Notes From Hairenik

Today with two friends, Hamlet and Onnik, I traveled to the village of Arinj, which is located just outside the Yerevan city limits, actually bordering the Avan district. It is purportedly the childhood home of Gagik Tsarukian, who is one of the wealthiest men in Armenia and whose political organization, Prosperous Armenia, is now by far the most popular party in the country. His compound is located adjacent to the village high on a hilltop. Today was the “village day” for Arinj, in other words a holiday, during which hundreds of people—perhaps thousands as they were coming from all around the vicinity—migrate to the site of an ancient monastery perched on hill. All that remains is a tiny chapel, but nearly all the visitors managed to cram into it—not all at once but in a remarkably orderly fashion, filing in and out without shoving, cutting in line or whatever else. Those that could not manage to enter to light candles instead lit them in two large rectangular votives just outside. But for some reason people had given up lighting each one individually and inserting them into the sand. Instead the simply threw the candles on top of this uncontrollable fire that burned from the melted liquid wax. I never saw anything like that before—it just shows that Armenians cannot ever let completely go of their fire-worshipping roots. There was a minor circus attraction as well with clowns, zurnas, dhols, and tightrope walkers, but unfortunately no monkeys. Alongside the road leading up to the chapel were vendors selling toy guns, lollipops, sunflower seeds, popcorn, plastic jewelry and all sorts of other things. Oh, and candles, I almost forgot to mention. Every vendor there was selling candles, I swear. I overheard one woman complain to someone she knew with already purchased candles in hand that she should have bought them from her, in typical Armenian guilt-trip fashion.

Arinj must be one of the cleanest villages that I have ever visited in Armenia. It is rare to find any litter on the sidewalks or gutters. And in the late spring there are perennial flowers planted alongside the curbs—even grass grows in certain spots. I would dare think the fact that the small town’s golden boy lives there is the primary reason why the town looks so nice. There are even young trees planted throughout, especially around the vicinity of the chapel, which also serves as a public park it looked to me. The occasion was a nice way to spend a couple of hours on a Sunday afternoon, and an excellent excuse to leave the city to breathe some fresh, clean air for a change.

Photos courtesy Onnik Krikorian

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