Do you have any understanding of what “Uborka” is in Armenia? To make everything clear firstly “Uborka” is a Russian word for Armenian “maqrutyun” which means “tidying up”. In Armenia no one says “maqrytyun”, furthermore, we add the Russian word “gheneralniy” thus having a wrong variant of “gheneralniy uborka”. This general tidying up usually occurs twice a year: before New Year and after winter. As far as we are in the middle of spring now this is the very period to start “uborka”.
Uborka usually lasts 2-3 days depending on how many women are involved in the work. This is not doing simple house chores or cleaning around. This is more serious occasion where every minute thing, which is usually ignored during everyday cleaning, is worth being paid attention to. Now Armenian housewives decide not to exhaust themselves that much and hire a made to help them. But even this trick doesn’t help them much.
Ask any Armenian housewife whether she has done her “uborka” and she is likely to say: “Oooof, don’t even remind me of it”. So, why is “uborka” such a nightmare for our women?
There are several points which are inseparable components of every uborka.
1. One of them being cleaning windows. If we consider that windows in most houses are those ones made of wood and double layered, though a new race of the so called “euro-windows” has started, one may only guess what arduous a task it is for women to loose and tighten all the screws of every window in order to clean the inner glass, and to wash them for several times so that they shine with purity. And if we assume that there are at least 10-15 windows in every normal house, it is not difficult to realize that cleaning all those windows will take several hours and lots of energy. And it is here when women usually say: “Ooooof….”
2. It is logical that all those windows should have curtains which, again, are not the same euro layered curtains, but made of real fabric. During a year, especially after winter, when there are still families who use wood or oil furnace to warm their houses, curtains become black as well as the water in which they are being washed and rinsed for several times. But later comes ironing, which is another frustrating component. Some housewives prefer hanging them from the window ledges when they are still wet, thus escaping ironing. I wonder, are we the only nation who uses the dinner table for ironing things with wide surfaces? Oooooof…….
3. Then comes emptying and cleaning all the cupboards, shelves and kitchen cabinets and sideboards. Don't think that it's easy. Here, again, those sideboards do not contain plates, glasses, knives, spoons and forks for only 12 person. They fit a whole service which will be enough for a wedding party at least with 100 guests! Actually those are called “Tatakan servand”- “grandmothers’ sideboard”, which means that all the ware, vases, plates and dishes are heredity of their grandmothers and grandmother’s grandmothers. And every attempt to get rid of them is considered to be a sin, as grandmothers usually say: “Hnutyuna”, “Those are antiques”! And year by year the amount of those plates increases and poor housewives, mainly daughters-in–low, have to wash the piling up dishes at least 2 a year, though they do it on every occasion, be it a birthday party or a khash party. Ooooof….
4. Most unpleasant thing for every charwoman is washing chandeliers, which are not the ones with two or three lamps, but with at least 12 lamps and hundreds of little crystalics. Sometimes you can enter a cozy, small and poor house and see an enormous candelabrum hung in the middle of the room, as it is a sign for refined taste (if it really were…) and luxury. Yes, this is another way of showing off! Now, imagine how every little crystal is being washed, dried and hang back on the luster. Frustrating huh? But no, a meticulous care is to be paid to every single crystal, that is the only way, otherwise some your neighbors will estimate your work poorly and mention on every occasion that it doesn’t shine and glitter properly.
5. In every normal Armenian house there must necessarily be a lumber-room. During a year we throw there all the things which we find not necessary for the moment, but which may come in handy in the future. And when finally we decide to see what we have, we can find there only rubbish and trash, for instance laces from flower bouquets, boxes from above mentioned vases and glasses, cellophanes from every shopping, old newspapers and copy-books, which are incidentally kept for burning fire for “khorovats” (barbeque), different unnecessary small and big instruments, or what is left from them, some broken things, old clothes with the hope to use them as a mop-cloth or for cleaning dust. And so happens when the time comes to use one of those things, we rummage around in search of that very item, but all in vain, as they are flung on each other in such a manner that if you pull out one of them, the whole pile will come tumbling down on your head. And no matter how hard we try to clean the lumber-room, after some time the same things again find their places there. I wish it was a store-room for food and we would have a food for a whole year. But, alas, what we find there every time is boxes stuffed with all that trash.
Talking of food, there must also be a balcony and when we finally decide to tidy it up, we can find there lots of empty jars for preserving food, and leftovers from New-Year perpetual feast: a dried orange or tangerine, or dried verdures and, certainly, a panty-hose stuffed with garlic, which now fits for nothing.
6. Finally the tidying up is concluded but not limited with washing bath and toilet with such liquids that even rubber-gloves become worn out of them, let's not even mention human hands. Parquetry and tiles on the floor must again sparkle, doesn't matter that while rubbing them you damage your hands and knees as you kneel and fag out totally. Ooooooof…
If you are not still tired, because those housewives obviously are not exhausted yet, I can go on numerating another row of work which seem not to end ever. We grub along during every “uborka”, but after some time it seems as if a hurricane has swept the house. And again we face the eternal problem with house chores and toiling about them. I wonder whether we could cope with it more easily if weren’t those troubling details, such as “Tatakan servand”, lusters with millions of crystals and lumber-rooms stuffed with any kind of crap…
Now, after so many “ooofs”, when I'm finally through with my “uborka”, I catch my breath and exclaim with immense relief: “Foooooo!!… At last!! … I did it!!… I’m through with it and I’m free now!!…”. Though my joy will not last long and will disappear with the come of wool and carpet washing, which is another great event in Armenia and I’ll probably tackle over it later, I’m still happy that we don’t lose the ability to wash away those tiresome problems with fun and laughter.