Friday, February 08, 2008

Paros, or my summer with the President of the RA

What? Me??? Pass up an impromptu trip? Never have, never will. So when Honest Abe called on-the-fly and asked if I'd like to meet him in Greece, I was on the phone negotiating hotels and airfare before the receiver got cold. In the span of two days, wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am, a one week idyllic holiday to Greece was arranged--with a free airline ticket using frequent flier miles to boot. Even if I had to endure the pain of returning Business class ("that's all we have available, ma'am"--"I'll take it" being my greedy reply)...
My flights were uneventful, and I went carry-on since I'd have an hour stop in Amsterdam and didn't want to risk the chance of any bags not reaching Athens. If my luggage didn't get to Athens, we'd be in a spot of trouble, since our ferry was set to leave Piraeus just three hours after landing. So no luggage.
As I made my way out of customs with my carry-on bag, I saw Apo patiently waiting for me.
All clear, I thought. We both had made it--although his flight from Yerevan was a mere 2.5 hours and I didn't think there would be a problem on his end.
"I'm so glad you made it!" I said to him, as he pointed to the driver waiting to take us to Piraeus.
"You don't know what I've been through!" sighed Apo looking somewhat haggard in contrast to the amazing freshness of my been-flying-for-15 hours face.
Settling in the cab, I turned to him quizically without saying a word and he began recounting the whole sordid story: arriving at Zvartnots in the morning, being told the flight was delayed until midnight, then scrambling like a madman to find a flight anywhere, somewhere, just to try to make it to Athens as soon as possible.
The staff at Zvartnots made no apologies for failing to call and notify him that the flight was delayed. So he went to every airline counter he could, and finally finagled a seat on the Yerevan-Munich bound flight, and from Munich caught a connection to Athens--absolutely miraculously arriving at the same scheduled hour, 11 am.
Incredible. I was speechless. What could top that?
We were both really looking forward to this break--a time to leave worldly worries behind for just a few days and go into deep relaxation-hibernation mode..
We boarded the perry at Piraeus after having an overpriced beer and Greek salad at the port cafe, filling in the gaps of time and stories, relaxing on the way to Paros.
This was the first trip I had ever planned with a travel agent--we have traveled the world with ourselves as guides, from renting houseboats in Amsterdam, to train trips to Zermatt, to any off-the-beaten-track place I could find. So with this trip, it was all a no-brainer, and all transfers were taken care of. I didn't have to think about anything, only where to roam and forage for food. It was almost too perfect.
The ferry arrived and we disembarked and found our transfer. After 20 minutes, we made it to the hotel.
The hotel itself, Astir of Paros, is billed as a "five star", but I'd say that's somewhat of a stretch. It comfortably exists somewhere between 3.5 and 4. The best part about it is a lovely private stretch of beach. And although the pool area and pool bar were lovely enough, I could not understand the throngs of people sunbathing by the pool, when just steps away white sand and warm water beckoned. For some reason, we-- and an elderly German couple that Diana (the German-transplant-cool-pool bar hostess) said come every year--were the only ones who preferred the beach.
Check it out yourself:
Although our week-long trip at the end of August proved to be the stuff of legend, as you'll soon see--it was remarkable for being unremarkable at the same time. Eat, swim, eat, swim, eat, swim. It was difficult to coax me out of the lovely blue, warm sea. I'd hop in right after breakfast and not venture out until about the fortieth time Abe said "Let's get out in a half hour and get ready for dinner, shall we?" While other guests inexplicably enjoyed their lounge chairs near the pool, Abe and I had the beach--lovely Kolymbithres on Paros--all to ourselves for the better part of three days. Why leave?
Aaahh, Kolymbithres beach. Unspoiled and lovely.
It was in fact our first trip to Paros, having been to Greece nearly 20 years earlier and never venturing past Hydra at that time. Paros is not a party island--go to Mykonos or Thira (Santorini) for dancing on tables. Paros is a place to unwind, get some RnR, and clear the head.
