Thursday, May 8, 2008

Only In Armenia!

One Sunday after church Kalem took the family to a place where both tourists and locals frequent;  Haghtanak Igee (Victory Park).  Mayr Hayastan is there in all her glory, decommissioned tanks, an airplane, rocket launcher, and other military goodies.  Also there is one of the best vistas of Mt. Ararat (when you can actually see it) that takes your breath away!  The first few times we drove by Victory Park, I thought it was nothing really, just a tufa block fence and long-worn-out signs in Russian and Armenian on either side of the entrance way.  From our house in Nork Marash we can see Mother Armenia and a Ferris Wheel near-by her.  It was only weeks later that I realized Haghtanak Igee was a fully functional park and that the huge Mother Armenia statue overlooking Yerevan and the Ferris Wheel were in the same place.  That Sunday we parked and walked down the concrete slab tiles (2 1/2' square with grass growing between the 3" spacing).  Trees lined the walk and vendors spotted the way selling cheap toys and plastic jewelry.  As the walkway continued up to a circle other vendors sold popcorn and cotton candy.  Once we reached the circle we noticed three "British" looking cars from the 40's.  Apparently for a few hundred drams (a few dollars) one can "rent" the car.  That is to say, a person (any age or so it seemed) would pay to drive the car around the circle and down a street perpendicular to the walkway.  We were almost plowed over by a 12 year-old commandeering one of these two-toned autos.  Past the circle the walkway continued; food vendors and rides were the next attractions.  The first ride we saw looked to be an abandoned dinosaur roller coaster.  The track followed a semi-circular pattern with undulating hills and valleys.  The dinosaur had five cars holding four people in each section.  Each car had a "hold-on-for-dear-life-bar" but no safety restraints to speak of.  In the center section of coaster were long metal dowels connecting the dinosaur to one main hub in the middle of the weeds.  The metal platform and guardrails were painted green at one time, but rust and weather had taken their toll.  But the most disturbing thing about this dino-coaster was that they USE IT!!!  In fact, Judi, Peter, Frank and I made our way up the metal staircase to board the roller coaster with much excitement and a pinch of FEAR.  The ride attendant (who looked like some guy off the street) took our 200 drams (per person) and then went to his booth.  No checking to see if we were safe inside our cars.  No strapping our seat-belts tightly...because THERE ARE NO SEAT-BELTS!  No, he just went to his little stool, lit a cigarette and pushed the green "GO" button.  Praise God we got off alive!  There were other ramshackle rides and little cafes with overpriced food just like Disneyland only without the $$$$ entrance fee, gorgeously manicured lawns, colorful characters and an electric light parade!  Okay, so it's not like Disneyland at all, more like Rotary Park's Playland in Roeding Park, Fresno...only way more weeds.
We continued on and let the kids ride some tamer rides and then found a little building with one Skee-Roll type bowling game. For those of you who don't know, JOHN-L, that would be me, LOVES Skee-Roll and looks forward to playing in Santa Cruz every year.  So we walk in and see a little old Armenian grandma with a tashkenak (handkerchief or as Frank calls it, a hanker ship) on her head, several layers of clothing, possibly 6 teeth, and slippers.  We paid 500 drams ($1.66) for 5 balls to roll at bowling pins suspended from an arm above the game.  As each of us took one roll Grandma would say, "Ahbrees" (Well done/good job) even to Frankie's roll right into the gutter and Peter's power roll that hopped the alley and landed on the other side of the booth!  When Kalem rolled the final ball she motioned for us to come to the "PRIZE CENTER" which was a box 4"x8" and about 6" high.  Inside were the following: 2 sets of "high fashion" jewelry, a heart shaped alarm clock, a plastic gun, 5 or so, hairbands, and some bracelets.  Of course I took the clock!  We continued to walk and made our way to Mayr Hayastan; she really is amazing with her gargantuan sword and shield and the view of Ararat was truly amazing that day.  We even visited the Museum of the Ministry of Defense which is located underneath the Mother Armenia statue.  We had "lunch" (ice cream & one koravadz) and then were making our way out of the park when something caught my eye...the park had quite a number of those "CLAW" machines; you know the ones you spend tons of money in to move the claw out to the very spot your favorite stuffed animal or toy is sitting.  You've done it get the claw all lined up and push the button for the three fingers to drop.  You hit dead on your toy and the fingers grab your prize and start to ascend when before your very eyes the claw's grasp is not enough to bring the much desired goodie to the watch it slip out landing back into the pile of toys and dolls that will NEVER leave that house.  Only in Armenia would you ever see one of these filled not with toys, stuffed animals, balls or caps, but with....CIGARETTES!!!  If you don't believe me see for yourself.  Never ceasing to be amazed...Jonelle;)

No comments: