Saturday, April 17, 2010

Coincidences aren’t really coincidences.... or, Not really random encounters in Yerevan

Since I’ve quit my job, I’ve found that I’m busier now than I was when I was working full-time, believe it or not. And that’s a good thing! I’ve had a chance to meet amazing, creative people doing amazing, creative things — and with such a passion for life! People I might not have crossed paths with if I was still working at my former job.

It all started with my trip to Tbilisi for an intense couple of days at Social Innovation Camp Caucasus (and I know I promised to write more on that; it’s just that there’s been so much else going on... I"ll try to get back on that topic later).

Oh, and the fun didn’t stop there.

Only a few days ago, I had the opportunity to meet with Alexis Ohanian, co-founder of, and Drew Curtis, founder of, at a bar in Yerevan (and drinks were on them!).

Drew’s in town only for a few days (a little over a week, if I’m not mistaken), while Alexis has been in Yerevan for about 3 months now. He’s here as a Kiva Fellow; in fact, he left in October of last year, but, like me, it seems, leaving his job hasn’t made him idle; in fact, he seems to have his hands full with a host of other projects.

Apart from his first ever trip to Armenia (he’s half-Armenian, half-German, by the way) and working with Kiva, Alexis has also been working on an uncorporation (I love that term) he founded called, which creates and sells geeky products, donating all profits to charity (according to Alexis’ bio on the Kiva Fellows page).

Not only that, he’s the guy behind TEDx Yerevan, an independently organized TED event to be held in Armenia on September 25, 2010. How cool is that? (and for the TED connection, you should check out his TED talk on “How to make a splash in social media,” where, with a touch of humour and a well-chosen example, he demonstrates the power of social media in just four minutes).

The day after meeting Alexis and Drew, who do I run into randomly on the street but Tony Bowden of Tony’s originally from Belfast, Northern Ireland, but he currently lives in Tallinn, Estonia (Margit, you have to connect with him: he’s on CouchSurfing and he organizes CS events in Tallinn. And one of these days, I’ll come visit you both! :)

I had the chance to meet Tony, the world-traveller, in Tbilisi where he was presenting at the Social Media for Social Change conference (happening in the same venue and at the same time as SI Camp Caucasus). I knew he was coming to Yerevan, but though we had connected online, we hadn’t yet arranged a Yerevan rendez-vous, and yet here he was! I’m sure he was just as surprised to see me (with bike and all) as I was to see him. We agreed to meet for drinks the following day.

It crossed my mind that maybe Alexis and Drew would like to meet Tony and maybe Tony would like to meet Alexis and Drew, so I tried to coordinate a get-together for Friday night. Alas, I didn’t have a number for Alexis (nor Drew) and Facebook and email were, for once, failing me. I sent a Facebook message to Tony to meet for drinks for his last night in Yerevan anyway.

I was to meet Tony at his hotel lobby on Friday night, but I was running a little late, and when I got there, he was nowhere in sight :( Luckily, my friend Anoush had connected with him and told me that we were to meet at Baobab (oddly enough, same venue where I first met Alexis and Drew only days before... coincidence? I think not).

Anoush and I agreed to meet at a specific intersection than walk over to Baobab. As I was on my way to meet Anoush, who do I run into but a brother of a friend of mine who’s been living in Armenia for over 3 years, but who I had not met till now? He was the spitting image of his brother and for a moment I thought it was him (Berj) but it turned out to be his brother Hratch. He didn’t know me, so I introduced myself and we talked a bit, while I searched for Anoush (at the same intersection, mind you).

As Hratch and I were walking along (and I was playing phone tag with Anoush), a man suddenly asks, “Adrineh?” and I say “Goga? What are you doing here?!” A friend of mine and my sister and brother-in-law’s, Georgy (or Goga, as we call him affectionately), originally from Armenia, was studying in Toronto when we met him a number of years ago. He then moved to Moscow where he currently lives. So you can imagine my surprise at “randomly” running into him on a street in Yerevan. Turns out he’s in town for 9 days, so I gave him my number and we agreed to connect.

All this, while I’m still walking with Hratch and then I see Anoush across the street. She comes over, Hratch takes his leave, I introduce Anoush to Goga. It’s a brief moment of many things going on at once, different people coming together, but though I’m a bit disoriented, I’m relishing the moment and the coincidences that aren’t really coincidences when you live in Armenia.

But, alas, the story continues.

We get to Baobab where I see a number of other familiar faces, mostly from SI Camp Caucasus. A pleasant surprise! As we’re sitting and talking with Tony et al., who happens to come to our table? If you haven’t figured it out by now, it was Alexis and Drew.

For all the organizing and coordinating I attempted to do over the past couple of days, the meeting I was planning happened beyond my control.

I couldn’t help but smile.


  1. too bad I missed that meeting :(

  2. funny that we were at Baobab again, eh? It's ok, Arpik, I missed the Social Media workshop :( next time...

  3. eh when i tell my friends back in Canada that Yerevan is the center of the world, they think i am being funny:) these encounters really happen more often in small cities like this where i find people are less bureaucratic more spontaneous in everyday life and find more time in their busy life to drink coffee with friends without taking appointments 1 month ahead.

  4. Well, actually Adrineh jan, guys who was there are behind the Barcamp Yerevan, and meeting with Alexis and Tony was arranged beforehand by us, personally by Mariam (: So it's not a coincidence that we met in Baobab (: It's Alexis' fav. place as I understand, because all meetings with him are seems to be there (:

  5. Yes, Yervan is exactly like that. Thats why I love Armenia.. Things just seem to come together, naturally... and I agree with lara that things are more spontaneous and less rigid.

  6. Ah Mik jan, yes, of course, the meeting there was arranged beforehand (though I didn't know that Baobab was Alexis' favourite hang-out!); however, what was amazing for me was that the meeting I was personally trying to organize happened regardless. Taking into account that others had arranged that meeting, the occasion, for me, was a lesson in letting go, of not always having to be in control (which is a lesson I need to learn ;)

  7. Cool! I actually know Tony but I haven't had a chance to talk to him. In March, when there was a CS meeting I saw him. In the last meeting he wasn't there, probably he was in Armenia at the moment. Great,know you have two people here to visit:)
    By the way, I got a little voluntary work in the last CS meeting. I will translate a text for the campaign "Let's do it" to Spanish. You can see it in English:
    The campaign is becoming world famous and has a lot to do with social media...

  8. That's great, Margit! And yes, now I know at least 2 people I have to come visit in Tallinn ;) It is a small world, isn't it?