The rooms at Astir of Paros are not overly ostentatious, and our studio was even a bit on the spartan side, but the grounds are lovely, with magenta bouganvillea and palm trees, and the bed quite comfy and nice. With the French doors propped open at night, you can fall asleep to the crashing of the waves from the beach, just meters away, lulling you into a deep, relaxing sleep.
The morning of our first full day, we sauntered off to the buffet to get some victuals before beaching ourselves like whales on the lovely sand of their private beach.
Looking for the buffet table, my Armo radar immediately zeroed in on an Armo head.
"Armo alert, 3 o'clock" I said to Abe as we walked past. Apo didn't hesitate and turned to said-Armo head and cheerfully said "Pari louys."
"Bari louys" came the somewhat startled reply.
I rolled my eyes. "Geez, how the hell did we get so lucky? Is it impossible to have an Armo-free vacation these days?!!" I muttered wildly while we helped ourselves to breakfast (fresh fruit, yogurt, honey & nuts, mini croissants and breads, and the more traditional eggs and sausage).
A lithe blonde passed in front of me with a child in her arms looking at the breakfast offerings. More of the Armenian contingency. I was not a happy camper. When I need my privacy, I'm not much of a social animal. But what to do? Perhaps they felt the exact same way--I suppose they want privacy, too. Why else visit such an out-of-the-way island hotel?
We parked ourselves at a table (all near the pool, meters away from the sea) and a waiter came by to bring us French press coffee, orange juice, or espresso.
We sat eating, when a man in shorts and a baseball cap made his way down the footpath to our table. "Aman, Kocharianin ge nmani" said A.
A second later, A. shot up like a lightning rod and said "Pari louys, Baron Nakhakah!"
I was dumbfounded. My mouth hung open and finally I pursed my lips to say the same.
The President... of the RA... sat down.
While we both sat mouths agape, the President, posing as an average Joe in full casual attire, nestled his granddaughter on his knee and told us he was "visiting with the family." A., trying to fill the uncomfortable void, turned on the Scorpio charm and began recounting the improbable manner in which he arrived in Athens (delayed flights, other flights, yada yada yada). The President listened intently and as I looked at A., for a moment I could no longer hear him speak, although he was animated enough. It was because at that moment, my eye caught a slight facial reaction in the Chief. It was almost a grimace. A few moments later, he politely rose from the table, wished us a happy holiday, and went to the buffet room with his toddler granddaughter.
Abe and I looked at each other and burst into laughter. Not only was this hilarious, but so infinitesmally improbable as to be surreal. Three days on an island, and you're sharing the hotel with the President of the RA, his family, and security detail (identity of formerly mentioned Armo head thusly revealed). "You realize what that means, don't you?" we almost said to each other in unison--"...he jacked your plane!!!!" hahahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Even if it weren't true, the story could not be funnier. But it does explain the facial reaction upon hearing Abe's sad flight story.
Who really knows for sure?
After breakfast, the contingency was out in its full glory: the lithe blonde (the 'hars'), the sons, security, and the First Lady herself. A van came to pick them up, no doubt taking them on a private excursion.
We were somewhat relieved. At least now we had the beach to ourselves.
At some point during the day, the Chief's local 'host' came to scope the situation (to find out why we happened to be there, I suppose), and discovering nothing untoward, left us alone until we left the island.
On the morning of our third and last day, we had breakfast as usual. Before leaving the island to discover Thira (Santorini), I decided to take one last afternoon swim. As I waded into the water, I saw a woman with a baseball cap walking in with me. It was the First Lady. We both took a nice swim, Kolymbithres all to ourselves, far far out into the sea. And as I enjoyed the last moments on Paros, I marvelled at how strange life is and how you can never know who or what's coming around the bend.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Now on to something more mundane...all about a kitchen remodel

