If you are from the countries with no snow, for the entire year. One of the things you probably wonder is what does it feel like to touch or see snow actually. And most probably you've already seen snow on TV. Movies and shows. But you haven't experienced it. That's how I have been. Until the opportunity came last year 2016.
I initially planned to stay in Dubai for "laag" or "lakwatsa" and bond with my friends who are already working there (shoutout to my awesome harshfriends and gentle friends in Dubai!). Then, most of them recommended or prodded me to visit either Georgia or Armenia. Countries, I've only heard, but didn't have any idea, what it looks like or what is there. Then, after some prodding (although I really wanted the idea), I did agree. Ms. K (idol!) helped me book the hostel where I will be staying and my e-visa application. I then managed to book my ticket via Fly Dubai.
So, if you are asking, is it possible for any pinoy to go to Armenia? Yes. 99%! We are allowed e-visa or even Visa on arrival in Armenia. For convenience sake, I applied online. I got the e-visa the day before my flight to Armenia from Dubai. How much did it cost me? $7.00 I believe. I just printed the e-visa and presented it while I walked at the immigration of Armenia as if I am a permanent resident or a citizen (wink).
It's my first time to be in this part of the world. Upon arrival, I can fee the coldness. It's seven degrees. Yeah, for some people it's not that cold, specially for those who live countries where snow is a common phenomenon, but for me, it's freezing cold!!! Ooops, and I was in my t-shirt and plain pants. No winter clothes on yet. So you can imagine the chilling. Add to that the anxiety of a stranger in a country where not much English is spoken. How's that for an adventure?
Don't get me wrong, nowadays, Filipinos are going to Armenia for "exit" for visa purposes from Dubai, and some of them, even work there. Can you believe that? Yes, I have met one in the airport who have been working in Armenia for 5 years. And she caused much of my anxiety, as she said, I shouldn't have gone alone without reservation for transport from airport to the hotel. 🙁 I acted unperturbed, but there's a fear inside. I just shrugged it off and yeah, f*ck-it, let's-do-it mode was on. Yep. I tried talking to airport people, and not much understood me, until the guy who was looking for passengers to transport from airport to Yerevan tried to talk to me in broken English with Russian accent. I can still remember telling him "One Way Hostel" and he nodded "Yes." I repeated, take me to this hotel, please, do you know this? He said, "Yes, VAN VEY HOSTEL, I know" What? Not VAN VEY! It's "One WAY!", then I realized, it must just be the pronunciation. But I imagined some negative images while on the taxi going to Yerevan. I was like, O oh! Ever watched "Hostel"? That's what keep flashing on my mind!
Then, upon arrival at Yerevan, I was welcomed by the Archaic feel and structure. But I can see the disparity of Armenia and Dubai. Armenia is like an old city. But, it's beautiful. I was apprehensive, when the driver said we have arrived. And he took me to the almost dilapidated building (according to my view, me being coming from Dubai with elegant and luxurious buildings). Ah! I saw the sign, "One Way Hostel". As I climbed up to the 5th floor, I can see the stairway was really shouting for repair. Yep, you'd think twice whether to step up or just go look for another place. But I can't do that, I am on a budget! I need to consume what I paid through booking! Ah! This is adventure!
I was catching my breath still when I opened the door. The lady on the front desk of the hostel greeted me with a smile. Asked if I have a reservation. I showed her the booking, and she said "Oh, it's the other one. It's not this one. You go straight and look for another One Way Hostel. Just straight from this street!" I was like what? With my luggage? Going there? (Take note, I was carrying my luggage as there was no elevator, just imagine the gasping while I was climbing up to the 5th floor, with say 20 kg luggage).
Alright! The adventure is not yet over! IT has just began! I walked as instructed. I used googlemaps. Yes. I had no choice. I connected to the internet. EXPENSIVE! But I had no choice. I didn't buy a simcard yet. So yes, on for the financial adventure with Internet Charges! But, I did find the place. On my way, I was wondering, why the people of Yerevan were quite aware of my presence. I mean, they really are looking at me. Looked at my luggage, and maybe how I was dressed? I'm not sure. But they really are seemingly curious. Hmmm, I thought, oh, is our race banned in this place? LOL! NegativeS! Where did I get that?
Then, I arrived at the other branch of my hostel. And yes, it's the right one this time. I was welcomed, ushered to my room, oriented with house rules, and was allowed to rest or do whatever I want.
So this is it! Thought to myself. What's amazing is, when I entered the lobby, Filipinos are there. They were talking. I felt some sort of relief, that Filipinos are here too. I went out of my room. Talked to the kababayans a bit. And went back to the room and relaxed (rested). After an hour or so, I went out of the room and asked if I could buy some food nearby. I was told there are supermarket and other stores around the square. I went out of the hostel, this time, with the winter jacket on! Yep! Excited to use em.
I can still see people looking at me. So when I went back to the hostel, I asked the kababayans, "Bakit ganun sila makatingin?" (why do they look at us like that?" and the answer was, "Kasi minsan lang sila makakita ng kalahi natin" (They rarely see someone our race here). And I asked, what about the security here? I was relieved when I learned that there's a relatively low crime rate in Yerevan. And quite honestly, in my few days of stay, I realized, my fears were unfounded and clearly a myth and a fruit of my wild imagination. I was thinking way too negative. I started realizing, people were actually quite nice. They try to talk to us even when they struggle speaking in English. And yes, the do give some smiles.
What's even more fun are the giggles of the school children when I say "Hi" to them or "Hello". And, yeah, we were surprised that they too wanted a picture with us? Yeah, a group of Armenian asked our group (me and my new found friends) to have a picture with them. At first, we thought they wanted to request one of us to take a picture of them, but it turned out, they wanted to take pictures, with us! Celebrity feels! HA!
So where's the snow? It's in Tsakhgadzor. See the photos of the experience here.