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Welcome to my home

Friday, October 10, 2008

Armenian Nights

As many of you know, nightlife is not really something that I get on a regular basis. Really, unless I’m in Yerevan, there isn’t much of what we would call in the states a “nightlife”. But, that’s not to say that there aren’t exciting things that happen at night. So, I’ve decided to sketch out a few nocturnal events that have happened recently. I’ll warn you, this writing is sloppy and lazy, but entertaining none the less.

Wolves! In a daring effort to reclaim the land for nature’s original tenants, a pack of wolves deftly sneaked into the city of Gyumri under the cover of night’s darkness. The citizens of the city awoke to the terrified sounds of cattle being slaughtered and devoured by the hundreds. When morning dawned, a total of 300 head of cattle had had the likes of life removed from their bones, courtesy of countless encounters with the vengeful jaws of relentless wolves, who incidentally turned out to be fairly efficient at what they do. Now, I do not live in Gyumri, but, I don’t live too far away either, and I’m pretty sure we share the same hills, so this news story was topping the headlines of the local news in my town, and I’m fairly sure that this is the first time an urban cow has topped the news since the Chicago fire. So that’s exciting.

This is a true story, and took place in another volunteer’s host family.

So there’s this cow, right? And this family has cared for this cow pretty well, right? Every day the cow is up with the rooster and released from his holding pen to join the other cows just like it as they mindlessly climb up the mountain to graze under an Armenian sun. And usually, they just walk the cattle trails chewing grass as they go. And if they are unlucky enough to be a wanderer, or stupid enough to linger near the dogs, they get a not-so-friendly nip on the ankles to remind them where they belong, both on the terrain and in the hierarchy of intelligence. But this cow, holy cow, this cow was not cut out for humdrummery. This cow was ambitious. What’s more, is that this cow had the amazing subtlety to be able to carry out his ambitions undetected.

Maybe it was the chickens all cooped up adjacent to his pen at night, telling old hens’ tales of days when they were a free-range creature, talking about a mythical potato patch high up in the mountain passes. Or maybe it was just the smell of subterranean spud on the morning breeze. We will never quite know how this noble bovine brain came across the knowledge of a potato patch in the vicinity of the herd. But somehow, he did. And that’s all that’s important. So, when the other cows were mindless chewing the cud that their first stomach was too lazy to digest, and the dogs were all busy showing off for the one human superintendent who would never like them, this cow moseyed on over a few gentle rises in search of a destiny never known by any cow.

The herd moved on, ignorant of his absence, so ignorant, in fact, that none were aware of this departure until the cow didn’t show up at home that night. So, the family decided to wait until morning before sounding any sort of alarm. Maybe the cow was just loafing. But, by the time rooster o’clock rolled around, there was still no cow. So now, the family decides to take to send out a search party. They searched all over, in the churchyard, in the streets, down by the water, anywhere a cow might be. But, alas, no cow was to be found carousing about within the city limits. So, a brief meeting took place, and the family decided to take to the hills. And there, low and behold, was their cow, with a happy low and a content cow grin, laying in the grass stuffed to an extant that told his body that it was better off laying on the ground.

So there was this cow, right? And it had eaten so many potatoes that it couldn’t walk back down the mountain for the evening. In fact, it had eaten so many potatoes that it couldn’t even be coerced into moving with the help and agitation of its family. In essence, this cow had just pulled a Roger Maris. He had broken the single season record for potatoes eaten by one cow. A record formerly held by one of the greatest cow legends in the history of the game. A record no one ever thought to be breakable. So there was this cow, right? And there were these people, determined to not abandon their cow, right? This cow had been a major investment for them, right? So now there’s this problem, right? How do we get the cow down the mountain? (Note to the squeamish: skip ahead to the next story, this ending is not for you.) So there was this axe, right? Then there were a lot of cow pieces, right? Because everyone knows it’s easier to carry small pieces down a mountain is easier than carrying one big, cumbersome piece, right? No other possible solution. Now there is a lot of cow soup. Talk about being put out to pasture…