The official start date for the excrutiatingly painful exercise in frustration is May 7, 2007. Now nearly two and a half months later, the deal is nearly done. Frankly, I'm surprised. Now as the end of the remodel is near, I can feel my sanity slowly returning. I've nearly accustomed myself to being sinkless, which is no small feat. My summer kitchen in the yard has turned out to be an unexpected surprise: from stovetop to al fresco dining in seconds. I originally wanted to give all the details--only because I had searched far and wide on the internet for valuable info and it was pretty hard to come by, due to the sheer dearth of blogs and sites out there. I've chronicled the entire thing by photo, which I may decide to post. Just in the interest of helping out another poor soul who decides to take the plunge. In any case, I'm growing a bit of nostalgie for the old 1927 kitchen: it's not so fun having everything shiny and new. It's do I put it....too clean somehow. At this point, the story has left me and I can't suck it back in to relate it to you all--sort of like a lukewarm to bad experience that you'd just as soon forget. And that's probably all for the best.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

April is the cruellest month

"APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing Memory and desire, stirring Dull roots with spring rain..."--"The Waste Land", T.S. Eliot A shameless way to start a post, but there it is. Actually, I was at a board meeting for an arts project (, check it out!) and we were doing the very mundane--trying to figure out our next meeting date. Suddenly, almost in unison, we looked at each other and said "April is the cruellest month..." For Armenians, it's cruel for a whole host of reasons, most importantly Genocide remembrance day, April 24. It's cruel because as we inch forward year by year, we are reminded that we are, perhaps, moving further and further away from recognition or any sort of reparation with the passage of the great leveller, time--despite the fact that we are making more noise than ever before. Many of us do our obligatory duty--marching in front of the Turkish consulate on April 24th, or gathering at the Bicknell park monument--and even do our best to be as politically active as we can through all the other months, when April 24 may be forgotten and become a dull part of our--and everyone else's--grey memory. Others choose to bring their participation in other ways, and it's all good. I'm sure the quote popped into our heads through some subconscious connection--but we don't really believe April is the cruellest month. Perhaps all months are equally cruel, equally inviting. Challenges are challenges no matter what month we happen to find ourselves in. The Armenian Center for the Arts was born out of many decades of desire and longing--why is it, we always asked ourselves, that we don't have a visual and performing arts center of our own? Many of our friends and acquaintances who were actively involved in the arts found a place to stage their play and/or display their art. In the process, they formed alliances and became self-sufficient. They created bridges to other arts communities and became part of a larger arts village. That's all fantastic. The Armenian Center for the Arts doesn't aim to replace any of these things. What we want to do is provide alternate spaces for arts and arts programming, primarily for but not limited to members of our community. To provide an intimate theater space as well as a 400 seat space for larger performances. To provide space for a gallery, and artists in residence. To provide space for classrooms and arts education. To provide recording studio space. To provide space for a library/bookstore/cafe for casual or more formal events. And to do this all with style, panache, and a realization that this has been a long time coming. The uphill climb is formidable. The money required is immense. But the passion is there. And passion for projects and ideas is the most refreshing thing. Only with sustained passion and commitment do worthwhile things happen--whether it's Genocide recognition, or the dream of building an arts center.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

In praise of Pho

Working downtown has its rewards. Angelenos are truly spoiled by the vast number of authentic ethnic eateries. By authentic, I just mean real, plain & good...and, well, pretty cheap. During the winter months--and especially this winter, when we actually can feel a chill in the bone and our thin-blooded bodies shiver--there may be nothing more gratifying than heading downtown for a steaming big bowl of Pho. Pronounced, fuh, Pho is a delectable soup of lovely thin noodles and what my colleague calls "mystery meats"--tendons, tripe, and raw strips of beef that cook in the hot broth. Gingergrass in Silver Lake makes a gentrified version, smaller in scale and minus the mystery meats. Skip it and head to Pho 97 (formerly Pho 79), in the little mini-mall on Broadway that also houses Mandarin Deli (with the killer garlicky tofu salad and fresh-as-fresh-can-be dumplings. My colleague also argues that the lower the restaurant grade, the tastier the food--but luckily for the weak-stomached, present company included, Pho 97 gets an A). My Vietnamese colleague complains that Pho 97 is too expensive and the broth is not clear enough. But fear not, you will be talking to God soon. Nearly as soon as you set your tush down, one of the young owners will come by and all you need to say is "Special Fuh." In a few minutes, you'll have a huge steaming bowl of Pho with a tray of sprouts, sliced jalapeno peppers, fresh basil leaves and lime. Add this lovely freshness and put in a few squirts of fire-hot Sriracha sauce and voila, you'll be in heaven shortly. If this isn't enough for you, also order the crunchy Imperial Rolls (served with fresh lettuce, mint leaves, and a lovely dipping sauce). Wrap the crunchy fried roll in lettuce with the mint, and dip in the sauce. And all this for under 8-9 bucks a person. On a rainy day in downtown LA, there is nothing more wonderful than hopping on the Dash and making my way to Chinatown with a few colleagues and slurping a great bowl of Pho. If you're in Westminster or Monterey Park, you probably know of lots of great places to get a great bowl of Pho and I can't argue with you there. But...whatever you do...don't go too far West--the most you'll get is a gentrified, overpriced and most likely "fusion" (read: inauthentic and skimpy) version. And you won't see any tendons or tripe floating around.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A drama of dentures and sisterly love

