An Exchange with a Taxi Driver

By | December 22, 2011

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.

Gray Morning

Everything looks gray on this winter morning in Yerevan.

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:

  1. The fact that I can have decent conversations in Armenian now
  2. The types of questions that are very common here in “I just met you” situations
  3. 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.

E: Evelyn

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.)

E: Yes

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?

E: Yes.

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.)

D: Yes.

E: For how long?

D: 30 years.

E: Wow.

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.

Abandoned Building in Armenia

Abondoned buildings are everywhere in Armenia

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?

E: Four.

D: Are you here alone?

E: Right now? Yes.

D: I mean, do you have friends here.

E: Yes, other volunteers from America.

Peace Corps Volunteers Having Fun

Some of my "other volunteer" friends, enjoying brownies

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?

D: No.

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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2 thoughts on “An Exchange with a Taxi Driver

  1. Domi

    Haha love it! Sounds vaguely familiar. My conversations with Paraguayan taxi drivers in Guaraní usually revolved around 1) How awesome Paraguay is, 2) how awful Paraguay is, or 3) are you married? Why not?

    I’m at home visiting my fam, I’ll say hi to the yoop for you! 🙂

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