After a long night of fun in Yerevan, we returned to Gyumri to get back to work. It was the second to last day of camp and all the color groups were practicing for the song competition to take place on Friday. We then had our English lessons, which went as smoothly as it could with 20 energetic kids. Our group activity for the day was a quizbowl on general Armenian knowledge. It was really interesting to see what the campers knew and didn’t considering they live in Armenia.
Once we wrapped up camp, the Birthright Armenia group in Gyumri met up with us. They are a slightly larger group and most are from the East Coast, Canada, and Argentina. It was nice talking to spyurkahyes that weren’t from the LA area and getting their perspective on Armenia. We also contrasted how different life in Gyumri is compared to fast-paced Yerevan, which is why most of them chose to work in Gyumri. I always enjoy running into spyurkahyes here because we are neither deghatsis nor foreign tourists. We are Armenians from the Diaspora living here and contributing to the growth of our nation, and that in itself is an amazing connection to have with someone you would have otherwise not met in the states.
On our last day of the first session of camp, we had our song competition and invited all of the parents to watch. All the kids did great and worked hard to get ready for the big day. The campers sang a diverse range of songs, from “Sardarabad” to “Mshag Panvor” to “All My Loving” by The Beatles. The parents loved it and had their cameras, camcorders, and cellphones in hand to capture every moment. Of course there had to be a winner, and the prize went to the blue team. Each camper got a signed song book from the counselors. After
ear-piercing screams of jubilation from the blue team upon their victory, it was time to party. Music was played and dancing ensued. There was even a bit of post Vartivar celebration when a few campers started dousing each other with bottles of water. We all ate ice cream afterward and gave the kids their English notebooks to take home. Every camper wanted our name, address, email, and telephone number so that they could contact us later on.
This first session was definitely a roller coaster ride. The kids learned from us, but we the counselors learned from them too. It took us and the kids a few days to understand each other fully, but once that connection was made it was a smooth ride. The kids that caused the most problems were the ones giving the longest hugs on the last day. It seems like we’ve formed a bond and I don’t think the campers will forget the things they learned from us Amerigah-hyes.
After we cleaned up camp and walked home (with some campers in tow), we went and had khorovadz with our Gyumri ungers at a river on the outskirts of Gyumri. The picnic area is right next to the 9th century Vank of Marmashen. People come to bbq here often, and it’s cool to see the juxtaposition of something so old next to a picnic area. Our dinner table was in a grove of apple trees, and just a few hundred meters away was a lookout point over the slow moving river. It was a very beautiful spot to finish off our first two weeks here. Great food, great friends, and great scenery.