How I Spent My Summer Vacation: Not Happy at Lakeside

Under anarchy, uncoordinated competitive theft by “roving bandits” destroys the incentive to invest and produce, leaving little for either the population or the bandits.

Mancur Olson, “Dictatorship, Democracy and Development”, 1993

I took holiday in the Republic of Anarchy.

The holiday reservation I made said I was going to Sevan. It did not say the “Arevik” “resort” (the soviet term “sanatorium” may be more applicable) had seceded, and joined the Republic of Anarchy.

The reservation – made a week in advance – was for a room for two. Five days cost $182.

At least they haven’t moved the lake. As promised, “Arevik” is still on the shore of Lake Sevan – still standing since the Soviets put it there. Still standing, too, is the old mentality of how to (not) treat people.

The complex had six buildings, a separate premise for the canteen and half-ruined (or, hopefully, half-built) gym and a building of unknown purposes located a bit further with only the well-fed seagulls in the neighborhood. (No one feeds the seagulls on purpose, but the rich supplies of waste across the bank of the lake provide their living.)

I found the resort administration by finding a crowd. Otherwise, no signs in the entrance gave a clue.

I handed in my reservation confirmation. One clerk handed it to another. The second clerk never took her eyes of a list of names, while announcing my fate: “We don’t have a room.”

What?

“We don’t have a room with hot water.”

I pointed out that I’d paid for a room with hot water. She didn’t disagree. Nor did she fix the mixup. Her explanation was that other guests had already taken all the rooms that had hot water.

What about my reservation?

What about a little extra something on the side (i.e., a bribe)?, was the impression I got from her reply.

She might be able to find something for me in two days, she said.

Here, the manner of problem solving in the Republic of Anarchy enters . . .

I know eavesdropping is hardly proper. Neither, though, is paying for comfort that you don’t get. So:

Lying on the bank of the lake the next day I heard a woman telling her relative, by phone, that Room N had a water heater. But, she said, Room N (probably because of the “luxury” of a water heater) is assigned only to people who have connections with the administration.

I was sure that by the next day, I’d have enough inside information to get inside Room N.

Meanwhile . . .

As a schoolgirl in the late Soviet period the “Hekyat” (“Fairy Tale”) cafe on Tumanyan Street was a place I tried to pass round. When it closed I thought the mixed smell of the greasy kitchenware, the boiling sausages and the sweets excessively spiced up with vanilla that spread in the neighborhood was gone for good.

Not so. The smell has moved to the canteen of this lake-side resort, where pea soup, boiled buckwheat, and two pieces per guest of watermelon were the daily “meals included” package.

Luckily, there was a mini-grocer nearby. Well, not so lucky . . .

I bought yogurt. I should have bought it a few weeks earlier. It had gone bad, along with my mood about how this holiday was turning out.

I took it back to the vendor asking why he’d sold yogurt that had an expired date of sale.

“Why should I answer you?”, he replied. “You never asked about the expiration date.”

I tossed by spoiled yogurt. I hoped to toss my spoiled mood by turning my attention to the lake.

The resort provided a separated area on the bank covered with pebbles and rough sand. Although the amount of waste – mainly plastic bottles and bags and leftovers – in the evening exceeded the one in the nearest waste dump, the bank was relatively clear in mornings. The rent of a chaise lounge cost $1.25 per day.

Turns out that the “chaise lounge” was a metal mini-couch, covered in a leather upholstery. It looked like something you’d lie on in a therapist’s office. Which is probably where I should have planned this holiday.

Well, at least a nearby pine grove promised to cool my head if not my attitude. I bought food a cafe (mindful of avoiding information about their origin) and went to enjoy nature.

Unfortunately, nature came to me also. Never able to make my way into Room N, I received enough guests to distract my unhappiness: Boeing-sized mosquitoes, microscopic gray flies, caterpillars, and even a black field mouse.

It gets crowded at the Resort of Anarchy. But it will be less crowded next season, by at least one.