I signed up for the 2010 FAR YP trip so last minute. This wouldn’t be my first trip to Armenia so I wasn’t sure if it was the right tour for me. I knew that my first trip to the Motherland had been such an overwhelming and meaningful experience and I wasn’t sure how the FAR trip, which would be my second time in Armenia, could possibly compare; however, I was pleasantly surprised.
Returning to Armenia with FAR was the best way for me to experience my homeland again. I was able to revisit some of the most breathtaking places I have ever been and for this, I am grateful. Some people never get the chance to gaze deep into the red ravines around Noravank once in their lives and here I was, able to lose myself in their beauty once again. I was also able to discover areas of Armenia that were new to me and once again feel those overwhelming emotions that I have only experienced in Armenia. Thanks to FAR, I’ll always treasure the memory of venturing all the way to Datev, in a remote (to say the least) village, up in the clouds. There are no words to describe such a place. I also visited Nagorno-Karabakh for the first time. I’ve never felt more Armenian than when I am in Armenia and then I went to Artsakh for the first time – let’s just say that excursion took my ìArmenian-nessî to a whole new level!
I have found that all of my emotions are magnified when I am in the Motherland and, no, they are not always joyful. There is definitely a great deal of sadness and devastation in Armenia and I understand that when making a trip to my homeland, it is my responsibility, as an Armenian, and as a human being, to see all of Armenia – the good, the bad and everything in between. What I did find, was that no matter the strife or difficult situation, devotion seemed to be a common theme during the FAR trip. Devotion of clergy to their faith (even if they are in a remote village with a tiny handful of parishioners), devotion of students at Octet Music School to their craft (even if they are learning in an aluminum container after the 1988 earthquake), devotion of the teachers and caregivers at FAR Children’s Center, devotion of the old woman arranging flowers around the Genocide Memorial. Whether they know it or not, all of these people inspired a group of FAR young professionals who devoted themselves to experiencing all of Armenia – the good, the bad and everything in between.
My time in Armenia has solidified my connection to my homeland and I have FAR to thank for exposing me to the ways in which I can contribute to Armenia’s growth as a nation. I have now visited Armenia as a tourist twice. So what’s next? I think we all leave Armenia asking this question and we all have different answers and conclusions, which are the right decisions for each of us as individuals. For me, the answer is volunteerism. I am already looking forward to my next trip to Armenia as I am planning on spending my time there as a volunteer. I don’t feel obligated to do so, as being in Armenia in any capacity is not an obligation for me but rather a privilege. My next step as a volunteer feels natural to me – for this I am grateful and I know I have FAR to thank. Thank you, Arto, and the FAR staff in NY and Armenia for organizing the trip of a lifetime and making us feel so at home.
Thank you to our phenomenal tour guide, Galust who is a walking, talking encyclopedia of knowledge but who could also leave it all behind to become a stand-up comedian if he ever wanted!
Thank you to our driver, Samuel who always got us from point A to point B and everywhere in between in the safest possible way.
Thank you to my amazing travel companions – I couldn’t have asked to experience Armenia with a better group.
Thank you to my mom and uncle, who traveled with me to Armenia on my first trip and thank you to my entire family for always exposing me to my culture and heritage.
Finally, thank you to prior FAR YP participants who encouraged me to travel to Armenia on the YP trip. I guess I couldn’t fully understand what you meant until I experienced the FAR trip for myself.