Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Thanksgiving in Dprabak

I took off for Dprabak this weekend, a small refugee village located in a deep, wooded gorge north of Beautiful Lake Sevan. Jessica, an EE volunteer from northern California, has been living there for more than a year. She has a little cabin with electricity (sometimes), a wood stove, and water a manageable walk away. Her cabin is right on the corner of the village, and just a step outside reveals a magnificent gorge, big snowy peaks rising on all sides. The full moon reflecting off new snow fully illuminated a couple of fascinating night hikes.

Jessica, with a pieced-together Khachkar

Dprabak’s used to be called “Chai-kent”, an older, Turkish name. Due to the shifting borders and even more fluid cultural exchanges in and around Armenia, you often have to remember two or even three names for each village you would like to find. Chai-kent was populated by Azeris until around the breakup of the USSR, when Armenian soldiers probably came through and drove them out. The Armenians who live there now are refugees from Azerbaijan who moved in during the war. Many of them have connections in Yerevan or elsewhere in Armenia and, according to Jessica, aren’t really looking to improve the way of life there. Instead they are just staying in Dprabak until they can get out. Illegal logging is by far the easiest and most profitable way to get some quick cash, say for a wedding or an engagement party. With no gas in the village, it is the only way to heat their houses for the cold winter.
the Cabin
We had a great Thanksgiving meal, with two roasted ducks, mashed potatoes, stuffing, veggies, wine, homemade beer, and plenty of pie. Five other volunteers also showed up for the festivities. The first night, Rud made a mulled drink, combination of apples, rosehip juice, wine, vodka, spices, and whatever else he felt like throwing in there. This drink was bubbled on the stove and upon tasting was dubbed “the Mull”, a thick, rich, devastating concoction that reduced even the hardiest members of our group to a mull-ignant and mull-icious haze. The following picture should illustrate its mull-titudinous effects.
Rud (right) and Kevin (who doesn't drink, but in this photo is clearly plastered, proving the mull-contented effects of "second-hand mull")

On Sunday Jessica and I took a walk up to the top of the ridge and down to the old vank (church) between Dprabak and a neighboring village. It is called Dzoravank ("Church of the Gorge"), as is the village that lies below it on the valley floor.

The picture below shows the vank and another village whose name I forget. See those white mountains in the distance? Over that ridge is Lake Sevan. The plan for this spring is to explore on foot, and this region is high on the list.

I want to send a shout out to all the folks who have been reading and commenting on the blog. It means so much to know that people are reading and enjoying, getting a little window into this world. Questions, comments, new readers? -- send 'em my way.

Thanks so much, everyone! May you all be happy and healthy and be with those you love.



zimborst said...

Thanks for sharing your pictures and stories, Jason. It's a wondeful insight into a little known part of the world. Does Iraq seem close or far away? What do the Armenians think of Americans. You seem to be heartily welcomed everywhere. All the best, your uncle JB

dburkey said...

Hi Jason;
Mull sounds like great stuff. Maybe you should inport that stuff to the US. It sounds like it has medicinal effects! I was reviewing xmas cards and ran across you mom's today and Linda and I both had this feeling of a part of us that we've neglected. You know the story, between our teenage kids demands(many even though they don't like us anymore) and demands of work there is little time for even day trips. I've read much history including Ghost map by Steven Johnson about the discovery of the source of Cholera in 1850's Englandjust finnished) and The Jesuit and the Skull about Teilhard de Chardin and the discovery of the peking man(current). I think about everything I know about Armenia I've learned in you blog! I will have to look for something on that part of the world. No doubt you're doing right. Having freedom to explore and create as you are is a gift and one that you are not wasting. Enjoy your moms visit next month. Dave