Sometimes it's hard to think of a proper title for a blog entry, nothing interesting comes to mind, or encapsulates the contents properly. This one had the opposite problem, with the two up there, along with Men in Black, it's a small world, the long road home, and some others coming to mind, but anyway, let's get to the story...
Yesterday morning, we were going to head back to Yerevan which involved catching a cab to the bus station (no metro there), catching a marshutni (mini-van) to Yerevan, then catching either a cab or a marshutni or two home from the bus station in Yerevan. I asked my friend how nice it would be if a car would just pick us up right there and drive us straight home. Soon after the woman running the place we were staying told us there were Armenians with their own van who arrived late that night and were heading to Armenia that morning and said we could get a lift with them. Not believing our luck we joined this collection of 3 Armenians to make five, and head back home together. One was an Armenian whose parents immigrated to Armenia from Iran long ago, one a Georgian-Armenian who moved to Armenia long ago, and one a Yerevantsi who had emigrated to Israel five years ago, but now spend half her year in Yerevan. We all had 10 year passports except the one Armenian citizen - whose parents were from Iran. It seems that at the visa office in Yerevan, they discourage almost everyone from applying for the 10 year passport, they instead tell you to apply for a 1 year (for the same price!) and keep reapplying... of course this expands their opportunities to collect money a great deal, and you really have to insist on the 10 year.
In the "small world" segment of the story, it turns out I knew friends of the Israeli-Armenian in Haifa, where the Armenians from Hayastan have a pretty tight-knit community, and I knew the Georgian-Armenian girl from a bar she worked at that I visited just once one year ago.
So anyway, we headed off, stopping at a huge marketplace near the airport on the way - and I mean massive. It was a muddy mess from a rain I had not heard fall at night, and though most of the shops were shut since it mostly operates at night for traders to take their wares to market in the day, it was impressive nonetheless, with loads of Armenian shoppers.
From there we headed to the border, stopping just before at an Armenian village where the Georgian-Armenian girls parents live. Her mom prepared a feast in something like 5 minutes - I think it was a new world record. After feasting and talking (and of course drinking a bit of homemade vodka, this time from grape) we headed for the last stretch of road to the border.
There weren't too many cars, and we soon were two cars away from passing customs, with all the car papers processed, when a bunch of men in black ran past our car to the customs post with pistols in their hands chasing one or more customs workers, another guy ran behind them with a video camera, recording the events. It was surreal, soon all the customs workers and soldiers were standing against the building with their hands raised, with a swat team (ski masks, automatic weapons) guarding them, the men in black (with pistols) questioning them and taking them to pee, and searching the area with black lights and flashlights for something. Meanwhile two dogs played at the feet of the apprehended customs guys and the swat team guys quite obliviously. This went on for hours, right before our eyes when they had us move off to the side. The small black dog at this point stood in the middle of the cleared area and looked around, looking a bit confused at the activity. Shortly after this the Minister of the Interior of Georgia's arrived with a large media circus following him, including CNN. We suspect it was either about bribes or drugs or both, but don't know.
Finally they started letting cars through again and as we made our way towards Armenia the Georgian-Armenian girl saw her father passing in the opposite direction towards Georgia and talked to him, and gave him some water, as he'd been waiting for hours as well. The final hurdle of getting our passports stamped left us speechless as the Georgian asked us for cigarettes... When we got to the Armenian border, the guard remembered the Israeli-Armenian girl from a previous trip 6 months ago, and we got stamped and through... the last sight being the black dog playing at our feet... he'd just walked across the bridge to Armenia - no visa, no problems... we just had to laugh.