Never in my life have I seen geysers. I remember this paper I have written about them in high school: a study of geysers in Yellowstone. It was fake from the very beginning, there was no real scientific study and all the results were bullshit. What I didn't know at the time is that nothing is never real enough until you hitchhike to it.
Or maybe nothing is real enough until you've hitchhiked to it with Nata and Poly. You can push the limit of your expectations endlessly. Nobody will stop you, they'll just become a little absurd.
Today our plan isn't absurd, we just want to see geysers under the stars.
It is normal to make mistakes in life and it is normal to make mistakes during a trip. Some mistakes are free, some cost everything. This mistake demanded a fair price by Armenian standarts at least.
We went to Jermuk, a town built on hot springs. The water there is very hot and has lots of minerals in it, whatever that means. Healing water, that was Poly's favourite subject together with healing energy and whatever magic that mostly works in Harry Potter. But Poly is still alive and healthy so that's proof of something isn't it? I shouldn't despise her theories just because they don't look scientific enough.
8 kilometers from Jermuk, accross a few rivers that we had to get our feet wet to cross, we finally got to those hot springs. A geyser was erupting every few minutes and the water was warm. A dozen of guys were eating shashlik and drinking vodka. They've invited us to join them.
The girls don't drink and don't eat meat. I didn't mind a solid dinner so why not. It was brief, I ate two big portions of shashlik and manage to refuse all drinks except three little shots of vodka. Industrial 40% vodka, in this region you might as well call that water.
We decided to put up a tent about 100 meters from the drinking party, light a fire and wait for them to leave. Afterwards, we will go into the geysers under the stars. What could be more perfect. None of the guys had tents so they can't stay here very long, the night is coming. Of course they told us to stay and they kept talking about how dangerous it is out there with bears, wolves and stuff.
"Yes yes, thank you, Schnorhakaljutzun, you're very wise, now we'll go somewhere else where you won't bother us". You can't reason with people who think they know the truth too much. Just to be safe, the girls pretended not to speak russian. Therefore I would be the main communicative pipe and if they want to get to them they'll go through me. It went pretty well except for the absurd fact that I was playing russian-english interpret for two russian native speakers.
I wanted to hide our camp more, to go deeper into the woods where the guys could not see the fire but Nata was afraid of the wild animals and I don't think Poly wanted to go very deep too.
I can't argue with Nata yet, she is still too impressive, I'm still too fascinated by her to put my point accross. Little did I know that it is actually quite hard, in general, to convince Nata that things should go differently than she thinks, especially with Poly on her side.
So we camp there and soon the guys find us. Two or three of them come and say hello, offer vodka, take back their vodka and spend ten minutes repeating that it is dangerous out there and wolves and bears and whatever. I translate it to the girls who nod to my approximate translation, sometimes I just speak random english.
Nata is my wife and Poly my sister. They're both from france. It doesn't matter we speak english, they can't distinguish french from english anyway.
Then they leave again. Poly goes to sleep, me and Nata wait till midnight. Some guys are leaving, a few of them still remain. We decide to go anyway.
Nata just briefs me on the two most important sentences: "My khotime pobit adni." and "Stavte nas adni", leave us alone.
Not too complicated you could think but this is without knowing how stubborn Armenians are. When me and Nata got to the springs and explained that we want to take a bath in the hot springs under the stars, we are husband and wife, newlyweds, probably on our honeymoon should I draw you a picture or what?
Yes probably because the fucking armenians kept going on about how dangerous it is with all these bears and wolves and how could we leave our sister out there 100 meters from here. Let's call our sister back, let's wake her up, no matter that she's sleeping.
No discussion, our vegetarian tired to death sister would be better off in the middle of drunk and loud guys and a ton of beef meat.
No problem with that, no problem at all.
Bears, wolves, bears wolves, they don't talk about anything else. Had I been a bear I would start eating their meat provisions staying in large quantities by the fire. Assholes.
After a tiring discussion which was more like looping through sentences "bears wolves dangerous" "leave us alone" and "we want to be alone" they finally left us bathe into the geysers.
