Werner A. Maurer Simonian,
On January 20, 2018, after having met my family in Paris for three days, this adventure began in Armenia.
I arrive at Zvartnots hoping to see only Vahram, the driver that Birthright had arranged to pick me up at the airport, but to my surprise, I discover that my Armenian family is also waiting for me, Melania who is the niece-granddaughter of my grandfather Jirair and his son Gagik. Then Melania started talking to me in Armenian and I did not understand anything, we started to walk towards Gagik's car and I worried because I knew that I had to go with Vahram to my new home, but I assumed that everything would be fine.
During the trip from the airport to another point in the city, which I did not know if it was my family's house or my host family's house, Melania and her son Gagik tried to explain something to me, but I still did not understand. Finally we arrived at the house of Anahit which would be my host family in Yerevan and thanks to their son Arthur who spoke English, they could tell me what Melania and Gagik tried to explain to me during so many minutes ... a few years ago, they lived in the same building, but one floor below, so they were neighbors and they knew each other.
After that, we shared a very pleasant moment between the two families, recalling past stories of the building.
But the anecdotes with my host families do not end there...
After six days in Yerevan, I went to Gyumri to begin my volunteer work. I arrived on a Friday night so it was impossible for me to recognize any street reference point or a nearby store. The next day was my first excursion which consisted of Cross Country Skiing in a region near Gyumri. After the excursion, my Chileans friends invited me to spend the weekend in Yerevan which would mean arriving on Sunday at the house of my new host family.
Sunday afternoon and with 3 more volunteers we went by train to Gyumri, we arrived around 22:00, all dark and very cold, we went each to their respective house.
I'm in front of the building, I climb the stairs, I knock on the door and a man comes out who was not my host father, I ask him "Tigranyan ndanik?" Tigranyan family? in Armenian, to which he responds with a denial. I went down to the street again to look for the address which I had on my cell phone, but due to the extreme cold that was on the streets of Gyumri, my cell phone battery died.
I thought for a moment, I'm on the street with cold, in a different city, in a different country, I do not speak the language and I do not know where I live. In my desperation I looked for a man who was in his car and I showed him the charger and my dead cell phone, to try to let me charge the battery of my cell phone in his car, to which he responded with a gesture to go up to his house, I thought about it for a moment, but I refused because I was still afraid of a situation that a stranger invited me to go to a different house. He insisted until I finally agreed since I had no other alternative.
I entered his house and his whole family looked at me strangely, he explained the situation and everyone welcomed me as one more member, they gave me water, they let me charge my cell phone, but it was so frozen that for more than 10 minutes it did not start. During this time, they all asked me questions about who I was, where I was from, what I did in Gyumri, who was my family, etc. I explained to them that I came from Chile (a country that obviously they did not know) and that I lived with the Tigranyan family, they began to think among themselves for long minutes until a lady made a gesture of striking her left shoulder with two fingers (gesture indicating military ranks), to which I reacted with joy because they had guessed right because my two host parents belong to the army.
After resting for a few minutes, the man took me to my house that was the next building and when my host father opened the door the man explained the whole situation and he started to laugh and said: "voch inch" (no matter in Armenian). Thanks to that expression I could be calmer.
Thanks to this last experience I learned that you should always carry an external battery in your backpack and keep your cell phone somewhere warm, especially if it is Winter in Gyumri.