ARKHANGELSK: "I served in the armed forces in Armenia and the smell of coffee is everywhere there. People there drink coffee in all situations. It was there that I learned understood what coffee is," said Alexander, 29, who was working the coffee-to-go kiosk he owns on the pedestrian street in Arkhangelsk. Such freshly-brewed coffee kiosks can now be found in most major Russian cities, but three years ago they basically did not exist. Since then, they have sprung up like mushrooms after a rainstorm, to use a popular Russian expression, from Vladivostok to Ulan-Ude and Irkutsk to St. Petersburg and Moscow. Alexander opened his in Arkhangelsk three years ago. "I made a lot of mistakes - from the professionalism of the baristas to tge quality of the coffee," he said when I asked why he didn't yet expand. "You can't give up," he said. "He who gives up doesn't achieve anything."
YEREVAN, ARMENIA: This 84 year-old Armenian, born in the disputed territory of Nagorny Karabakh, was playing chess with two men half his age at his summer house. He said chess is good for your health, so I asked what he meant. He said it keeps your mind sharp and if your mind is well, then your body will be well. You can argue with his logic, but he is the only one of his mother's 9 children still alive. The 1st one died in WWII. "He didn't return," he said of his eldest brother. An economist by education, he likes talking global economics and spits out random facts like the square meters of China, the US & Russia. His youngest grandson wants to be an economist as well.
YEREVAN, ARMENIA: Astxik, 28, was running an errand in the center of Yerevan when I noticed her t-shirt that read '1915 A Failed Genocide.' A waitress at a Pizzeria, Astxik said the shirt is part of their work uniform for a month to commerate the 100th anniversary of the mass killings of Armenians by Ottomans, something that Turkey denies. Astxik said she is half Russian and that many relatives, including her parents, live in Russia. She would like to move to Russia as she said its tough to earn a good living in Armenia.
YEREVAN, ARMENIA: These cousins, 26 and 17, said they sometimes work more than 12 hour shifts at a coffee shop in central Yerevan, adding the salary is better than factory work. Both said they are studying, one in university, the other finishing high school.
YEREVAN, ARMENIA: The TV screens in this Yerevan coffee shop were airing an American baseball game (LA Dodgers), which is very unusual as the sport is not popular in ex-USSR. I thought that maybe the workers were Dodgers fans because many Armenians live in California. But I was told it was because the barista Pierre liked sports. Pierre, 22, told me he played professional basketball ... in Syria, where he was born to Armenian and Syrian parents. He was a foward for Al Aroube (A.G.B.U), but left 4 years ago to escape the war. He said there is little opportunity to play organized basketball in Armenia.
Ruslan, 22, a geology graduate student, said his most memorable event last year was hitch-hiking around Armenia for two weeks with his girlfriend. ‘’Armenians are very hospitable - they were not only willing to pick us up along the road, they would invite us for coffee, offer food or even to stay at their places.'’ Ruslan said he met his girlfriend through a rockabilly dance school, where they both take lessons.