July 10 was an extremely hot day in Yerevan when I attended my orientation with Sevan before leaving for Vanadzor. I arrived five days prior and spent that time reconnecting with my father who I had not seen in 5 years. From the moment I left the Birthռight Armenia office and entered the taxi, my experience as a volunteer had begun!
My driver, Perj, was a native Vanadzortsi who had a great sense of humor! For two and a half hours he told jokes and explained the history behind each and every monument or khatchkar (cross-stone) we came across. He was so energetic and full of life that my exhaustion from the heat completely went away during this trip up North. Once we arrived in Vanadzor, I was fascinated by the beauty of the mountains and valleys that surrounded the Lori region. I felt like this was my time to catch up on anything, and everything Armenia had to offer and I was ready to immerse myself in our culture completely.
Vanadzor had a magical atmosphere that is honestly unexplainable unless you can experience it yourself. Being in this town was like no other experience I've had before for several reasons. First off, the fresh air is remarkable to wake up to each morning. Secondly, the people in Vanadzor were extraordinarily welcoming and appreciated the work the volunteers did throughout the town. Although many would argue that there "are not enough things to do in Vanadzor," I would have to disagree because I visited so many beautiful places including abandoned churches, soccer fields, monasteries and several hikes where you could oversee the entire city and parts of Spitak. Vanadzor was indeed the right destination for me because it was peaceful, calm, and serene and the hospitality was genuine from all the people I came across.
Starting with my host family to my acquaintances at my job sites, I developed relationships and memories that I will be able to cherish and hold close to my heart forever.
P.s. One day the power went out for three hours my last week there and it reminded me so much of my childhood during the 90’s and my host family and I spend time together in the living room under candlelight reading “abu lala mahari” and it’s an evening I will never forget because it reinforced what I already know about our culture which is that we are strong and make the best of all situations. Instead of complaining, we took away the positive side of the lights being out and made it exciting and fun to spend the night together.