| You know you are
flying with Armenians, when the woman in the seat
next to you takes lavash and a cucumber from her
purse to complement her in-flight meal.
I'm not making this up. It was only an hour and
45 minute flight to Yerevan, but the woman in
seat 22b had come prepared for any emergency that
could be solved by the security of familiar food.
We were flying on Siberia Air. If Armenia still
had its own national airlines, I suspect the flight
attendants instructions might have been altered
to . . .
"In the unlikely event of loss of cabin
pressure, lavash will automatically drop from
the panel above your seat. If you are traveling
with small children, place the lavash to your
own mouth first, secure another roll for your
child and continue to breathe normally . . ."
A cucumber. I've never seen a person bring a
cucumber on board. I wonder what it looked like
going through x-ray. Or not.
Others brought the more usual carry-on and check-in
items: a (Philips) 19-inch color TV, for example;
a box of in-line skates; a (Panasonic) home-entertainment
stereo speaker assembly. One man brought a bubble-wrapped
automobile windscreen. Another was carrying what
appeared to be a dual-exhaust tailpipe. And I
swear to you that one passenger had securely wrapped
and checked through excess baggage the side-panel
door of a small vehicle.
Just another average flight of Armenians flying
from . . . Istanbul. To Yerevan.
I don't get it either. Apparently the folks at
Zvartnots International Airport in Yerevan and
their counterparts at Attaturk IA in Istanbul
are a little late catching up on the news that
there's a trade embargo between Armenia and Turkey.
In fact, can anybody explain to me how it's possible
that countries who are at each other's throats
diplomatically, and who hate each other so much
they'd rather suffer economic sanction than do
business together, can manage two Yerevan-Istanbul/Istanbul-Yerevan
flights a week?
Part of it might have to do with the fact that,
if the flights the cucumber lady and I took are
any indication, most of the spending is taking
place in one direction - the other one. In other
words, I didn't see many Turks unloading in Yerevan
and rushing off to snatch up bargains on home
electronics or automotive replacement parts.
To get there from here, Armavia, apparently somehow
filling in for Armenian International Airway,
which replaced the defunct national carrier, Armenian
Airlines (which in fact says its still flying,
though that's hard to prove), swings a deal with
Siberia Airlines. And before you can say "Genocide?
What Genocide?", an airbus full of soon-to-be
Turkish Lira-toting Armenians is on the "enemy's"
turf saying stuff like "our tomatoes taste
I followed the line of in-bounders to the visa
counter and as is my custom in countries where
English should not be assumed, I watched to figure
out the process.
Armenian after Armenian laid down blue passports
and $10 bills and walked away legal to enter Turkey.
The lone American laid down his blue passport
and a $10 bill, and was told to add a zero to
the sum. The Armenians get in for $10; the Americans
for $100. Maybe the difference is $90 worth of
guilt. Maybe its what the Yanks pay for using
the Turks' military fly zones. Or maybe they knew
I wasn't going to be purchasing a value-added
tax replacement door for my Lada.
A weekend of Istanbul behind me, I struck up
a conversation with the Turkish woman handling
my Siberia Air flight coupon.
"The Armenians are strange, aren't they,"
"No stranger than anyone else in my opinion,"
"I don't like their food," she said.
I pointed out to her that on the way to her office,
I passed shops selling matnakash, yogurt, lahmajou,
pilaf, cucumber and tomato salads, barbecued everything,
and enough kebab to lay a bridge of carcinogen
from the Blue Mosque to the Holy See. Pretty much
the standard Armenian diet, I said.
"Yeah, but theirs smells funny," she
I was thinking about that on the flight a few
hours later, so I leaned in next to 22b and sniffed
her lavash. I'll stipulate that some differences
that hamper Armo-Turk relations surely do "smell
Lavash ain't one of them.