Our guest had some less-than-kind remarks about where he had stayed, at the city center hostel, happy to be able to leave the place. Leaving all that behind, we journeyed to Echmiadzin, visiting the churches of St. Hripsime, St. Gayane, and the main cathedral. Especially impressive to the traveler, who was in Armenia for the first time, was St. Hripsime and its classic dome, almost being more impressed by when it was built, some 1400 years ago, than with the actual construction.
Back in Yerevan, as we ate lahmajoon on Tumanyan Street, he told me of a conversation he had had the evening before with some young, well educated Hayastantsis. “They told me that most in their generation were getting good educations and learning foreign languages for one reason...to be able to leave Armenia. And this is the generation that should be building Armenia’s future, I thought to myself. When I asked them why, their reason was simple: ‘everything is mafia here,’ they said.’
Walking towards the area of the National Opera building, we passed the small lake and towards the side of the building, where tickets are sold. It happened that some sort of scuffle was going on, in the area of the Opera Club. A middle-aged man was shouting at some youths and chasing them from the club, or so it seemed, when one of the youth appeared from up above, with a well-pummeled, bloody face. As he began chasing somebody, the police entered the scene, running after the youth.
“My first comment is this,” our guest said. “Why is a club like this part of the Opera complex? And second, look at the quality of the young people gathered here, who are obviously working for or frequenting this club. It would be nice if this type would leave the country, not the ones I was talking to last night. It’s hard to believe that there are Armenians who have sunk to this level.”
“Does Armenia have hope?” he asked.
“Good question,” I answered.