A trip to Vanadzor this weekend enabled me to see the hometown of my co-worker Hasmik. Once again, I was welcomed by Armenian hospitality so exceptional that it didn’t seem real. We dined at tables filled with some of the most delicious food that I’ve had here — smoky eggplant and peppers, soft fresh bread, the quintessential cucumber and tomato, fresh raspberries and strawberries from the garden, the most amazing cake layered with rich caramel and doused in chocolate shavings. And vodka. And coffee. Of course. I even tasted chicken for the first time in nine years. No, I am not going to break my quasi-vegetarian ways permanently, but I have to admit it was good.
Our walks under the nurturing sun were broken up by visits to family — the art studio of Hasmik’s uncle Ara, the patio of her grandmother, a walk with her cousin Mane who is visiting from the States and the constant delightful company of her six-year-old niece Nare.
We meandered through the park, watched children ride paddleboats in Vanadzor’s lake and sat in the backyard garden. I even told an Armenian joke, via Hasmik’s translation, which was met with laughter. (Oh I am so proud.)