Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 1.43.34 PMEvery culture is a spectrum; one can have everything that makes it vibrant and charismatic but perplexing and paradoxical at the same time. Today, I, along with a few fellow travelers, formed a small expedition group and had ourselves an adventurous shopping day trip down to Russia. Well-rested and light-spirited, we walked through the circle park, passed by the St. Gregory the Illuminator Cathedral, and finally reached “Russia Department Store”, ready to hunt down some nice knock-off purses and good-looking shades at the busy covered market. We were greeted by many eager merchants and were able to barter some decent prices, partly due to our peculiar foreigner looks, I suspect. Surprised and somewhat confused, Valerie and I were stopped by some strange Armenian ladies for a quick photo shoot session half-way through the market; I suppose it is a rare sight in Armenia to see a group of Asians walking around. It was the most interesting and almost flattering experience to see their extremely friendly and welcoming reactions to us. Not long after that, we were greeted by some passerby with enthusiastic “welcome to Armenia!” on our way back near the cathedral. Seeing that how hospitable and friendly Armenians were to foreigners, it was surprising, yet somewhat anticipated given our lack of language proficiency, to find out that we were absurdly overcharged for both our lunch and dinner at two different restaurants. Having to experience the slow service and failed communications, I wondered how much have I missed by not being able to speak their language and understand their culture? This same question I have been asking myself since we visited the various museums and monasteries; it was such a shame that even though I was impressed by everything that I have seen, not having enough knowledge of the language and history of Armenia hindered myself from achieving a deeper appreciation for their arts, artifacts, and architectures. It truly takes a humble and observant attitude to approach an unfamiliar culture, not only to respect the host of that culture, but to protect oneself as well. While our spirits were slightly dampened from our carelessness at the restaurants, it was nonetheless an exciting and satisfying day in Armenia.

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