Updated: Aug 19, 2019
When I first moved to Yerevan two years ago, I didn’t really like my house (too big) or my neighborhood (lots of stray dogs, trash, no side-walks). But it didn’t take long for me to change my mind completely.
As it turned out, I had two sets of fabulous neighbors, and a few other fun couples with kids lived within walking distance. The extravagant size of my house became a real asset once we began hanging out regularly; the kids could run wild on one floor, while the adults could talk and listen to music on another.
I left Armenia today, permanently. I really loved Armenia and Armenians, but what I think I’ll miss most are my neighbors. They were the best. They were the types that would take care of my 1-yo daughter when I forgot to get a baby sitter (thanks Brenda!), or offer me a cocktail after a long day at work (thanks Nick!). We met up frequently and chatted about everything under the sun.
We also celebrated holidays together, traveled around Armenia together, drove to and from work together, picked up each other’s kids from school, swapped recipes and restaurant tips, and saw either others’ kids grow up. One time, between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, we had social events at each other’s houses every day.
What helped keeping us tight was the fact that we hung out as a group every week, no matter what else was going on. The only reason we’d cancel was if there was an important work event that tied everybody up. Still, on those days I’d usually hang out with at least one of my neighbors anyway.
We called ourselves the “Trophy Spouses” (because our spouses were diplomats), named our neighborhood the “Noyborhood” (after it’s name: Noy) and branded our weekly get together “Thwine Thursday” (we butchered the original name Wine Wednesday when changing the day of the event).
Thwine Thursday was based on my neighbor’s recent experience in Cape Verde, where he’d sit around with a group of expat guys and talk about life, which he missed doing. When I told him I wanted us to try all of Armenia’s best wines, the concept was born. The idea was simple: bring a bottle of wine and bring your kids, so the adults can chat and drink while the kids play.
But we rarely kept it that simple. We always stayed late and never wanted the evening to end, so we’d inevitably order dinner, which then turned into a habit of preparing food in advance. And while that was lots of work for the weekly host, there was no pressure: the only rule was that there had to be pizza for the kids.
One of neighbors frequently took it a step further, coming up with themes such as “Ladies of the Eighties,” “80s Glam Rock Night,” and “Progressive Rock Night.” We even dressed up a couple of times.
Of course, our extravaganzas didn’t go unnoticed. Several other couples in the embassy community—with or without kids, some of them living nowhere near our neighborhood—started inviting themselves and soon became “Honorary Noyborhood.” Towards the end the regulars were about seven couples, and we often invited TDY’ers and new arrivals.
Our Thwine Thursdays were such a success that they inspired spin-offs. One of my neighbors and I started organizing monthly girls nights. These nights were geared towards dancing and exploring Yerevan’s nightlife with a small group of like-minded women, but quickly expanded to include elaborate dinners for which all of the embassy women were invited.
The guys weren’t interested in dancing but created a recurring event focused on sports and competition, called the “the Trophy Cup,” which involved semi-serious sports like ping-pong, go-cart racing, bowling, and corn hole. The winner received a humongous golden trophy inscribed with the names of the winners in different categories.
Now, as I’m sitting in a plane back to DC, I realize that all of this good stuff has come to an end. I can’t help wondering if I’ll have a similar social group at our next posting; and if I’ll have time, as a newly minted diplomat with a full work load, to organize these types of events. I have no idea. But, whatever happens, at least I have a “blueprint” for organizing events to make friends and have lots of fun.