Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Coincidences and odd stories

Have you ever been in a situation where you wondered how odd the situation was? I think we all have. As I was traveling these past two years, trust me, on so many occasions I have wondered about that same thing.

There was a guy from my school who I didn't talk to that much. However after graduation we bumped into each other once or twice and he told me that he lived in Berlin. We agreed to meet up if I ever visit Berlin, which was likely to happen considering that I was moving to Oldenburg for my Masters. That was exciting. We eventually met up and had a cocktail or two. Now, the odd thing happened when I was traveling around former Yugoslavia with a friend from home. I received a text from that guy wondering how long I was going to stay in Dubrovnik. I told him I would stay another day or two, and he informed me that he was planning on coming there as well. We met for some late dinner that night and ended up walking around the old city, admiring the beauty of the Dalmatian Coast. We spoke of a lot of things - our lives abroad, traveling, and the people we have met... I told him that the coolest person I had met was an Armenian lady in Uganda - she was married to an American who spoke Armenian better than I did, and they both worked in the development field, traveling and working on really cool projects. Together they had lived in 11 countries over 20 years and her house looked like a museum with all kinds of souvenirs she had collected from different corners of the world. My friend there thought for a moment and said, "I know her. I was in Tajikistan and I saw someone in the cafe that looked very Armenian. I asked her if she was and we ended up having coffee when she told me how much she loves traveling..." And yes, we checked. It was the same person.

The world is really that small. 

My dad's friend turned out to be living in the same small town in Norway that I used to live in and she ended up being my unofficial Godmother of my yet-to-be-born children - the kindest and most wonderful person. And the first café I entered in Germany turned out to be owned by an Armenian, and even though the cafe was called Havana where they searched Mediterranean food -- the place had an Armenian scent to it.

I met a guy once - clearly a German guy. We talked for a little bit and he asked me where I was from. I replied that I was from Armenia and he exclaimed "Wow!! Tso, inchkh es?" (How are you? - Gyumri dialect) He told me he had a friend from Gyumri and he learned a couple of expressions. Mostly swear words, but still.

Many of my friendships started pretty odd. For instance, one of my closest friends in the whole world is from Serbia. We met one night in a bar during a salsa party. I had just moved back to Slovenia from Argentina, and didn't know a soul in Ljubljana, except for a very unfortunate Canadian photographer who turned out to be a pig. There I was - sitting in a bar watching people dance salsa thinking about the unfairness of the world and how lonely I was... Two girls were sitting there and for some reason looking at me. I went to sit at their table and introduced myself, even though nobody really invited me there. The two girls turned out to be from Serbia and really nice. We met for some coffee a couple of days later. The topic of guys came up and I shared what special kind of pig I had met a week earlier at the same bar. One of the girls told me that the same thing had happened to her as well, only that the guy she met was a photographer from Canada.... Yep, same guy! That ginormous pig! We bonded over this incident and now are really good friends. What were the odds of that happening?

I lived in Buenos Aires for almost 4 amazing months during which I found out that I was really passionate about Latin Dances. I took salsa classes for 2 months and was absolutely carried away by the beauty and passion of the dance. Mostly, I feared that when I move to Armenia, I wouldn't be able to continue learning and dancing and that a huge chunk of my life would be empty. One of the last days in Buenos Aires I went to a party with a couple of friends of mine. We sat there and stared at really cool dancers, wishing that one day we would be able to dance as graciously as they do. There was one guy that danced particularly beautifully.  He was tall and handsome, with a huge nose and chest hair, but not too much... I stared at him for good twenty minutes and cursed him for dancing so well and not being Armenian. Who was I going to dance in Armenia? I could have moved to another country to dance, but I doubt that it would work. Stupid social dances.... Then I stood up to go ask for some water to chill from all the envy. My Cuban dance teacher was standing there and started talking to me "Hey Armenia, how are you? I come to Armenia with you! hahahaha". Then the strangest thing happened. He turned to the godlike-dancing guy who coincidentally was standing at the bar as well and started speaking about something (Really couldn't make up his Cubanish) but definitely he mentioned Armenia. Then turned to me and said "You from Armenia, he from Armenia..." What bullshit?! No!! He is messing with me. The tall chest-hair guy turned to me and said "Hay es?" (Are you Armenian?' I betted my eyes for good 30 seconds before I realized that he was actually Armenian and that I wasn't daydreaming. The strangest thing was that he turned out to be the grandson of one of the most famous Armenian actors - Mher Mkrtchyan. I ended up meeting his family and had quite a lovely time at their house. What were the odds of that happening?

