María Sol Mar Tabakian,
Buenos Aires, Argentina
I get off the plane, Buenos Aires again. My eyes are full of endless landscapes, some are new, some are old. The stories that were built upon the tales which I grew up, those of my grandma, my parents, my school.
With that background, I traveled some time ago, as one more tourist who was visiting a legendary country carrying with me images that had been drawn from the beginning of my life.
However, this time, when I got off the plane, I knew it was going to be different. At the beginning everything looks, as usual, the Ararat far off but magnificent, the picturesque Cascade surrounded by little cafés, the Opera and Northern Avenue. But as time passes by, my perspective and perception get modified. Although inside me, the same feeling of happiness is alive as when I arrived at Zvarnots, the time has changed the feeling of belonging, making it different but more committed. But why? How is it different from my previous experience?
Birthright Armenia gives you the opportunity to make the most of time in Armenia, you are not pressed by fixed schedules or predetermined visits. On this occasion, I met people outside the ordinary track which allowed me a profound and real learning of this land. A land that in my view had always been part of my elders, but from now on was going to be part of me.
I get out of my house, I look up at the sky. It is a nice day but too sunny. I put on my glasses, I walk on and turn left. I listen to the sound of wind whispering through the trees. I keep on walking till I get to the police station, I raise my head and the mountains greet me. I walk by the church. Suddenly I feel as if that route had been my life’s journey.
Gyumri turned to become my second home: her landscapes, her people full of joy and kindness, her twilights, the sky and the city full of history and hope which from now on will be with me for good.
I am puzzled because on my arrival to the city I was high on prejudice and fear, now I am leaving with a baggage of good memories, but sad because I have to say goodbye and part ways.
I arrive in the capital city, Yerevan held me spellbound, a surprise each day: the nights full of life, the dances at Cascade, the friendly smiles, the anecdotes, the cafés, and their music…
On my way, I met other volunteers, curious adventurers like me who were able to reunite their vocations with the experience of getting to know their place of origin and belonging. The volunteering program makes it possible to bring together these two realities. On the one hand, it takes care of the individualities and the professional choices of each of us, and on the other hand, the possibility of discovering new spaces on which these choices can be fulfilled. It is important to highlight that we are all committed as members and participants of the same community.
All these feelings can be boiled down to a phrase that my mother told me, “I am not a witness, but an heir”. I feel I had the opportunity to experience both things; witness of something I didn’t really know, and heir of a tradition that makes me proud.
These feelings allow me to part with the deep pain we have inherited, but to open up to justice and hope. It gives me hope and connects me to others who, up to this trip, we're just foreigners with whom I shared this experience, and now they are those on whom I see my reflection.