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MEETINGS WITH CARLA VANAMO #3 by Ani Boghossian I always wondered what Carla liked to do when she was young, especially on that day as we sat in this seemingly abandoned tea-house in the middle of Chinatown. A short old Chinese man bowed to us when we asked for the menu and rushed behind the counter. About 5 seconds later he brought us two thick red cardboards in Chinese with the English names of the teas handwritten next to the Chinese ones. The tiniest scribbled English words I have ever seen. -For the goodness of all mankind....how am I going to read this?, Carla tilted her head looking at the cardboard. Then she spotted my gaze and smiled. -So, what tea?, she asked me. I looked at the tiny list. -Erm... White ... White Tip Silver Needle, I squinted my eyes at a random line. -Perfect, exactly what I wanted too, she said and raised her long finger. -Perdon! Chico! Un `White tip silver needle' por favor!, - yelled Carla. The Chinese old man stared at us from the counter with his narrow eyes as round as possible. -Gracias!, she added loudly. I lowered my head and started sniggering. -Got to love being socially random, Carla grinned quietly. -I bet you were more random when you were young, I smiled. -Actually, I was quite put-together. At least I acted in that way. Yet, my actions usually proved the opposite. She looked at the old man making the tea with the steaming Chinese old teapot in his steady hands. As he was pouring the tea the steam from the teapot fell into the cups only to float up again to the dark ceiling of the teahouse creating a heaven of Chinese scents and human breaths all its own. I wondered. -Tell me more, - I said staring at the ceiling mist swirling as the teahouse door opened and closed. - Did you work? What were your hobbies? Did you have any friends? What were they like? -Well, she said, - actually, the answer to all four of your questions is in one story. I had a part-time job as an art model for the local art college. The artists, respectively, were my friends. The posing was of course my hobby. And my friends were just as I liked them... The old man brought a tray of two steaming Chinese modest teacups filled with marvel and put them in front of us. He bowed and went away. -...served warm, modest and inspiring,- she concluded and looked at her cup. - Wonderful.. -You were an art model?!, I whispered. Did you pose nude? I realized later how blunt I must've seemed. She gulped some of her tea. -All the time. But there was this funny thing... I posed nude for artists only for a short period of time. I shifted to photographers later. You see, when I was posing nude for artists I didn't know that sometimes they liked to change my image. After each class, I liked to go around the class and see what they had done. Every time I'd find that I was turned blonde, faceless, with bigger body parts, hairless, with nonexistent marks on my body or a bunch of flowers in my head. I didn't care for that. The photographers didn't have the self-granted privilege of turning me into someone I was not. That is why I liked photography students. Drink some tea, it's brilliant. I took the warm cup in my hands and sipped the white substance. It went down smoothly, without burning. -I used to ask an interesting question to the photographers who was taking my pictures and as I stood silent in front of the camera, he used to answer and tell stories as the camera snapped and clicked in their hands. -What did you ask? -Different things. Most of the time I used to ask them questions like `What kind of animal would you like to question if you knew their language?' or `What would you like to find in a room you've never been in?'. We sat in silence for some time as we enjoyed the softness of our white tea. When I put down my empty cup I asked Carla if she had some of the photos the students took of her and if she'd show them to me. She said she would. And she did. That is Carla in the picture when she was young and that is the shadow of the river that never runs dry which Carla said she crossed once when she was in the Himalayas. Right on her hand. Do you see it? -- Ani Boghossian was born in Echmiadzin back in cold, dark 1989. She still lives in Echmiadzin, yet went to school in Yerevan ("Aghasi Ayvazyan" Varjaran). She studied International Relations at Yerevan State University and currently works at the Armenian Assembly of America and also at the Foundation of Preservation of Wildlife and Cultural Assets. Ani translated David Phillips' book "Unsilencing the Past" into Armenian. She maintains a blog: http://www.facebook.com/l/5264c33utQE1q2RXG9Pk1gHt0Sw/nurpages.wordpress.com She writes in English and in Armenian and draws and paints as well.