Hitchhiking Armenia’s Silk Road
~photo by Emée~
We were standing under a lamppost, discussing our chances to be hosted by some locals in Berdavan, when a car stopped by us. I ran to the driver and asked if he could give us a ride until the intersection where we met the shepherd earlier today.
“Well, actually, this is a taxi. Where are you going?” asked the driver.
“In fact, just anywhere along the road. We are thinking of pitching our tent somewhere around to spend the night, then in the morning we will continue our road to Alaverdi,” I explained. He looked somewhat surprised.
“Why, brother! Spend a night in a tent? There are wild animals all around. Get in, tonight you’ll be my guests, take a rest, and in the morning go wherever you wish,” said the man, adding, “But we just moved in, the house is not in the best shape, but we will be happy to host you. My name is Mher, by the way.”
~photo by Emée~
The road to Mher’s house took us about 10 minutes. Mher’s 8-year-old son named Ashot, who sat next to his dad on the front seat, kept listening to our conversation attentively, staring at us from time to time with his little black eyes. It wasn’t a new experience for me, but just as in all of the previous cases when I was invited over by locals to stay overnight at their place, I felt somewhat strange. But this feeling soon left me as we were embraced by the warmth of their house. Mher’s 12-year-old nephew met us at the gates as we arrived. Whispering, he showered his uncle with questions: “Who are they? Who are these strangers?”
The house looked old, perhaps, even older than it actually was. We went in, and in the warmth of the living room Mher introduced his wife Manushak, two sons Ashot and 4-year-old Aren, nephew Arthur, and 8-year-old niece Mariam to us. We introduced ourselves to the family. Manushak prepared coffee, and three of us – Mher, Emée and me – sat around the table to tell our stories.
The unexpected guests didn’t seem to disturb the usual flow of their life. Manushak was busy with her daily cares. It was a bathing day for the kids, and while the water was heating up on the stove under which a fluffy cat slept, Mher was cutting the boys’ hair using a hair clipper, scissors and a comb.
Meanwhile, me and Emée entertained our new friends playing guitar and singing songs. Emée also played some trumpet. Not only kids were interested in this musical instrument shining like gold, but also Mher. He was a clarinet player, and apart from being a cab driver, he also earned living as a wedding musician.
Kids ran around, kids blew into the trumpet, kids played guitar and created all sorts of noises, kids tried drawing, talking, laughing. They sure were having fun, but as anything good comes to its end at one point, kids were sent to bed as three of them had to go to school in the morning, and the youngest one, Aren, apparently ran out of energy. He fell asleep in Emée’s arms.
Then there was dinner, prepared by Mher’s wife Manushak, who’d been running here and there from the very moment we arrived. And now she could finally sit with us and rest. The grey and dirty walls of the living room heard many a stories of life that evening – stories of struggle, friendship and separations, of travels and people, and these stories were interrupted only to raise another glass of homemade wine to say another toast – for meeting each other, for friendship between Armenia and France, for children, and of course for our new friends Mher and Manushak. We were grateful for their kindness, they were happy to have us at their home – a chance to encounter a different life and world. Tired, somewhat drunk and happy we soon went to sleep. Manushak had taken out some warm woolen blankets and pillows for us. I fell asleep thinking of what adventures are waiting for us on the Road tomorrow. And somewhere in the nearby hills wolves and jackals howled bothering the calm night.