Armenia · life · Philosophy

Portrait Series: Rafael

Rafael was 30 minutes late, understandably so. The roads are unpredictable, moreover, with good Armenian fashion, early or on time is not considered fashionable. Already accustomed to time being relative in this region, plus living in Barcelona for so long, this did not bother me at all. In fact, there was no hard feeling as he stepped out of his car, helped us with our backpacks with a huge smile on his face displaying his gold tooth, which complimented his fair skin and blue eyes.  

At the beginning of our ride, before we hit the beautiful green rolling hills of the North, our conversation had not flourished. As we reached the town of Abaran, we talked of love, life and the infamous mobsters and their disgustingly large houses unfit on the roadside, in the middle of nowhere. He spoke of how the villagers paid respect to these gogher (literally burglar in Armenian) with chicken, lamb, some money or whatever they pull gather. That way they receive the protection from the town gogh. Sounding all archaic for me I wanted the topic changed as it frustrated me hearing about this sorrowful reality. 

He moved on to speak of his wife so dearly and asking me why I’m not married – a typical Armenian conversation starter. I quickly avoided that conversation. 

We reached Alaverdi. He dropped us off. That was the end of our interaction. The two important lessons I learned from Rafael was that one can tell how much one loves by the way one speaks of someone. Second, the best lessons in Armenia (or elsewhere) are given by the wise who have lived their life. They offer a perspective that is unlike any travel guide book. Seek those experiences and find yourself a Rafael, look into his eyes and learn through their words what they have seen with those eyes. 

As part of my 30 day meditation and course in Buddhism at the Kopan Monastery in Nepal, I have decided to give voice to the people who have come into my life during this journey, as well as, the lesson they’ve left behind with our interaction.  Since I am not permitted the use of technology during these thirty days of silence, I have accompanied their portraits with a brief story. 

Read more about the Silent Meditation at Kopan Monastery by clicking here

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