Musings on the daily events in politics and sports as well as some local bar stops along the way in LA.

Tuesday, August 30, 2005

My journey to Armenia and Moscow day by day (entry no.3)

August 15
Have you ever looked at a map of Armenia? More importantly, have you ever seen the roads of Armenia? Then you’ll realize that driving to Artsakh (Mountainous Karabakh) with a stop in Ghapan couldn’t be any more inconvenient or out of the way. Then again they’re generally in the same direction, Ghapan is the fortress in the mountains and it’s the sister city of Glendale so screw it im game lets get this show on the road. Good thing we hit the road at 6am because we needed to get an early start if we wanted any shot of hitting Shoushi at a reasonable hour to get some sleep and get ready for our Artsakh adventures. On the way to Ghapan Shant busts out songbooks for everybody. 95% of the people weren’t too excited to see these songbooks, but the AYFers in the group were (all both of us). So the next hour or so we sing Sardarabad, Kedashen, Ayroonot Turosh and all the classics. Too bad almost nobody is singing along but at least everybody is having a good time listening and getting into it. Theres nothing like singing heghapokhagan songs on a 15 hour van ride to Artsakh… this is what its all about. I could go on and on about the bus ride but the bottom line was that it was a bus ride. Around 2pm, the time everyone expected us to be in Artsakh we finally make it to Ghapan. Almost everyone is bitching and is wondering what the hell are we doing in this random city in the middle of nowhere (ah but none of you are bitching now are you? Now that were back it seems like a great stop). So we get to ghapan and it’s a small town in the middle of the mountains with a trash filled river running through the middle. We quickly meet up with our tour guides who are going to lead us to some restaurant where we will feast with the mayor of Ghapan. Ghapan was an industrial town during the Soviet era, and as you know, the Soviet industry didn’t manufacture the total product in one city, that way all the Soviet states were dependant on each other. So when the commies collapsed, these industrial towns were hit the hardest because they now had factories that weren’t competitive in the market economy. So Ghapan was hit really hard as we will soon here from the mayor. We drive for like 20 min into the middle of nowhere in the mountains and everyone is wondering where the hell we’re going and what were doing here. We finally make it to some random shack in the middle of nowhere next to some river. This looks like the type of place Jimmy Hoffa could hide out in and there would be no way anyone would ever find him. We get there and theres a huge table set up for us that looks like it will soon contain a large cooked dead animal along with lots of Armenian sides. So while we wait for the food to cook and the mayor to arrive Sevag and I decide to play some bellotte with the Hayastantsi drivers. We start playing with each of us taking a hayastantsi on our team and Sevag gets yelled at for playing the jack when he called the atoo. In a ridiculous, no-one would have expected it type of strategy the locals are teaching us tricks that nobody in la would ever see coming (still waiting to use this one when I play in la). If I learned one thing on this trip it is that one crazy move that Sako yelled at my brother about. So the mayor gets there and we start feasting, theres food and vodka everywhere, more good times in Ghapan. The mayor makes all of us get up and say something about ourselves, some people went on longer than others and randomly people start cheersing each other and were all slowly getting drunk (what else is new in Armenia). The mayor gets up and says a long toast mentioning “vad dareeneruh” (the bad years) a lot. Looks like Ghapan was hit really hard right after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The mayor has also been drinking a shot on every single “genats” (cheers) that has gone around so he’s pretty tipsy right now. So what does he bust out?! “I have to go because I’m late to a meeting with some Japanese investors who want to build a tunnel (or something I don’t remember) in Ghapan.” What?! Crazy. The Japanese are known to be very tolerant of drunk mayors who show up late to the only investors who come into this random in the middle of nowhere city. Ah good times, I’d like to know how that meeting went. I’m guessing the Japanese expected as much but it was still funny to see. So after were done eating, one of the members of our group goes around and cleans up the river and all the trash that’s all over the place and when hes finally done he asks a local where the trash bin is and theyre response? The River! That’s classic Armenia right there, the Americans trying to do theyre American style recycling and stuff and the Armenians could care less. Needless to say he wasn’t too happy with the environmental situation of the country. So now we’ve been drinking, haven’t slept a wink in over 36 hours and were ready to head to Shoushi. The road to shoushi is very windy since its all mountainous. To travel 10 feet forward you have to travel 20 feet in driving roads because it is so windy, not to mention bumpy for a 15 person van. Everyone is nodding off but cant go to sleep cause its impossible to sleep in those situations when you’re an American used to comfortable Posture pedic mattresses. We finally make it to Shoushi around 9pm at night and its beautiful. It nestled at the top of the mountain at an incredibly high peak overlooking all of Artsakh. The hotel is in the middle of town right next to the church and central square. Lots of bombed out buildings and the roads suck due to landmines. I go exploring for a short amount of time to realize that I love this city. If you think were giving these lands back then ive got some beachfront property in Kansas im selling you because it looks like an impossible city to liberate but somehow we did it. I crash and pass out in the hotel at around 930 and get my first good nights sleep in a week. And its no coincidence that it happened in Shoushi.

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