Anyone can tell you that the plane ride to the destination is the worst part of it all.
But my overwhelming anticipation to finally arrive in Armenia kept me awake the full 20 hour trip. I didn’t know what to expect of Armenia once I got there but I had a feeling this would all be worth it.
As we arrived to Zvartnots it hit me like a bag of bricks, I was in my Motherland for the first time. The only thing I wanted to do at this point was step out of the plane and say “Parev” to everyone that I saw.
As we reached the arrival gate we see Berj’s father who was kind enough to come welcome us. So there we are, we have all our luggage and are waiting for the van to come pick us up, everyone tired and excited at the same time. Finally the van arrives and we head out to our apartment building in Yerevan.
While driving I turn to my right to gaze at a gorgeous view of Mount Ararat. I couldn’t stop staring at it and just thinking, thinking about how much work everyone in that van has put in for our Armenia, thinking about how one day I would love to have a simple picnic at the base of Ararat and not have to see it on the other side of the border.
My final thoughts on Ararat, as it disappeared behind buildings, were “I want that back.”
We reach our apartment building and I notice the other buildings around us have a unique style, each unit with a balcony of its own and each balcony designed in their own special way. Some had tile around it others had nice stones, as if to point out the individuality of the families living there. Our apartment units were simple and plain, yet I wouldn’t take a suite at the Marriot hotel over it.
At this point all of us are hungry but no restaurants are open only 24 hour grocery stores. Our first meal in Armenia was a traditional one; we had bread with cheese, boureg and apricot juice. Sitting on a small table, barely enough room to fit everyone, we shared one of the greatest meals of our lives.
After we rested for a little while we decided to walk the streets of Yerevan and possibly eat again. When you hear someone say the drivers in Armenia really don’t care about pedestrians, the stories they tell are 100% true. We had many close encounters in our 2 hour walk through of the city.
We also saw a lot of very interesting things, like a local shawerma restaurant called Sayat Shawerma, which I would recommend to anyone looking for a very good shawerma meal.
On our way back to the apartment we learned how to deal with the drivers that almost run you over, you simply stick your arm out and yell at them, they either apologize by sticking their arms out of the window and showing you the universal hand gesture for thank you/I�m sorry or they drive away mumbling to themselves about how rude you were–oh the irony in that!
It is currently 9:30 P.M. so the night is young and we are ready for a fun filled evening in the city. For my first day in Yerevan, I can tell you that this day alone was worth that 20 hour Trip.
December 7 marks the 20th anniversary of the Gyumri Earthquake. The 7.2 magnitude quake destroyed Spitak, and severely devastated Gyumri and its surrounding towns and villages, killing 25,000 people and leaving up to a million homeless.
The earthquake sent shockwaves throughout Armenia and her Diaspora, initiating one of the largest humanitarian efforts to Armenia. Although Gyumri was largely rebuilt, much remains to be done, as thousands of families affected by the quake continue to live in underprivileged circumstances.
Last summer, the Armenian Youth Federation’s Youth Corps division established a free day camp for underprivileged children in Gyumri’s. Camp Gyumri touched the lives of hundreds of children that summer and provided much needed assistance to many of Gyumri’s struggling families who have to grapple with economic and social challenges that continue to linger 20 years after the earthquake destroyed their homes.
Please help us mark this anniversary by joining us at the Orange County Armenian Center (5305 W. McFadden Santa Ana, CA) on Sunday, December 7 at 9 am for a benefit breakfast to raise funds for the AYF’s humanitarian operations in Gyumri. Donations will help fund the Armenian Youth Federation’s 2009 Youth Corps project in Gyumri, Armenia.
For more information on the fundraiser please visit the event’s facebook page.