I walked towards the center of Vanadzor. I knew my way around since I lived and volunteered there for a month four years ago, and the place hasn’t changed a bit. In the city park I saw young people gathered together, dancing, linking arms, forming a circle, and doing traditional Armenian dancing. I stopped to watch and was forced to join in by the teacher. My movements were slow and jerky, and my legs shift more like concrete…graceful. But towards the end, I started to get the hang of it.
Afterwards, the bubbly teacher invited to show me around the city. I saw a funky souvenir shop, walking to KFC for some fast food, for nostalgia’s sake, and took it with us to the top of a Soviet apartment block to look over the city from the roof. We talked of our home cities, the similarities in climate, nature, and attitude, personal and professional life. We got to know each other. She represented the bright youth of the region, progressively minded, involved in politics and social groups, as well as firmly rooted in tradition. She invited me to hang out with her friends. We climbed up to the second floor of the YMCA and entered a small room covered in paintings and drawings, cigarette smoke hung in the air, the source was a group of young men sitting in the corner singing songs around a guitarist. I joined in, started drinking jug wine, talking, joking, with the guys, even learned how to sing a song in Armenian. Hours later I stumbled out drunk, and was escorted by my more sober friends to the train station, to catch a 2AM train to Gyumri. I got there just in time, passed out, and woke up in Gyumri.