It’s December. I’ve been in Alaska five months, during a pandemic. This Winter break, from the school district, is making think of where I would have gone, on break, if not for COVID-19. If I could get on a plane, tomorrow, my first flight would be to Armenia. I can almost taste the Red Curry, from the Thai Wine Republic, on Northern Avenue. The restaurant is directly across the street from the IBIS Hotel. There was a time, while I served in the Peace Corps, when I checked-in the IBIS each weekend.
After a month or so, the IBIS staff began gifting me fresh fruit. I would pack it away, for my return back to site. I knew everyone at the hotel, managers, bartenders, cooking staff, housekeeping, and the front desk. The hotel gave me birthday and Christmas gifts. The IBIS was truly my home away from home, my first year of service.
Once the Holiday Inn Express was built, I made a point to check out its grand opening. I missed the newly elected Prime Minister by ten minutes. The staff at the hotel was amazing and I told them that I would stay there on my next visit. I soon became a regular. The week before my Close of Service, from the Peace Corps, I booked a room for my host family and one for myself. I couldn’t see a way to say goodbye, in their home, and I wanted us to have one great last family memory.
My first choice for that final goodbye was the Best Westin Congress Hotel. Everyone in Yerevan still calls it The Congress. Whenever I took a taxi there, I’d have to give directions: Head pass the Yerevan Mall and turn left at the Doubletree Hilton. At the light, make a right and it’s the hotel pass the Mexican Embassy and the park. The cabbies would then always say, “The Congress!” The hotel was under construction and the pool was closed, when my Peace Corps service ended. I can’t wait to see my host family poolside there.
The Republica Hotel Yerevan was perfect for visiting guest. When my friend David Jarmul, (the Not Exactly Retired, author and blogger) and his wife, visited Yerevan, I suggested the hotel. I met David, a returned PC Nepal volunteer, while we were both employed at Duke University. David and Champa met, and fell in love, in Nepal, back in the late 1970s. After retirement, they are joined the Peace Corps and began serving in Moldova.
These days, what I miss most is my old room, with my host families. I would often visit my Pre Service Training (PST) host mom, during my two years of service. She lived a short hour from my permanent site, in Nor Kyank. Masis, my permanent site, is only 15 km from Yerevan. Peace Corps Armenia Volunteers were allowed to leave site, each Friday, after 2:00 pm. We had to return to site, before sundown, on Sunday. Our staff wanted us to get out and enjoy Armenia.
Next February will mark my four year retirement anniversary. During that time, I was able to travel to Armenia, England, the UAE, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Iceland, Ethiopia, and Zanzibar, before being evacuated from Peace Corps Ethiopia, March 2020.
I’ve got my ticket for the long way ‘round and this Ghetto Girl will travel again. —GGT