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..

Wednesday, 1 April 2015

Children's railway - d4 Yerevan

Today saw us wave goodbye to Dad, then climb into a taxi ourselves. A short drive away we were climbing down the stairs into the valley that houses the children's railway.

That it's not yet summer was both a blessing and a curse. The curse: that we didn't get to explore the gorgeous looking river valley that the track runs through. The blessing: that we spent 3h ON the train.

Most of our time was spent changing seats and saying toot toot every time we sat down. There was also a brief amount of little red caboose reenactment (bump, push), hide and seek, eating, spinning, and digger and dump truck.

Another blessing: the amusement park half way down the hill was closed. The curse: so were the toilets.

Back at the hotel, Tom was asking for his bed and sleep - a very welcome change.

The afternoon saw us limited to the hotel room with a series of misunderstandings. Hoping to fix my sinus infection, a doctor was ordered to my hotel room. By 5pm I was very frustrated to find it had been cancelled, so Tom and I head out for dinner, got lost, then waited for Dad to come find/save us.

I forgot Tom's hat in the rush to get outside so the hand grabbing, hair rustling, tickling, cheek touching, kisses, lifting up continued. I just want him to be able to eat his dinner and for people to listen when he says no and pulls away.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

A walk through the park from the office - d3 Yerevan

An exhausting day for Mum as Lee and mates were back to work. We caught a lift to his work so that we could find it should we need to, then walked back to the hotel in time for lunch and a sleep (nearly 2km).

There are parks everywhere throughout the well designed city. Many are not well tended, but that may be because winter is just finishing. I can only imagine this place in summer - there are ponds and water fountains everywhere! None are in use now as the water would likely freeze overnight. All the parks are filled with closed carnival rides - pure agony for a nearly 2 year old in search of a play ground.

We joined some elder citizens at their outside exercise equipment which I classified as playground.

Tom continues his reign as resident 'angel'. Being handed candy by strangers, asked his name and touched all the time. Unfortunately he is starting to expect it after just 3 days. I shudder in expectation of landing in England in 2 weeks.

Massive stack on his scooter today: down a ramp and smack face first into a wall, fall off and crack back of head onto tile floor. Mum is still recovering. Tom seems fine after initial impact.

With rain forecast all day, we were lucky to not have a drop on us, despite a hail storm about 4.30pm, we even had sunshine.

Monday, 30 March 2015

Landed safe in Yerevan, Armenia

Landed safe in Yerevan Armenia. The main colours are grey and green. Green grass covering grey soil. On the outskirts near the airport it's all communist housing blocks that look like commission housing or like 2-3 storey blocky things that are falling down. However, we're staying at a hotel close to the centre. The centre is all grand buildings in pink stone and water fountains.

Tom was really good during the flight from Melbourne to Dubai (14h), sleeping on Lee maybe 8h. And really good while 'wait our turn' for most of the day. Made some friends while waiting for the Yerevan flight by sharing his car and chasing the friend's balloon. He was also a main attraction heading to Yerevan for his 'beautiful eyes' and blond hair. Plus he's all cute.

Second flight was a bit of a shock as it was the budget airline partner, so no food and no entertainment and no special treatment for parents - Tom decided he wouldn't sleep that leg - luckily it was only 3h. (I was counting down.)

Most people surprised we are heading for work because there is very little at the moment. Met a graphic artist getting on the plane who lives in Dubai to work, but would move in an instant if work in Armenia.

Home from dinner and all exhausted. Tom fell asleep before his food even arrived. Waiter provided chairs so that Lee could eat.

Photos failing to upload, sorry.

Day 2 in Yerevan, Armenia

Today was Sunday, although you wouldn't guess it from the number of workers.

The hotel is on the corner at an intersection and our room is on the corner of the hotel so we have a great view from our wrap around balcony. Two of the three other corners are building sites, both of which were in action today, and one is still going now at 7:30pm - more than 12h.

All the shops too were open, with hours like 9am-8pm. I am guessing it's an indication of the economy that working hours like that in a shop 7 days a week is necessary.

Today was Palm Sunday, so we saw lots of people in their Sunday best heading to church. The women and girls were wearing vine wreaths on their head and many people were carrying branches of cherry blossom buds.

Tom was a superstar everywhere we went, with people trying to touch him and kiss him, tousle his hair, pinch his cheek, press his nose. He was the only naturally blond person we saw all day. He is curious about and enjoying the attention, but not loving the strangers who grab him. There was one older lady who grabbed him either side of the head and laid a bunch of kisses on him, as soon as he was released he was out the door without looking back.

Luckily he hasn't been picked up for riding his scooter everywhere. He's very attached to it and is now steering around corners (thank goodness). We went past a local square where you can hire bikes and electric cars. It appears that most families can't afford bikes, so you hire one to learn on.

Based on the popularity and childhood fear of dogs at the park, they are also rare.

A big day today. It will be different tomorrow when Lee and the other men head to work. They'll be able to walk a bit faster for one!