Afternoon and Evening

As I promised, the afternoon and evening:

I usually try to leave work between 3 and 5pm. This week has been cold, so I usually go straight home. But the first two weeks, this place almost tricked me into thinking I could hold out for summer with its bright sunny days and sandal-worthy weather.
So in those first two weeks I have spent most of my afternoons at the park. On the edge of town, just before you walk up into the hills there it is, a kind, green place to stroll. Mind you, the regularity of municipal landscaping is well, very irregular meaning that even in this cute family friendly park there is not a single slab of concrete with out a crack somewhere or a corner sunk in the mud. The greenery grows at will. I do however think someone must come through and sweep the sidewalks for a few dram.
My town was once a popular tourist destination in soviet times (that phrase “in soviet times” is used quite a lot here). The park has wonderful tiny fair rides which mostly seem to work minus the carousel of swings in the corner whose chains are all red-brown and drawn up. There is a smaller, hanging-bench carousel that stands shorter than I am and a Ferris wheel whose tiny two-child buckets must have been replaced in the last few years based on their neon orange and dark blue color scheme. There is also a really strange ride that I’ve ridden twice for 100 dram. It’s a cage for two people in which you through your weight from side to side as the cage swing. The goal is to get the thing to spin a full 360 degrees. It’s a strange sensation to be standing, to have the floor move from under you. And you can’t stop engaging the swing or the floor will leave you behind, and you’ll smash your partner on the other side of the cage. All of the rides were painted in bright pastels which are now fighting the red-brown of rust.
I haven’t been to the park in a week and a half. I went yesterday and couldn’t find the friend I’d made, Sarkis, who runs an ice cream stand. The ice cream is delicious, reminds me of the kind you make in buckets in the backyard during summer cookouts, but this is creamier and consistent. Every day Sarkis brings fresh-from-the-cow milk to the machine. He always tries to give it to me for free, but even when he succeeds in not taking my coins, I drop them in a box on top of the machine. We eat ice cream (he has about 4 or 5 cones a day and is as thin as a toothpick) and talk. Our conversations are limited of course, based on my limited Armenian. But he’s a kind guy, the brother of the Armenian wife of the Peace Corps volunteer who just left here in July.
After the ice cream, other teenagers (the term is applied to 15-25 year olds) gather, usually around the ping pong table where they take turns losing to me. They like to play, and I’m fairly certain that there’s a charge for ping-pong time, but Sarkis doesn’t charge me and for ping-pong I take the deal. There is only one person who can beat me, a little 15 year old girl with long black hair down to her thighs. She can beat everyone. She’s got a future in the sport, might become the next Black Widow of ping pong if there isn’t one already.
After a few rounds I usually give a peace sign (I actually had to teach them to throw deuces… I thought that was universal) and take my walk home. On the walk I almost always say hi again to my butcher friend. Recently I’ve noticed how every day he hangs a strip of meat in his window. That’s Armenian advertising for you: raw meat.
I also watch the dogs. I’ve been thinking about getting a puppy. Besides the monetary, familial and possible future complications regarding dog ownership, I also may have trouble finding an eligible puppy since there are no breeders or pounds from which to adopt. I’m left to the streets. So, I’ve been starting to recognize my favorite dogs walking the sidewalks and gutters, noting which ones are male and female, and which ones I hope will mate and make me a puppy. There’s a great wiry haired schnauzer-faced dog with tiny little legs and beautiful coloring. There’s a tall blue-brown spotted hound dog, and a short white fox style pooch. Dogs are going on and off my list all the time. Usually it has to do with which ones are digging through the mornings’ trash bags on the curb.
I usually arrive home at dinner.
I won’t go into food but will instead stick with setting and describe where I spend most of my evenings, in my room.
I am loving my room these days, and it’s not just because it’s where I escape Armenia for a few hours. It’s comfortable, feng shui (that can be an adjective, right?), warm, a general feel-good place.
The wall paper is gold with darker gold borders and columns of white that make the room feel tall. Swirling painted sconces and a detailed center-ceiling piece make the room feel Eastern European. More specifically, and maybe morbidly, they most remind me of wealthy German homes and restaurants in WWII movies. But after Allied occupation of course (I’m a patriot…).
My bed is a combination of rough springy day bed mattress and two, thick, wool-packed mats that have taken a curve in the middle. It’s actually comfortable, sort of cradle like, and under my thick wool duvet makes a good sleeping nest.
I have a long coffee table that serves as my desk where I sit in a fairly comfortable arm chair and watch movies, write, or put the day’s pictures on my computer. My room has once again turned into a safe haven, feeling just as comfortable as any I’ve had (the sun room on Guthrie, the wood-floored master in the Young’s house in Abilene, my Oxford bunk room on the second floor overlooking Canterbury). I sit and read Dandelion Wine or knit and listen to Andrew Bird. I’ve watched four seasons of Grey’s Anatomy already (a sure escape) and generally find my small, safe nook to be just what I need at the end of a day of frustrating misconjugations and general disorientation.
At night I brush my teeth with my luxurious electric toothbrush, give my host family a bari gisher, and tuck into my wool cocoon. Ooh… that sounds so nice to me right now.

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