From Violetta to Vanadzor

It felt like I left Armenia, crossed the border into Russia. This village, Violetta (from what I can understand) is inhabited by Molakans, all blue-eyed, blonde-haired people of Russian descent. Their village is different, clean, well-kept, inhabited, and they only speak Russian. Only a few people can understand my Armenian and even fewer English. I communicate with my hands and feet and over exaggerated gestures.

Walking through the endless fields of cabbage I come across a brightly colored home and enter their gate to fill my water bottle, again they only spoke Russian, but the wife of the house understood Armenian. She offered me tea, prepared in their traditional way, with a special kettle and burned wood. Then she also wanted to treat me to crepes, but that required fresh milk, which meant I need to milk a cow. A first for me, and a difficult process, the cow didn’t like me as much as her, my aim was bad, and I couldn’t get the pressure or movement right. Was I squeezing too hard? Not enough? Afterwards we made butter and after seeing how one crepe was made, I took over, remembering how I make pancakes back home on lazy Sundays. Afterwards, I was sent to my room, which looked much like most of Armenia, save for the brick stove in the middle of the room, used in the winter to cook bread and heat the house, a design I’ve read about but never actually seen in person, passive radiant heating throughout the day and night, something I want to incorporate into the home I build someday.

I slept well and woke up to a completely abandoned village, the streets were empty, even my hosts were gone. I left a “Thank You” note and continued my way toward Vanadzor…the long way, by climbing the 3,000 meter mountain which stands above it. The hike up was easy, under the shade of trees on a dirt road, but nearing the summit, the weather changed, the clouds rolled in and the wind blew strong. I pushed against the gale forces to reach the peak, where I could see Vanadzor below me, and the border in the distance, my final destination. How fitting, that on that same day, as I can see where I will finish, that the first episode of our show premieres on TV. The crew and I were so excited and started receiving congratulatory calls and messages from friends and strangers alike. I was so nervous about how the show and myself, opening up, would be received but thus far it is all positive.

Back at the peak, it was starting to get dark, and I still needed to set up camp. But it was way too cold up top of the mountain, so with my headlamp on I started heading down in the dark. After an hour of pure black I called it quits. I woke up on the side of the mountain and started hiking through fields and forests toward the city. The night before I was in awe of the beauty of the city lights, in the day it was grey and dusty, and so was the sky. And with a loud crack of thunder came rain, late hail into a torrential downpour… Welcome to Vanadzor, it’s a sad happy. The city reminds me of home, green, wet, overcast, rainy, and mountains in the distance. Welcome home. 🙂