It’s a cold and dreary winter morning. 8:40 a.m. Everything is overcast. I’m shivering and tired, because I didn’t sleep well the night before on my hostel mattress that was more springs than mattress, under my thin little blankets. I’m also feeling dirty, as I didn’t shower before I left; there was no hot water. I did, however, have breakfast: my first bowl of cereal in country—so at least I’m not hungry.
I walk along the street, carrying my heavy backpack and two additional bags that I will be living out of for the next five days or so. I’m on my way to help a volunteer out at her organization, and after that I’m going to friends’ to celebrate Christmas weekend. First task is to get a taxi to bring me to the marshutni station. I know there are taxis down the street, but plan on flagging one down earlier if I see one.
A taxi drives past, but I take too long trying to decide if it is already carrying passengers and don’t raise my arm. The disappointed-in-myself-for-being-too-slow expression on my face must have been enough, though, because the taxi pulls over. I open the back door and ask to go the station.
The following is the conversation I have, in Armenian, once I get into the taxi. I wanted to share this with you to demonstrate a few things:
- The fact that I can have decent conversations in Armenian now
- The types of questions that are very common here in “I just met you” situations
- I still screw things up
E is me, and D is the driver.
E: Hi, how are you?
D: Vochinch. (Means, literally, “nothing”—a normal response.)
Long pause as I try to decide if I really feel like talking in Armenian before 9 in the morning.
D: What is your name?
In other words, here I go, diving into the depths of conversation.
D: Hayk. I am Hayk. (In all honesty, I don’t really remember what his name was, but it was an Armenian man’s name.)
E: Nice to meet you.
D: Where are you from?
E: America. I’m going to live in Armenia for two years. (I don’t want him to think I’m just here on vacation.)
D: You’re going to stay here for two years? (Disbelief is apparent in his voice.)
D: Have you just arrived?
E: No, I’ve been here 6 months already.
D: Good for you. (He sounds proud.) Have you been studying Armenian since you got here?
D: Good for you! (Even prouder…) Are you married?
E: No. (I laugh. I should have known this was coming.)
D: Well, you are still young. (Glances in the mirror at me.) You are twenty… two?
E: No. (I tell him my age.) Are you married? (May as well turn the question back on him.)
E: For how long?
D: 30 years.
Long silence. I stare out the window at the dilapidated concrete building we are passing and wonder about the forces that caused so many buildings to become abandoned and run-down.
D: Do you have guys?
E: No. (What did he just ask me? What does that mean?)
D: Do you have sisters?
E: Yes. (Oops. He asked if I have brothers, and I just wrote off ten of my siblings. My bad. Well, it would be awkward now to go back to correct that mistake.)
D: How many?
D: Are you here alone?
E: Right now? Yes.
D: I mean, do you have friends here.
E: Yes, other volunteers from America.
D: Do you like Yerevan?
E: Yes, but I live in… (name of my town.)
D: Why? (Sound of shock and disgust and disbelief.)
E: I work at the college there.
D: As an English teacher?
E: No, I teach computers… Do you speak English?
And that is about it. There’s another silence as I see we are getting close to my stop. We arrive, I thank him and give him 600 dram for the ride. He wishes me a good trip and we part ways.
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