Monday 13 April 2015

England - back to the land of terrace houses, hedges and

We made it safely from Yerevan to Coventry. The budget airline from Yerevan to Dubai wouldn't allow us to check Tom's cot - a blessing in disguise once we arrived in Dubai to a 10h stopover due to delays. A car picked us up at London Heathrow and dropped us at our hotel in Coventry.

I will admit to a bit of culture shock due to the difference in hotels and just to hear the Midlands accent again. Plus Tom is not nearly so successful as a connector, his fair hair and blue eyes not as rare.

A swim in the indoor pool before dinner was enjoyed by all of us and helped us push back the 3h time difference.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Spring has sprung - Yerevan

Today showed all the promising signs of spring and summer setting in. Girls in skirts and dresses, water in the fountains and beautiful sun shining weather.

After lunch we (I) had every intention of visiting the portrait gallery. We set off with scooter down the central promenade where the fountains were freshly filled and running. At the top we met a little girl called Rita, of a similar age, who was fascinated first by Tom (kissing his hands and then pinning him for cuddles and kisses on his cheek) and then by his scooter. Tom shared very well until hunger hit and then Rita headed off too.

By that stage it was too late to cross the road to the gallery as it was time to head towards Tom's haircut appointment. This was a kids specific hairdresser - perfectly set up. Tom was in a car, had an option of watching cartoons or fish, or playing with the helicopter he had taken in with him. He was perfectly still to start with and stayed pretty still the whole time. The hairdresser was excellent: engaging, quick, aware of what might scare. The experience cost us 2000AMD ($6 AUD) and recommended children's hairdressers to me for the immediate future.

Monday 6 April 2015

The largest Armenian church

Today Tom and I visited St Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral, the largest cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church in the world.

While not the largest church I have been in, it's still a reasonable size with a very high ceiling. They were partway through a service and had managed to fill it with incense. We stayed for about 45 min. The altar was surrounded by flowers and it was periodically behind a curtain like it was a stage. All the women in the congregation had their heads covered with a shawl, sometimes beautiful and sheer, sometimes what looked like a bit of old curtain. I observed one woman share a shawl at the front of the queue so that she could receive communion. The choir at the back of the church was beautiful. Throughout the service it didn't seem to matter too much of you were sitting or standing. Quite a few people were standing or kneeling up the front in the central aisle.

Something else we had observed was clarified by Artur yesterday. Most of the trees by the side of the road have a painted white base. We even saw them slapping the hot, smelly, white concoction on with brush brushes. My guess was road markers. It's actually a pesticide to keep climbing bugs off the trees.

The Garni temple and Geghard monastery

A quick visit to the Vernissage market again this morning before meeting Artur, his daughter Aida, her son Daniel and her fiance Roman.

Artur takes US consulate visitors on tours through Armenia and has been key in Praemium setting up an office in Armenia.

We headed up the mountain, past the rich peoples' summer houses (that are meant to be only 20sq, but are more like 100), to a viewing area with a view of Mt Ararat (currently on the Turkish side of the border). The scale of this mountain has to be seen to be believed. It towers over the country and, once you are out of the valleys, is an almost constant presence. We were talking about it on the way back and felt that it looked like a painting rather than real life.

On up through the mountain we came to Garni. At a time when pagan temples were being levelled and Christian churches built over the top, the Armenian king preserved one at his summer residence and built the church next door. Restored numerous times, this is what we visited. A group of 4 women in traditional dress were singing in the temple while we were there and the acoustics were beautiful. Artur bought us local sweets and pastries from a vendor out the front - delicious.

Next stop was the Geghard monastery, built into the rock of the mountain. Three chapels in particular were carved out of the rock. One, a spring runs through year round. The second, a double room with both pagan animals and Christian crosses. The third, on a second level to the second, has acoustics that make one monk sound like many. It's a gorgeous sound. The rock is beautifully carved in each of these rooms, as well as the adjoining, added chapels. Little prayer rooms were also carved from the rock in other areas. Artur mentioned that a lot of the original religious practises still persist to this day, including animal sacrifice.

The superstition that landing a rock in a niche on the outside rock face grants you a wish had us all busy for a while having a go. Tom managed to land one on his own hat, while Lee got one in but forgot to wish - maybe it was to land one in.

A late lunch of Armenian BBQ and fresh lavash bread was delicious. We saw the bread being made in the traditional way by two old women. They rolled and stretched the dough very thin then slapped it into the site of a deep fire well to cook for about 5 seconds, very cool. 

While eating we overlooked the river valley and on the opposing cliff face Artur pointed out a cave and series of man made rooms that he had camped in as a young man. He described the rooms as perfectly square, with stone furniture. The first room you could light a fire and all the smoke would stream out. I'd like to climb up for a look one day. These were a long way up the cliff and I was impressed they were even accessible.

Some of the houses we viewed on the way it was hard to tell if they were partway through construction, as far as they were going to get, lived in or abandoned. Even houses right next to each other - one had glass across the balcony, fully rendered and painted, while the next had gaping holes at either end of the roof.

