Earlier in the year, when Levon first proposed the idea that we all participate in Youth Corps together we were extremely apprehensive to agree to it. We knew it would be an amazing experience, but were nervous about meeting new people and stepping out of our comfort zone. Levon, who participated in Youth Corps in 2011, continuously assured us that the we would regret not coming to Armenia together. Growing up together, going to the same school, and having all the same friends, we assumed that nothing could possibly bring us any closer. However, participating in AYF Youth Corps together definitely proved us wrong. The past few weeks we’ve spent together, more specifically the time we’ve we spent in Shushi, has brought us closer then ever. Every day for the past two weeks, we have been sharing a twin size bed, (which is not that comfortable when Sareen steals the entire blanket…actually, Taleen’s lying, she’s the one that always has her feet in my face.) Surprisingly, we have enjoyed waking up this way. It’s reassuring knowing that not only your cousin, but also your best friend is right by your side every morning as soon as you wake up.
Without a doubt we are each others’ support system throughout this journey. No one would be there to help the other participants understand Sareen’s fear of ants, or help Taleen deal with her anxiety when driving by cliffs. Yes, we know our fears are a bit strange, but we have helped each other get through them. We rely on each other for support the most during Jampar. Whenever we need advice on what to say to one of the kids or how to react to a situation, we know we can turn to each other. For instance, Ishkhan, one of the kids in our Shushi Jampar, was continuously disrupting Sareen’s classroom. Together, we discussed ways in which we could help Ishkhan understand that he needs to improve his behavior in class and Taleen decided it would be best to pull him aside and talk to him. By talking to him alone, Taleen was able to form a bond with Ishkhan that caused his behavior to improve immediately. Not only that, Ishkhan has grown to be Taleen’s favorite camper. It’s situations like this that prove the bond we share as cousins has helped us throughout this trip.
We came on this journey knowing we would learn more about Armenia and its history, but we never imagined how much we would grow as Armenians. As we arrived in Shushi we were both aware of the history in Artsakh, but seeing these places first hand has been unreal… seeing all the ruins in Tigrankert; seeing an actual missile launched into to the side of the wall at Gandzasar; walking on the same ground that our fedayeen fought on in Shushi… And the most amazing part about all of this is that we were able to experience it with one another and the twelve other group members that we have grown to call our family. We could never have imagined coming to Armenia for the first time without one another and are grateful that Youth Corps has provided us with this amazing experience. Growing even closer to one another was something we never thought possible, but these past five weeks have definitely proven us wrong. We’ve spent been nineteen years, eight months and 21 days together and we continue to grow closer each day.
With love from Shushi,
Sareen and Taleen Yepremian