I have a new “favorite thing I’ve ever seen”. I’m sure that in the past I’ve said that something was the best thing I’ve ever seen, and whatever it was, it’s been dethroned. By what, you ask? The Grinch. The Yerevan Puppet Theatre version of the Grinch, to be specific.

A few weeks ago, I casually walked by the puppet theatre and saw a new show poster outside. Even though I didn’t understand everything on it, the picture was really all I needed. The Grinch, in all of his green, yarn-haired glory. At that moment, I decided I had to go. Honestly, I would have gone by myself if I had to, but everything is more fun with friends. Plus going to a children’s show solo is even weirder than three grown humans going to a children’s show without bringing any children.

Because how could you not take this picture??

Finally, I got some friends to nail down plans with me. My gosh, it’s hard to get people to commit to anything! My friend Olivia from work and another friend agreed to go. Olivia bought the tickets, and we were good to go! That morning, I sent a text confirming our meeting time with the two of them, and the other friend didn’t respond… Backup plan. Liz, other friend from work, was in the office on Friday, and I re-pressured her into coming with us. She had already said no back when we were figuring out how many tickets to buy, but I told her that it wasn’t going to be long, the tickets were super cheap (only about $2 each), and she would regret not going. Sold. She was in.

This is a horrible picture, but see how some of the seats are folded up for kids and others are down for grown people?

I know that I said Liz would regret not coming with us, but that was a statement based on nothing more than my own expectations for the production. I had no idea that those were actually some of the truest words ever spoken. From the moment we walked into the building, I knew it was going to be good. They were selling popcorn, and kids were running wild. Any theatre that you can eat in is definitely my kind of place… and it was good because I had picked up some snacks for us on the way which we were obviously going to eat no matter what, but it’s nicer when you know you’re not breaking any rules. Also, the seats in the theatre are genius. You can leave them folded up if you’re a kid and need an extra boost, and you fold them down if you’re a grown person.

Okay, the show. How do I even begin to describe the show? We really didn’t know what to expect going in. Since it was at the puppet theatre, did that mean it was going to be all puppets? No. No it did not. A girl with blue yarn hair came running into the theatre to start off the show, and it was nonstop action for 45 minutes after that. Best things about going to something intended for kids:

  • Food in the theatre
  • Audience participation is encouraged
  • Constant high energy because otherwise the kids get bored
  • Everyone speaks clearly because kids
  • The words they use are pretty basic because kids
  • Kids think everything is funny, so the acting is completely over the top
The whole crew

I’m sure I could keep going if I wanted, but basically, my major takeaway was that I should have started going to kids’ shows a loooong time ago. I even understood what was going on! The music was all the Christmas songs we know and love, translated into Armenian. The story was slightly different for cultural reasons. Here, people don’t exchange gifts on Christmas. That happens on New Year’s, and Christmas is celebrated on January 6th. I like this way much better because I’ve thought for a long time that gifts on Christmas take away from the fact that it’s about Jesus. That’s especially true for kids because as soon as presents are in the mix, they become the most memorable things. I think New Year’s presents are going to be my new approach to holiday gift-giving. Sorry, I know… I’m always getting sidetracked.

Which one am I? I’m such a good copier that I know it’s hard to tell

Anyway, since Christmas presents aren’t a thing, “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” doesn’t make much sense. They decided to go with the much more direct “Who Stole the Gifts?” for the title. The town is obsessed with the new year. They do not live in Whoville. Cindy Lou Who is Dzyun Anushik, aka sweet snow (kind of weird no matter what, but slightly less weird because Anush/Anushik is an actual name). Santa Claus is Dzmer Papik, aka Grandfather Winter. The Grinch hates the new year because he was born green (GREEN! *gasp*) and therefore had no friends, was loved by no one, and never got any presents.

The first song of the show was crazy and energy-filled, and I didn’t even care that they were people and not puppets. Then… song #2… PUPPETS. No clue why they were necessary (they really weren’t), but I’m never going to complain about something like that. The dog, Max, was also a puppet, handled by a puppeteer in a white jumpsuit and hood.

The Grinch, Max, and the puppeteer

It had everything I hoped for and more: stupid humor that the kids LOVED, audience participation, puppets, bad lip syncing, hilariously translated Christmas songs, PUPPETS, dancing, and a feel-good ending. And I understood most of it!

