An Armenian Tale

12:20 PM Posted In , , Edit This 1 Comment »
My favorite thing to do is travel. My second favorite thing to do is relish in my travels... look at photographs, chat about cultural experiences, and generally brag. I really like maps with the pins in them for that reason. Much to my chagrin, however, I haven't been able to leave the country since my London Study Abroad in 2006. I know I shouldn't complain about that... but I do. Luckily, (and definitely not by chance) my friend Laura was called to serve a mission for our church for 18 months in Armenia. I spent 3 weeks in Armenia in 2002, and so now I get the chance to reminisce, with the excuse that I'm educating Laura about her future home.
The time that I spent in Armenia has meant the world to me. I learned a lot about the world, humanity, and myself in the short time that I was there. I also learned about the way God works when my brother was assigned to serve a mission for our church there in 2004. It seems like it must be pretty common to go on these missionary excursions to Armenia if I know two people now to do it, but to give you an idea: .5% of all missionaries assigned per year go to Armenia. That's right, one-half of 1%. It's one of the smallest missions in the world. And when the church assigned my brother to go there, they had no way of knowing our family's connection already. I will never be able to deny the hand of God in that.
So why the heck was I in Armenia as a 16 year-old? Well, it turns out that one of the cities with the most concentrated Armenian Diasporas in the world is Boston. Growing up, I thought that everyone was Irish Catholic or Roman Catholic, and knew at least three Armenian kids. Boston is a funny place. So a large group of these Armenians in Boston set up a sister-city gig with Yerevan, the capital of Armenia. And the Cambridge-Yerevan Sister Cities Association (CYSCA... don't laugh if you speak Russian, it was an accident) was born. CYSCA is involved in education, outreach, relief efforts, etcetera, and they came to school and made the call for hosts for Armenian exchange students, as well as the opportunity to be an exchange student. Being culturally aware even at such a young age, I eagerly signed up. Our efforts were funded jointly through the State Department, and we were given the aim to promote "Democracy and a Civil Society" through our efforts with our Armenian counterparts. This little program was deemed so important by the State Department that they funded the Armenian students' entire trip to the U.S., and gave them each a computer for their schools. They also funded half of our trips. There were about 30 students in all, I believe: 15 American and 15 Armenian. This was no small endeavor. (Here's a link to the CIA World Factbook information on Armenia.)
Having the students in our home was fascinating. We weren't allowed to take them to normal malls (in Boston, the Burlington mall was forbidden, and Chestnut Hill would have been punishable by death) for fear of extreme culture shock. They came to school with us, lived with our families, and did some fun excursions of their own. My exchange student, Zara Tepelikyan, was very shy at first, but eventually opened up, showing us her sweet, fun personality. I could share a lot about their trip to the United States, but I'd rather focus on the outbound side of the journey, in the name of educating Laura (and her friends and family) and generally bragging about how awesome my life has been.
This has been a very long prologue to my Armenian Tale, and has taken much longer than I expected. So instead of continuing on with Chapter One right now, I'm going to sign off and give y'all a break, transcribe old journal entries, and scan my old negatives from 2002 and make some pretty pictures for the next post. Stay tuned!


une américaine said...

I have to admit that I teared up reading this.

Whoever wrote "It's a small world after all" was a genius. I hold by that statement/song! The Lord certainly works in mysterious ways. Either that, or he enjoys a sense of humor.

Anyway, I am so excited to see what you have to say! :D That is a very neat exchange program. Armenia!