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[Dispatches from Armenia]: Tztesutjun Armenia.

August 30, 2010

By Erin Henk

This is really difficult. After two months in Armenia, my return to the U.S. looms. For the past week I’ve been trying more than ever to process this incredible experience with the hope of being able to summarize it in some kind of eloquent and profound way. This is not going to be the case, unfortunately.

I can try and explain it a little bit, though. Being here has been a constant learning process and I’m actually pretty happy to say that I’ve experienced a range of emotions over these two months, both high and low. At the risk of spewing clichés, I find it incredibly hard to describe how strongly I feel about Armenia and Armenians now. Before I came here my knowledge of Armenia added up to, well, nothing. I mean this in the best possible way. Since starting to work for FAR about a year ago, I’ve learned about the organization’s work, along with a little bit about Armenian history and culture and I’ve appreciated all of it. For an odar like me, however, this was nothing compared to actually experiencing Armenia, its wonderful people and witnessing FAR’s work firsthand.

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Credit: Erin Henk

Since coming here, I’ve been able to see things like the fragmented remains of the Nagorno-Karabagh War juxtaposed with development in Shushi and Stepanakert and watch clouds sweep in and cover Tatev monastery and its majestic surroundings. I’ve been lulled to sleep by the river in Goris and now feel quite at home in the bustle of Yerevan. I’ve been fortunate enough to meet face to face with the students, doctors, the elderly and the children whose lives have been touched in unique ways through FAR’s programs. And there’s more – tasting some of the freshest and most flavorful fruits and vegetables on earth, attempting to dance, learning the true meaning of Armenian hospitality and the Armenian love for culture and art, and forging friendships that I hope will have no end. I’ve even managed put aside my pre-conceived notions that I’d never be able to learn Armenian and I got myself a tutor. We’ll see how that goes. 

My strong feelings about Armenia and Armenians didn’t happen overnight, either. I arrived eager to absorb all I could about FAR’s work, along with some Armenian culture and history. My hope was for an enriching experience, which would enable me to improve my work. I never guessed this trip would spark such a fascination. Something crossed over in me, something that’s caused me to be enthralled by Armenia’s tumultuous history, the dynamism and strength of its people, and its global community more than I ever thought possible. I can hardly remember being so pleasantly surprised by something that’s captivated me so unexpectedly.

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Credit: Erin Henk

There have been many goodbyes lately; people ask me when I’m coming back. Even though I don’t know when, I do know that I am. On that note, minch nor handipum, Hayastan. 

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