Leaving my life at home in New York City and entering this one in Gyumri, Armenia has changed my perspective in many ways. Letting go of what I know and am familiar with has allowed me to reflect on the foundations of what I need to get by. By exercising my ability to adapt, I have been able to appreciate what I did have back home as well as see the modesty now surrounding me as a gift. My host mother for example, a traditional stay-at-home mom who is in her 60’s, does not waste anything. She makes the majority of what she cooks from scratch, including homemade yogurt and jam. In her house, we live by necessity, not desire. She is always hard at work, fixing things and running around, and I can tell she is good at what she does. This not only makes me aware of how self-sufficient people are here in comparison to New York, but also of how minimal her impact on the environment is. The Gyumretsi, it seems, have gone green long before going green was even a thing. As the weeks go by, I have been getting to know the mountains around me, meeting new people and sharing different stories. They’ve painted their experiences for me, and I can see some of their colors are on my canvas too. I let it sink in that time and place makes way for paths to meet in this special corner of the world. With their help, my eyes have begun to open a bit wider to the rare beauty and history surrounding me. It is now the end of February, and I have been eating foods with names I cannot pronounce, expanding my vocabulary with foreign words and phrases, and rewarding myself with long walks into the wind. At the end of each day, taking my shoes off and crawling into bed feels like the conclusion of its own story, and it is something I can be proud of. The air is thin, sky is bright, and most of the time my mind is quiet. It feels so good to see myself arriving here a bit more every day in ways I don’t expect. Life is truly being lived when you are constantly redefining what happiness is.
Isabelle Arikian, USA