Listening for the Alien Heartbeat

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.

Mother and Daughter Buried Together, Armenian cemetaryVanadzor itself, despite a backdrop of snow-covered mountains, is a rusting city of semi-abandoned soviet era factories, so the less shown of it the better.

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:

Woman Walking Her Sheep - Vanadzor, Armenia

(events 27,28 Nov 2012)

3 Responses to “Making a Man of Me”

  1. Chillbrook

    Fighting for freedom is all very well but freedom doesn’t necessarily put bread on the table as we have seen time and again when ‘freedom fighters’, often with help from the west, overthrow long established regimes if the west deem them undesirable. Nobody seems to think to check the credentials of the people who are replacing the old order. I’ve not seen too many places changed for the better of late. I’m really enjoying your posts by the way..

    • alienheartbeat

      Thanks very much – I appreciate it.

      The problem in this region and Africa is that many of the regime changes get hijacked by elites who corner most of the economic benefits, and leave the people just as poor. In some places they are Thugocracies – more on this in a later post. I believe this will change as the budding information economies give rise to middle classes and more balanced politics. But it will take 20 years.

      But the most important thing, which is what the Kazakh woman was expressing, is that at least now there is hope, whereas previously there was none.


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