Shawnt Zareh Ohanmamooreni
Tampa, FL, United States
“Time is valuable”, is what I have heard from the day I started school as a child. Growing up, I learned there are things that I should use my time on, and others that I should not. I am glad I took the time, six and a half months approximately, in Armenia. Away from what was familiar back in Florida, I took the time to adapt to my new environment, learn as much as I could, and see as much as I could. I did not expect to change in the way that I did.
I could not help but think that I have been here before. It seemed much easier to adapt to this familiar, yet new place, than in the city I lived in for 23 years. It did not make sense. Was there something that led me here in the first place? What was I supposed to do here, and more importantly why? Why does it seem like I have seen Dilijan before in other times of my life, despite seeing Dilijan and Vanadzor for the first time?
It also seemed I was learning patience, time is precious, but some things also take time. Armenia taught me there is more to life than sitting in an office cubicle from 9-5. I saw with my own eyes real people with real struggles. I learned how resilient us Armenians can be, but also our weaknesses. I never forgot the days waiting for the bus after work, when an elderly couple would always invite me to their shop. I became the grandson for those 4.5 months volunteering in Dilijan and Vanadzor. I learned so much from him, I only called him papik (grandfather) the whole time. Vanadzor had an impact on my life I will never forget.
Vanadzor taught me painful and happy lessons about us Armenians. I learned how hospitable we are, and how much of a huge family we really all are. It is where I stayed with my first host family, the Seghateleyans. I had my host mom, Hasmik Moqur, and host brother, Armen. They welcomed me into their home the first day, I will never forget that. They became part of me, and I became part of them. I know I have a family in Vanadzor now, and we are close. The connection between us is so deep, that this article cannot fully explain it. Through my work in Vanadzor and Dilijan, I became close to the other volunteers and many locals. I had begun to find my way of what I wanted and what I was supposed to do. Gyumri helped to further solidify my final lessons in Armenia.
I arrived in Gyumri after being in Vanadzor for 4.5 months. There I was welcomed by my new host family, Paron Avetik and Tikin Aida. They welcomed me into their home, and I felt at home, but I felt I was missing for the first two weeks. I had left my heart in Vanadzor, and I was missing it terribly. Eventually, I learned and got used to Gyumri, the other volunteers were very welcoming and helpful. Some of them were new, and some of them were friends from the beginning of the summer. Along the way, I started to learn more about myself, the people around me, Armenianism, and what it means to love Armenia.
I learned what authentic love for heritage and the nation was. I learned how “pride” does not matter and does not bring Armenia any benefits. I learned about myself, and what my path is now. I now know that now was not my time to stay, and what I had to do. I finally learned I do not have control over everything, but for the things I do, I can improve. I am not done with Armenia yet. Thanks to Birthright, I really discovered myself, others, Armenia, my family, my past, and God. I finally also learned that my timing is not always up to me.