When I was planning my trip to Armenia, I didn’t really expect anything. I didn’t want to expect greatness and then be let down if it didn’t turn out that way, it was my first time there.
Now that the trip is over, and I’m back “home“, I realize that I could have aimed for the sky, because it was ten times better then I could ever have imagined it to be.
I volunteered for two months through Birthright Armenia and LCO (Land and Culture Organization). The first month was incredible. I was In Azad Village in the outskirts of the country, renovating the school gymnasium. The scenery was like an oil painting, beautiful mountains all around. The cleanest air I’ve ever breathed. It really was the simple life. No stores or anything in sight, people would grow vegetables and trade or sell them amongst each other. Everyone had cows, chickens, sheep, etc. What more do you really need? I didn’t wear a watch the whole time i was there, yet everyday I knew when it was 8:30pm because that’s when the cows came back from grazing all day in the mountains. It really was like clockwork.
I have never seen so much hospitality from complete strangers in my life. Everyone, and I really mean everyone you meet, invites you to their house for coffee, dinner, tea, something, just to show their friendship, and say hey, you’re one of us.
We were a group of 8 volunteers there, and we all stayed in one family’s house. We shared one bedroom, needless to say we all got really close. The family consisted of a mom, dad, two little boys, and one little girl. That family, who I’m still in contact with, was incredible. Warm, loving, just amazing all around people. They treated me like I was their son, but in a real genuine way. Being in Azad, felt like being home.
The second month I was in Gyumri, volunteering at Meghvik Children and Youth NGO. It’s a children’s learning center. I was helping with English classes, and organizing games for the kids.
When I first arrived in Gyumri it was a bit of a shock. It was a big change going from this tiny village with 115 people in it, to this “big” city with 150,000. Once I got back into the city life, I really started enjoying Gyumri. It’s a beautiful city, and the people there are surprisingly almost as warm as in Azad. On my way to work everyday, i would pass by a man on the street who sold fruit. I made friends with him, and within the first week he invited me to his house for a coffee before work. While we were at his place, his daughter wouldn’t stop bringing more things to serve, and putting them right on my plate. There’s nothing like Armenian hospitality.
There I stayed with a host family that Birthright Armenia found for me. It was just a mother, her son, and one other volunteer doing the same program. Again they treated me like one of their own, and i really felt like the son Garen was my brother.
There were about 20 volunteers in Gyumri, and I made some really good friends. It’s nice to be around people who share a lot of the same views as you, it’s easy to connect.
Throughout my trip, I met so many nice people, and had so many great experiences, that I just can’t express to you in words. You’ll just have to go, and see for yourself. I just hope I can hold on to all these memories. Thank you Birthright for giving me the opportunity to really see Armenia, and be a part of it. There’s no way I could have had an experience like this by just coming on vacation.
Now that I’m “home“ all I can think about is the next time I’ll be in what I feel is my real home, Armenia. It really rattled my world… like a Yergrasharj. Hopefully one day it will actually be my home.