The Bed&Breakfast in Vanadzor was my first since age seven.
Hunks of lamb, seven kinds of pickles, bread and vodka were dinner, eaten in the kitchen. I had mentioned I was vegetarian, They ignored it. At dinner, when the home-made vodka was brought out, I added that I didn’t drink. They laughed at an idea so foolish.
So as the home-made vodka ignited the chunks of lamb going down my throat, I thought, perhaps optimistically, this place may make a man of me yet.
The only other guest was a Kazakh agricultural economist, a taciturn Mongolian-gened woman given to vague answers and white bread with sausage. The husband of the owner, an older Armenian spoke fondly of the Soviet days: free health care, free education, everything organized. The Kazakh didn’t care: “but now we have freedom”.
Not that this freedom is improving health. A quick walkaround of Vanadzor grocery shops (like most in Armenia) turned up only 1 in 15 having milk, but every last one of them having at least 20 types of vodka. No wonder by day the men appear poorly shaven.
Instead this headstone, high on the mountainside cemetery, reminded me that even in crumbling places, people have lives, and sometimes these lives have great sadness. Here a mother whose daughter died before her, in the hard times after World War II, still young at 28. The two now lie together.
And perhaps as well, this women walking her (one) sheep by the railway tracks:
(events 27,28 Nov 2012)