Curtain closing. Encore, encore!
Puppet displays
Like I said, the supermarkets are completely swamped. At this one, they had extra stock piled in front of all of the shelves so that they wouldn’t run out of things. One part hilarious, one part brilliant. And also much harder to navigate your way through the store because you simultaneously have more people and less aisle space.

When we left, we all agreed that it was valid to say that missing out on the show was something to be regretted. Thank goodness because I was just making that up to convince Liz to come. It was the perfect way to kick off the holiday season and holiday VACATION!

I’m so excited to have some time off work and to go to Lebanon! Work has been chaotic, and I can tell that I need a break. The construction project is coming along, and they think it should mostly be finished by the beginning of February! I can’t believe I’m going to get to see the finished product! Everyone takes off during the first week of the year between New Year’s and Christmas, so luckily that means I’m only going to miss a week of work for my trip which isn’t a big deal.

Otherwise, the city has been crazy with everyone getting ready for the holidays. All of the supermarkets are swamped, traffic is insane, and there are just people everywhere. I’m excited to experience the New Year’s festivities!

More light pictures! LOOK AT THIS
I think this is my favorite one so far
Inside a light ornament with Liz and Daniel, a guy from my language class

It was a gloomy, drizzly day. The sky was overcast, the air cold, the people sad and grey. Everything practically begged you to be depressed… except for one thing. The date. December 20th, 2017. The day when, twenty-something years ago, my life changed forever. SURPRISE! I’m talking about the day of my birth!!! I know, that was unnecessarily dramatic. But December 20th this year truly was a cold, gross, drizzly day, and if it wasn’t my birthday, I probably would have been as seasonally depressed as the rest of the city.

Work birthday balloons

If you know me, you know that I take birthdays VERY seriously. Not just my birthday, though that is one of my favorites, but anyone’s! Everyone’s! I love them. The fact that everyone has a special day where people just celebrate the fact that they exist is kind of awesome! People say, “Happy Birthday!” but they mean, “I’m going to have an awesome day because thanks to this day, you exist! And since I’m happy about that, you should be happy too! So happy day of your birth!” Okay, maybe that’s just me who thinks that… but that’s how I give my “Happy birthday”s in my head, so that’s how I’m choosing to receive them as well.

Anyway, my day started out with balloons at work! They got me balloons! But wait… that’s not all of the excitement that work brought… the ceiling was feeling jealous of the sky, so it decided to start raining too! Yup, that’s right. We sprung a ceiling leak about 15 minutes after I got to work. You know how people say it’s good luck when a bird poops on you? (Lies.) I think they also say that it’s good luck if the ceiling starts to leak on your birthday. (Completely made up.) If that’s the case, I’m going to have some incredible luck this year! Once the one leak was under control, a couple hours passed and ANOTHER one started up! It sounded like there was a downpour inside. I have no idea what happened, but they’re doing construction upstairs and chances are good that they messed up some pipes. I guess that’s one danger of having an office in a basement.

I don’t know how well you can see it, but there were two nonstop streams of water coming from the ceiling. I usually work in the room through that door.
This ceiling incision with a kitchen knife confirmed that there was, in fact, water above the ceiling in our actual office also

We also had a huge humanitarian aid distribution where something like 100 people came in to get packages, and after work, we ate cake! It was the birthday of someone else at the organization too, so there was a little joint celebration. Side note, I don’t think that birthday candles exist here because they basically just stick fireworks in the middle of their cakes. Okay, slightly dramatic again… they’re more like giant sparklers. But definitely not the kind of thing you’re supposed to blow out, unfortunately.

After work, I had the rest of the night planned. There happened to be an opera, so I figured, why not? Opera isn’t my favorite, but it’s still cool to go to the show and see the costumes and watch people fake die on stage. The storylines are also always completely ridiculous. This one was “Il Trotavore” (The Troubadour). It was kind of fun because there are subtitles to help you follow along… but they’re in Armenian. I got some good reading practice, and I completely understood one line in the whole opera! It was incredibly exciting.

As promised, here are some more pictures of the lights around the city. These ones are on Northern Ave
More of Northern
On the way to opera!

