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[ACYOA Dispatches]: Closing – Reminiscing a Life Changing Trip to Armenia.

September 29, 2010

By Katrina Shakarian

Traveling to Armenia has made it real.  It’s important for all diasporan Armenians to make a pilgrimage there, at least once in their lives.  When you’re finally standing on the land of Hayk, descending the stairs into St. Gregory’s pit, or feeling the cool winds of Sevan disheveling your hair, there’s a curious energy in the air.   You may dismiss this “energy” as the romantic ramblings of an “artasamantzi,” prancing around Armenia, hopping from vank to vank, — her pockets full of dollars, and her rose colored glasses firmly on, conveniently filtering out all the ills of this fledgling state.  But try not to dismiss it.   Listen carefully, because that energy is our ancestors speaking to us.  Itis their spirits that have succeeded in bringing these third and fourth generation sons and daughters of Armenia together, on the plains of Ararat, thousands of miles from the manicured lawns that their parents nurse in exile.  No matter where you trace your roots to, Adana, Van, Sassoun, or any other place currently outside the bounds of the modern Armenian state, Armenia is YOURS to come see, hear, feel, touch, and taste.   In Der Tateo’s words, “This is all your legacy.”

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Credit: Katrina Shakarian

Armenia will not fit into any cookie cutter image you’ve created abroad.  It will both surpass your expectations and sometimes fall short of them.   But I promise you, you will fall in love with this country.   You’ll fall in love with every canyon, every mountain peak, and every winding road that snakes its way through the Armenian high land.  You’ll be completely seduced by the smell of lavash freshly baked in a tonyr, the taste of tomatoes grown on the plains of Ararat, and wine cultivated in Areni.  You’ll fall in love with the quality of the sun on your skin.  It just feels different here.  It feels ancient—holy, in fact.  You’ll be humbled by the devotion of our ancestors, as you hop from vank to vank, and run your fingers along the crevices of century old khach kars. 

Katrina-ACYOA1

Credit: Katrina Shakarian

You will inevitably feel connected to this land, when you sit and experience the same badarak that takes place in churches in Beirut, Paris, New York, Glendale, Watertown, or wherever else the tides of history have swept you.   You will be both enlightened and unsettled by conversations about identity, language, reparations, remittances, and history.  Don’t fight those long talks. They’re bound to happen when Armenians from around the world find themselves at the same table, in the same café, desperately trying to communicate their point in a minimum of three languages, and when necessary—charades.  Most importantly, you will find both inspiration and pride in the resilient spirit of our people, who continue to withstand many hardships.

I want to thank Der Tateos Abdalian for building bridges between Armenia and its diaspora.   I’d also like to thank the ACYOA and FAR for creating our itinerary, and making our homeland accessible.  

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