Yerevan to Spitak 103km
Travelling as I am, through so many countries, and being on a bicycle, so close to how the locals live, and away from the tourist areas, I've begun to realise, that what we in the West regard as "Normal" is anything but for a huge majority of people living in other countries. Let's look at some examples:
- we drink from the kitchen tap,
- we cannot drink straight from the tap without a filter,
- we collect water from a communal well, which we have to hand pump,
- we collect water from the drain that runs down our street,
- we drink straight out of the polluted river.
- our shower runs hot 24 hours a day,
- we sometimes have a hot shower, normally it's cold,
- we use a bucket and ladle to wash,
- we wash in the river or sea,
- we sneak water from the back of the water delivery truck.
- our toilet is a European flush one,
- we use a squat toilet,
- we squat over a slot between planks in the floor,
- we squat behind a bush or rock.
- we eat rice every Sunday night with our Chinese Takeaways,
- we eat rice three or four times a day,
- our one meal a day is rice,
- rice is too expensive for us.
- corrupt Police,
- corrupt Government Officials,
- corrupt Contractors,
- corrupt Educators,
- corrupt Sports Administrators.
Police and Army
- seldom see a policeman or soldier unless they're behind a speed camera,
- police or soldiers at every major intersection,
- police or soldiers in pairs patrolling streets armed with long batons,
- police or soldiers armed with machine guns and side arms,
- police or soldiers patrolling in groups in fully armor, carrying sub machine guns,
- police or soldiers sitting behind high caliber weapons in Armed Personal Carriers at every intersection.
- I drive a Mercedes-Benz with tinted windows,
- my family travel in a 10 year old Nissan,
- I use my 30 year old Lada to transport my sheep and goats, watermelons, apples and grapes to market,
- I travel everywhere in a Mashuka. Sometimes they're crowded with 25 people trying to sit on the 12 seats,
- I transport my family of four everywhere on my Yamaha 125 step through motorbike,
- my 20 year old, single speed bicycle gets me and all my stuff everywhere I need to go,
- my donkey carries me and all my goods to and from the market,
- I walk everywhere carrying everything in my large wicker basket on my back
- we milk 200 cows twice a day, and they fend for themselves in fenced fields between times,
- my wife milks the cows and goats before sunrise, then I heard all 30 sheep, goats and cows, up into the mountain pastures. I stay with them, and heard them home just before dark,
- I work with my two buffalo ploughing the village rice paddies from dawn to dusk,
- my donkey and I are busy all day, going to market with goods, and collecting fodder for him from the roadside.
- I can travel freely anywhere in the world,
- getting visas and the cost of travel are really restrictive,
- I'm trying to emigrate to USA or Norway,
- I dream of travelling to the country just across that border,
- my world is my family and the 20 mudbrick huts of our village.
- our country have a working, manageable Waste Disposal programme. Our population are well educated and environmentally aware,
- we could do better, but there's no money in it for me, so I don't really care,
- shake that picnic blanket, and walk away. What's behind us we can't see nor worry about,
- sweep, sweep, sweep. Gather it all up and dump it in a waterway. The next rain will get rid of it,
- unwrap and drop, and keep on walking. Drop it out the car window and keep driving.
- trimmed and tidy verges and streets city wide,
- great major highways, with gravel side roads,
- broken footpaths, rough stoney road edges, dust, potholes,
- deep smelly drains between the road and your business premises.
- pets and or working dogs are part of the family,
- dogs are left to roam the streets at will,
- packs of dogs, who regard anything alive or dead as potential food,
- sleeping dogs, in the middle of the road, nothing disturbs them,
- aggressive, barking, growling dogs that chase cyclists.
- my wife and I sleep on our king size innersprung mattress, with a double electric blanket,
- my family and I sleep in the same room on Persian Carpets,
- my family of four and I sleep in our one roomed house on poles, on the floor. We don't have rugs or a mattress because it's really warm.
As I said, our "normal" is not the "normal" for so many people. I've seen every one of these "norms", and more, on this adventure. We don't realise how lucky we are.