Some reflections on my time in Birthright Armenia… I didn’t have an agenda when I came to Armenia. Coming here for the first time, I wasn’t sure what I would get out of the experience. In my own heart and mind, it was an experiment. I wanted to give some of my time and energy and see what I would get back. This was a fine way of going into Birthright, but as I soon learned, the give/take paradigm isn’t so relevant. No matter how much I could give of myself, in my work, with my host family, with practically everyone I have met, I think I would feel I were getting back more. The gratitude, compassion, and kinship Armenians are capable of, has amazed me. It continues to surprise me how happy people are just to know you, how interested they are in who you are as diasporan. At first this really disarmed me, but over time I think it is what has made me comfortable here. I have grown to feel that it is good in-and-of-itself to live here and to try to understand this place as an Armenian. It is a complicated country, and it is a complicated process to come here as a diasporan and want to experience it. I didn’t always feel I knew what I was doing or that I completely belonged here. But at every point during my stay, I relished the learning and growing process it has been, and every new person and moment has given me new perspective.
As I imagined I would before I came here, I have felt a strong connection to the land. This is something only being here can satisfy and that I will always want to rekindle when I am not here. Something that was totally unanticipated, was the connection I come to feel to the language, which I had never heard or spoke before living in Armenia. It has been a big part of developing an appreciation for this place. What I also couldn’t have imagined before coming, was how strong a connection I would feel to all the people I’ve come across. The momentary acquaintances and the slow-developed friendships have equally touched me and will remain in my thoughts while I am away from Armenia. The relationships with my host family, friends, and with those that I’ve been privileged to work with, began as primitive and functional and have become some of my strongest personal connections in the universe. I am so happy and grateful for them. I have also had a terrific time meeting many interesting diasporans. This has given me an important perspective on the greater Armenian world. I don’t feel too sad leaving Armenia for now, because in a million small, insignificant, superficial, huge, deep, profound, enduring and fantastic new ways, I feel myself more a part of that world.