Expat Life: Just an Ordinary Day

by Miss Footloose

If you’ve read the harrowing African adventure I chronicled in this post, 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 drunk cops and threats of imprisonment. However, there is a dead body and a bit of dancing and drinking in the end.

Just Another Thursday 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.

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, Venezuela.

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, but at 10.30 it’s time for coffee and a bit of CNN. America has gone to bed, and Europe is waking up.

The phone rings. A friend, planning a get-together at the Cactus, a Mexican restaurant here in Yerevan. We chat for a while and then I hang up and pour my coffee. 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, not America.

Back to work, tapping out words of love and romance on the keyboard. I write till I get hungry. 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

Le sigh! Now my computer is out of commission and I can’t work and I have no idea how long it will take. I may never get this book written.

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 veggies in the dead of winter here. Oh, I forgot turnips.

Looking out the window

Music. The eerie, plaintive sound of the duduk, a traditional Armenian woodwind instrument, comes 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.

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.

Good news: eating, drinking, dancing

Moments later my mate calls. 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. 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 follow. Live music, 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.

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 working day in Armenia.

* * *
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?

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Wow!! My ordinary days aren’t nearly as interesting!

Sounds like a wonderful ordinary day. Just being alive makes the ordinary extraordinary and so fragile.

@ American in Norway: I have to admit most of my ordinary days do not include creepy music and dead bodies! Not even beets.

@ Butternut Squash: I love working at home, especially the distractions.
Although not all kinds (as in this story).

@ Vagabond: What an fantastic story! Not going to happy anymore, at least not on western airlines! Thanks for sharing!

You asked for something special in my expat days? Well I have traveled a lot. Here is a tale. I had gone back to Paris to visit my mother but also took a small detour on Singapore Airlines. I flew to Bangkok, thence to Jakarta, back to Bangkok thence to Singapore. Every time I came early to the airport to get a window seat and did not get one. For my last segment from Bangkok to Singapore I arrived extra early and was given what I thought was a good window seat, but it was over the wing. When the… Read more »

Butternut Squash

There is a theme here that sounds vaguely familiar to my working day at home. Not much work punctuated by a whole lot of wacky drama.

Bring on the party!

@ Mary Witzl, yes, my dh is not a lover of beets! Shame on me. I love puttering. I’ve read is it actually not useless activity, but a type of creative recharging, so go for it! @ Carolina: Hello fellow Dutchie! Hey, you’ve never had bietenstamppot? This folks, is mashed potatoes mixed with grated cooked red beets and it’s good with bacon on top or Dutch meatballs. It looks virulently red. I really should start a recipe page! By the way, Carolina, the leaves are very nutritious also, but you probably know that. @ Dive Girl, yes, it takes discipline… Read more »

American in Norway

WOW… sounds a heck of a lot more exciting than my day in Norway! 🙂

I wouldn’t be able to work from home – I’m too easily distracted. Armenia dinners sound fantastic – “forests of wine” – what more can you ask for?

Hi there, nice to meet you (this sounds like someone wanting to sell you something, but do not fear). I noticed you joined my list of stalkers, also called ‘followers’. Your ordinary days aren’t remotely like mine (by the way, I’m not an expat. I’m a ‘pat’. A Dutch one.). I’ve never boiled a beetroot for instance (although I hope I will do in the near future, because I’ve started a vegetable garden this year and beetroots are showing their little leaves now). And I’ve never been to an Armenian party. Really enjoyed reading this post. Will be back for… Read more »

(Wiping a happy tear from my eye…I love the way you told your husband about the beets but left out the detail about the pork chops!)

Your ordinary days are much the same as my ordinary days. But sometimes puttering is fun, isn’t it? It certainly is when you compare it to tussling with noisy, obstreperous adolescents.

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