Yerevan. Summer 2011. Some Observations

Yerevan. Summer 2011. Some Observations

Here are some old love-to-hate goodies and some new material on life and times in Yerevan, Armenia.

– Buffets! Pronounced “boof-fet” and not “buffay”, these are cafeteria-like eating joints. Maybe I had never come across them before for my own part, but they seem to be the latest thing. I have been to two, and there are doubtless more. They are generally inexpensive and the food is ready to be eaten on the spot. Convenient.

– Persian! There is a lot more Farsi to be seen and heard on the streets of Yerevan than ever before. I saw a random flyer stuck to a street light entirely in Persian, and those kiosks everywhere where one may pay utility bills or add money to one’s cellphone number are available in Farsi as well. Kheyli jaleb.

– The old roller-blading dude! Does anyone know his story? I don’t think I knew he existed until last summer. And here he is, randomly roller blading around, all over the place. I overheard him talking to a Far Eastern-looking person in English, and his language didn’t seem too broken – at least he had it in him to use certain choice words. Is he from around here? Bewildering.

– Chaghatsel es. Ha, eli, chaghatsel em. What is up with people in this country always mentioning the fact that one has gained weight? It isn’t really pleasant. I think it’s a misplaced sense of oushadroutiun dartsnel. I get it, you are concerned or at least interested in my well-being. But, please, don’t remind me that I look fat! Straitening. Ironically. :-)

– Square-cut asphalt. Who repairs roads as per quadrilaterals in the world? Who, I ask you? This has been a long-standing problem, as the folks who repair the roads demonstrate. Not what it’s cut out to be.

– The skvaznyak. I have never been able to understand the irrational fear that accompanies the people of Armenia when it comes to drafts. It is a fatal error, in the opinion of many, to find one’s self on the path of moving air. Somebody explained to me once that if one were wet or sweaty, then a draft might indeed cause a cold or something. But the skvaznyak! Would the skvaznyak be satisfied with a mere cold, I ask you? Check out And beware the skvaznyak.

– Cleansing aspersions. What is up with spreading water around for no reason? I know I have asked about this before, but it is still not khelki mod for me to accept that sprinkling water will either clean a place, or cool it down significantly, or make dust settle. This practice makes no sense to me. Whatever happened to mops and brooms?

Armenian Museum in Washington: Beyond Genocide

Armenian Museum in Washington: Beyond Genocide

WASHINGTON – I had the great pleasure and unique opportunity to visit the future site of the Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial the other day. It is truly an amazing location and space whose value in its potential to reach out to the Armenian-American community, the US political establishment, and American society as such cannot be underestimated.

Of course the ongoing disputes and legal matters dogging the project have been disappointing and, frankly, embarrassing and shameful. More than that, however, even as this idea was made public a few years ago, I got the impression that the efforts may be better served to highlight Armenian history and culture generally, as opposed to a giant commemoration of the Armenian Genocide alone. Continue reading

Message Conveyance

Message Conveyance

I really knew that I had returned to Washington when I saw a political ad in the airport moments after stepping off the plane. It is a characteristic element of life here, especially for someone who takes the metro as often as I do.

I usually don’t give them a second thought, as the causes and agendas are pretty clear, sometimes altogether blatant enough to be off-putting. This one below, however, was particularly thought-provoking. Not because there is something poignant or moving about it, but because it made me think over and over again on what it could possibly mean.

In reading just the tag line, my first reaction was, “So what? Is America being touted as a police state?”.

My second thought was, “Well, the figures may or may not be exactly accurate, but perhaps there is something to be said about rule of law, about the real enforcement of consequences to crimes”.

And then I continued to read: “Let’s build a better America together”, and I figured, “Oh, I see. The ad is calling upon people to avoid a life of crime, to get educations, work hard, live the American Dream, etc., etc.”.

And then I finally read the signature – the NAACP.

And I didn’t know what to think.

The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The name itself suggests that it is an advocacy organisation for the blacks for the most part. I am not familiar with their work; perhaps the moniker “coloured people” applies to a broader range. But I thought that this reputable organisation might be highlighting or somehow capitalising on the fact of a stereotypically prominent black presence in the country’s jails. So, again, I didn’t really know what to think.

Finally, just now, I visited the advertised URL – It reads:

“Misplaced Priorities: A New Report From NAACP

On April 7th, the NAACP released a new report, Misplaced Priorities, that examines America’s escalating levels of prison spending and its impact on state budgets and our nation’s children.

Misplaced Priorities tracks the steady shift of state funds away from education and toward the criminal justice system. Researchers have found that over-incarceration most often impacts vulnerable and minority populations, and that it destabilizes communities.

The report is part of the “Smart and Safe Campaign,” and the NAACP is urging everyone to sign its petition to urge governors to adopt a set of recommendations that will help policymakers in all 50 states downsize prison populations and shift the savings to education budgets.

Below are profiles of the six cities studied in the report, as well as three profiled individuals.

Click here to download a PDF of the full report.

Click Here to Sign the Petition Now!”

And I finally get it.

I wish the message had come across on a first read, though.


(photo of ad courtesy