While other expats take vacations to Egypt, California, Croatia and so on, last week I took a short three-day trip to the beautiful country of Arstakh. It was four of us on the trip, I drove all the way to Goris, and then a friend continued the rest of the way.
The All-Armenia Fund funded highways are a blessing! But swirling around the mountains of western Arstakh can be sickening after a while.
A few hours after we arrived, a big group of kids from Boston came into Shoushi. It was great observing the local kids staring and amazed at the American kids on the first day. The unusual behaviour, the baggy clothing with bright white sneakers, combined with the loud music they would blast one in the morning for all of Shoushi to hear was sort of like a circus in the city. The next day, the local kids with their formal black suits joined the Americans and seemed to have a lot of fun. The Boston kids had a great itinerary to visit the local school and more.
Shoushi sadly hasn't changed since over 10 years ago. Spending an evening in Stepanakert, then coming into Shoushi late at night to see only two or three apartment lights on in an entire residential building was quite depressing. Yet the city, or town (or whatever you want to call it at this point) has so much potential, even with all the hopelessness you can feel in the air.
Well for once I finally felt like a true Yerevantsi. Artsakhtsis (I'm sorry guys, I know that sounds weird, but I refuse to use the much overused Turkish name) kept asking me if I was a Yerevantsi.
Of course I headed out to one of Artsakh's many highlights, Gandzasar Monastery, and before that trip we took the horrible, yet scenic, ride to Dadivank. The 2-hour long ride was dreadful, driving on really rugged roads, and repeatedly banging my head on the back window of the Niva all 5 of us were sitting in. There were actual Hayastantsis living by the church that moved there from a town close to Sevan to rebuild Dadivank.
For anyone who hasn't seen Artsakh, definitely try to make it out that way if you are visiting Armenia. I've seen many parts of Armenia, but Artsakh is definitely something else. I kept telling the people I was with that with world recognized independence and some major investments, Arstakh would definitely deserve to join the European Union. It's landscape, the cleanliness, the people, the architecture, is quite a contrast to the artificialness I feel when I am in Yerevan.
Is it obvious that I don't want to be in Yerevan right now?