“You are Armenian now,”

…she said with a smile.
She is a beneficiary in one of my NGOs’ projects. And the Armenian to whom she referred, is me.

View of Mt Aragats from Bridge St, Gyumri

View of Mt Aragats from Bridge St, Gyumri

I can see her point, which is that I eat food grown in Armenian soil, drink tap water from the Armenian mountains, breathe the air in my Armenian city and have a (minimal) grasp of the language.

But, isn’t it more than that?
 

 

Detail on door of house

Detail on door of house

I know and understand a lot of the culture. While I am respectful of it, I don’t agree with many of the practices and will not incorporate them into my life. I’m also treated like a foreigner – stared at and spoken to in Russian, even after saying in my broken Armenian, “Yes chem haskanum Rruseren.”

 

WmSaroyanPeople in the Republic of Armenia audaciously claim others as their own. In one of my early meetings with an NGO’s then Executive Director, I was told that anyone with a smidgen of Armenian blood is Armenian. This attitude has been born out time and again. One of my colleagues loaned a book to me by an unfamiliar Armenian writer, William Saroyan (1908-1981).  A little research turned up that Saroyan was born in Fresno, CA, where his parents had emigrated 2 years earlier, and lived his life in the US. I’m reading his selected short stories published in 1975* by “Progress Publishers of Moscow,” with all but the stories in the Russian language.
*Note: In 1975, Armenia was part of the Soviet Union.

Armenians consider their country and its people to be homogeneous. Of course, this isn’t exactly the case but, this belief makes it hard for host country nationals to understand what it is to be an American. When asked for my “nationality” some don’t accept “American” as the answer. I’ve been told, “American is your citizenship – it is what’s listed on your passport. What is your nationality?”

It’s difficult (if not impossible) at times to defend some things my government has done, past and present, but I’m glad that as a circumstance of my birth, “Yes Amerikatsi em.” Nevertheless, I cannot deny that living and working in Armenia for nearly 21 months has altered my being. Though the ultimate result has yet to be realized, I already know that I will always carry Armenia within me.

Perhaps Naira was correct in her proclamation after all.

Toasting the new year, 2015

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6 responses to ““You are Armenian now,””

  1. Don Nekrosius says :

    Dear Bobbie,

    American, si. Armenian, si too. If what Pogo said is true (“We have met the enemy and they is us.”), then also we have met our brothers and sisters on a foreign shore and they is us. The consanguinity of souls across time zones and borders is maybe something a PC experience inculcates. It’ll be interesting to see where and how what you’re doing now will come into play in your next act of fulfillment. You have made a difference. Kudoes.

    • Bobbie S says :

      Indeed, Don.
      I am not the same person that left the US 21 months ago and only time will tell all the ways in which my PC experience has (and will continue to) change me. Nearly everything but the essentials have been removed from my life, and what remains holds my focus. I too am interested in seeing (and doing) what’s next.
      ~b

  2. Sandy Murdock says :

    Thanks for sharing! I enjoy living all of this adventure along with you.

    • Bobbie S says :

      Sandy, I’m very lucky to have you and other friends and family with me on this journey. Knowing you all are “back home” sometimes makes life here more difficult but most of the time, it makes it easier,
      ~b

  3. N Rudolf says :

    + your NEW very special Armenian kind of humor……u know dear Bobbie, makes u more & more Armenian….))))

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