end up with all kinds of friends in the international as well as the local community. This can add fun to the conversations!

Thanks everybody! Next post will be a change of pace.

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gabber September 18, 2009 at 3:36 pm

Very nice story. I can imagine her reaction, especially after you so vividly described her. Sounds like a good friend. The type that has “Joie de vivre!” Alwasy fun to be around.

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Anonymous September 18, 2009 at 4:37 pm

Ha, love the story, and, well I drive one of those Soviet cars back in Armenia… 🙂

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Mary Witzl September 18, 2009 at 8:24 pm

Love that freshly shorn sheep skin being aired. In my neighborhood, we’ve got sheep being raised for Kurban Bayram, when they sacrifice animals to share the meat with the poor. It’s really something to see the sheep tethered in people’s front yards one minute, then being butchered the next, right out there for all to enjoy.

Lara sounds great, and she must look pretty good too, if the hotel fellow thought she was up for that sort of thing. Glad I don’t live in Armenia, though: I have enough trouble sharing my laptop with my kids.

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Miss Footloose September 20, 2009 at 7:44 pm

@ Welcome Gabber from Gabberstan! I don’t believe there is a “stan” called Gabberstan, but hey, this is cyberspace. 😉

@ Anonymous in Armenia. So you drive a Soviet car, a Lada perhaps? And do I know you, by any chance?? 😉

@ Mary Witzl: Yes, Idul Fitri is upon you. Enjoy!

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Maya September 22, 2009 at 7:39 am

Just came across your blog and it is a pleasure to read! I am a car free expat and walk ever where I can. Like you I am amazed at what you can see–I recently wrote a blog about it.

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