- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
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 January 10, 2003 

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

Two weeks abroad gave plenty of chances to answer a common question:

"Are things getting better over there?"

I usually answer with a question: "Compared to what?"

Flying into Yerevan two nights ago gave me a new metaphorical answer:

Landing lights . . .

After a series of delays, threats of cancellations and mostly weather-inflicted obstacles to a safe and comfortable journey we were approaching Zvartnots Airport when the captain of the airplane said the visibility over Yerevan was 30 meters. Should be at least 300 or so for safe landing.

On a trip that had us snowed in, in London and snowed out of Tbilisi (and nearly stranded in Baku) we were now fog bound over Yerevan. A look out the window was like staring into a pillow and a near-empty plane carried the uneasy quiet of collective fright.

The captain said we may have to turn back. And then he didn't say anything for awhile and we felt the plane lowering into the ocean of textured mist from a hidden surface.

In an instant there was a yellow glow behind the fog and the plane's wheels touched the bumpy runway and we rattled to a welcomed stop and a return to normal breathing.

Nobody, including the pilot, knew where we were, except that we were on the ground between some landing lights.

The fog was so dense nothing could be seen beyond the landing strip and we had to sit on the runway while authorities sent a car out onto the runway to look for the plane then lead it to the terminal.

None of us knew how that pilot got us on the ground and were not sure we wanted to know.

But we know this: It is likely that in a not-so-distant past that landing couldn't have happened. (It occurred, by the way, on the same night 75 people died in a crash caused by fog in Turkey.)

Are things getting better over here?

Some things, yes. Some, no.

The fog hasn't cleared, but at least there are landing lights for any captain who knows how to find them.


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