Portrait Series: Manvel

Manvel arrived in his white colored Opel to pick me up in front of the main square in Gyumri, right after I had a ponchik, a Nutella filled puff pastry. On our ride to Marmashen, less than a 30 minute journey, Manvel and I learned a lot about each other. He learned more than I did of course, as his curiosity why a 32 year old single (unmarried) man would choose to be traveling alone in such fashion. 

When we got to the monastery and I had gotten into my first handstand, he quickly remarked “eya” (woah). He had more questions and could not understand my sense of freedom and how I could permit myself such liberty. He soon started getting cold and wanted to leave, but I got carried away speaking to the mother and daughter (see story from last week). He quickly felt that he needed to save me from those conversations and interactions, as he was responsible for bringing me there. In fact, I was enjoying every moment of it and equally cold, I was not ready to leave. 

Manvel was restless, lighting up one cigarette after another. He got bored after a few minutes of being there. He couldn’t understand why I would want to stay at Marmashen monastery for more than 30 minutes anyway. He told me of his days when they used to pack food, lots of vodka and come up and sit at the picnic areas by Marmashen. I’m sure they spend endless hours in the afternoon there, but 30 minutes seemed to be too much time for learning, interacting, and connecting. 

He reminded me to respect the time of others and be compassionate of needs stemming from whatever source, which I might not have any idea about. Who knew what caused such behavior on his end. I reflected whether or not I was abusing my time there with him, but in that particular case I had paid for his services and hours (a considerable market amount). I respected his need to go and the fact that his excuse became “I am cold” made me respect his comfort, as well. I encouraged him multiple times to go wait in the car, but he jokingly said “he might go without me.” I knew he wouldn’t, but I knew he wanted to. So I respected his needs, put aside mine. This taught me that it’s ok to sometimes put one’s own wants and needs, to be compassionate and understanding for the needs of others (even if I felt I was in the right and he wasn’t). There was no conflict, no hard feelings, just smiles and more information gathering questions and suggestions to marry soon. He called me “axper jan” (brother) maybe 50+ times during those two hours we were together. 
He dropped me off at a central location and brought me where his friends were. Excited that I had taken his photo, he asked if I could take a few more with my “nice” camera and send them to our mutual friend. I took multiple ones and promised I would. I have not sent it to him yet. I will, but on my own terms, on my own time. 

Sometimes, you just got to do what makes you feel comfortable; right and good. Thanks Manvel for that lesson. 

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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