The Outsider's Insider

A Guide to Living in Yerevan

The Holidays December 8, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — outsidersinsider @ 8:12 am

Well, it’s that time of year again.  Except, with this balmy October weather, it certainly doesn’t feel quite like the winter holiday season!  Is it just me, or have all the holiday decorations made an exceptionally early entrance this year?  I think SAS put their decorations up on December 1st.  Is the Western tradition of starting Christmas as early as humanly possible creeping in?  This is the time of year that I generally panic about the coming festivities.   If you are Armenian, or, like me, have an Armenian extended family, you know that the New Year’s tradition is basically a minimum of 6 days of eating, drinking and visiting.  Sounds fun, right??  Well, it is….but it can be EXHAUSTING!

A little tip to make things easier on the gift side of things….

If you hate (or, like me, are not so good at ) wrapping gifts, there is a great little place in the Yeridasardakan underground shopping area where you can buy wrapping paper and they will wrap whatever you want for VERY cheap!  They make the gift look really beautiful, and for a small package with ribbons they only charged a total of 500 amd!

I have also been asked by a couple of people where to buy candles.  I know that there is a place that sells candles on Amiryan Street (if you are coming from Republic Square it is on the right side about 1/2 a block before Mashtots).  I don’t know the quality though.  I think that all of the new holiday decoration shops popping up all around the city should carry them soon.

I heard that the tree in Republic Square will be put up soon (I know that the frame has been erected), and I am just hoping that the decorations are little less….well, a little less bright than  last year.  I would love to see more understated decoration this year (I know, I know….I’m dreaming).

If you have any great holiday suggestions from Yerevan, please share with the rest of us!

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Favorites November 23, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — outsidersinsider @ 6:02 am

I have never been the type of person who says ‘Oh, my favorite book is…’ or ‘My favorite movie is….’, maybe I’m just indecisive but I really can’t choose and I feel that it constantly changes.  After doing a survey on Facebook that involved saying how many books you have read in a list of  the top 100 most popular books in Britain, and getting comments on how lacking the list really was, I thought that I could ask YOU to help me compile a list of the best books ever.  In tandem, I thought we could also do a list of movies (for all of those who aren’t big readers).  So, your task is to leave a short list of  ideas (or even just one) in the comments section.  When we have a pretty good list, I’ll post it!

I’ll even get it started….

‘The Power of Myth’ by Joseph Campbell

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Master and Margarita’ by Mikhail Bulgakov

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and…I’m a sucker for Westerns….. ‘Lonesome Dove’ by Larry McMurtry (and I can add that the movie is fantastic too!)

 

Chocoholics in Yerevan- The Adventures of Lori and Kirstin October 17, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — outsidersinsider @ 6:35 am
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I wanted to give you a run down of the crazy adventure of attempting to get some of the world’s biggest chocolate bar.  I was joined in my adventure by my dear friend Kirstin…WHAT A DAY!

4:00pm-  Arrive in Republic Square.  No sign of the big bar anywhere,  but we are definitely in the right place.  There’s a huge stage with the pink Grand Candy logo, loud music and children practicing an Armenian folk dance on stage.  We begin trying to figure out where they will set up the candy bar.  Speculation begins.

 

We are in the right place....for sure.

 

4:30pm -Police finally close off the square to traffic.  This is a definite sign of progress.  It poured down rain all morning, but now sun is beating down on us….shade is too far away (we are afraid to miss anything), layers starting to be peeled off.  Still speculating on eventual location of the chocolate bar.

5:00pm – Progress and excitement!  Twenty psychedelic Grand Candy vans pull into square.  Expectations that something will happen soon are high.  Drivers emerge from vans….stand around smoking.  Nothing is happening. Crowd is really starting to gather, we are sweating.  We begin seriously constructing theories of how this all will go down.

 

This seems significant.

 

 

 

Psychedelic Grand Candy Vans

 

I’m waiting….oh, and this jacket is too HOT!