These were only a couple of examples of how I wondered about the strange incidents of life or how small the world was. Coincidences are what make my travels particularly memorable, and the abovementioned stories weren't even half of the interesting things that happened to me. These were only those that came off the top of my head. I am sure I will take my time to reminisce more about the interesting coincidences I have witnessed.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Back home

It's been almost 5 months since I have moved back home from two years of living abroad and traveling. I've had friends who were doing their Master's degree abroad as well, and frankly they told me that this is what was going to happen, so I am not surprised. Here are the stages that I had to go through - the classic stages, I guess.

Excited to be back home! "I'm back, bitches!! Who said I would decide to stay abroad and not return home! Well, I proved you wrong, haven't I? Now, it will be great. I have international education, plus the internships I had abroad. How hard would it be to find a job? Give me 10 days, and it's done."

Missing the life I had: Looking at photographs I took when I was traveling proved to be traumatic. I would get moody after just a couple of sweet memories thinking that part of my life is forever gone, without and hopes for bright future.

Understanding that pretty much everyone moved on with their lives: It seemed that all my friends (except for a few, whom I will cherish all my life) have moved on, either getting married (hurray!), having children, or simply forgot I existed.

Perhaps I shouldn't have been so optimistic. Over the course of the first 3 months I was denied all the jobs I thought I already was accepted for. This hurt my self-esteem a little, and staying excited about being back home got harder.

I automatically got sucked into this black hole, where all the things turned from bad to worse. There were no job announcements that I would qualify for, both my parents had pretty hard surgeries, and 

I started blaming everything and everyone around me, but worst of all, I started blaming myself for the misfortunes in my life. This stage of self-pity and depressed mood... The stress made my immune system weak and I within the period of 4 months I was sick an entire month.

What often helped me was dancing. I started taking different dance classes and it turned out to be rewarding. And I started seeing results in my mood and appearance. I lost the weight from stress-eating largely from dancing, working out, Instagram videos and the Cabbage soup diet (which I recommend).

My parents also played the role in getting my out of the depressed mood. They surrounded me with love and optimism when I thought that Armenia wasn't the place for me. 

I am still in the journey of trying to find my place in Yerevan. It's not easy, but I am working on it. 

What would you recommend I do? 

Or, had you been in my situation, what would you do?

Forever yours,

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Postpartum depression and Vienna

It’s summer of 2015, which means that my studies in Europe are coming to an end, and the most dreadful time is coming: the thesis submission deadline!

Some of you know what it feels like to writing large research - all your energy and concentration is dedicated to a piece of work that nobody eventually is going to read, except your supervisor (and that’s still arguable). Your personal thesis is like your first child – you have no idea what you’re doing and eventually you are learning as you go along… And just like being pregnant with your first child, you get a postpartum depression after submitting your thesis. You start missing the days when your thesis part  of your life, you miss thinking about it, worrying about how it’s going to turn out…

It’s been 2 weeks since I have submitted my work. Of course, life feels much better in some way, because you have one less burden. It’s also harder because you have no more excuses to do all the things you said you would do “after submitting the thesis”.

Number one is of course, working out. I don’t know how many times I have told myself that I would start jogging, or join the gym, or take yoga classes. I have finally reached a point where putting an effort towards loving yourself and loving your body is a lot easier than dieting and jogging…

On the other hand, I have found a new passion – salsa!! I don’t think I loved something that much since... anything! (more about how I came to like it later) I think of it as a very sexy cardio.

