Last night I celebrated my birthday at Melrose bar — yes, I came all the way to Yerevan to hang out at a spot named after a street in Los Angeles. I’ve had some fun birthdays in both San Francisco and LA, but let me tell you, if you want to have an epic party, perhaps two nights in a row (!!), you have to do it Armenia style. There’s no 2 am last call; the bar closes whenever you’re ready to go home, which usually ends up being at 4 am. But not before you stop in at Tumanyan Shaurma. The amount of love and respect you get here on your birthday is on another level. Even strangers sing to you and give you heartfelt speeches that make it seem like you’ve known each other forever.
One local guy named Rubo we met at Melrose found out it’s my birthday and insisted on buying me a gift, even though we had only met five minutes earlier. And before he left, he insisted on inviting everyone in my group to dinner. The hospitality here is on another level. I told him it’s not necessary and he genuinely seemed let down. After Melrose we went to Jean Paul, where a group of Londoners we had met earlier sat around a big table and sang more happy birthdays. I don’t think I’ve ever heard the birthday song this many times in one night. Then out of nowhere, the bartender Zara surprised me with a beautiful cocktail and a birthday “cake” aka a sarma with a candle in it and wished me happy birthday with the most heartfelt words I had ever heard in Armenian. She continued making a speech to the whole group about how touched she is to see people celebrating their birthdays in Armenia and how happy it makes her to meet diasporans like us who love their motherland so intensely. Of course I missed my friends and family back home and wish they could have also been there, but ultimately I’m so happy that I got to experience that kind of generosity in Armenia. I highly recommend everyone do at least one birthday bash here. Genats!