Monday, December 3, 2007

Lisa, Hassan, Nadeem & Gabriel's visit Part 1

When Sergo, my friend and our office driver, called to say Lisa, Nadeem and Gabriel arrived at the Yerevan airport, Cole and Austin started jumping up and down. When they arrived about 15 minutes later, Austin and Cole went outside with sandals on (it was very cold), met their cousins, and then all of them raced through the house jumping up and down. For a few days, Lisa and I were alone with the kids because Hassan missed the flight to Paris and arrived 4 days' later.

During those 4 days, Lisa and I took the boys to see some sights around Yerevan. One of the first stops was Square 1 - an American style restaurant in the heart of the city. It was Nadeem's birthday and we told him that he could decide where we would go. With great input from Cole and Austin who love the place, Nadeem picked Square 1. Lisa who had not flown 8000 miles with 2 boys to eat cheeseburgers was not thrilled (nor was I), but we couldn't convince Nadeem to change his mind. So, the boys gorged on cheeseburgers, french fries and shakes while Lisa and I pondered the absurdity in eating American food in Armenia. We then took them to the Vernissage - the outdoor art market. Thanks to Aunt Christy, all the kids had money to spend so we were constantly stopping to ask prices. Because it was his birthday, Nadeem had the most to spend, but ended up buying nothing. Everyone else walked away with some goodies: wooden necklaces, handpainted wooden tops, Russian stacking dolls.

On Sunday, the 6 of us crammed into a taxi and went to Tzakhadzor - the ski resort. The highlight was going up the moutain on the ski lift and then playing in the snow. We also stopped at Kecharis church, but they were not as interested in it. Hassan arrived Sunday night and we planned our ambitious drive tour through Armenia.

In 10 days with the rental of a 9 seat van, we managed to see a huge chunk of Armenia. First we saw Garni/Gerghard and then spent the night in Dilijan. I warned Lisa and Hassan that it was the best hotel (Daravan) that we would stay in and to appreciate it. The owner is Armenian from Iran, speaks about 8 languages, is incredibly hospitable and didn't blink when the 7 of us pulled up at 8:00 pm without a reservation ( I couldn't find the phone number or remember the name - just the location and even that took awhile to remember). We were also hungry. His staff quickly put together a delicious meal and we shared the hotel with a couple from Australia.

We then saw a monstary in Dilijan and then traveled to Vanadzor where we stayed at a hotel that we had used when mom was here. At the time, the people were very nice, the hotel very clean, but the walls were thin. We had a hugely different experience this time: there was no heat,two people were having a "private" party in the room next to Lisa and Hassan's. Since there is no soundproofing between the walls, nobody could sleep. When we complained, nothing was done. The administrator initially gave us rolling heaters, but then took mine out of my room before we went to bed. When I asked about it, she indicated that she had taken it for herself because there was no heat at the front desk. She returned it to me, I heated the room, and then gave it back to her because it was so cold. I figured - incorrectly - that we would be warm enough once we went to bed. I also planned to heat up the room using the shower turned on high. That only resulted in making the smoke detector go off and the adminstriator think that one of us was smoking. At midnight, Hassan, Lisa and I complained - no heat, prostitute next door, and no response. The administrator could do nothing. Eventially the director came to the hotel around 1:00 a.m., I asked for a partial refund, and we eventually got it only after asking for a full refund and saying that we were going to drive back to Yerevan beause it was 2:00 am and nobody was sleeping (even Cole had woken up). The director commented that I had washed my hair and used the rolling heater and should pay for that. The next morning, we had agreed that we would leave at 8.30; the director continued to ask me to return the partial reimbursement because I had used heat and water! I couldn't believe it. She then told me she was calling the embassy to tell on me. I said to go right ahead. We left.

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