I could swear that my eyesight started to go the moment I hit 40, just like mama said. Like clockwork. I suppose I can always blame it on the computer age: all of that staring and typing can't be good for the head or the hands. Either way, there's no stopping the effects of time or gravity. Both always win; sometimes, to tragicomic effect. Last Sunday my dear aunt Anya was having a bad day. A very bad day. She was vomiting for a better part of three hours, and was overall queasy. She lives across the street from Beverly Hospital in Montebello. When she felt too spent to make another trip to the bathroom, she called my mom. "Knarik" she whispered, "sorry to bother you, but can you please take me to the hospital?" "Knarik, I have to tell you something, I know you're going to think it's funny." Mama has a fairly wicked sense of humor, but couldn't imagine what would be amusing at this juncture. "While I was barfing my dentures fell out, and I accidentally flushed them down the toilet." Of course, I can only imagine my mom's laughter. She has an infectiously evil cackle that makes you laugh, too. So she chuckled with her toothless sister on the phone. "I'm coming." They got to the hospital and waited in the ER together. She was quickly seen at the triage point. They took her blood pressure, all was normal. My mom asked the nurse in her heavy Russian accent "Can you please check mine, too?" 185. Whew. She was nervous. It always shoots up when she's nervous. The doctors ran some tests and discovered nothing out of the ordinary. Anya was released and they drove back home at around 1 am. Later, when my mom was in my den retelling the story, my saintly sister-in-law interjected and said "Oh, you know the dentures are probably stuck down there. All you have to do is pull the toilet off..." We called Anya..."You know, it's possible to..." She would have none of it. "No," Anya said, "they're long gone." She couldn't bear the thought of putting the wayward dentures back into her mouth after all that. So she'd be waiting for the new set--a good five weeks of toothless misery. Uncharacteristically, she wouldn't be talking much. But she could always call Mama on the phone and mumble. Dentures lost to gravity. But in the end, lots of sisterly love.

Friday, May 05, 2006

How Kaavya got screwed, got despondent, and got a chance to be on Oprah

It's hard to feel pity and sympathy for poor little Kaavya, on whose shoulders seemingly rest, squarely and oppressively, the heavy 'Burden of the Past.' The photo with the smug mug of an Ivy leaguer looks down on us mere mortals who have a snowball's chance in hell (or thereabouts) of securing a book deal and 500K advance. But alas, little Kaavya enjoyed the fruits of her exploits, erm, employ, all too briefly! The rise and fall of Kaavya Viswanathan, the young Indian-American Ivy league novelist cum plaigarist, proves to be great e-mail fodder, still. A cousin of mine mused on the origins and notions of plaigarism, arguing that copyright laws were brought into being in order to protect authors from economic harm. Does copying the same words in different syntax constitute 'economic harm'? Or is the copying of the plot itself the deal? In any case, appropriating the intellectual birthchild of another without credit where credit is due is just plain fraud. But isn't it just the case that a story told from the 'multicultural' angle is all just a bit old and, pardon my snore, boring? Do we really want to read another bildungsroman of young immigrant offspring straddling two (or more) worlds? Is the lack of freshness the real culprit? or is it the now-hardily-proven lack of originality? "Write what you know" a writer told me once, "write from your gut, your experience, and it will always be true." True yes, but interesting is another matter altogether. In 1970, with The burden of the past and the English poet, W. Jackson Bate argued that the writers of the 1660s to mid 1800s comprised the first generations to acknowledge and 'feel' the burden of the weighty literary past. He eloquently expounded what we already knew: it's all been said and done before. And most likely, better. Ms. Kaavya said that she had so 'internalized' her favorite writers that she unintentionally and unconsciously regurgitated not only the plot, but piecemeal passages (having apparently read them over and over and over again). The Harvard Independent is having a grand old time matching passages, image for image, sentence for sentence, for our reading pleasure. I suppose 'internalizing' is to become the new publishing buzzword (viz., the editor to the writer, sternly: Are you certain you haven't internalized Pynchon with this one?). A friend of mine, giggling in his office at work e-mailed me admonishing, "I think we seriously need to check through our e-mails. Surely she's picked up some of our stuff, too!" I'm sure there's more KaavyaGate to come. Perhaps a little scolding session on Oprah's couch? Bring it on!

