Thursday, July 7, 2011

Weekend in Kapan

I had planned to go visit a friend up in Vanadzor this past weekend. Then she got invited to a "1948 club" (made up of women born that year) weekend - she asked them if I could come and asked me if I would mind. So, just after saying I probably wasn’t going back to Kapan and/or Meghri, I was on a marchutny to Kapan. Not without some drama, though - the Vanadzor friend fell down some stairs – she’s fine, but decided to rest in the medical unit's "sick bay" over the weekend. I sometimes wonder, though it is fruitless to - what if I had gotten my Internet stick right away? I might not have had my computer with me when I fell. What if I had decided not to go into the pharmacy to look for something Brian said he wanted? I might not have slipped and fallen. How would my first six weeks here - nay, my entire service - have been different? So, what if I had gone to Vanadzor this weekend? She might not have fallen. What if she had taken a taxi to the marchutny instead of the walk that included those stairs? She might have come along with us. In truth, she probably needed the rest – she’d been on the go since walking 270 km in Border2Border. But did I need to fall on my computer? I digress.

With a great Ararat view, sunflowers in bloom and fields of pink and purple wildflowers for the early part of the ride, and beautiful mountains for the rest (including the twistiest part, between Goris and Kapan; I also saw a sign warning that there were land mines where the road is closest to the Karabakh border), Barbara, Pat and I arrived around 2:00 pm to find Sue and Shannon waiting at a cafe. We had a late lunch walked around town a bit. The 1948ers went on to Sue's village and Shannon and I went to her NGO. My "reason" for requesting the work-related leave was to talk to her NGO about marketing, and we actually did some of that, talking about handicrafts and also about other activities of the Women's Resource Center. We then went back to her home and sat on the porch, made dinner and talked. It's cooler in the mountains than in Yerevan, so I slept well. I woke up the next morning to a view of Mt. Khustup, the third-highest in Armenia; it had been obscured by clouds when we were there in February. Nice view! We had breakfast and walked up (and up and up) to the War Memorial, a Kapan landmark. High on a hill with a panoramic view of the town and surrounding region, there's a big wall with many symbols on it in memory of WWII, and behind it, the graves of those who lost their lives in the Karabakh war. So sad.

We then took a taxi up to Sue's village; from the taxi stand you have to walk along the cow paths to get to her house (when she moves out next week, she'll use the help of a donkey and several of the local boys). We all took a walk to see her school, the cemetery and the unobstructed view from the end of her village - nice view to have every day, to say the least. She had been talking for months about commissioning or finding a painting of it to take home, and she had finally zeroed in on one; the transaction was completed the afternoon we were there, which was great. We sat and talked - intelligent, thoughtful women discussing their experiences and Armenia. I see Yerevan, and in my assignments I have worked for an American and for a business that's run in an American style (people at MCA-Armenia really work all day, whereas from what I hear, in much of Armenia there's a morning coffee and an afternoon coffee and a lot of chitchat in between), so this was very interesting for me.

Shannon and I then went to a park commemorating a famous Armenian war hero (his name escapes me, but he's buried in three places) and watched the movie "Volunteers." In this Tom Hanks-Rita Wilson-John Candy vehicle from 1985, hilarity ensues as Tom's character, escaping gambling debts by sneaking into the Peace Corps, comes into his own in Thailand (played by Mexico). It's completely unrealistic, of course, but I had never seen it - a good choice for my first and probably only movie here.

The marchutny left early the next morning; on the way back, the lower elevations seemed browner - even than they had been two days before. It's been hot, and it hasn't rained in a couple of weeks. I was hoping it would stay green until I left; nope. We arrived in Yerevan in time to spend a couple of hours at the Vernissage - now that I know I am going to see family in the Netherlands, I'm looking for little things to bring to everyone, and I'm still finding some other things of interest. But I don’t think I will find something for everyone I’ll see when I get back – there aren’t things that are calling your names. I then had dinner with the friend who stayed behind over the weekend. Glad I made it back down to Kapan - and glad to be back in my own bed.

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