5:30pm- Drivers suddenly gather around someone who seems to be the boss (he’s highly agitated….which is a dead giveaway).  I attempt to translate for Kirstin.  He’s talking so fast that I only catch ‘6:30’, ‘across’, ‘there are 1 million’, ‘people coming’.  Not a successful translation.

 

 

He seems to be the man in charge.

 

5:45pm- Vans begin to move to different places.  They seem to be spreading out around the edge of the square.  Suddenly more police (very young ones, they look like they are barely old enough to drive) come and begin to surround the vans.  Small lines begin to form near the vans.  We finally arrive at the conclusion that there will be no HUGE chocolate bar.  They have broken it up and will be passing out pieces from the vans.  Disappointment sets in.  We will not get the photo-op we were hoping for.  We choose a van with the shortest line and step in about 20 people back.  All seems orderly.

 

 

Hmmmm.....What is going on here?

 

6:00pm- Standing in line.  Everyone seems patient, UNTIL….the line has to break up to allow an ambulance to park.  The line (in pretty typical Armenian style) begins to disintegrate slowly.  At this point , I still  feel that maybe we can keep our place in line.

 

 

This line isn't lookin' so good.

 

6:05pm- Other vans open sliding doors.  Our van seems to have a problem….door is stuck.  They open the back doors of the van….chaos is beginning.  They finally manage to open the side door.  We are suddenly being crushed on all sides.  Some children fall down….this doesn’t seem safe.  They are handing out styrofoam cups over the crowd.  There is no line, no order….people are pushing from all sides. I manage to get my hands on a cup and push my way out the back of the crush of people.  Relieved, but a little shaky.   We can see how panic can start in large crowds.

 

This may not be the best system.

 

 

Being crushed

 

6:10pm- Open cup….not disappointed!  HUGE chunks of dark chocolate inside.  First taste….highly satisfactory.  Delicious.  There was a struggle, but the dream finally came true!

 

I'm impressed.

 

 

 

SUCCESS!!!

 

Ready for the first taste!
YUM!

After trying our chocolate, we looked around and realized that we had chosen the only line that was in chaos.  All of the other vans had long lines, yes, but they were fairly orderly.  It was all because of the ambulance and the stuck door. But, it was worth it.  We had a great time and got some delicious dark chocolate (it was a little part of Guinness Book history).  Thanks Kirstin for providing both good company and most of these great pictures!!!!

 

 

The Biggest Chocolate Bar in the World…My Dream Come True October 14, 2010

Correction:  I originally posted the time as 6:30pm, but have learned that it is at 4!!!  SORRY!

As many of you probably already know, Grand Candy has produced the world’s largest chocolate bar.  I am a self-professed chocolate addict, so just thinking of this amazing amount of chocolate all in one place makes my mouth water!

Here are the record-setting details…

-It is made entirely of dark chocolate (so, it’s healthy…right?)

-25-centimetre-thick (10-inch-thick)

-weighs 4,410 kilograms (9,720 pounds)
-measures 5.60 metres (18.4 feet) by 2.75 metres (nine feet).

 

World's Biggest Chocolate Bar

 

I have been hearing for a while that we would all be able to sample it for ourselves, and today I received the details from the Bari News (US embassy newsletter).

WORLD’S BIGGEST CHOCOLATE BAR FESTIVITIES! Anyone
wanting a piece of the Guinness Book of World Records
biggest chocolate bar made by Armenia’s Grand Candy Factory,
please go to Republic Square on Saturday October 16th starting at 4pm. Grand Candy will be giving out pieces of the
chocolate bar followed by a concert and fireworks. Everyone
is welcome!

 

Happy Birthday Yerevan… October 10, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — outsidersinsider @ 5:35 am

Today is the celebration of Erebuni/Yerevan’s 2,792 nd birthday! That’s OLD!!!    There will be performances in Republic Square and in most of the city’s districts.

