Wednesday at 9 pm the decision was made for a few of the AYF Youth Corps participants to join AYF youth from all over the world for a pan Armenian panagoom (camp). Those of us who were fortunate to participate were very excited by this decision and knew that it would be an amazing addition to our trip. Because the decision was last minute, we needed to leave Thursday at 3pm before the closing of our Shushi jambar. Not only did we have to do laundry, pack our stuff, and prepare to leave, worst of all we had to leave our kids in Shushi.
Usually I don’t get attached to people in a couple weeks, but these kids made my usual impossible. From the start of camp, the blue color, the group I was a khmpabed (leader) for, were the highlight of camp.
The first day, while we were waiting for lunch Vahe asked the kids if any of them had talents. Asri, stood up and said I can sing… We invited him to the front of class and told him to sing a patriotic song. The little 13 year old boy shocked all of us by singing “Baderazm Enk Gnoom”. None of us expected that little body to make such a strong, impacting sound. Then during the chorus, Ara joined in with his squeaky, but amazing voice. We were called to lunch, where we told the red and orange counselors about the talent we discovered. The next morning we invited Verginie and Patil to come see our boys sing. Asri and Ara sang “Baderazm Enk Gnoom” again, then sang a song none of us had heard, “Seeroom Em Kez”. All of us fell in love, especially Verginie. The next day we wanted to really show off, so after lunch the blue group put on a small concert for the rest of camp. These boys were happy to be the spotlight.
These boys became my friends at camp… When I didn’t understand the Gharapaghtsi dialect, they would translate. When I found out kids were running away from camp they would go find them. When I needed the group to get quiet and line up, they would make it happen. It’s usually not right to have favorites but it was unavoidable. One morning I brought them chocolate and they refused to take it, because they said I didn’t need to thank them for what they were doing. These kids brought our whole group together.
When I first told them I was leaving a day early they refused to believe me, and said I would have to wait until camp was over. Then I explained the situation, and they were forcefully convinced. Telling the rest of the color was just as difficult. Asri and Ara were my favorites but I loved the other kids too. Little Lusine and Anushig begged me not to go. Little Ishkhan actually listened to me when I asked him to learn the songs, gave me the nastiest wet kiss, and brought me my last flower. Arus a 14 year old mature young lady actually cried when handing me the letter she wrote. The girl I sent home the first day for being rude, who we allowed back because Vache is a softy, handed me a heart shaped card. Saying bye to the other Youth Corps participants was the worst, after living with them for five weeks, we would have to part. Leaving Vache, the person who I had grown the closest too was so annoying that we just kept arguing because neither of us wanted to deal with saying adios.
It was 3 pm when Vache called me out of class, I lagged as much as possible but eventually I was forced out. All the kids came out by the taxi, and Asri and Ara sang the last “Seeroom em Kez”. When we told them we were returning to Shushi in a few days, they promised they would somehow find us. Vache told us if we didn’t get in the taxi, the taxi was leaving without us so we got in. Patil and I turned around and saw a crowd of kids with water bottles, ready to splash the car, wishing us a safe trip. Since I hadn’t already cried (yeah right) I really broke down.
Saying bye to Shushi, was the start. It was like saying bye the summer that I believed to be my new life. I’ve been away from America for a month and a half, but I don’t feel like l ever left home.