It was really beautiful, you could see the milky way, not a cloud in the sky and from under, just the bubbling water from the geyser. Single most romantic moment in my life, even considering the fact that Nata is not my girlfriend.
Every few minutes the geyser heats up the water, we're in a hot bath.
Flash back to reality, here goes gravity, here goes the flashlights and assholes again. "Are you safe? Do you need help?" What fucked up question is that? Are you fucking serious?No we don't need help, we are naked in the fucking geyser stop shining your fucking light stick at us, don't you have any shame? Nata jumps out of the water and I hide her with a towel. The guy offers us his jacket. Fuck your jacket, do you understand the notion of privacy you stupid stubborn Armenian? How the hell will you find yourself a girlfriend or will you just buy one on the street because it's cheaper than to learn some manners?
Yes, one stupid stubborn Armenian and where is the other? They were two right? Nata is the first to notice. Isn't the other one with Poly? Oh my god are they really that annoying? Did they really separate in order to try to protect poor Poly who wishes nothing else but a good night's sleep? No they didn't, I cannot believe that. I just can't.
But you know what? They really did. We ran to our camp with Nata, still dressing up on the way. I hope this other asshole didn't wake up Poly, god let's hope he didn't do anything to her.
And then we see him, sitting next to her tent, repeating over and over the same fucking sentence "Wolves, Bears, Dangerous, come out".
I am sorry I didn't have time to describe Poly in detail but know that she is the person with the most patience I know to date.
An example, when we met, just before departure. She waited three hours for me, worrying if something bad hadn't happened. When we met, she just threatened to circumcise me and that was it. Next minute, she was all smiley.
In this situation, it was way over the top. The guy was shaking half-asleep Poly's tent for thirty minutes.
For thirty minutes, the conversation was one endless loop:
"Let me be! Let me sleep!"
"It's dangerous, there are bears and wolves! Come to the main fire!"
"Please go away! go away!"
Tent shaking. Go to first line of dialog.
Poly was so angry she switched to russian. This way she broke her cover but the Armenian asshole was too drunk to notice anyway. He was too drunk to think about anything else than fucking bears and wolves.
"What the hell do you think you are doing here?", I ask the guy who is sitting in front of Polys tent. I hear Poly's voice. "Go away!!"
The guy seems calm, he does not see any problem whatsoever.
"It is not good to leave your sister in the woods like that. There are bears and wolves. You are lucky that I am here.", he answers me, calm as a man can be.
"Get this asshole out of here!", says Poly.
I tell him that everything is fine, that we want to be alone, that our lives are ours to live or to lose and that we are more afraid of people than wild animals.
He insists that we should join them at the fire and keeps looping his wild animal talk.
Is he for real? Unfortunately yes, he is.
At last he leaves and we go to sleep after apoligising to Poly who is just glad to be left alone. At this point, if there was any fear of being eaten by wolves, it completly dissapeared. If I opened my tent and saw a bear, I would be so relieved that it's not one of these two assholes.
2 AM, my tent is shaking. Those assholes again. We pretend to sleep, fuck them. Poly and Nata sleep in the other tent. Their tent is shaking too. No reaction.And then, suddenly, into the silence of the night, I hear screaming. It's Natalia's voice and this is the sound of despair.
"No please no! Pleeaase! Pleaase!" She is crying. She is screaming. There is panic in her voice. Panic and despair, it's horrible. "Please, please!" She is begging for mercy. No doubt in my mind this is rape. I never wanted to witness that but here it is. These two armenian guys are raping Natalia. She is helpless. She is a proud person, she is brave and selfless and they are raping her for amusement. They are raping my fiancée and she is begging them to stop. No person alive should witness this. It is inhumane. And suddenly I know that I cannot live with myself if I let this happen. There is no life beyond that. There is no rational decision to make. Thinking about state justice is bullshit. There is no state justice here. I take out my knife and pepper spray and for the first time in my life, I am going to kill somebody. I will go to that Armenian asshole and I am going to cut his throat. And I am going to do that now.
I am not a human being anymore, I am an object, I am a weapon. I might fail, I might break, but one thing I might not do is to think. I will not get hurt because I am an object. I will not panic because I am an object. I will not defend myself because I am an object. I will just go and cut this guy out of reality like you cut a weed that annoys you.
