- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
 December 19 , 2003 

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

If you live in an Armenian family, you will understand what I am about to say . . .

When you are sick, every Armenian is a doctor.

This week, the country is full of them - victims of flu, and purveyors of remedy.

So far, I've been told: eat lots of garlic, drink "ourtz" tea, drink tea with lemon, drink tea with honey, drink tea with cognac, drink tea with those yellow fruits that look like warted apples - quince, I think they're called.

Having been influenced by the Armenian love of conspiracy, I am now ready to believe that the tea producers of the country are releasing flu germs as a sales marketing device.

There is, of course, the local cure-all, vodka. I've been told to drink it against the flu, but also when I had an abscessed tooth, an upset stomach, and even a sunburn. (I once saw a certified technician here use vodka to clean the innards of a laptop computer.)

I have a houseplant that a few weeks ago was looking puny. For the sake of science I decided to mix a little Karabakh vodka in its water bowl and see what happened. The result is that the plant doesn't look any better, but it didn't die, either.

Which pretty much sums up the condition of a lot of people I know who are attacking this flu and its snotty interference with the holiday season. Yerevan is a bowl of bacteria and its residents have Barry White voices and stoplight noses. Schools are closed as a prevention of spread.

Here, the flu is called "grip". How perfect is that?

If you're looking for the Armenian version of ArmeniaNow, you won't find it this week, because our chief translator has been home all week in bed. Our reporter who writes about medical issues was preparing a story on the flu outbreak, but became sick before she could finish it.

On deadline day at ArmeniaNow, our web administrator gave me this report:

"There were 15 of us, and now there are three." Well, things aren't quite that bad, but close.

Like the besieged dictator in his "spider hole" just to the south of Armenia, I spent the first three days of this week hiding from grip. It seems (knock on wood, I'm supposed to say for Armenian authenticity) to have worked. I was warm and dry, had plenty of remedies and plenty, plenty advice and attention.

And plenty time to consider how differently winter is met in much of this city and even more of this country, by those who don't enjoy the good fortune that is mine. Such thoughts are never far away these days, as our efforts here have centered on ArmeniaNow's HyeSanta project.

How does a war victim in Kapan with no arms prepare her tea? What happens when a family's sole provider, a 15-year old high-school dropout, gets "grip"? How warm is a wet basement for a mother and four children?

Last week an expatriate acquaintance and I passed an old woman begging late at night near the opera house. We gave her some money - something we likely would not do (probably for stupid reasons) in our own country.

"I figure the only difference between me and her is a passport and credit cards," my friend said.

Of course that's way too simple an explanation. And money is not the only answer. But it sure can mean a lot.

If you've already read HyeSanta and have made a donation, thank you. It will be a better season for some because of you.

We hope many more will do the same. Click here to read the special section.

And if you donate, maybe I'll send you a remedy for "grip". Or a slightly impaired house plant . . .

Merry Christmas friends.

According to Agnes
Click on the photo above to enlarge.


The Week in seven days


The Arts in seven days


  Photo of the week
Click on the photo above to enlarge.

Snow flakes the size of light bulbs?

No. In fact Yerevan's first snow Monday only lasted about as long as it took to shoot this photo.





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