iranian, mexican, tegan and sara in the city

I’ve written before about how much I love Yerevan sometimes.  I was just in Yerevan again and experienced some old and new favorite things:

1.  Even though it has only been open a couple of months, and even though I don’t even live in this city, the fact that I’ve eaten at Yerevan’s Taco Maco 9 times in a collective 7 days means this is already an old favorite.  And they’ve updated the menu to include a Grande Nacho.  GRANDE. NACHO. Six years ago, my first major travel experience (to New Zealand for two months) ended when I finally landed in Dallas and saw my family run at me at the airpot.  They took me immediately to Taco Bell.  When we arrived they went to the bathroom and left me standing at that little zig-zaggy queue maze looking up at the menu.  I cried.
If you have been in a simalar situation, you know what it means for me to look up at a sign here in Armenia that says GRANDE NACHO, order it, and then taste exactly what you were hoping to taste.

2. The Vernissage. I’ve travelled quite a bit, been in many places famous for their open air markets (all over Central America, Rome, Italy, India, Thailand).  But this market, right here in Armenia is by far the best market I’ve ever been to.  It you pop out of the metro on Nalbadyan Street, you’re right there at the tip of it.  There it starts with men who have spread out blankets before them, placed all their wares out in the sun.  You start there with bits and pieces of machines, old tools, parts of blenders and hair combs.  Then there are men selling cassete tapes and pirated DVDs.  Then your in the thick of it with book sellers and tourist trapping stalls with trinkets and clothes sporting Armenian flag colors.  There are traditional knit-wear sellers and skeins and skeins of handspun yarn.  You spin around in this places moving from finely woven metal works to intricatally carved nardi boards.  There is room for everything, binoculars, telescopes, stethoscopes and surgical clamps.  You can find fake teeth, antique dishes, and old fur coats.  There’s a section for medicine by the kilo and an aisle where you’ll find short poodles and rough looking puppies with, per Armenian vogue, amputated ears.   I am in love with this place and spent the sunny afternoon walking down hallways made by hanging rugs and then through a seemingly endless art gallery stretching along the outside sidewalk.

The New:

1. I have listened to Tegan and Sara’s “Call It Off” at every opportunity.  I played it for friends in Yerevan as soon as we were near computers.  And when far from iPod or Mac, it played in my head.  Since I have very limited access to new music, I have been exploring the far corners of my own collection.  This is the latest additions in the playlist called, “I Didn’t Know I Had It So Good.”

2. Persian New Year!! Edetun mobarak (or something Farsi-sounding like that)!  Armenian universities have a good number of Iranian students looking for a cheaper education and a chance to experience another country.  This weekend was Persian New Year and I met two incredibly warm and jovial groups of Iranians.  Saturday night I went to a small gathering at a friend of a friend’s.  Shortly after I introduced myself,  a small woman in a black dress and heels spread her arms out with a loud, “Ssssshhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”  Everyone paused long enough to hear the faint Iranian tunes playing on an iPhone.  Almost silently the group of about ten people silently shook their booties and nodded their heads.  Silent dancing was then later recommenced multiple times by an older, clearly vodka loving man, who would say, “Don’t! Say!… Anymore!”  Everyone would laugh and then silently dance to the iPhone.  Later they gave up on the iPhone and sang themselves and snapped in a way I previously didn’t know was possible.  The other group included an English speaking guy who very modestly admitted that he was studying English because he wanted to see the world.  He had driven in a van with his friends a full day from Tehran, making his first hopeful journey of many more to come.

I am more and more loving Yerevan.  The outdoor cafes are starting to open.  The Vernissage vendors are packing those few blocks with fresh wonders.  And Taco Maco helps me survive.

I’m now reminded of our World Vision retreat which ended in grand finale with a song.  When I asked what the song was about, I we beffuddled to find that they weren’t singing about God but about how wonderful Yerevan is.  It’s not heaven, sure, but it is pretty nice.

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