The journey through the rolling green mountains was beautiful. Many people just stop in a field for a picnic. Unfortunately though, for maybe this reason, the whole hillside is covered in rubbish - bottles, wrappers, everything. The hillside sparkles with plastic.

Tom's cold is still knocking him around. He didn't get consistent sleep while we were touring around as he'd be wide awake as soon as we stopped. This meant he zonked out early tonight, saying he had enough book and it was milk and bed time.

Sunday 5 April 2015

Vernissage market and remembering

This morning, with Lee's help, I was determined to visit some tourist attractions. We started at the Vernissage market. As promised in the reviews, it had everything! Puppies, china, glassware, silverware, musical instruments, science glassware and all the tools to conduct surgery at home, carved wood, carved stone, jewellery, carpets, paintings, second hand clothing, new clothing, embroidered linen, old war medals, religious pictures, cognac bottle and glass holders and magnets.

After a snooze and lunch we headed to the memorial for the Armenian genocide. Between 1 and 1.5 million people were killed by the Ottoman Empire during and after World War I. Able bodied men were massacred or forced into labour, then women, children, elderly and infirm were marched into the Syrian desert without food or water, with periodic rape, robbery and massacre. It sounds horrific and this year marks the 100th anniversary of its beginning. Some countries do not yet recognise it as genocide.

We didn't make it into the museum, but we were impressed by the monument and flame surrounded by flowers.

Saturday 4 April 2015

A haircut and what I should be wearing

Today I had my hair cut. It was uneventful. Tom sat sleepily in the pram, barely accosted. I showed a picture of what I wanted. I had my hair washed, cut and blow dried. I paid $8.

If I were to generalise what young ladies are wearing here it would be skin tight pants (jeans or leather) with heeled boots (ankle or knee high) with a black leather jacket. Their brunette/black hair is long and their faces all made up. I think the only part of my outfit that fits is that I am wearing jeans.

I had planned on going out for dinner with the team last night. However, I fell asleep at 7.30 and Lee couldn't wake me. Hence, no update from me yesterday.

Thursday 2 April 2015

Finding a Doctor - Wed 1 Apr - Yerevan

Today's lesson was in the medical system here in Yerevan. Various sources quote excellent, groundbreaking procedures, but some basic supplies as missing. When I asked how to get to a doctor, I was directed to a hospital, so I decided to look into it a little more. Of the two hospitals recommended for foreigners, the hotel staff recommended the one straight up the hill from the Children's railway! A new-ish building, the receptionist directed me up the stairs to the second floor. Tom, who no longer walks up flights of stairs, was carried. Luckily for me, I remembered the naming convention is '1' for the ground floor. The second level receptionist directed me to rooms 239 and 240. Walking along the hospital corridor I passed medical rooms for Urology, Orthopaedic surgeons, Physiotherapists, and eventually found General Physicians. Parking myself and Tom in a chair in front of the door to 240, I observed what the process appeared to be. New patient arrives, opens the door (sometimes knocks first), looks in, closes door, takes a seat in the hallway. (I would hate to be having any kind of personal examination!) As far as I could tell, the doctors were always busy. Soon after arriving, the patients thinned out and I was able to work out I was the only one waiting to see the general practitioners. That did not seem to stop other people from being seen first. I would like to think I'm a fast learner. However, I managed to wait a full hour to be seen by a doctor and then it was, "I just want to know if I'm in the right place, I've been waiting an hour to see a doctor". The appropriately arrogant response was, "They call me a Doctor". He proceeded to rule out a bacterial infection, asked me three times what antibiotics I had used already, and prescribed Vitamin C, some 'disinfectant' tablets to put under my tongue and some Paracetemol as required. Tom was also deemed healthy enough to "Please don't give him anything". In seeing Tom in his singlet, "You need to rug him up". This is the next thing I don't understand. Sure, the thermometer is saying 13 degrees, but moving around in the sun, I'm sweating in a sleeveless shirt. I already have Tom in a singlet and long sleeve shirt while inside most of the time (his got wet washing his hands a moment earlier, so he wanted it off). And speaking of inside, their heating is ridiculous. I don't understand how they are wearing jackets outside, let alone inside. Anyway, I then took my slip of paper to the Cashier in Room 262, who directed me to Registration (near reception) who created me as a patient in their system, moved me to the next station to get my bit of paper back with a number on it, which I then took to the cashier to pay AMD8000 (~22AUD). I left the hospital without filling the script and feeling a degree of sheepishness. The good news is, my body can fight infection! In other news, Tom was only given one 'candy' today, by the cashier. The culture toward children seems completely different. I don't see children anywhere away from their parents. They are always holding a hand or in a pram. I've already mentioned the complete lack of playgrounds - I don't know where these kids get to move. When Tom fell off his scooter today in a crowd (not a bad one, just tipped sideways), although Lee was already bending down, another man had ditched his shopping to lift Tom up. There is real concern for their physical well-being, but not their personal space, nor their sugar intake. Tom is constantly being helped to do things that he can do on his own. Which frustrates him. I wonder whether his independence is nature or nuture. We try to safeguard against a bad injury, but allow him to learn and try on his own. I wonder how he'd be different if brought up here from birth..