Returned yesterday from Yerevan exhausted, spent, hungry, and broke. The forty thousand dram I brought with me vansihed like seeds in the wind. Yerevan is alive, bustling, beautiful! People there are going in a thousand different directions; they're happy, driven, hopeful, free. Everywhere you go are new buildings, great trees, cool bars and shops. There is the huge, grand opera house, surrounded by outdoor cafes with sofas and pool tables, perfect weather in the cool evenings for sitting outside. There are beautiful women everywhere, women with character and style, fresh, young, living in a new and changing world. There is a lake that becomes an ice-skating rink in the winter, that sits in a green square facing tall buildings across the streets. There is the Cascade, six hundred steps with huge fountains and sculpture and a view of the whole city from the top. There are crafts shops and bowling alleys and everywhere people speak English as well as this ancient but ever-changing tongue we've picked up.
Only once have I had such a comforting experience in a city: that was Kathmandu, the narrow streets, crowds and rickshaws, brightly-colored signs exploding from all the buildings, filling the air, the Royal Palace, the mopeds passing in front and behind you, khukri knives in leather sheaths for sale on every corner, hip little open-air bars and thangka shops. Coming from the villages, having lived there for three months, Yerevan's beauty and vibrance -- the people! -- soothe and excite the senses. I return with renewed drive and purpose, knowing that our work is going somewhere, having met new friends, feeling my identity with this world.