Minneapolis, MN, United States
As I enter the last 10 days of my time in Armenia, an extra layer of consciousness and melancholia has begun to cover my daily routine. I am sitting in the kitchen having my morning lavash and eggs and looking out the window. The snow covered scenery slowly turns into what was there at my arrival in August 2016, five months ago.
The family garden, whose dry soil only allowed for fruit trees and roses, was flourishing under the summer sun. Vines hung heavy with grapes at the peak of their Edenic season and the fig trees were filled with ripe jewels. My host mother Elmira, instantly noticing the size of my eyes the first morning she brought a polka-dotted enamel pot filled with soft figs to the table, sweetly let me know that, now that I lived here as her daughter, they were my fig trees too.
My Armenian grandmother used to tell me a riddle when I was little and ravaging through pomegranates during the holidays.
« I was bought at the market as one and came home as a thousand jewels. What am I? »
The moments of generosity, patience, and love I have received from my host family since that first day in Yerevan are as numerous as rubies inside a pomegranate.
Here are a few.
The multiple times my host parents invited over my two Armenian (from Istanbul) 85-year-old grandparents when they came to Armenia for the first time in their life in the early fall. I had only lived with them for 3 weeks but the graciousness and pure generosity they showed my grandparents… is something I will never forget.
The nights spent eating fruit and watching their favourite Armenian animations, periodically pausing them to translate and explain to me the Eastern Armenian words I didn’t understand.
The time we went to an Urartu basketball game and returned home to explode into laughter when we saw ourselves on the local news cheering on the team and snacking on clementines.
The family feast we had on one October night, with a quantity of homemade things that left me in awe… Fruit compote from the garden’s apricots from the past year, dolmas wrapped in their own grape leaves, tomato sauce made at the end of August when Manouk returned from the shuka with 15 kilos of tomatoes, pickled aromatic turshi taken out of a yellow pot in the corner of the kitchen, rose syrup made from flowers picked 50 meters away… time, care, and love was in every single element on that overflowing table.
My host father Manouk’s anecdotes about life in Armenia during and after the Soviet era, with a 100% success rate of making us fill the house with laughter.
The morning Elmira knocked on my bedroom door as I was preparing my suitcase to leave for a two-week vacation to gift me an intricately knit wool sweater she had made.
Gohar and Sevan of Birthright Armenia always made sure to periodically ask me how my host family situation was going. The complete happiness and comfort I felt with mine since the beginning made me also feel the need to mention that my praises were not sugar-coated. They really were a dream…
Five months passed, and not once did this situation turn out to be too good to be true. Elmira and Manouk will remain in my heart as a primary element of my time in Armenia, as an essence that brought me love and comfort through each day, and as a facet of Armenia which convinced my heart to return one day. They showed me an open-minded, positive, extremely cultured, and curious side of the country in a way that went even deeper than other beloved local friendships. Beyond time, ideas, and food, these two individuals shared with me the most intimate part of themselves: their home.