Archive for the ‘Hayastani Kidak Society’ Category

h1

[Hayastani Kidak Society]: An Intern’s Farewell, Part 2.

October 28, 2010

By Samantha McQueen

I almost feel bombarded (in a good way) with images and thoughts of Armenia. It is interesting that I’m noticing these reminders only after visiting the country. Now in America, I’m compelled to make everyone know that Armenia is the greatest country. Though clearly annoying to my friends, I can’t help but laugh at myself for becoming everything that I made fun of my mother for. I’m like that man from My Big Fat Greek Wedding who claimed that every single word found its roots in Greek.

I recently took a self defense class that just happened to be in the University Chapel. They have images of women from around the world, typically of low income, in the chapel basement. I caught myself smiling when I noticed that there was a picture of an Armenian woman laughing. She had no teeth and was standing in front of her tiny home, but she stood out among the portraits of somber women.

A Woman Making Lavash In Gyumri

A woman making lavash in Gyumri

Credit: Samantha McQueen

I pointed it out to my friends and they did their typical “yeah yeah we get it. You’re Armenian” spiel, but I still was proud that the Armenian woman was the only one that was clearly laughing of all the shots. I can just imagine her inviting the photographers in for a full meal with vegetables she had just picked from the garden and fresh lavash. It just made me miss the hospitality even more.
 
The only cure may be another visit.

h1

[Hayastani Kidak]: VOA Interviews Young Professionals.

August 19, 2010

Voice of America recently interviewed members of FAR’s 2010 Young Professionals Trip about their impressions of last month’s two-week tour of Armenia.

Click here to watch the video clip

YP-s

Credit: Hayastani Kidak Society

h1

[FAR’s Intern(s) in Armenia – Samantha]: Farewell.

July 24, 2010

By Samantha McQueen

The cliché must be true… my travels truly have changed me and Armenia will always be a part of my life. At the same time I think I left a chunk of myself there, too. Not only in the sense that my sleeping patterns are still stuck in Yerevan time, but I don’t think I could feel complete without returning again.

I finally see what the Diaspora has been fighting for. Armenians love their land and they are a crucial part of it. Through the wars and genocide, they have fought for the right to remain Armenian while holding onto the values of hard work and family. Farmers climb uphill for four hours to find fresh grass for their cows. Suddenly the nine to five job doesn’t seem so bad. And they still manage to take a stroll with their neighbors every night. We have a hard time balancing work with our social lives in America. If nothing else, I’ve learned to take time out of my day for family and friends.

547.JPG

Credit: Samantha McQueen

Armenians are also some of the most hospitable people I’ve ever encountered. They are willing to spend their last penny on a dinner guest, no matter who is the wealthier in the situation. We could use a little of that generosity here. It brings a feeling of unity to the nation, especially with the struggles of the last century.

After a few tearful goodbyes, I realized that nine former strangers are going through the same feelings. We all felt that warmth and empathy for the people and their land. I guess that’s why it’s a cliché. They work so hard for what they have and value the things that really matter in life. If it wasn’t clear to me before, the saying “money doesn’t buy happiness” now makes sense. It’s almost impossible to leave Armenia without feeling like you belong to a culture that welcomes you into their lives with open arms.

495.jpg

Credit: FAR Staff

h1

[Hayastani Kidak Society]: The Stepanavan District in Armenia Introduces New Travel Guide.

July 23, 2010

The Stepanavan District in Armenia introduces its new Travel Guide to develop tourism in this area. The project has been made possible through a International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX) grant. The purpose of creating this travel guide is to attract more tourists and visitors and new investors to this district, bring government attention to a former tourism center of Armenia and help to improve the economy of the region.

You can download it here.

stepanavanmap.jpg

Credit: Stepanavan District

h1

[FAR’s Intern(s) in Armenia – Samantha]: Nagorno Karabakh.

July 20, 2010

By Samantha McQueen

I’m back in Yerevan for the final time before flying back home to America. It’s bittersweet to return for a third time, as this city is starting to feel like a home base for me, however short lived. The seven hour trip from Karabakh was a little painful but knowing I have one full day left doesn’t allow much time for laziness. I need to be in full tourist mode.

Karabakh was definitely a change from other areas we have visited. The people drive flashier cars and show extreme desire for independence of their land while struggling with international recognition as an individual state. It’s a blossoming territory; with modern sculptures along the central square of Stepanakert and construction of new malls in Shushi, it’s on its way to becoming a modern tourist spot. And the locals were definitely excited to see some visitors. Our group was immediately interviewed for the nightly news at the customs office… we were like celebrities. My fellow FAR blogger, Erin, was featured and she did a fantastic job representing the group. It was obvious the citizens were proud of their region and truly wanted to share their land with travelers.

I’m heading back to America tomorrow with great friends, fond memories, and a feeling of camaraderie with my fellow Armenians. They have been hospitable hosts (they never allow guests to work or pay for anything) and were more than excited to help me understand what it means to be an Armenian. There is more growth to be done when I return. A personal analysis of my transforming Armenian-American identity is just beginning.

Erin, during her interview for the Nightly News

041.JPG

Credit: iPhone & Samantha McQueen

h1

[FAR’s Intern(s) in Armenia – Samantha]: En Route to Karabakh.

July 19, 2010

By Samantha McQueen

We left Yerevan to head to the Syunik region down south on our way to Karabakh. The roads were filled with actual Armenian cowboys and donkeys devouring the surprisingly green grass. It was interesting to see the different and naturally-occurring resources in the Armenian hills. The natives use the weeds to make Ourts tea and the valleys are filled with pomegranate, walnut, and hazelnut trees. It was breathtaking. Armenians are a very resourceful community.

And now since we’ve arrived… Tatev is my new favorite tourist destination! Not only did we drive through the world’s most exciting (and notably motion sickness-inducing) roads, but I actually touched a cloud. It’s disappointing that only 20% of Armenia’s tourists visit the spot. It probably (or more likely, obviously) has something to do with the roads. Our driver was a little old man from Goris who had spent 35 years just driving back and forth from Goris to Tatev. I felt more in touch with the locals in the city than I have anywhere else so far.

Ts’tesutyun for now!

En route to Tatev

004.jpg

Credit: iPhone & Samantha McQueen

h1

[FAR’s Intern(s) in Armenia – Samantha]: Holy Etchmiadzin and FAR in Yerevan.

July 16, 2010

By Samantha McQueen

Today we toured Etchmiadzin and had the opportunity to meet with His Holiness Karekin II. He was casual in his conversation and I think he truly impressed the group with his personality. I was a little nervous to ask about the Church’s involvement with social issues that have become political debates in America, but he was very diplomatic in his response and said that he understood the world is full of different opinions. I didn’t even mean for him to actually discuss the issues, but he was willing to share his thoughts. He seems to understand the concerns of the younger generation.

Later in the day, I met with the FAR staff to work on some accounting projects and I’m glad I had the chance to talk with a few of the employees about some concerns in Armenia. They explained that even with a high level degree, including a master, it’s difficult to find work in the country. Professionals are leaving to find careers abroad. It really puts things into perspective for me, especially coming from women in the workforce.

Ts’tesutyun for now!

Mount Ararat

039.JPG

Credit: iPhone & Samantha McQueen