He scrunched his nose and raised one eyebrow.
“Why would you leave your rich life to come volunteer here?”
I was shocked. No one has ever referred to my life as “rich” and besides that, this was the first time someone was questioning my decision to come to my homeland for a 14-week volunteer service.
I sighed and replied, “Why not?”
One of the greatest difficulties in my life has been my identity. I am an Armenian living in a non-Armenian country, how could that be? I have devoted my entire life to teaching my Canadian “odar” friends about my culture and my people. I feel like it is my duty to return to my homeland and share my skills and talents with my own people.
“Are you getting paid?” he asked. “No,” I said. “You’re crazy for working here and not getting paid.”
Did this man really think I would only come here to get money? “I understand life is difficult here,” I replied. “But every country has its issues. I’d rather live, with some struggles, in my homeland than in any other country. “
I volunteer because I care, because I’m human, and because this was the idea that I was brought up with in my household. I didn’t come here to change the country or the people. I came here to change myself, change my views of Armenia. The best way to understand Armenia is to live here. That’s why about 8 months ago I decided it was time for me to come and learn about my country and applied to Birthright Armenia, which ended up being an experience of a lifetime.
I CAME to Armenia to be with my people. By the end of my stay, I SAW Armenia from a completely different perspective than when I initially began my journey. Furthermore, I CONQUERED my fears and did something that only few Armenians have done in my community.
My four months in Armenia has been a journey. Feelings of confusion, frustration and being overwhelmed almost all the time became commonplace. I conquered another fear that I discovered in Armenia, my own journey of self-discovery. Although I was in that taxi for only 5 minutes it felt like hours. A million emotions were triggered by this man’s comments and soon I found myself wanting to tell him to keep driving me around so I can continue to tell him how lucky he is to live in a country that belongs to him.