Thursday, December 13, 2007
Lisa, Hassan, Nadeem & Gabriel Part 2
The day before Thanksgiving we returned to Yerevan so that we could see the world famous football match (soccer game) "Armenia v. Kazakhstan". In case you didn't know, Armenia lost.
On Thanksgiving day, we headed out to Goris, a town about 4 hours away. Our plans were to see Noravank, Khor Virap, the stonehengle-like rocks, the cave city, and best of all, Tatev, a beautiful Armenian monastary. We lose the keys for 2 hours so we get a late start, and decide to go straight to Goris. About 3 hours into the trip, we hit major fog, then snow. Hassan does a great job getting us to the town; I then have to remember exactly where our B&B is - in the dark and in the snow. We finally arrive and our hosts turns on the heat.
Heat. In USA, it is usually central. In Texas, it is needed for only a few months out of the year - if that. In this B&B, there was a huge gas furnace in the center of the common room. Our two rooms were off that common room and the heat in the bedrooms did not work. When I asked for some portable electric heaters, the owner told me to open the doors into the bedroom to heat them up. Now, this was fine when it was just our extended family. But I felt a little exposed when the 3 Russian men came into the B&B a few hours later and spent the night in the third bedroom. Then, the owner kept coming into the common room to turn the heat down. It was probably in the low-mid 20's outside, the heater was inadequate anyway for 4 rooms, and there was really no sane reason to turn down the heat. We kept turning it up. Lisa even got up in the middle of the night to turn it up.
Friday we wake to the boys yelling about all the snow. They were excited. We were not. It had snowed about 6-8 inches, cars were having trouble driving on the not-yet-plowed streets. Our rental car was a van, had no snow tires, or 4 wheel drive. Lisa, Hassan and I figured out quickly that we would not be going to Tatev - higher in the mountains, horrible unpaved roads. There was just no way. Then we debate whether we should attempt to drive back to Yerevan. I call my office and Zaruhi tells me the weather forecast: more snow for the next 2 days. We take a quick 15 minute walk with the kids, take pictures, buy supplies in case we get stuck, and head out.
We have trouble getting up the first hill in Goris. Now, this spells major trouble because if we can't get up a hill in a town where cars have been driving for the past 5 hours and made the snow slushy, we are going to have major problems driving through 2 mountain ranges. So, we stop to get chains for the tires. L, H & I think this is a great idea - we get the boys out (who act crazy in the store) and the mechanics start the process of putting chains on the tires. The process doesn't go very far or very fast. First, they can't get the tires off. Then they want to know whether the van is front or back wheel drive. Eventually, we figure out that the chains they have won't fit our tires. There is nothing we can do. Those poor guys were outside in the cold, in the snow for an hour trying to help us. When I offered to pay them something for their trouble, they refused and wished us a safe trip.
The trip home: Hassan was a master driver. After our first major mountain slope and sliding back down 4 times, we finally figured out that if we went between 40-60 kmph, we could get up most mountains. At one point, Hassan was going downhill over 60 and kept saying "I can't control the van; we are going to crash." Luckily, we were on a straight stretch, no cars were around, and a hill was coming. We had several other scary moments - driving slowly past massive numbers of cars and trucks that had lost traction, seeing cars doing 180's, and having people race by us, oblivious to the danger. But Hassan, a Texan who doesn't drive in the snow, managed to get all of us home very safely. We quickly turned the heat up in my apartment and didn't drive the next day.
The last few days of their stay was great. We finally managed to see Khor Virap and Noravank. The kids went down in the dungeon, but were disappointed not to climb the steep slippery snow covered steps at Noravank. Lisa, Hassan and I toured the brandy factory and tasted Armenia's famous drink.
Lisa and Hassan then gave me (and Tom) the best gift ever: they took Cole Ryan and Austin home with them and their sons. This was no easy feat given that there was 4 kids, three adults and only three gameboys. Everyone arrived safely, Granddaddy and Teddy took Cole and Austin for 3 days and acclimated them quickly to all things American. When Cole couldn't remember what he liked at McDonald's, granddaddy was there to help. Teddy and Granddaddy also took them shopping - this was crucial since Cole had exactly 1 pair of pants that still fit and weren't ripped. Mom helped out the last day too. Thank you Lisa, Hassan, Daddy, Teddy, and Mom - we would be flying standby right before Christmas if it weren't for you.