If you’ve watched TV lately, I am sure you’re in need of something a bit tamer right now so you can smooth out your frazzled nerves. Here then a story of a day in my life in the mysterious Caucasian land called Armenia, a day I toiled away at writing a romance novel. A day without a world crisis and threat of war. However, there is a dead body and a bit of dancing and drinking in the end.
Just an ordinary day in Armenia
I may be living in a far and distant land, but there is nothing exotic about the start of my day in Yerevan, Armenia. 6:30 am: I get up, race to the computer to check the e-mail. While I was asleep in Armenia, America was waking up and doing business and you never know what exciting news I might find waiting for me. Maybe somebody wants to make a movie out of one of my Harlequin romance novels. I can dream, can’t I?
I check my messages. Nothing.
I sigh, shower and dress. It’s cold so I decide to cook oatmeal for breakfast. I make a guess at the cooking directions because everything printed on the box is in Russian (see photo above). I don’t speak Russian. Neither do I speak Armenian, for that matter. Life is a challenge that way and challenges are good for you. They keep you humble. Just trying to buy eggs here is an adventure.
After breakfast my mate leaves for his office and I putter around our little house for a bit, making the bed, doing the dishes, throwing a load of laundry in the washing machine; you know the routine, you there in Canada, Australia, Botswana.
Off to work
Then I go to my home office and start puttering around there. I’m the Queen of Putter. Finally I stop procrastinating and get to work on my latest opus. You think it’s easy, writing about love and romance? You should try it!
At 10.30 it’s time for coffee and a bit of CNN. America has gone to bed, and Europe is waking up.
As I wait for my coffee to brew, I glance out the kitchen window and see two teenage boys in the ubiquitous black jackets meeting in the street. They shake hands, then kiss each other in greeting. Remember, this is Armenia. Men kiss each other. Boys kiss each other. Boys and men kiss each other. On the cheek, so don’t get any ideas. Relax already.
Coffee an CNN consumed, I go back to work, tapping out words of misery and anger as my hero and heroine are fighting. I write till I get hungry and fed up with the two of them. Eat some bread with the hummus I made yesterday. I love lemony, garlicky hummus. I go back to my office and an hour later . . . oh no!
The electricity goes off
Quelle catastophie! Now my computer is out of commission (the battery is shot) and I can’t work and I have no idea how long it will take. I may never get this book written. My hero and heroine are still fighting.
I do some reading and some desk cleaning and I peel some potatoes for a pork-chop dinner and boil some beets. Lots of red beets in Armenia. And orange carrots and white cabbage and green spinach, and that’s about it for fresh local veggies in the dead of winter here. Oh, I forgot turnips.
And then I hear it
A creepy chill shivers down down my spine: Music. It’s the eerie, plaintive sound of the duduk, a traditional Armenian woodwind instrument, floating into house from the street. (Do have a listen to the duduk here.)
It’s coming closer and closer and I know what it means, what I’ll see outside. I’ve seen it before. I don’t want to look out the window, but I cannot help myself.
A funeral procession slowly moves past our gate — the duduk musicians, the priest, the mourners and the pallbearers carrying an open casket. From my second floor window I look right down into it and see an old man, tidily dressed for the afterlife in jacket and tie. Thank God, an old man. I don’t want to see a young one. Or a child. I turn away from the window and the mournful notes of the dirge fade away down the street. I take a restorative Zen breath.
At five the electricity comes back on and I get back to work. But first of course I have to check my e-mail. America is waking up, Europe has had lunch, and Australia is in bed. No e-mails of importance. I feel neglected and forgotten here in the Caucuses mountains.
Good news: eating, drinking, dancing!
Moments later my mate calls, which cheers me up. We’ve been invited to a dinner party tonight at a restaurant to help celebrate someone’s birthday.
Ever been to a restaurant party in Armenia? Trust me, you’ve missed something.
You’ll find long tables laden with dishes of fresh herbs, salads, cheeses, cold cuts, olives, yogurt. Forests of bottles of wine, vodka, brandy, water and soft drinks. Platters of barbecued meat, chicken and fish. Live music for singing and dancing, always. The offering of many toasts, singing, dancing. More food. More toasts. More dancing. More eating. For hours and hours. It’s fabulous.
“You feel like going?” my man asks me, ever considerate of my wishes.
You bet I do. Wouldn’t you, after seeing a dead body and all? But then I think of him, laboring away all day and maybe he’s too tired for all that eating and drinking and dancing. “What about you?” I ask him. “Are you tired? Wouldn’t you rather come home?”
“What were you planning for dinner?” he asks.
“I boiled some beets,” I say.
“Let’s go,” says he.
Clearly, I’m not getting any more writing done today. But I’ll consider this outing a working dinner: I’ll bring my note book and call it research. I shut down the computer. I need time to dress and primp. This is Armenia, and you have to primp. It’s an unwritten law.
Okay, this is not actually me, I’m sorry to say, but you catch my drift.
Let me tell you
It’s not easy, doing research. By the time I collapse in bed at midnight, stuffed with lamb and trout and wine and vodka, my body aching from all that dancing, I am exhausted.
So here you have it: Just an ordinary day in Armenia.
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What happens in your ordinary expat day that would not happen in your home country? Something special, good, bad, or funny. How is your daily life different? Or what do you miss from any place you’ve lived that you no longer have in your life now?