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Posts Tagged ‘christmas’

[Disclaimer: I am probably making it sound like all I do here is drink vodka with the copious references to the friendly clear fermented-potato substance.  but it really is a big part of the culture here.  and after all i’m going for that whole immersion thang.  but i promise i’m helping to spread some microfinance too, even if it does involve tasting a borrower’s varietals of moonshine mulberry vodka. seriously.]

So 11 days after commencing, Armenian New Year’s is officially over.  I feel so discombobulated and and confused that I dont know what day it is or if I will ever be able to weigh less than 263 lbs again.

The new year here is a big celebration.  Its family oriented, involves lots of visits to friends/neighbors/relatives and lasts for a week.  New Years Eve is usually spent with family, and, like most Armenian celebrations involves a table packed from edge to edge with all kinds of tasty foods and booze.  In the center is the horovatz (grilled pork) with all kinds of cheeses, dried cured meats, veggies, and often cakes.  I dont know how these families do it because they basically have to be on call for visitors for 11 straight days while anyone can show up at anytime and the table gets loaded up and feasting and drinking recommences.  Everything in the city shuts down (president’s orders – where were you on that one OBAMA?!?) and you can get arrested by the cops if you dont have proof that you’ve gained at least 15 lbs.

12:01 new years at the square....

I was lucky enough to get to experience several different families’ new years.  NYE itself involved hanging out with a fellow group of international orphans at a friend’s apartment, then going down to the central square to see the fireworks, followed by an indeterminate amount of hours at the bar.  And that was day 1 of 11.  The following days were a tour de table of different friends and families, each of which constantly had a table full of meat/cheese/greens/booze on standby for any potentially arriving visitors.  At each stop copious amounts of Horovats (bbq’d pork and always the centerpiece of the table) was consumed with lavash (national bread, like a tortilla with bounce), all kinds of cured meats (I find pastrami to be the most sensual of all the salted cured meats), greens (parsley again, dominates every bite), with lots of wine & vodka with thoughtful toasts to family and friends.  At one point I tried a jug of tasty homemade Georgian wine.  At another I had a delicious banana cake.  Also some delicious dolma, accompanied with yogurt sauce.  On Armenian Christmas itself (Jan 5th into 6th) I was invited to a good friend and co-workers to eat with her family.

Her younger brother and his 3 friends were very intrigued having an American at the table.  Basically I was treated as a pet tamagachi, and the boozing got taken up a notch or five.  It was kind of like those house parties when a bunch of idiots think it’s a good idea to try and get the cat or dog drunk, that’s a little bit how it worked….”yaa lets make the American drink a shot every 3 minutes!!!” However, as a stand for all the dogs and cats out there I decided I was not to be shown up.  I kept shoveling food in my mouth between every shot and lasted lasted lasted until the 19 year-old ringleader eventually started to slow down a bit.  Somehow I survived until they got bored and moved to the couch.  Victory, America.  I was so proud of myself, I had passed the official Armenian booze test.  Next stop, Russia.

All in all the New Years break was a whirlwind of barbecued meat and celebrations with friends and their families.  It was great to experience the holidays overseas in such an authentic and traditional way.  Plus it was a ton of fun, too.  While I don’t think I’ll let myself accidentally miss Christmas/New Year’s at home next year, this one will definitely always stand out as a great memory…….The Christmas/New Year’s that lasted 11 days and when I lost my six pack.  I’m gonna have to really start pounding my core again.

2010

kaaaa boom

one of the many new years table spreads

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This was the first time I spent Christmas away from the homeland.  It was definitely difficult but kind of fun in an unconventional way.  Plus Armenia is the first nation to have officially adopted Christianity so that’s a neat place to go for Christmas.  And don’t try to tell me otherwise.  However, Armenians don’t celebrate Christmas on the 25th of December, but January 6th instead.  I guess originally Christmas was on the 6th but then the Romans didn’t find it convenient, so they switched it around to fit their new calendar, but Armenia kept the date, yada yada yada, now there’s a disparity between dates of celebrification.

All in all, I think it was probably the best alternative I could have had to not being with my family, and here I am 5,000 miles away in post soviet lands with a bunch of armenians who don’t even celebrate the 25th of December.  I was in the mountain town of Tzakhadzor for 3 days with my host MFI because they were having their year-end company-wide conference which involves workshops as well as a chance to just bring everyone together once a year.

I spent time sitting in on the workshops but also got a chance to walk around the city and see what the town was all about.  On the 24th I happened to cruise by a church and stopped in to freestyle a little Christmas Eve mass.  A priest even came in and started saying what appeared to be a mass, but I wasn’t too sure and didn’t stick around to find out.

Christmas itself fell on the third and final day of the conference, which was great.  During the day I actually went skiing (see below) and then at night they held the end-of-conference party.  this involved massive amounts of food, lots of wine, and vodka.  the food was the standard armenian horovatz — delicious barbecued pork accompanied with lots of bread, fresh veggies, and wonderful armenian treats.  we feasted and toasted together with all 200+ Aregak employees.  A great pseudo Christmas if I do say so myself.  And a pretty good way to juxtapose the year-end mfi party onto my concept of December 25th.  Lucked out there and was great to make me feel at home.

Eventually, Armenian dancing broke out as they had a live band as well as a rented Santa to MC the events with some year-end awards going out.  I was REALLY hoping for most-improved loan officer but I was BARELY beaten out by a 10-year veteran.  I guess she deserved it.  I was pulled into the armenian dancing eventually and had a grand time.  Armenian dancing is kind of like Irish footwork with middle eastern arm work.  I like it.

Skiing:

So I have now completed one of my top 7 life objectives: I have now successfully skied at top speed down a mountain in the former soviet union while eluding a KGB agent chasing me with a klobb.  This now certifies me as an official yellow belt along the becoming-james-bond continuum. (more…)

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