Another thing I promised myself that I was going to do is read! That’s still on my list.

Overcome my addiction with shopping – still working on it.

Start cooking – this one is actuall working out. I managed not to burn, over-salt or undercook my first three meals: pasta with tomato sauce, pasta with pesto and garlic bread with a healthy salad. It’s progress, trust me!

Oh, forgot to mention, I am currently in Vienna, working in a super-cool organization that works with refugees. I will stay here till mid-August and start traveling a bit before I repatriate. :D

More stories coming up! Some juicy ones too.



Sunday, November 30, 2014


It seems like the only action on my blog was the change of the background picture every once in a while. So, I decided to update everyone on how I am doing. I am aware that most of it is going to sound like "white people" problems, so don't judge!

Just to let you know what I have been doing recently:

I am living alone in Ljubljana, in a pretty comfortable room with its own kitchen and bathroom. It's a dreamy place to study: no noise, no distractions, and of course - crappy internet connection.

Other than my studies (or the thoughts of them, which are more time-consuming) I am busy making plans. I think, if I were to mention my favourite hobby, it would probably be making plans and designing check-lists. Nothing keeps my heart beet vast than a well developed plan of what I am going to do in the future.

My whole life now revolves around paperwork, phone calls, applications, CVs, visas, reservations, booking, thinking which way is cheaper to travel, and food.

For my dissertation, I have decided man up and to do it the hard way - travel across the ocean towards a country I do not have any idea about nor speak the language to conduct an ethnographic research on Armenians and Armenian language. My travels towards that magical land starts in 12 days. Interestingly, I am not going there straight away. Nope. I am visiting every country nearby, then going there. Oh, have I not mentioned? I am going to South America.

My trip starts on December 12th when I hop on a plain for 13 hours and end up in Sao Paulo, Brazil! After about a month I am flying to Buenos Aires, Argentina for some fieldwork and networking. Also tourism, of course. Then (maybe) going to Peru for a week, then back to Buenos Aires. In February, I am finally making it to Montevideo, Uruguay for a month and a half. On April 1st, I am going back to Amsterdam, spending a couple of days in the Hague (hopefully my friend would allow me to crash at her place), then traveling to Brussels, then to Paris, then to Lyon for System of a Down Concert, then maybe to Zurich (always wanted to visit for a day of two), then finally back to Ljubljana for a month and a half to concentrate on my studies and finish up my thesis. Theeeeen, that's where my plans end for a while. But I am thinking.

So now, because of this overly exhausting (and probably the best plans I have come up with my whole life) I am sitting around in Ljubljana and stressing out. "What if's" and "How on earth's" are not leaving my head, and I have a stay-up-all-night-thinking insomnia.

I am stress-eating and stress-shopping. Lucky for me, a two-Euro nail polish is enough for a day, so the harms to my budget are not that bad.

I miss my family.

I am going to Milan in 5 days and I have no idea how I am getting there.

I have to present my thesis proposal in front of a big audience of professors, and I am mortified.

Concentrating is the hardest thing in the world. And when I have so much to do, I find it a lot easier to just not do anything.

Well, this what my life looks like now. And even though I am stressing and not sleeping nearly enough - I think I am the happiest I can be.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Conversations. Part 2

As I have mentioned previously, one of the super cool things about living abroad and traveling is the fact that you meet so many different people along the way. You learn from them, share experiences, and if you are very lucky, you will have some stories to tell afterwards. Just to be clear, I do not want to stereotype anybody, I am simply sharing my experience.

So, this post is about the conversations with people I have met, all the weird and funny things I have heard, and all the questions that I have kept asking myself ever since.

The Kurdish Guy and Urban Decay 

It was raining in Vienna on the last day. I was in the city centre, and naturally, I tried to find a dry place to hide for a little bit. I found myself in the beautify shop (shocking!) and started looking around, you know, since I was killing time...

