First day, night. I am in the region. Remind myself I am in the region, check. I am lounging beside Koryun Street this evening, in the City Center, Yerevan. Night one.
But it really started in Moscow’s airport, SVO. Day one of being in the region. Verbatim: Международный аэропорт Шереметьево
I cannot read Russian. I know a few letters though. See the ‘aero’ above as ‘аэро’? One can see similiarities again with the Armenian brandy and cognac company, named after the biblical Mount Ararat. In former Soviet block countries this brandy branded cognac, is Ararat, Apapat, Արարատ. All pronounced the same.
Aero, аэро, aéro, ayero. Let’s fly things.
From JFK to SVO, flying Aeroflot, my stewardess was named Olga. She did not find my request for vegetarian dinner amusing. “Did you order this?”. “No, but can I have vegetarian?”. “I give you chicken, there are vegetables in it.” “Can I buy the vegetarian one?”. “Chicken, here you go”.
While I eat my rice and bun, I can taste the wafts of vegan and gluten-free platters marked with (v) and (g), four seats over. They must have ordered that. Tab drop down as ‘special needs’.
Thirty minutes into the cross Atlantic flight, the tight waisted, tight clothed, piercing eyed men and women, with little pins of Soviet era hammer, sans sickle, and wings, paraded down the aisle. Working. Hammer. Each holding a bright orange box full of bright blue packages. Elegantly placing the blue packages into the hands of the people in their seats, one after another, from aisle to aisle, the entire show is choreographed. Something from Fantasia but with less fantasy. Blue packages that hold a surprise. Trumpets and sax, graphically entered my brain. Followed by more tightly manicured persons, piercing eyes and dark circlets, holding more bright orange bins full of black earbuds. Each earbud is packaged in plastic. As they hand these out, they smile. Glory, glory.
I do in fact know how to toast and say ‘no’ in Russian form. Check off the most important things when holding conversation. I can recognize that a match of yelling, is actually just love and meaningful banter. Much thanks to Igor, Irina, Lyuda from my marketing days at PuppetART Theater in Detroit. An all too often pop then ‘nostrovia’ over dusty bottled sweet red wine from the coat closet. The bottle has grape imprints.
V Moskve, I implicated ‘I’ll take one of those’ to the cafeteria man in a beige suit. Then I hold two fingers in the air. ‘Oh, yes, I’ll take both of those’ I mean. Spinach rolled in eggplant, beet rolled in eggplant. My chosen drink accompaniment was like tan, an Armenian sweet and sour yogurt drink, but with small bits of something else to distract me. Perhaps a rosemary infused milk.
Tan is one of those drinks I think I love. But I cannot always taste my love of it. I ordered tan at 22h in Armenia later that day. A luke warm tan, mmmm, ‘voch’ shnorhakal yem’! Armenian for ‘no thank you’. Oh, I cannot read Armenian either. Shnorhakalut’yun, շնորհակալություն – thank you so much America. Google translate convos over sips of tan.
V Moskve, there was indeed a man behind the counter. There was actually about six men behind the counter. Each person fixed on a task. One was careful lifting dumpling like articles and placing them from plate to plate. He was tall, thin, with a symmetrical hair style, drenched in sweat. My watchful eyes made me suspect #1.
Gate D7, that is my gate at SVO. When checking in with ‘Passport Control’, they warned me that boarding was in three hours and because of this my gate had a high likelihood of switching. At 14:30h the boarding commenced at D7. Women with curly brown hair. Men with short dark hair. Eyebrows. We all lined up and boarded a sharp rectangular white bus. A white bus with brown and black smudges. It rolled around and across the airport. Slowly. Through a grassy field. Past the gas pumps. And into a plane parking lot. Steps of wet metal. Brisk, moist, foggy. Bus to rain to plane. Proceed after each signal.
Everyone in the plane was Armenian, or assumed as much. Russian too. Georgian, maybe. I didn’t even try to distinguish. “Excuse me, can you grab my water bottle out of the overhead bin?”, I gesture. The mouth of the tall white man with blue eyes across the aisle fell open. The old ladies next to me chanced a few smirks. They looked at each other and held a smirk. I did not smirk back at them, or to myself. I do not know, this time, or last time, the meaning of this smirk. Might be that they think me ‘odar’.
In Detroit and in Los Angeles – places where Armenian diaspora reside, one can hear the word ‘odar’. One can hear ‘odar’ abroad too. He is not Armenian. I did not hear ‘odar’ this day. My response would have been ‘voch’, with my hand in the air.