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How I Fell in Love With an Armenian

It's early April and I'm in Fındıklı, a small town in Eastern Turkey located on the Black Sea. The name of this town literally translates as "place of hazelnuts". Last year, I already drove past this town and its huge amounts of nuts drying along the roadside under the late summer sun. Careful readers might have a question now: Why are you there again, Maria?


Life Happens When You're Making Plans


Right now, at this very moment, I have a valid visa for transiting Russia. It expires on 10th April. By then, I originally wanted to be in Kazakhstan already. I haven't planned very much on this trip, but this year is really turning out quite differently than I had imagined. Life has grabbed and shaken me and my plans, reminding me that I'm not really the one in charge here.


How I Fell For an Armenian


On the second day of this year, something happened that led to a huge change of plans. It happened while I was travelling in the southern area of Armenia, outside its capital Yerevan: I fell in love again.


Oh, these dark brown eyes and this short, black hair! With his long legs, a shy posture, far too skinny given that it was a very cold winter day, and with his body wobbling like a samba dancer, he approached the van along the country road. By doing so, he unlocked a variety of emotions within me that had remained untouched for quite a long time before. By now, Vedi is a permanent member of the team.


Pictures by Sophie


Travelling With a Dog - What a Stupid Idea!


To be honest, I cursed this moment quite often in the following weeks. Time and again I thought about having my own dog, but I always knew exactly what comes with it: years of commitment, restrictions in everyday life, restrictions when travelling, costs, responsibility, the amount of time and so on. I therefore took Vedi with me to watch him and to see how compatible we were. The answer? I really couldn't - and I still can't - imagine a better dog.


In Despair


And although, of course, I had to practice a lot with Vedi and he had and still has a few issues that we have to get under control, the biggest problems I had were rather organisational. I know hell a lot now about vets and documents, titer tests and border crossing regulations. If any of you want to adopt a dog from the Caucasus: Hit me up, I know it all.


It took week after week before Vedi was allowed to leave Armenia for Georgia and until he was dewormed, chipped, vaccinated and neutered. One month in Armenia turned into more than two and although the bills were moderate compared to Europe, the expenses regularly put a dent in my savings. But at least I knew that beforehand. That dog food is ridiculously expensive in Armenia is something I had to find out the hard way. I'm lucky that he likes to eat potatoes from time to time. And I'm thankful for my dog-loving family and friends, who also supported me financially.


For a while, every phone call with the vet made my pulse race. There aren't many things that make me angry, but poor communication and misinformation do. I only found out about further delays whenever I went to the next appointment. This is due next week, that is due in three weeks and four weeks later: Oh, that needs to be done in two weeks too! With each appointment, my plans were postponed further and further and finally cancelled. Going to Georgia again, doing another workaway there, snowboarding in Svaneti and backpacking through Azerbaijan - all of this was in my mind until I painfully had to let it go.


Traveling Goes on - With Detours


Eventually I didn't just change my plans, I capitulated. I accepted everything almost stoicly and for a while I didn't plan any further than the following week. The flow that I had been in up until then vanished and for the last three months I have been stumbling through my daily travel routine, sometimes more and sometimes less.


But apart from Vedi, there are also a few other reasons, mostly political, why I can't continue travelling as I had planned. The Azerbaijani land borders are closed to begin with, so I can't travel into the country by car, and Iran is too risky for me personally at the moment for various reasons. In Russia, on the other hand, there seem to have been repeated arbitrary arrests, including German citizens, not to mention the very specific risks of the Dagestan and Chechnya regions, through which I would have travelled on the shortest route from Georgia to Kazakhstan.


I know roughly what this year will look like for us, but if there's one thing I've learnt, it's that this plan is just as fragile as all the previous ones. I'll give it away anyways. For this month and the upcming one, I'll be travelling through the south-eastern Kurdish regions of Turkey. Afterwards, I'm travelling back to Armenia via Georgia to spend the summer months there in the mountains and work on my own projects (stay tuned!). In September, I'd like to travel to Azerbaijan, which I hope will open the country's borders again when the opportunity arises, and from October to December I'm lucky enough - and I'm really looking forward to this - to work for a newspaper in German language based in Almaty in Kazakhstan. With or without my van? I have no idea. But with Vedi, and I wouldn't want to change that for a thing.

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