In the corner there was a whole shelf of makeup from Urban Decay - this over-expensive pretty good brand mostly famous for its "Nude" eyeshadows. I was looking around, trying some on my hand when a handsome guy, mid twenties, approached me:

- Are you interested in anything particular?
- Nope, juuuuuust looking. (And hiding from the rain.)
- Well, let me know if you need anything. Where are you from by the way?
- Oh, I am from Armenia. A small country. Nobody really knows much about it.
- Are you KIDDING me? I am Kurdish. My family lived on almost the border with Armenia.
- Oh. Really?
- YEAH! I know all about you guys. The history, the Genocide... Come on!! 

Yeah, the Genocide topic popped up in the conversation initially about makeup. He continued.

- You know, I can say "Ես քեզ սիրում եմ" (translation from Armenian: I love you) and... "հավատում եմ" (translation: I believe). Oh my god, do you know Sirusho? (name of an Armenian singer)

I smiled and nodded yes.

- I am obsessed with Siruho! - he continued, -She is just so pretty! You know her song... what's it called? What's it called?...
- Em... I don't know... Քելե-քելե?
- Yes, that one. I love all of her songs. I don't understand anything, but who cares?

I noticed that the shop was nearly empty, and decided to talk a bit more with the guy. I introduced myself and said that I was glad meeting him.

- Oh, of course, honey. - he replied, - We should look after each other. Come on, we are basically brother nations, we have the same enemy. You know what's going in Turkey now, right? 
- Yes, I do. And I am sorry. 

Then I decided to tell him about a nice little chat I had with a Turkish guy in Budapest, where I was earlier that week. I went to a Turkish cafe and had a Shawarma with my new acquaintance from Taiwan - Marcus. Cool guy. When we entered, Marcus told me that he really wanted to visit Turkey. I told him that Istanbul is a beautiful city and he should definitely do that. Also, I told him that he could also visit Armenia, but if he wanted to take the bus, he should know he had to go through Georgia. Of course, he asked why. I had to tell him the whole story. When we went to order some food, the guy making shawarma asked me if I was Turkish as well (I get that a lot!), and I said I was from Armenia. The guy (who later told me he was studying political science and wanted to be a diplomat one day) followed us to our table, asking me a bunch of questions about politics. I wanted to share my experience with the Kurdish guy.

So I started:
- ... So, this Turkish guy turns to me and says "What do you Armenians want from us?! I want to understand and see what we (the Turkish government) can do about it." And I told him he should google the list. Then he turned to me and said "Well, if you want your territory back and we give it to you, then everybody will want their territory back as well. I want to help you, but if we give you land, then Greek people want land, Assyrian want land, Kurdish people want land...What do we have left then, I don't understand..." and I replied to him that maybe they shouldn't have conquered the lands in the first place. Right?
- Ah, don't even get me started!

And we ended up talking for another half hour about Turkey, Armenia and Kurdish people. Then we switched to make-up, travels and weather. Then the rain stopped, and I had to leave. 

Conversations. Part 1

One of the super cool things about living abroad and traveling is the fact that you meet so many different people along the way. You learn from them, share experiences, and if you are very lucky, you will have some stories to tell afterwards. Just to be clear, I do not want to stereotype anybody, I'm simply sharing my experience.

So, this post is about the conversations with people I have met, all the weird and funny things I have heard, and all the questions that I have kept asking myself ever since.

The Chechen driver and his brother's respect

I was on my way from Vienna to Ljubljana in a car full of strangers. I found them on the website of Bla-Bla Car - one of the fun and cheap ways to get around in Europe. One of the benefits - you get hours of conversations with a driver and most likely two other people in the car.