I get out of my tent and I see Natalia. She is on her knees, she is begging the guys. They are in front of our tents, in front of our dead fire, it's burning a little. Nata is crying.The guys are as calm as still water. Natalia runs into my arms. I am afraid. I wouldn't think I would be afraid. And then she says: "It's an act. Everything is allright, I am just trying to scare them."
I am completly surprised for a few seconds, my reality shifts. I am happy that Nata was not raped. I am happy that I don't have to fight, let alone kill someone. I am still anoyed that the two assholes are still there. I know only one person who would have the idea to play such a scenary. And that person is me. I can't help thinking that me and Nata share some common very original features but there is no time for these thoughts.
And the assholes are not scared. A woman crying in despair, begging them to go away doesn't move them a bit.
"We are cold", says one of the guys, "We don't have any warm clothes and we didn't bring a tent. We are cold."
Assholes. How the fuck does their brain work? First they annoy us with morals about how it's dangerous with all the bears and wolves. They tell us how we are naive and inexperianced to camp there against their better judgement. And finally they come to us and ask us for shelter because they didn't bring warm clothes to the mountains. How lame is that?
"My Zamrzli", they repeat. Fucking Armenian assholes.
There is no solution except one. Well I have one and Nata has one. Mine is to pepper spray them and leave them somewhere in the forest. Nata's is to give them one tent. Nata wins.
Contrary to the asshole guys, I just cannot argue with my fake fiancée who just got fake raped. Plus, she is right. We give them a tent and a blanket and go to sleep in the other tent. We hear them snoring. Victory!
We didn't sleep much, there is no space in that tent. I wake up before the girls do and see them making fire and bringing some lavash, armenian bread.
"Did you sleep well?", they ask. They are not ironic. They really don't see any problem in their behaviour. On this kind of trip, we don't make waves, we play nice, we give a chance to other cultures. But this? No way, I cannot live with myself if I don't explain to these guys that what they have done is wrong. I'll try to retrace the conversation.
ASSHOLES: Did you sleep well?
ME: What do you think?
ASSHOLES: ...ME: No, we didn't, the girls were afraid.
ASSHOLES: Yes they are wolves and bears, we told you, you didn't want to listen.
ME: They were afraid of you
ASSHOLES: Of us? Why? We are good people. Tell them not to be afraid. We are here to protect you.
ME: When a girl tells you to stop one time and you continue, that's OK, when she tells you two times to stop, that's OK. When she tells you ten times to stop and go away and you shake with her tent, that is not good.
ASSHOLES: Your sister has to understand we want to protect her. She shouldn't be afraid of us.
ME: It is called freedom. Our life is ours. Giving a choice to a person is called respect. It's like democracy. You armenians of all people should know that.
I thought respect is an international word but it is not. These guys have no idea of its meaning, maybe it doesn't even exist in their vocabulary.
ME: I'm dissapointed by your behaviour. I thought you were good people.
ASSHOLES: So you think we are not good people?
ME: I don't know. If you shake a girl's tent and she doesn't want to then maybe you are not good people, how can I know.
ASSHOLES: You don't know bad people. You know if we were bad people we could have killed you. We could kill all of you, like that!
Passing Turkey, you just learn not to be impressed by death threats. Avoiding death is important, avoiding threads is just recommended.
ME: Do you want to kill me?
ASSHOLES: ... no but we could kill you.
ME: If you want to kill me, then go on, kill me.
ASSHOLES: Why? We don't want to kill you.
ME: You didn't kill us but you are killing our freedom. That is why I am dissapointed.
ASSHOLES: Ok, sorry. If you want us to go away, we will call our taxi. Sorry, we didn't think we did anything wrong, we are good people.
ME: Tell that to the girls, they have been wronged.
My russian vocabulary has reached it's limits. But I'm glad that they apoligised to Natalia. We shake hands.
"Haper", they say, "Brother"
They offer us all of their food as a sign of apology. I don't touch any of it. I am not taking hospitality from assholes.
Assholes or cultural clash? The opinion is yours.