- Independent Journalism From Today's Armenia
March 12, 2004

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

Just when I was about to understand my life in Armenia . . . Well, help me out here.

My goddaughter gave birth to twins this week. And while I'm as happy as a pig in mud about that, I'm confused. To begin with, I'm not even sure calling her “goddaughter” is the correct application of the word. Here's the deal:

Three years ago I became kavor – godfather – at the wedding of my friends Hayk and Tatevik. Prior to arriving at her family's house to introduce his family, I did not even know the word “kavor” – a degree of ignorance multiply less than the considerable unawareness that by being “kavor”, I was the one responsible for asking Tatevik's father's permission for Hayk to marry her. None of the process was made any easier by the lack of a common language between me and the father and, well, brokering an engagement is not something that should be trusted to pantomime. (Once, however, I was able to buy eggs in a market by mimicking a chicken.)

I fear that I have done little over the past three years to live up to the honor of being godfather. So far about all I've learned about the role is that the title brings the privilege of being served first at family dinners. I'm told, though, that kavor is the one the couple should turn to in case of family difficulties. Considering my ineffectiveness at managing a family of my own, it is with a measured degree of trepidation that I await the day when (godfather forbid) I should be called upon for second-party mediation.

With little time to study for the kavor role brought about by the marriage, over the past nine months I've tried to better prepare myself for godfathering of the baby variety. Specifically, I've repeatedly watched all three “Godfather” movies, implementing slow motion, pause and bookmark functions at the places where Al Pacino or Marlon Brando interact with children.

And in anticipation of this week's blessed news, I've been watching DVDs of the American mafia series “The Sopranos”.

What I can tell about the Italian version of the lifestyle as it compares to the Armenian one is this: Trade Italy's pasta for Armenia's barbecue and you've pretty much got “The Sopranyans”, i.e., guys with big guts straining polyester shirts, who would rather be feared than respected. (I've started working on the gut part, but the latter is going to take some time. And, a la Tony Soprano, I'm learning how to say: “Inch es anelu?”, which is Armenian for “Whadda ya gonna do?”)

I got a cell phone for the godchildren and put them on speed dial and on my recent trip to the States I shopped for double-decker baby carriages. For the first time in my life, I bought baby clothes, tickled to learn that there's such a thing as a size zero.

I'm all hyped up for this, and so into the whole schtick of godfathering I realized that, two days after their births, I didn't even know if the babies had names or how much they weighed. I've since learned that those are crucial pieces of information when announcing the news to acquaintances. However well intentioned, godfathering comes slowly to the ill equipped, not to mention the monolingual in a bilingual world.

So anyway, I'm taking my own self-help course in godfathering. I'm preparing to bribe doctors and lie to priests about my religious orientation, but then I learn that I may not be the babies' kavor at all. It isn't enough that I need a translator in this world, now I need a full-time ethnographer to explain Armenia 's cultural rules.

Seems that being kavor for the nuptials is a whole different matter than being kavor for the procreative portion of the union. It is possible, if not likely, that some one else, presumably one specializing in pediatric kavoring, will take over the child-rearing duties that I'd assumed would fall to the marriage kavor. I don't mean to split traditional hairs, but I'd welcome clarification of my duties in this matter.

The closest I've ever come to parenting did not have such an outcome as to favor my kavor resume. In an attempt at family bonding, I was carrying my toddler niece to see the “moo cows” in my father's pasture. Significant to this tale, it was a pasture enclosed by electric fencing. I'd stepped over the wires a million times without incident. But on this day, the wire caught my pants leg. It sent a 12-volt jolt up my torso and turned my arms into a catapult from which I flung head-first and cow-ward the baby to whom I was trying to endear myself. She's a healthy adult with a baby of her own now, but is that a man you'd want hauling twins?

With any luck the young couple will see the need for a professional in this matter and it won't come to that. But at this very moment I'm practicing how to rub my chin like Brando(yan), just in case.

According to Agnes


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Flying High

In anticipation of this weekend's visit by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, workers put up flags on Mashtots Avenue in Yerevan. At first, Armenian and Georgian flags were placed, but the Georgian ones had to come down when it was discovered that the design was wrong.



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