 

 

Happy Birthday Yerevan!

Update….  Just walked through the city….TONS of people!  All of the streets in the center are closed which makes for easy walking!  Old cars are on display in the French Square.  I’ll post some pics as soon as I can!

 

Back In Town August 19, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — outsidersinsider @ 6:26 am

Well, after a month and a half out of Armenia I am finally back! I hope that I missed out on the worst of the heat…but, it’s only the middle of August, so maybe not!
I am terribly jet-lagged and it isn’t easy to get my head in the right place for posting blog entries, so this is just a hello and I should be back to my (hopefully) creative-minded self in a few days. As usual, if there is anything you want me to write about, let me know!

 

Yeghvard On My Mind – by Tim Straight July 27, 2010

Filed under: Tim Straight,Uncategorized — outsidersinsider @ 12:39 pm
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I was in Yeghvard last week. The Yeghvard in Syunik, not the one just over the Davidashen bridge in Kotayk.
Six days later, I am still thinking about that little village of 320 souls perched on the edge of everything.
We drove into little Yeghvard some 10 hours after leaving Yerevan, having traveled first to Tatev, with its magnificent but weary church\fortress complex. From the main road up to Tatev there basically is no road at all. Gravel flies as I surge up where the road used to be, deep gashes in the road cut by rain showers some months ago. Sharp swings one after the other.
Once finished with snapping pictures and climbing ramparts, we headed the back way out of Tatev and started the five quarters of an hour trip up up up and down down down to Kapan. Crossing the main road again, we wound our way up the other side of the valley through the villages of Syunik and Agarak, and rolled into Yeghvard as the sun was setting.
We stopped in front of the house where the Land and Culture group of young American-, Lebanese- and French-Armenians were keeping house. As I climbed out of the car, I noticed that the facade of the house on the opposite side of the road, facing towards Karabakh, had deep holes in it. My experience from the war in Bosnia told me that the grenade had landed in the garden, and the blast splattered metal bits up the wall. I hadn’t seen that much in Armenia, only up in the villages on the Azerbaijani border in Tavush. It sobered me.
I asked the mayor how long the bombing had gone on during the conflict. He told me that it started in 1991, and ended in May of 1994. He also told me that one person was killed in the village during a grenade attack. It struck me that these must be tough people, to have endured three years of bombing.
After taking a long look at the stunningly beautiful church that the Diaspora youth are renovating, the mayor invited us for dinner in the garden of his house. The conversation was lively, the food was excellent. Traditional Armenian table… the greens, the cheese, the olives, the khorovatz, and a rich amount of local wine and vodka.
We talked about life in Yeghvard.
Every house in the village has a couple of beehives, and the honey from those supplements their income. They don’t sell the wax, only the honey. I see images of beeswax candles, beeswax lip balm, and beeswax something in my head. But who will see the opportunity and follow up?
The library in Yeghvard got one new book last year. One.
The people of Yeghvard have trouble growing crops because they get one hour of irrigation water per week. One. Per week.
I asked the mayor where they get their irrigation water from. He said the source is seven kilometers away, but that there is not enough water at the source. A better source, which would serve not only Yeghvard, but surrounding clusters of houses (some 640 people in all) is twenty-five kilometers away.
I did a rough head estimate…25 kilometers of 10 cm pipe at a price of AMD 3000 pr. meter(really a rough guess) means that to bring irrigation water to Yeghvard would cost USD 200.000 or so. Exclusive of labor, excavation equipment, etc.
Not an uplifting situation.
I love villages like Yeghvard. Nerkin Karmiraghbyur in Tavush is another one of my favorites. The people of these villages were on the front line during the conflict, and bore the brunt of it. They are strong, they are proud, they are solid.
So how does one help a village like Yeghvard? They have so much against them, most of it geography… far from Yerevan, far from their water source.
I hope this blog post will raise an eyebrow, plant a thought.
Yeghvard, I am still thinking about you.