So far, we’ve established that there are no proper roads, no drinkable tap water, nowhere specific to hang out, and certainly no cases of coronavirus in Yeritsvank. It’s times like these that made me wonder if it was better to remain in my comfort zone in the heart of a pandemic, or get out of my comfort zone and be somewhere with no cases. Clearly, I chose the latter. So, what exactly am I doing in Yeritsvank? I’m figuring it out along the way.
Every week since I was 15 years old, I asked my dad to teach me how to drive. “Next Sunday, we’ll go out to the outskirts and I’ll teach you”, he said every week for the past 8 years. The closest thing I’ve driven to a car is the go-kart at Play City, and trust me, I was the opposite of impressive. The first thing that came to my mind was to gain this skill. The lack of roads meant I’ll be learning on hard mode, but the lack of traffic meant I’ll be learning on easy mode. Yes, I am just as confused as you are. I knew one thing and one thing only; I’ll finally learn to drive.
The second thing on my to-do list is to ride a bike. Every time someone suggests riding a bike to a certain destination, I tell them that I can’t because I don’t know how to ride a bike. 100% of these conversations end with someone’s jaw dropping, emphasizing that riding a bike is LITERALLY childhood and accusing me of missing out. I know, but it’s never too late, isn’t it?
The third thing I wanted to learn was cooking. I am not-so-bad at no-bake desserts and breakfast food, but there’s a force in the universe that’s keeping me from preparing traditional dishes. I know the basics of cooking, but if I try to make dolma, manti, or chi kufte, the chances of you spitting out food become significantly higher.
I now knew what I was going to do here, but what do the locals do besides work?
The thing that occupies my mind the most is “what do people do here to pass the time?” My friend and I asked Arpi, the 15-year-old girl, what they do for fun, but we never really got a specific answer. There’s an 11-year-old boy named Monte who rides a bicycle, and he once told us that they occasionally capture snakes. I don’t know if I would call that fun, but he seemed excited about it. Some villagers go fishing so they have food on their dinner tables, which I thought is both fun and productive. The only activities unrelated to work that I saw locals engage in were having lunch or dinner together and driving around with no specific destination.
I tried to compare the village to the city. Every villager I met here seemed sheltered from the city lifestyle. All of them said the same thing: they moved from Goris, Artashat, or Ashtarak because they were told there were job opportunities here, but they eventually got “stuck”. I’ve read a few studies that say people who live in small towns and rural areas are happier than everyone else, but here, many criticize the village and seem unhappy, yet claim that it’s the best place to be. “Upon arrival, nobody wants to stay, but when it’s time to go, nobody wants to leave,” I was told.
I still had a hard time understanding what made people so drawn and attached to Yeritsvank. What is it about this village that people refuse to leave when they have families in more urban areas? Is it the low cost of living? Is it the safety of the village? Is it the tight-knit community? Is it the exposure to nature? Is it the free parking space? I don’t know, but I’m sure there’s a more profound answer to all those questions. It’s easy for me to say that the city lifestyle is much better and easier, only because I am used to that environment, but in reality, neither is above the other.