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Erevan blues

It would've been nice to have a blog during the tumultuous years of yore & give a play-by-play of the cloak and dagger days, when nary a blog existed. But I suppose now's as good a time as any [insert swelling head/literary aspirations here]. Wasn't I complaining just yesterday that everyone is a poet/painter/writer? I mean, isn't everyone these days? Well, I'll come off my high horse and say, why the hell not? If it makes one feel good, and if feeling good is in short commodity in these troubled times, and if I, the victim, have the free will to stop reading/toss book/throw up my hands in consternation--then more power to them, I say. Write/paint/annoy-the-hell-out-of-everyone, kayl arach, on! Mostly because we come from a culture of silly people whispering "ohmyGoddidyouhear--snickersnickersnicker" inanities, dragging people down (everybody's a critic, right?) The old illusory bring-myself-up-if-I bring-you-down routine. What's the purpose to all this ranting? I haven't the slightest. And thanks to the blog, I needn't have a reason. I know, that's terrible, truly it is. But back to the title of my blog. Maybe I should offer an explanation of some sort. Way back when on a cool autumn day, I decided to visit the gravesite of my piano teacher, having not been in the country when she passed away, and subsequently had been unable to attend her funeral. One of the wonderful gifts of our religion--good old fashioned Christian guilt--kept hitting me in the gut, and I felt I had to go over there and say hello (or goodbye, as it were). I got to the ominous booth with the green golf jacketed attendant and asked for the gravesite of Mercedes A. "Oh, that's great, it's her birthday." Never knew that before, I thought to myself. Her birthday. September 20th. How sad that I'd never said Happy Birthday to her in life. She was a spry little woman with a French accent, in an immaculate apartment with red and white striped awnings on the windows and more importantly, two baby Steinway Grands. I loved the lessons, hated the practicing. Nothing unusual there. The very last time I played with her, she accompanied me on Beethoven's 1st Concerto in C--I tried to keep up and make it sound halfway decent. In truth, I couldn't be bothered to worry about it because it was just so much fun banging away on a baby Grand on stage with my teacher. Yes kids, keep up with the lessons. Even if you can't play a piece in its entirety to save your life. Because the music stays with you. Trust me on this one. So, I navigated the ginormous kingdom of the dead which is Rose Hills Whittier, and finally finding her final resting spot, plopped myself down on the grass and read the marker--Stay quiet and come with me. It dawned on me that she'd used those words so often as she rushed students in with quick movements, "hush, hush...wait, sit here...listen", leading us to a seat, gently admonishing us to wait quietly for our turn while the student with the previous time slot finished up their piece. Usually, she'd rush to her library in the back room and drop a book in my hands..."read this, it's very good." I remember finishing Little Women during those 'wait' sessions. I'd make my mother drop me off early so that I could read the next chapter before my lesson. Stay quiet and come with me. It would be a great title for a short story collection, methinks. If I ever finish them. I can thank Ms. Mercedes, God rest her soul. Just last week, I was in Erevan for a lovely little respite from the salt mines at work, to visit my husband, still fighting against the windmills like a latter-day Don Quixote, bless his heart, and to catch up with my close friends. As I sat in the airport in Amsterdam and waited for the Armavia flight, a familiar face turned my way and we began talking. This and that. "You lived once in Erevan, didn't you?" Yes, during the days of electricity on the grid (two to three hours a day, if you were lucky), of 'barsigs' (Iranian-made kerosene lamps, which warmed your room but gave you bronchitis from the fumes in the process), of generators (if you could afford them) to offer some light by way of a fluorescent bulb, of frozen, bursting pipes and hauling water in buckets for a quick one-handed shower from the fountain across the street, six storeys down. Then six storeys up. "Yes, for a short time beginning in the fall of '94." And in December of the same year, the President announced on television the ban of a certain political party, while I sat in the dark, alone in our apartment with no electricity, unaware of the speech and the lovely days to transpire from that moment onwards. After the President's mandate, the phone went dead and shortly thereafter three men in trenchcoats (I could faintly make out their silhouettes through the peephole) pounded on my door. For a good hour and a half. "Who are you?" I'd ask. To which they'd reply, "Just open the door." And after an hour in the cold winter air a softer, "Please open the door, we're freezing out here." "Would you open the door to someone pounding on your door, refusing to