(United States, ’12)
It would be unfair of me to expect every American citizen to love the city of Phoenix. I’ve never been there, but I’m sure that there is at least one person who doesn’t find it pleasant. And I don’t hold that against them. I do not think, that by virtue of them being American, they are supposed to love every aspect of this country.
I’ve been home for about a week now, and so far, the most frequently asked question is: “So how was it?” I still don’t know how to answer it thoroughly. You see, most people ask the question already anticipating the answer. I am supposed to have a million positive things to say, and encourage everyone to go, and explain how it changed my life, and how it was the greatest experience, and how I loved it. By the simple virtue of me being Armenian, I am supposed to love it. It is expected of me, that feeling, and those answers. Well, I’ve never been one to answer the way people expected.
The truth is, while it did change my life, being in Armenia was the hardest experience of my life in almost every way possible. I was always, always kept on my toes, which forced me to be alert and focused at all times. I guess you could say that that meant there was never a dull moment, but it also means I never had a moment to myself. Do you know that feeling you get after a long day of work or school, and you come home, sit down, and let out a sigh that is accompanied by a long exhale? As if the burdens of the day ride the gust of air, and perch somewhere, waiting to find you again in the morning. I don’t think I did that for a whole two months, which leads me to believe that I never really settled in.
But I wanted to so terribly. I was like the new kid at a high school, in a place where I quite literally could barely even communicate with the people I lived with. They were the one group of people I wanted to get to know and my own inability prevented that. I went in wanting one thing: to learn about and experience a culture and a people, but when I left, I left with more questions, and more uncertainty. I’ve got my own Armenian Question and it’s pretty damn complicated too. I left feeling unaccomplished, like there was so much that I was missing, that I didn’t, and don’t know. It’s frustrating knowing that you know could have tried harder, that you could have done more, and didn’t. So now, how do I answer the question: “How was it?” How can I use words to make someone understand where I am at this point?
Most of the time, I answer: “I miss it.” But even that requires some elaboration. Because while it was the most difficult time of my life, it was a challenge. And I relish that, I live for that. The fact that I feel unaccomplished only means I have much work to do, and much more to give to Armenia. Push me to the brink, shove me over the edge, and watch me fall. I will climb back up. Lord knows there were times I wanted to just yell. Stand in the middle of Haraparak and scream until my lungs were the size of peas. Still, there is no question in my mind as to whether I would do it all over again. Of course I would. Yerevan just isn’t my city, I’ll say that. My most intimate moments, were with people, in some of the most remote parts of the country.
There is this spot, right next to my heard and pretty close to my nipple, that starts to flutter when I get to tell someone about it. And after I retell a story it occurs to me that what I explain to others more about is not the place, but the people I am with. Slowly, I am beginning to realize that my experience there was not as heavily weighted on the where but instead the with whom. So when I respond to the question, “How was it?” with, “I miss it.” what I really mean is, I miss you.