Labels: Social and Cultural
The number of registered vehicles on Armenia’s roads is kept secret by government authorities. However, the unofficial estimated figure is around 350,000. By contrast, the number of motor vehicles per 1,000 people was 1.5 in 1997, according to the World Bank Database.
Last month the Yerevan municipality decided to undertake a massive operation aimed at curbing traffic pile-ups. The measure has actually worsened the situation, forcing minibus drivers to travel against oncoming traffic on some one-way streets, Hanrabedutian Street in particular, which is narrowed at one end by construction projects and by parallel parked cars on the other.
As part of the plan, three underground passages are being constructed simultaneously at strategic areas in Central Yerevan, indefinitely impeding vehicle access. As a result the intersection of Tigran Mets and Khanjian Boulevards, one of the busiest crossroads in the city featuring an extremely large shopping complex and a bus station sending travelers to northern regions of the country throughout the day, is blocked to traffic. Instead an insufficient detour has been routed causing further bottlenecks.
According to a study by Princeton University’s International Networks Archive, Armenia has been rated the most dangerous country for driving in the world, with an estimated 347 people killed or wounded for every 1,000 vehicles. By comparison, 16 people are injured or killed in the United States for that same number of vehicles.
Click on the image to view and read the article as it appeared in print.
Labels: Thoughts and Musings
Labels: Social and Cultural
Hamlet Gevorkyan is a true friend who I had the pleasure of meeting at the end of September 2005. That first evening we made the first of dozens of trips to the now defunct New Delhi, where we were perhaps the restaurant’s best customers. A few days later we were off to Meghri with a mutual friend from Boston who had introduced us just before our first repast of Indian cuisine. Over the course of the last two years we embarked on several adventures together, including a climb up Mount Ara, a road trip from the Georgian border to Kapan with the aim of finding Datev monastery along the way after failing to visit Tbilisi, and two trips to Haghpat. We were together at least three or four times a week, and since late May have even been working with one another nearly every evening.
Hamlet was born in Charentsavan, a former industrial town, 32 years ago but grew up in Aboyan. In the late 1980s his father was able to secure a way out of Soviet Armenia to Los Angeles, where he continues to work tirelessly as a plumber. Hamlet made the decision after attending university to become a dentist and was accepted at the Tufts University School of Dental Medicine, considered to be one of the best dentistry schools in the entire US. I actually first met him during a span of two seconds in Boston before I left for Armenia in the autumn 2004. In the summer of 2005 he left Tufts to study in Yerevan, favoring life and education in his homeland. Shortly after arriving he immediately forged relationships with cousins located in Abovyan and Artashat, traveling to both towns frequently. But he needs to return to the US to pass his exams and begin an internship. He mentioned the possibility of interning here, hopefully to start a year or so from now if the opportunity arises.
We have become very close during these past two years. Hamlet has become my dear soul brother, one of only a few that I have anywhere, I am proud to admit. Whenever I needed a favor, advice, or companionship he was always there for me (unless he was out of the city, of course). He was extremely supportive when I was stressed during my father’s health crisis last winter, refusing to accept that he was beyond healing (he has made a near full recovery in six months). In fact, Hamlet has only brought me luck with his counseling and his very presence around me. There has never been a time when any grave misfortune had occurred while we were together. Our marvelous appetites for fine foods compelled us to seek out the best cuisine that can be readily found in the city, having shared at least a 100 meals together I would safely estimate.
But as I told him last night, I regret that he did not contact me just after he arrived in July 2005, thereby shortening our time spent together, and that he did not attend my wedding because I did not know him at the time.
As all Armenians arguably are, Hamlet has an emotional character but manages to keep his cool most of the time. Actually the one time that he completely lost it was when my car was hit while we were driving along well over a month ago. He has a fantastic sense of humor and manages to make light of most situations that are not necessarily rosy. His laughter and smile are infectious, and my friends with whom he has encountered have become totally enthralled by his princely charm and wit. I especially admire his candid opinions on life, as he is not prone to demonstrate insincerity or to patronize anyone in the slightest. All of us, particularly his many girlfriends, are wholeheartedly distraught to see him go away. I for one will be feeling withdrawal symptoms probably tomorrow, as it has not yet sunk in that he has gone.
Hamlet jan, we wish you good fortune and anxiously await your return, for you have compassionately admitted time and time again that Armenia your place to be. We love you and will be missing you very much, more than you can possibly imagine. Stay well.
Photo: Hamlet Gevorkyan, Haghpat, 2007
In an unrelated yet perhaps not as equally idiotic situation, later in the morning I drove my Niva to a car wash located about a block down from the office, which was just relocated about five days ago to Mamikoniants (a.k.a., Furmanov) Street in the Arabkir district, not far from the Gomidas Market. Anyway, I dropped the car off and they told me it would be ready in a half-hour. I arrived 35 minutes later but they were still washing it and kept at it for over 10 more minutes. They called out to me with an “aper” (an expression I have grown to loathe), I paid them 2000 dram including a tip (they didn’t have 500 dram in change to give back) and left. After I parallel parked my car only about 200 meters away I noticed that the driver's side had small black gummy spots on it, which I had not noticed before. I drove back there immediately to figure out what the hell happened. They told me that the spots were already there, even though I was suspicious, as the dirt covered them up from being seen. Supposedly the stains had splattered up from under the carriage according to their logic, which didn’t make much sense since that had never happened before. I started to pick at one of the spots with my fingernail and it seemed to have been coming off. They laughed off the thought that they had put them there, something I did not even suggest, then mentioned something about “taking my pain;” in other words they were either giving me a break or I had to give them a break for not doing their job properly. Then they said that in order to get the spots off they had to use gasoline, which they didn’t have, so I told them they should have obtained some since there were a couple of gas stations nearby (one just next door as a matter of fact). Another moron had the audacity to tell me that they were not at fault, and when I reminded him that I was paying them for a service that they offered, namely to wash my car and remove all the filth, he restated that they couldn’t do anything without gasoline and that I should get some if I wanted the spots removed. Amazing.
Now I have to figure out how to remove the spots on my own—without using gasoline. Hopefully some cheap vodka will do the trick, even though it is considered a “shame” here to use its astringent properties for cleaning purposes or for anything else other than merriment and inebriation.
Sometimes the only way I can cool down about a ridiculously stupid life lesson is to write about it. Good thing I keep a blog.