Here’s my attempt at a brief summary:

There is a gypsy woman who sneaks into the house of some rich people and weirdly stands over their baby’s crib. The kid starts falling apart, so the gypsy is burned alive for supposedly cursing him. She yells for her daughter to avenge her as she dies.

I also got a rose at work!

The daughter tries to do just that by throwing the rich people’s baby into the fire too, but she accidentally grabs her own kid and he dies instead. She keeps the other baby and raises him as her own.

Fast forward some number of years. The princess is in love with the fake gypsy boy (man?) aka the troubadour. The count, brother of the kidnapped kid (aka the now-grown gypsy man/troubadour), is in love with the princess. They don’t know they’re brothers. They get into a fight one night, and the princess hears a false rumor that the gypsy man was killed. She is devastated and does what anyone else would do in that situation… she decides to become a nun.

Gypsy man hears about this and goes to rescue her from the convent. He breaks her out, and off they go. Meanwhile, the count captures gypsy mother (fake mother of gypsy man). When gypsy man hears, he declares a war. He loses, and he and the princess get captured.

Christmas tree inside the opera house

The princess promises to marry the count if gypsy man is freed. The count agrees, and the princess poisons herself with some poison she had in her ring (is this a normal thing to have??). The poison is incredibly slow-acting because she stays alive long enough to go see gypsy man, tell him what she’s done, have a fight with him (why is he fighting with her?? She’s already definitely going to die), and spend at least five minutes singing about how she’s dying, she’s dying, yeah, yeah, yeah so just do it already! (I’m sorry, I don’t think I’m cut out for the opera. Things take too long to happen.)

Princess finally dies. Gypsy man is devastated, but that’s okay because he gets beheaded just minutes later when the count sees he’s been duped. Gypsy mother wakes up just in time to hear that her “son” has been killed, she tells the count that he killed his own brother, he falls to the ground in grief, and she cackles about the fact that her mother has finally been avenged. The End.

After that incredibly uplifting show, we went to this dessert restaurant that always results in a full-on sugar coma. I ate a brownie with ice cream on top and a chocolate shot on the side, and it was phenomenal. And I wanted to die afterwards, but that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

Zoe, Olivia, me, Liz, and Gabrielle with the opera poster
Some of the decorations in front of the opera house
Note the giant, red ornament that you can walk through
More opera decorations
Olivia the ice sculpture eskimo
Ready to inhale my dessert

The day was pretty perfect. There was some excitement at work, plus balloons and cake, we watched a bunch of people fake die while singing, I ate enough sugar to power me through the rest of my life, and I got to hang out with my friends. I have a bunch of friends who didn’t know each other, and it’s always fun when you can make your worlds collide. It didn’t seem like anyone hated each other, so we’ll call it a success! Anyway, it definitely wasn’t like any other birthday, but it was great!

I have a new obsession. My friend Victoria asked me if I wanted to go to the ballet with her last week, and I figured why not? You can get tickets for super cheap, and even though we got there only 15 minutes before the show started, we got decent seats in the 4000 dram section (about $8).

Awkward wedding cake. Maybe it’s just me who thinks that, but architecture is art which means we’re allowed to have different opinions.

The opera house isn’t one of my favorite buildings from the outside. People would probably disagree with me, but I think it’s blocky and kind of looks like a weird wedding cake. The inside was a pleasant surprise. While the outside looks bulky and heavy, the inside is a little more graceful and light. I think I also just have a problem with the exterior because of the lighting. I don’t think that I was as bothered before I saw it at night, but just like so much of the exterior lighting here, it’s almost painful to look at. Again, maybe that’s a me problem… but I really am not a fan. I wish I had a picture but am pretty sure I’ve avoided photographing it because I don’t want to have to look at it. I promise I’ll take one next time I’m there so you can either agree with me or decide that I’m a hard-to-please grump.

Inside the opera/ballet theatre.

Anyway, the building opened in 1933 and was designed by the Armenian architect Alexander Tamanian. That’s the same guy who created the master plan for the center of Yerevan as it is today. He did the master planning for a bunch of other Armenian cities too, including Gyumri and Stepanakert. The layout and buildings of Republic Square in Yerevan are his as well. I have some mixed feelings about his work, but I’ll keep those to myself for now. I’ve bored you enough for now with my opinions.

