- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 April 18, 2003 

Outside Eye: A non-Armenian's view of life in his adopted home

Today the world is new for me in Armenia.

No, I'm not talking about the regional neighborhood now that the United States of Iraq (aka "The Axis of Diesel") is being established.

Changes in my world do however involve globalization. And while that is normally a word I embrace with about the same enthusiasm as having live ferrets turned loose in my boxer shorts, I am departing the politic of endemic culture preservation to announce with caffeinated pleasure, this:

Today I bought Starbucks coffee in Yerevan.

Big, orange-ish bag with a real seal (though in truth I was afraid to look for a "freshness" date), the ubiquitous green and white logo that shares disrepute with GAP in the cross-hairs of anti-globalizationists. Right there at the corner of Parpetsi and Tumanyan streets, in a boutique that only sells coffee, does not serve it, nor does it offer stainless steel tumblers, stirring paraphernalia nor does it come within a continent's distance of anything called "frappe". There, in a nameless shop from a saleslady to whom my mono-linguist handicap prohibited explanation of my unbridled joy, I laid down some drams and took home a bag of honest-to-Seattle Starbucks beans.

You should know that I like a good thimble full of the traditional Armenian "soorjch" as much as the next gringo. However, when the morning comes too close to the night before, you just don't get the same comfort from slamming a shot of the local product as from wrapping your hands around a mug of the over-priced and politically-incorrect American eye opener and corporate-greed icon.

Now that I can easily buy triple-ply toilet paper at nearly any market in town, the only items missing from my life essentials have been Starbucks beans and peanut butter. Once I found peanut butter at a market near my flat, but at $12 for eight ounces, I curbed the craving.

Now, and perhaps only until the legal department at Corporate Starbucks reads this, I can get premium bootlegged beans 100 meters from this newsroom. I don't want to know how they got there, but I don't think the process involved franchise rights.

I have a Krups bean crusher bought in Great Britain, a French-press pot (I've changed the name to "Freedom" press) given me by a Swiss. I turn on a kettle imported from Germany and heat water that flows from Ararat (sorry, but it's in Turkey no matter how we might wish it otherwise) and invite my Armenian friends to sample. But only a little. The bag on the corner was priced at 18,000 drams for a kilo. That's about $16 a pound. I bought considerably less than the standard amount.

Armenia is a dang near perfect world today. I can go into a completely anonymous place and buy a product that represents all that is wrong with Western consumption without the fear of being seen coming out by earnest neo-Hippies whose politics I share. Except when it comes to coffee.

Let me affirm my wish that Armenia never become completely westernized. I hope I never see a McDonald's here. But should a display case of Big Macs suddenly appear in my local cash and carry, well...


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  Photo of the week
  Spring Rites
Click on the photo above to enlarge

Spring Rites

April 13 was "Tsaghkazard", known in other places as Palm Sunday, the week before Easter, marking the day Jesus entered Jerusalem. Here, part of the commemoration includes making wreaths from branches which are worn by young people and then placed in homes. The day is also the seventh Sunday of the Great Fast, as observed among the Armenian Apostolic Church.



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