Each and every time I come to Armenia something changes. Whether it’s cleaner, somehow more significant, or advancing in technology, there is always something new to experience and always something to gain from coming here. Even though I was born here, I consider myself an American. Yes I can speak Armenian, and I know how to navigate the city, but that doesn’t mean I am a true native. I find myself learning something new every single time I come here.
My past experiences here have been more along the lines of touristy as opposed to what I am doing here now. Before now, I had never experienced Armenia as someone who lives and works here. I had always thought America was better; I mean it’s the country with streets paved of gold. But, from being here for just under a month, I’ve concluded that no matter how much we have in America, it doesn’t matter. People are happier here. For the longest time, I couldn’t understand why it made absolutely no sense to me how can people be happier in a place that seems to be lacking in so much as opposed to a place that has everything. As I walked the streets and took time out of my day to observe the people, away from my Birthright Armenia friend group bubble, I started to understand why. There is an overwhelming sense of community and friendship. Something that seems to be lacking in America. The family and friend structure here is entirely different. Going out at night and seeing herds of local youth out with all their friends having a ridiculous amount of fun together was very foreign to me having grown up in America.
The fact that people start having dinner here at 9 o’clock is something that would never happen in America. During the week you’re already in bed by nine because you have work early the next day. There is just this incredible stress on going to school, getting a career, and making money. Happiness is not a priority, it is assumed that once you start making money after college happiness will follow. That logic seems so backward. It seems as though the main point emphasized in Armenian culture is community, family, and friendship. The community seems to be the main focal point of Armenian culture because of our mutual shared history and trauma. There is such an incredibly pride surrounding our heritage. Our people were practically obliterated, and yet we are still here. I believe this is why people stick together here because the genocide touched practically everyone's family. We have all felt that pain of denial and oppression. These shared traumas bring the Armenian people together are you truly feel that and see it when you spend time here as someone living here not as a tourist. There is such an incredibly rich history filled with pride, joy, and pain. This history rubs off on the community’s ability to stick together and to be able to rely on one another for anything no matter how big or small.
Anais Olivia Malkasian
Cranston, USA, 2019