Necessary vocabulary for this reading:
Counterpart- work associate to whom I am assigned my two-year partnership
Cowboy- what my host uncle calls me because I have a tendency to whistle softly while I think
Dog- a viscous beast that is not to be loved, but kicked, disdained, and feared to the point that many towns have a season to hunt them within city limits, much like deer (assuming deer were viscous)
Tahteek- Armenian word for grandmother (cultural note, usually come with a complimentary moustache)
jan- an ending affixed to names that means sweety

The other night I went over to my counterpart’s house to visit and work on lesson plans for the upcoming week’s lessons. So, we worked, chatted, and coffeed until about 9:30 in the p.m., at which point I decided it was high time for this cowboy to hit the road. However, the sun has begun its annual trend of laziness, and 9:30 is no longer a time deemed worthy of extreme solar luminance. In fact, I’ll be so bold as to say it was dark outside, pitch dark. But, being the forward thinker that I am, in anticipation of the possibility that this meeting was not just going to be a business call, but rather a forced social call that had the potential to last for hours (which it did), before I left my room I stashed a dinky little flashlight in my bag to help light my way home. So, when my counterpart asked me if I wanted her to call my home to send someone to get me since it was so dark, proud of my foresight, I proceeded to pull out my flashlight and declare that I think that somehow I’ll be able to make it home all right. I was then promptly warned to beware of the dogs on the street at night, to which I replied, “It’s ok, I’m an American.”

Off I went, into the night, proud that maybe someone finally understood that I did not come with a warning label advising constant supervision. And oh, how glorious the night was. The beautiful thing about living in a village is that there are no lights. So, when I got to a point on the path where the footing was good enough to not need a light, I turned my light off and turned my eyes upward. Unreal. I tell you what, boy, if I had a dollar for every star I saw, I could bail out Wall Street, and maybe still have enough to independently finance Michael Moore to invent a ludicrous documentary about the causes for its demise. (It just felt like a good place for a jab at Michael Moore. I don’t actually know if this is a project he’s working on, but it seems like the kind of thing he gets uppity about.)

So there I was, taking my time, enjoying the splendor of the skies, taking in a quiet moment that I so desperately needed, when, out of nowhere, a tahteek pops out from behind a rock. “Oooh Scott-jan!” (pronounced skote-jahn) HOLY HELL BATMAN! What’s a tahteek doing out at this hour? More importantly, why are there tahteeks hiding in the rocks? Wait, is this my tahteek? Yes, it is. “Uh, Zeena (tahteek’s name) what are you doing walking around at night?” “Oooh Scott-jan, there’s a dog right there!” At this point, I’ve finally caught my breath from the tahteek ambush, and have turned my light on, expecting to see a rabid carnivore, and ready to reenact an old yeller scene. But, as I should have known, it was nothing more than a 3 month old pup. Someday these unnecessary fears of animals will abate (must I remind you all of Snake Mountain). But, for now, these fears generate grand delusions, and tahteek made sure I was safe. Good old tahteek. She picked up a few rocks and chucked them at the dog, which didn’t move, because the rocks fell well short of their mark. So, Zeena grabbed my shoulders and whisked me away to the safety of our apartment. While being whisked, I asked her, once more, what she was doing walking around at night, and she told me that my counterpart had called her when I left her house, and that it had been so long (reality check: five minutes) that they thought for sure I had fallen and broken my leg. Ahh, to be a five again. One of these days it will be understood by all here that I am an adult.


Danielbeast said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danielbeast said...

These stories were hilariously entertaining and very enjoyable

Alli said...

I don't know, Scott, nightlife in Armenia could give Iowa City's scantily clad freshmen and drunken bros a run for their money... Also, your grandma sounds hilarious.

And I understand about feeling over-cared for. In Russia I have to call home if my plans change in the evening, and there's no staying out past midnight. You get used to it after a while.

Dan said...

Not only do I understand the irrational fear of dogs...well I guess I understand the irrational fear of dogs. They can be down right mean. As for the cow - did the movie Snatch occur to anyone else while reading this? Anyone who's seen that movie could tell you that moving something in pieces is much easier than as a whole.