Notes From Hairenik
October 21, 2009

Late Sunday evening I returned from a two-week stay in Greater Boston to see my family and friends. Actually most of my time was spent with my brother and parents, who recently retired. It was great catching up with everyone and enjoying the brisk autumn New England weather that I have missed.

But the first day back in Yerevan has been a bit problematic for me when returning from the last two visits to the States. All day Monday I mingled very little with co-workers while trying to recuperate from pronounced jetlag. I was also suffering from a mild form of culture shock as I did when I arrived in March from the previous 14 day-long visit. The contrasts of sights and sounds is becoming a little too much to bear it seems as time moves on. In America everyone seems to wear bright, lively colors and clothing is contemporary in style compared with the dark and drab garments people wear throughout Armenia. It’s not their fault of course; there’s not much of a selection in the marketplace. But it’s still disappointing to see people who always seem to be dressed for attending a funeral at a moment’s notice. I didn’t want to venture into the market to buy fresh fruits and vegetables while strolling along rows of vendors, all of whom beckoning me to try a slice of apple or persimmon in the hopes of buying a kilo or three. I didn’t relish passing by men with three day-old beards selling farm-raised carp and trout on the sidewalk, impeding foot traffic. And I didn’t want to hear cheesy Armenian pop music being blasted from mediocre underpowered speakers on the sidewalk. I was still in zen mode, spiritually enjoying the tranquility of our quiet neighborhood back home.

One thing that is certainly noticeable however is the virtual absence of jaywalking on the streets of Yerevan. From what I have seen in Central Yerevan and on Gomidas Street nearby the open market in the area where my workplace is located, pedestrians are crossing only in designated crosswalks or underpasses. There are always a few exceptions to the rule of course but they seem to be few and far between. It is amazing to drive in front of the Gomidas market where a bus stop is located on both sides of the street and not have to worry about slamming into someone who doesn’t have the sense to cross the road in a way that is not potentially risking his or her life.

This surprise started in the beginning of October, when traffic police started cracking down on people jaywalking by threatening anyone who crosses dangerously with a fine. The police started writing down the passport numbers of people who were caught in the act, and now most everyone seems to be playing by the rules.

This of course means that society is moving forward by obeying the law. The absence of law and order that many have complained about to me is the fault of the violators themselves I have often argued. Corruption and disobedience starts from the bottom up, not the other way around as many seem to think here. At least that’s my opinion. You can’t complain about the absence of justice if you do not respect it, but that’s what society often does here. They don’t demand justice, they simply criticize without getting anywhere. But the end of jaywalking is certainly something important to observe and admire. It means people are starting to wake up and realize that society has to advance, people have to be more civilized.

I can only hope that Yerevan residents do not regress to their old ways and continue to cross the street without endangering their own safety and that of motorists as well. Bravo to them.


Blogger Anya said...
Personally, I think the younger generations in Yerevan dress pretty nice. Of course, it's all knockoffs (expensive knockoffs!!). As far as corruption goes, I think Armenia has come a long way (at least in the 6 years that I last visited the country). On the way back to the States, my father tried to take a bottle of cognac in his carry-on bag. When the security officer took it away, my dad asked if he would take a bribe. His reply was, "I can't. There are cameras all around."

Blogger shirley said...
Hello - I am enjoying reading your observations on Armenia. I was wondering if you would like to cross link with my bog:

I couldn't find an email address here so I'm leaving a comment instead. Hope to hear from you soon. Shirley

Blogger Christian Garbis said...
Hi Shirley, I listed a link to your blog under the "Links" heading. It appears under the one for "The Armenian Economist."


Blogger TheAraratBeez said...
Thanks Christian Garbis for your stories. I really enjoy them. I am working on a website, where I would like to bring all Armenian bloggers and journalists together from around the world. I am currently gathering RSS feeds from various news sites and blogs. I also added Shirley's site.

Thank you all for your great work.