Yerevan, July 2011. Photo Essay II

Yerevan, July 2011. Photo Essay II

Yerevan is not a very large city, but there is no lack of eye-catching and thought-provoking things around here. Some of the pictures below reflect the general surreal and out of place elements of life in Armenia, while others offer reflections on aspects of politics and society. And then, of course, I find some things to be simply funny or cool.

«Գտիր քո G-կետը»…! It wasn’t enough that there is a Cosmopolitan in Armenia now at all, but there is also Cosmopolitan in Armenianian. The sort of vocabulary which that publication takes on seems to me so very out of place for our ancient and, as it were, conservative language. It would be great to have more openness in terms of sexual education and women’s rights in modern Armenia. But to have Cosmopolitan, of all things, be a driving force in that shift? I wonder if it, or similar magazines, played such a role in the West a generation or two ago.

Now here’s something more meaningful on the women in society front. I used to be very amused by this taxi company, mainly feeling sorry for their drivers who must be so emasculated driving around a pink car all day. As it turns out, they are cabs exclusively for women (note the “կանանց համար / for ladies” on the back of the car). Rather brilliant and entrepreneurial, I find. It would please me immensely to have the entire fleet be driven by ladies as well. I remember having taken a cab driven by a woman some years ago. She boasted to being the only female taxi driver in Yerevan, and wanted to set me up with her daughter to boot. Needless to say, that plan did not fare well.

I love taking note of the Soviet vestiges in the city. This one is a particularly remarkable and pretty Soviet-Armenian fusion piece: sickle and hammer and star, surrounded by pomegranates.

But now we are free and America is our friend, as this diner-style eatery attests. I loved the decor. They even have a payphone at the back! And the toilet water was blue! The burger and fries weren’t too bad either. The only thing wrong with the place was the random French hip-hop music they had playing. If they had ’80s beats or country going on, I’m not sure I’d have wanted to leave.

Plenty of stores or other establishments do the titiz thing and have the tiling on the sidewalk reflect their business, but the Military Police…?! And in English?! I found that hilarious. In the background, one may take note of a pub with a maze for a logo, called “LaBEERint” (as in, “labyrinth”). If I drank, I would go there just for the name.

“O miserable being! Sayat Nova Street is not a rubbish bin. The dumpster is located in the building’s courtyard. In order to be called a man, it is necessary to have amour-propre”. I love it! And I especially loved that word «ինքնասիրություն», which I must translate as amour-propre, as the literal and propre meaning.

Can you spot the odd one out? In truth, I had noticed only the one bus-stop with an ad that featured a map of Armenia upon which someone had taken the trouble to add Artsakh. A friend of mine pointed out one more, and we went on a hunt of bus-stops. A lot of them had the addition, and, as can be seen, they do not appear to be the work of the same person. Of course, many of them are clean, and some have other kinds of graffiti too, so the above pictures are not entirely accurate, but they certainly are representative. The ones on the bottom are funny, because the patriots or nationalists who decided to add Artsakh to the map also decided to designate the addition in English (that too, with poor transliteration) instead of in the national language.

This is my very favourite khachkar in Yerevan. It is unusual, in that it is made to be opening up, with flames emanating from within the red tufa stone. A pomegranate at the arch is half-burnt away. There is a kind of rejuvenating power being unleashed from within an ancient artform, I find, which is really appealing.