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This week’s guest post for the ‘Day-to-Day’ series comes from Zof, a Polish woman who’s currently working and living in Armenia. If you’re an expat and interested in sharing the day-to-day details of your city, shoot me a message at thepaperplanesblog @ gmail.com.
It’s been a year and the half since I boarded a plane that took me to the Caucasus. The plane I took to go to Armenia and stay. The decision to move was never actively made. It was presented to me. It was my guts, it was the feeling that this is the one and only right thing to do. I wasn’t sure how long I would last but I was determined to try. I’m trying ever since and I have never been happier even if it’s not the easiest place to be.
Let’s talk my daily routine.
Yerevan, the town where I live, wakes up late and I happily follow. I’m a typical night owl and some cities just don’t click with me. Some cities run out of bread before I even get out of my bed. I wake up between 9 and 10 and stay up till 2 or 3 in the morning. Yerevan wakes up with me and goes to sleep even later, which makes me feel incredibly comfortable.
I have hardly any breakfast, nothing more than a yogurt or a little sandwich. A coffee is a must though. Every morning I’m having a steamy little cup of Armenian coffee. How do you prepare Armenian coffee, also known in Armenian as Eastern coffee or “usual coffee”? Roasted and finely grounded coffee beans are boiled together with water and, if you like it sweet, sugar, in a special metal pot called jazzve. It’s easy and boosts your energy in a great way. I usually have two to three cups of it a day. Funny, because back in Poland I used to drink much more coffee but it was never small, black or sweet. I used to love lattes and I’d never sweeten them. Armenia taught me to do it her way.
I’m a freelance translator, writer and blogger, who constantly sits on social media. I’m more than happy to be location independent in what I do but there is one thing I always need to have an access to and this is fast, reliable internet. I’m sick and tired of having problems with keeping in touch with my clients just because of shady internet connection. I’m happy to say that Yerevan is a great city for freelancers. Wifi is everywhere, even at the metro stations. The city is full of cafes providing you with fast connection and numerous power points. There are also some great looking co working spaces for freelances that I still need to test. Sometimes I work at home but I get easily distracted in there. That’s why I try to venture out to work as often as I can. I have two cafes I go to the most. Sometimes I meet up with my friends who also have no office and we go to sit somewhere in downtown, everyone in his/hers own stuff. The number of hours I spend working is very different, depending on current projects. If I’m not having many translations at the moment, I focus more on blogging or reaching out to potential new clients. Well, I also spend a crazy amount of time reading other people’s travel blogs and fiction.
Lunch time depends on the work schedule and is very often consumed in front of the computer screen. When I have lots of work I usually eat it out. It’s more expensive than cooking at home but still, it’s affordable and convenient. Yerevan has a lot of lunch options and it’s quite vegetarian friendly which is a great value for me. If I’m not working, I’m very often to be found having lunch with some of my friends. This is another little thing I love about Yerevan. It’s not a small city, it’s almost as big as Warsaw where I come from but somehow it’s easier to meet people here. I guess it’s because the downtown was designed several decades ago and it wasn’t really foreseen that the capital would ever grown as big as it currently is. No matter in what part of the city we live, we all end up navigating the streets of our tiny city centre multiple times a day. As a result, we are constantly bumping into each other. I have bright days when I love it and dark days when I hate it. There are significantly more of the first ones. Going to the center without makeup is a risky business though. Every time you do it, you meet your ex boyfriend and all your ex bosses standing in front of the same building and looking straight at you. Trust me on that one.
The small center means more than just that. It’s also easily walkable, which is oh so lovely. However the transportation system in Yerevan is really poor. There is one metro line, marshrutkas (always overcrowded minibuses with the routes almost impossible to figure out unless you are a local). Almost no buses and no tramways to speak of. If you need to get somewhere and you are time- strapped, you almost always go for a cab. Fortunately, they are extremely affordable and cost just a little over one euro for any route in downtown. I currently live a bit out of the center and I try to walk as much as I can although in winter I take a cab very often, too. Some people say that in Yerevan you can never meet the same taxi driver twice because there are so many. Yet somehow I’m frequently being recognized by them. A blond Polish girl who lives in Armenia, hey, that’s you again. I took you to a bus station once last spring. Yeah, great. I should watch out for what I do when I think no one knows me in the city. I’m kidding. But well, Yerevan is not exactly an expat hub where you blend in easily. It has an expat community, of course it does, and I love this community as one would love a family. But anyway, wherever you go, you stand out. And you have to get over if you plan to stay in Armenia long term.
But I’m digressing.
Wait, what do I do after lunch? Well, mostly I translate or blog or read. If I have time I cook dinners at home. Armenia has changed my cooking habits a lot. Back in Poland I never cooked. I was convinced this was not for me. Armenia made me discover it was. All I needed was someone to cook for. I love getting groceries and cooking in Armenia in spring, summer and early fall. All the seasonal goods that are displayed on the markets are just amazing. Fresh, local and so affordable. Winter is a bit of a harder play though. There is nothing seasonal, which basically means there is nothing fresh to get and all the imported veggies and fruit are so expensive that it hurts my eyes to look at the prices. Well, one can get used to everything….
Then, there is the evening. I go out so often. I had weeks when I’d go out every night. Back in Poland I was more into visual arts and literature, in Armenia I’ve discovered a vibrant and fascinating music scene which I’m following now. I go to a lot concerts or just to hang out with friends too talk, to laugh and have a quality time together. We hang out in a few expat friendly bars where all the faces are familiar. I have a great circle of people around me. I have friends from Armenia, from the US, from Canada, from Iran, from Syria, from Lebanon, from the UK, from France…..the community is little and ties are close. These people made me feel home in Yerevan, they made me stay in the country for that long…
The community is great but it has its downsides, too. Having mostly international friends means living in an expat bubble and staying far from the local community and from the incomprehensible local language. Everyday hardships are slightly different, too. I was comfortable and happy in my expat bubble. I didn’t feel like leaving it in any foreseeable future.
All of this changed when I met someone local. Dating quickly evolved into a strong, long-term relationship, that opened me uncountable doors to the local community and helped me to settle in Yerevan outside of the expat bubble. Even the language skills got better. Guess what, this transition made me love Yerevan even more. People ask me when I leave Armenia – I’m not leaving this country, guys. I’m staying here.
I like the cozy center of Yerevan but I also love Armenia for being tiny and diverse in culture and landscapes. It makes her a perfect place for weekend getaways. Just an hour drive from the capital and you are in wild mountains, where the paths are yet to be marked. There is nothing I love more than exploring my own backyard and discovering the beauty of Armenia.
The longer I live here, the more I think Armenia is extremely underrated among travelers. This is one of the reasons why I keep blogging and guest posting about the place. So, when are you coming to visit me?
Zofia Bałdyga, aka Zof, is a Polish NGO worker interested in international migration issues, translator from Czech and Slovak, an occasional poet and photoblogger. A visual addict. Her blog, The Picktures presents photo essays from her travels. Currently living in Armenia, she feels at home everywhere but her favorite places in the world are Prague and Yerevan. Follow her on Facebook, Twitter or Pinterest.