Sometimes the drivers are talkative, sometimes - not so much. This guy was originally from Chechnya - a republic in North Caucasus and a federal subject of Russia. Beautiful place. Don't believe me? Check out the picture.
Modern day Grozny, ladies and gentlemen!
There were 5 of us in the car, with the driver and his brother comfortably sitting in the front and talking on their native language, and three passengers (two Austrians and myself). Since I don't speak German that well, and they did not speak English - our communication did not lead anywhere in the beginning, other then him asking if I have any luggage to put in the trunk. I nodded yes. Then, of course, he asked me what other languages I spoke, and I mentioned Russian. That's where the fun started.

First, of course, he told me about the migration history of his family, which was fascinating. Then he went towards "Երկիրը երկիր չի" (inner joke for my Armenian friends. Sorry!) and ended somewhere "Եվրոպան էլ մի ապրելու տեղ չի, անջիգյար ժողովուրդ են". Made me smile. He reminded me of home. The driver and I talked for a while. Then, all of a sudden we heard an Armenian song from his CD. I didn't know the song, never heard if before. And I was kind of a song that usually makes your ears bleed. You know, the "մուղամ" song that everyone hates. You know what? At that time and place - I loved it. Almost sounded like music to my ears.

When we stopped to breathe some fresh air and use the bathroom. While everyone was minding their business, the brother of the driver said hi. I said hi back. He said "I noticed you were talking to my brother the whole way. When you were talking about Armenia, I wanted to say that there was an Armenian boy in my class. We made a lot of pranks together..." I smiled and asked why he didn't say that earlier. And he replied: "Well, you were talking to my older brother. I could't have intervened. It's a RESPECT thing."

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Ljubljana: new life, new habits

"Where are you, Laura? Where have you been? Where are you moving next?" I get asked that a lot (not to brag). Well, as of today (and the next 2 months) I am in Ljubljana, Slovenia.

View from my window in Ljubljana.

I moved here for two months, to do a module on Identity and Language in the framework of Migration and small nations (I am a student, for crying out loud).

As always, starting a new life (especially a short one) means one thing: series of new habits and promises to myself that I would try to keep but would eventually fail. Doesn't matter, I still love this part.

So, for the next two months, here is the list of my new habits.

1) Eating healthy.

Haha. I got you, right? 
No, but seriously, this is what I would keep myself busy with. I started with something known as "Cabbage Soup Cleans" which was recommended to me by some friends who assured me: "It works!" 

It's a pretty tough diet that goes on for 7 days. For those interested, here is the link:

2) Getting comfortable with myself and my thoughts.

Not what you think, perverts. I decided to start a life where I am not afraid of loneliness. In the beginning of my first year as an MA student I wasn't coping well with loneliness. I was depressed for two weeks, and it took me a whole year to be self-dependent. I think I am on the right track, but I still need some more practice. For instance: traveling by myself, or spending hours reading instead of hanging out with friends and all...

3) Learning how to cook

Probably the worst place to start with that, as students get 50% off for the food in restaurants, which makes it more affordable than cooking for yourself. Still, for the next two months I am learning how to cook.

4) Staying in touch with people I love

Not only through Facebook and Whatsapp, but through postcards and old-fashioned mails. First thing to do - get everyone's addresses.

5) Stop being a shopaholic.

Spending tons of money on things I don't need - that is so me. Well, not anymore. As of October 15th - I am not spending any more money on things I can live happily without. Except for, maybe, when there is 50% sale... or better yet - 70%.

6) Getting real.

One of the advices of my dad, and a new habit: becoming more responsible. Plan and stick to it - that's my new motto. I have decided that starting from today no more missing deadlines and leaving everything last minute. This is the day I grow up, and that is what grow-ups do (I think)!

7) Going back to studying Spanish.

I spent my whole life thinking that I would never go to South America. Well, as of right now it is not so impossible as I thought. So, watching movies in Spanish, reading and maybe finding new friends to practice Spanish would be my thing. Now, where in Slovenia can I find Spanish-speaking people?


Well, this is it for now. If I keep at least 3-4 of these new habits/promises to myself, then I will reward myself with a new laptop. My old one is falling apart already.