identify themselves?" I asked. "Probably not." At least they were honest. "Well then you'll have to break the door down." A flash of uncomfortable defiance. A short time later a family friend ran to the door and screamed for me to open it. I'd put up a barricade in the dark--chairs, tables, pillows--pacing the small apartment like a headless chicken smoking cigarettes (I'd never lit one up before). I reluctantly opened the door and they all rushed in like a hurricane. Our friend Arshak took me in his arms and hugged me. Calm down. Calm down. Arshak had eyes in the back of his head and you felt safe in his strong and commanding presence. Calm down, calm down. Everything was overturned. "Any guns? Documents?" the coats asked. Drawers opened, carpets rolled up, a nice little Roman pillage. "Ah, what's this?" one curiously self-important khouzargogh asked as he held up a plastic baggie filled with parsley, bringing it close to his eyeball. He opened the bag and took a sniff. Just parsley. After a good few hours--who knows, it could've been longer?--we sat with the coats and they asked questions. I don't remember hardly any of them, only that at some point, Arshak looked at the lead questioner and said, "Are you from Ardzvanik [the village]?" The man looked at him and realized they knew each other. He wasn't like the others. There was a gentleness about him, a realization that he'd violated trust, trespassed and trampled on a part of me. I shouted obscenities in English, the Armenian having left me a long time before that. He spoke in a soft and gentle voice. "Ani, if I see you in the street tomorrow, can we be friends?" "No." My eyes glared. At this point, I wasn't ready to let bygones be bygones. They left and my friend took me to a 'safe' location. My husband was arrested, as were many others. Questioned, released. Questioned, released. Some just arrested. 'Enemies' of the state. His passport confiscated, visa cancelled. An odar exiled. How many times can one be an odar? What lovely little dreams brought so many to the City then? How many have remained? I told just a little bit of my story and the woman looked at me, her eyes wide. Yes, many people have forgotten about those days. Erevan itself has forgotten those days. The trees from that era have all been chopped down, the potholes that I gingerly drove past, filled. Glossed over, like a reflection in an H2 cruising down Sayat-Nova Avenue. Erevan has been undergoing a cosmetic makeover for some time, and it's sort of approaching the Jocelyn Wildenstein 'school' of plastic surgery. I mean, most of the city's buildings have become unrecognizeable--having lost their architectural flavor and charm as storey upon storey upon storey is added, pell-mell it seems, to certain buildings. And even though we enjoyed the new restos and dives in town--Baghdad, Bangkok (great Middle Eastern at one, mouth-watering and saliva-producing trout curry at the other)--and sipped, at long last, a decent espresso at Central Cafe--a certain sadness, a sense of loss, filled this little bourgeois soul and hung through the air like wet laundry. Heavy, but it smelled good. Part of that love/hate relationship with Armenia. It sucks you in, and takes takes takes--but then gives you a wonderful something in return, a certain something that blooms in your head, shouting out funky colors and images, refusing to let go. The absurdly comical--like my friend Melik asking to have his tea at Central Cafe served in a larger glass--the waiter adamantly refusing to change 'policy'--and later the barman refusing to accommodate the executive order of the management to finally acquiesce--while Melik's tea got colder and colder. That lovely service ethic at work, once again. But the hilarious story of the week was Melik's once again. While we sat in his Gallery before a movie screening, he showed us location photos for the film he's producing called 'Chnchik.' All systems are go--minus a few Euros of course, so he's in active get-funding-now phase. Anyway, they found the perfect location in a village in the Lori Region, an entirely rundown little property that would be the protagonist's home. They took photos of the house and gave the villagers who owned it some money as a good-faith down payment to use the place for filming. A month later, Melik took one of the directors to see the place. As they stepped into the house they suddenly stopped dead in their tracks and felt their mouths hang open. The property had undergone the dreaded 'Yevroremont'--European remodeling (because whatever's of superior quality is European, bien sur). The villagers used the cash to change the doors, fix the wood flooring, paint the walls and add new lighting fixtures. The villagers explained that they felt ashamed (amot) that their house would appear in such a sorry state in the film, and decided to remodel it--unawares, it would seem, that the rundown property is exactly what was needed for the film. Melik took photos of the 'upgraded' property. As he passed them around, we all howled with laughter. Back to the old drawing board. Never a dull moment in the City of Nana Taxi.