Me and Victoria with the ballet poster

Back to the ballet… Wow, I got very sidetracked… Okay, so Victoria and I decided to go without having any clue what it was about. It was called “Masquerade”, and that brings up pictures of fun parties and princes and such in my head. Safe bet, right? Wellllll… maybe not. Yes, it does include a very fun looking masquerade ball and a prince, but it’s no happy Cinderella story. Let me give you a plot summary (which is a fun mash-up of the summary in the program, one that we read online, and my own interjections).

Once upon a time, there was a man who was happily married to the love of his life. The man meets the prince who invites him to a masquerade ball. His wife is also there, but he doesn’t know that. Everyone is wearing masks that only cover the area right around their eyes, so obviously it is IMPOSSIBLE to tell who anyone is.

Quite ridiculous chandeliers, no? The ceiling looks like it’s covered in cake icing designs.

The woman loses her bracelet, and it is found by a baroness. The baroness has eyes for the prince, so what does she do with the bracelet that isn’t hers and she just found laying on the ground? She gives it to him, of course! And since she’s wearing such a confusing mask, he has no idea who she is.

The side balconies.

Meanwhile, there’s a very mysterious character who the program calls “The Unknown”. Victoria and I couldn’t decide if he was an actual person or just a personification of jealousy/anger/supernatural forces trying to prevent the happiness of the characters. He’s always lurking in the shadows, and it looked like he was the reason why the woman’s bracelet fell off. Oh, who knows.

The prince is all excited about his new women’s jewelry, so he shows it to the man. The man thinks it looks familiar but doesn’t realize it’s his wife’s until later that night when he sees that her bracelet is missing. He questions her, but obviously she doesn’t know where it is because that’s what it means to lose something.

The woman goes looking for her bracelet. The prince hears and thinks that she’s the one who gave it to him, and the baroness is afraid to tell him that it was actually her. The Unknown starts spreading gossip about the woman and the prince, and the man hears. He is furious and decides to do what anyone would do in this situation: publicly shame the prince and kill his wife. Duh because what other options did he have??

More crazy chandeliers and the frilliest curtains to ever exist.

He shames the prince by making it look like he cheated at a card game (supposedly… all we saw was the two of them dancing and then the prince tearing off his jacket and rolling on the floor in distress) and goes home to poison his wife’s ice cream. What a way to add insult to injury, right? Did it have to be the ice cream? After he poisons her and she’s dying, he tells her what he did and why. Her claims of innocence are ignored, and she dies.

The next day, the baroness and the prince come to clear up the confusion. The man is horrified when he realizes that he killed his innocent and beloved (though not beloved enough for him to believe that she wasn’t lying to him) wife and rolls around on the ground in distress (that’s apparently what you’re supposed to do when you’re upset. I’ll have to give it a try sometime). The End.

If you’re thinking, “huh?” then you’re on the right track. Maybe I’m not an artsy or cultured enough human to fully appreciate the storyline, but my response was something along the lines of, “DUDE, CHILL OUT.”

So much frillage

That aside, I enjoyed the show. The music was beautiful. It was all composed by Aram Khachaturian who is the pride and joy of Armenia even though he was born in Georgia but SHHHH! He composed the music for a bunch of ballets (and other things), and one of his songs from the ballet “Gayane” (Sabre Dance) is so mainstream that you’ve probably heard it before.

The orchestra did a fabulous job, and the sets and costumes were nicely done too. There were a few parts where they used this big projector screen that I thought took away from the performance and wasn’t necessary, but otherwise it was good. The dancing wasn’t like the ultimate best ballet I’ve ever seen (I’m saying that like I’m some ballet expert, which I’m not, but I do know a few things), but I still enjoyed it. Honestly, I would have gone just for the music, so everything else was just a bonus.

In conclusion, the music was great, the building was sparkly, the dancing was fine, and I’m going to buy as many $8 ballet tickets as possible before I leave.

The hallway on level 3 where our seats were (still definitely not a bad view!)
We obviously spent a little time frolicking around the building like ballerinas because that’s what you do after you go to see a ballet. Luckily, people cleared out pretty quickly, so we had some privacy.