My arrival in Armenia started in a strange way. I arrived in Gyumri with another volunteer, Bianca -(thanks for making my experience there better), both without knowing a word of Armenian. The first days were difficult since it was very hard for me to communicate at work, in different places in the city, or with my host family. I came to think about what was I really doing here, and I hesitate to stay so long since I planned to stay for six months.
The weeks went by, and all my fears and thoughts changed completely. We created an incredible group of volunteers since in Gyumri in winter we were few, and we became closer. My host family – the best -, always caring for my well-being, even though we could not talk much with words. I think Gyumri is a very different experience from Yerevan, and everyone should be encouraged to experience it. People, the city, having to speak in Armenian because it is very rare for people to speak English, etc.
After a month, I moved to Yerevan, where I started to love Armenia. I began to speak more Armenian, to encourage myself more to speak. My work also was great, and the group of friends that I formed here is unforgettable. They made my experience ten times better. I liked so much the experience that I decided to extend my volunteering for 3 more months.
Excursions are one of the best things in Birthright Armenia. You meet more volunteers; you know beautiful and unique places and everything in a fun way. The lunches are always great, and the food is delicious. Artsakh was the best excursion. We were able to visit two military bases, have lunch with the soldiers, and talk to them for a while. Also know the reality of families in Shushi, since we stayed in homestays. The hospitality that exists in Artsakh is impressive. We had this wine-mob, where they give you a bottle of wine, and you have to get invited to a house to drink it with the family. The first door my group knocked, we were invited. The lady quickly started putting some fruits in the table and some homemade food. It is incredible how people are so lovely there, and even if they don't know you, they invite you in any way.
At first, the cultural shock is hard. People look at you all the time, they ask you a million questions, and they even tell you that you are crazy to come to Armenia when everyone goes abroad. The first question is, always "Hay es?" (Are you Armenian?). After answering "Hay em" (I am Armenian), everything is different; they treat you as one of them and even more, they invite you to their houses to drink some coffee. And the second question is almost always: Are you married? When you answer no, they even try to marry you! But beyond the cultural differences, the people are very hospitable. They talk to you even on public transport!
I can say that it has been the best experience of my life so far. I made friends from all over the world, I met another totally different culture, I learned a lot of things, and I challenged myself many times. And best of all, I can now read and write in Armenian, which was unthinkable for me when I arrived.
I keep the best memories and excellent friends at a distance!! Thanks for all of them, and the staff to make it even better. So, what are you waiting for? Come for your journey of self-discovery!
Montevideo, Uruguay, 2019