Saturday, August 16, 2008

#56- Pashinyan - The Other Side of the World

56. մի տնից չենք, մի հալի ենք
Վարդանը, իրոք, աշխատում էր կորեացիների հետ: Չոն, իրոք, նրանց ղեկավարն էր:

The Other Side of the World - N. Pashinyan

56. We’re not related, but we’re in the same situation

Vardan did, in fact, work with Korean. Cho, in fact, was the foreman. And Hom was a real person. They did, indeed, understand each other, as much is it was necessary to get along and work together. Vardan, Cho and Hom were the three permanent members of this construction group. Depending on the volume of work, they either hired new workers or did the work themselves. At the time we met, they were working on a fairly large site, which was to be a night club or a bar; they had hired three other Koreans for the job. Vardan had talked with Cho on the phone about the tiles in the bathroom, an area of about 10 square feet. Vardan had placed the tiles on the wall himself. That left the floor, which Vardan promised to finish that day. It was doubtful whether he would make it.

I had nothing to do and being curious, I asked Vardan to take me with him, especially when I found out that the place where they were working was available to them and was not far from “McDonalds.” Cho and Hom greeted me politely and went to work. I found a box, and sitting down on it, I was watching to see how Vardan worked. Vardan spoke with a heavy heart, it seemed like there was a worry behind each word, something that weighed them down. Fit seemed to me that he was thinking of totally different things as he spoke: his home, his family, about Yerevan. He had left Armenia 4 years ago, leaving his wife, his son and daughter. He had sold the car he owned and left. He had first gone to Sweden, from there to Germany, then to France and from there to Japan:

“I said I was going somewhere where I wouldn’t see an Armenian’s face,” Vardan explained the reason he had come to Japan and said that he had gotten lucky and met an honest man like Cho. The latter, as far as I could find out, had escaped from Northern Korea and gone to Southern Korea and from there he had come to Japan with the hope of earning an honest living. The area, by that I mean the area where they worked testified that their business was picking up although I wasn’t sure if they were working legally or illegally—probably in the middle. Cho took care of Vardan’s documents. The three of them lived together in a room they had rented from a retired couple and spent the night there, under the same roof”

“The old folks are deaf, brother. Till late in the night they turn the television as high as it can go; we can’t sleep normally,” complained Vardan.

Ultimately, what had brought him to Japan? Vardan was disappointed in the way the European Armenians related to each other:

“Brother, they hate each other. Those who had come during the massacres hate the ones who had immigrated during the Soviet period; those who had immigrated during the Soviet period hate those who had immigrated during the massacres. But most of all, they hate those who had immigrated during the Karabagh war. These, who had immigrated during the war, also hate those who had immigrated before, but above all they hate those who had come after the war. And those who had come after the war hate the ones who had come after them. I really mean it; the person who had immigrated yesterday, if he sleeps and wakes up in Europe for one night, hates the one who comes the next day,” observed Vardan.

“But why is that so, Vardan,” I was curious.

Vardan explained, without interrupting his work:

“Well, there’s an anecdote you might have heard of. So these people are in an airplane, when the stewardess comes and says, ‘brother, there are three people too many, and the plane is overloaded. If we don’t decrease the number of passengers by three, we’ll all be going down. The commander,’ she says, ‘is asking for three volunteers to fly off the plane.’ Everyone is quiet. Then all of a sudden, an Indian stands up, says ‘long live India’ and flies off. Then a Spaniard gets up, says ‘long live Spain’ and flies off. Everybody is waiting to see who the third one will be. But there’s no movement. The stewardess says, ‘brother, do something, we’re going down.’ That’s when the Armenian stands up, looks at the black sitting next to him, and says, ‘you animal, don’t you have a fatherland?” and throws him off the plane.”

We laughed.

“But what does that have to do with the hatred of Armenians,” I asked.

“What do you mean, brother? To the Armenians in Germany who are on that plane, it seems that when Vardan went from Yerevan to Dresden, Dresden became overloaded because Vardan was that extra passenger, and because of him they would all have gone down. And these people, my brother, start to explain to Vartan, ‘brother, don’t you have a fatherland? You’ve come here like a homeless person and you’re taking us down with you.”

Vardan started to laugh; he was laughing so hard.

“Why are you laughing, Vardan?”

“And don’t they have a fatherland, brother? I mean, is the Fatherland only for blacks? And those Garbises, brother, those Akhbars, haven’t they had a fatherland? Why have they left their fatherland? In fact, it’s Vardan who is the traitor against the fatherland,” although still laughing, Vardan was saddened and was saying, “and you know what? All the Armenians living in Europe call Armenia their Fatherland.”

“Why are you surprised,” I asked.

“Brother, what is the fatherland?” asked Vardan and answering, “The fatherland is your child, the fatherland is your wife, if you have a girl friend, and the fatherland is your girlfriend, you friends. If you’ve taken your wife, children, father and mother and gone to France, then how is Armenia your fatherland? And if you don’t break bread with your friend once or twice a year, then in what way is he your friend? Am I not telling the truth, Borig?”

“I guess so. And then? How did you get to Japan?” I continued.

“Brother, first I went to Switzerland. I figured, no, Switzerland will drown under my weight. Then Germany; I realized that there was no place for Vardan here, either. Then I went to Paris, my brother, Paris became overloaded, too. Then I said, brother, you’ll have to go to such a place where you won’t see an Armenian face, I thought, and said, that would be Japan. Although some Armenian guys in Vladivostok took me under their wing so that I could get here; those guys dealt in cars, you know,” said Vardan.

For a year and a half, he hadn’t been able to send a single penny home. The last couple of years, after he started working with Cho, he was content, and had been able to send a lot of money home, and paid off his family’s debts. After working as a common laborer for the last year and a half, Vardan had become a master at his craft and his reputation had grown. But, he said, he always kept aside enough money to be able to get to Yerevan.

“Although, I won’t go back until I have the means to buy a nice car. I sold the car to be able to come here, so I should at least go back with a better car,” explained Vardan.

The interesting thing is that he wasn’t thinking of moving his family to Japan. There were two reasons. First, even though the children were still of school age, they wouldn’t be able to learn Japanese so that they could feel equal to others here. And then, Vardan shared another secret:

“Brother, this isn’t a country; here, they all screw each other; there is no forgiveness, and you don’t get a break.”

Talking about the relationship between him and the Koreans Vardan said something that was really moving:

“How can we not understand each other; we’re not from the same family but we’re in the same situation.”

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