Chattanooga, TN, USA
For many years, I have heard stories about young people having a “birthright trip” to Israel. The way I understood it, if a person is of Jewish heritage, they are entitled to a birthright trip to their motherland. And I remember always thinking this was so neat, such a wonderful opportunity. And then my thought process would always lead me to thinking about how nice it would be to go to MY own motherland of Armenia.
My exact thoughts were, “Hey, that is not fair there is a Birthright Israel, what about Birthright Armenia!?” So I jokingly googled Birthright Armenia and didn’t really think I would find much. But to my surprise, a sonic happy boom went off in my brain. There it was, Birthright Armenia!!! WOW! Is this for real? Seriously? Why hadn’t I heard of this before? I was astounded to the max. And then studied the web page like a book for several weeks.
I knew that Birthright Israel offers a two week tour of the country which is great. However, I quickly realized that Birthright Armenia is actually an even better experience than that. With Birthright Armenia you can live in the country for up to a year and really experience a deep understanding of the people and culture. I grew with excitement. It was about four years later that I went to Armenia and volunteered with the program. My thrill led me to thinking I have this amazing chance to live in Armenia, and I have got to choose the perfect time to go and stay as long as I can. I finally decided to make my Birthright Armenia trip happen during my graduate program. I lived in Armenia and volunteered at World Vision for five months. I was also lucky enough to coordinate the volunteering at World Vision with my graduate course work. I’m forever thankful for the experience and it all happened because of a joke. It is funny how things work out.
This summer I fell in love… with Karabagh
In love with the luscious green interweaving with war torn buildings.
In love with the flowers growing out of concrete.
In love with the view of Stepanakert from Shushi.
In love with the magical jontik wanterfall.
In love with the spirit of its beautiful people.
In love with the kid that sang “karabaghtsi” at Gandsasar with so much emotion and heart that it brought me to tears.
In love with the kids hanging out of their windows at the camp in Gandsasar asking if we’d be back tomorrow.
This summer I fell in love…with Yerevan
In love with purple bus number 28 that arrived at 9:15 every morning with enough standing room to get me to work.
In love with the bus driver that smiled and said “khntrem” (you’re welcome) when I said thank you every morning.
In love with the grandpa and granddaughter who got off the same stop as me every morning and walked together hand in hand, telling jokes and laughing joyously.
In love with the breathtaking view of the city from the top of Cascade.
In love with all-you-can-eat crawfish at Station pub.
In love with girls nights with Vernashen wine and cheese.
This summer I fell in love… with Birthright Armenia
In love with all of the people I met.
In love with the nights we sang and danced like there was no tomorrow.
In love with the hats, paneer, pamidor sandwiches we devoured on excursions.
In love with Sanahin, Haghpat, Ohanavank and every other place I would have never ventured if it wasn’t for Birthright.
In love with the office and everyone sitting in it making the magic happen.
In love with the serious security guard who makes wooden boats behind the counter.
In love with the idea of being reintroduced to a city I thought I knew. Thank You Birthright Armenia for showing me how much there is to love in a country where everyone is looking for a reason to leave. My list could go on forever.