Hometown: San Francisco, CA
Location of main picture: Yerevan, Armenia
Reflection from the road: initial impressions verse reality:
My first impression of Armenia wasn’t so grand; I’m not sure what my expectations were, but I definitely entered the country with a naivety. Should I have learned a bit more about my heritage’s history before plopping myself into the center of it? Yes, but that time has passed and maybe that was for the best.
As I roamed the streets for the first few days, people watching in the capital city of Yerevan, I was struck by the women’s obsession with beauty... is it more or less than any other metropolitan city? Probably not... but walking alongside people with shared ancestry, I couldn’t help but be bothered by this obsession... the overuse of makeup, the dark neutral tones worn in 98 degree weather, the way in which one took photos with no smile, the high number of cosmetic surgery offices... what struck me the most was an arrogance these women portrayed. It bothered me, because I have moved beyond molding and shaping my appearance to “fit in”... and the acceptance of my appearance, as is, has been a treacherous journey, and to see a reflection of my past in these women... the entrapment of needing to be “beautiful” (like whatever that means) ... I felt a sadness.
Was I simply projecting how I think one needs to feel beautiful onto the women of this city? Absolutely. I recognized that I was wrongfully intertwining my experience where it didn’t need to be and linking the need to be fashionable and makeup heavy with low self worth... I began to dig deeper and look further.
As I learned more about Armenia’s past, maybe it wasn’t arrogance I was sensing, but a stoic energy passed through generations that endured a genocide and life under Soviet rule.
What I was seeing was just on the surface... and I quickly remembered, I cannot judge a book by its cover. And I was given an opportunity to see beyond... I was on a local bus on my way to the remote small city of Dilijan, when I started chatting with a young woman who’s in college for linguistics and tourism. She was on her way to her grandmothers for the summer... after only a few minutes, she made a phone call and after she hung up advised that I would be joining her at her grandmothers for the evening... I was blown away by the hospitality, eyes brimming with tears and on our way we were! The immediate feeling of inclusion and love I felt from this family was like none other; they made me, a fellow Armenian, feel right at home... we ate three meals that evening; appetizers, dinner and a late night dinner... the food all homemade from the grandmother by ingredients straight from her garden... she would not let me stop eating (and I definitely didn’t object!). The girls in the family took me on a walk through town, showing me their favorite spots of summers spent in Dilijan. By the end of the evening I was a cousin.
I went from feeling like an outsider, rejecting the surface impression I interpreted from my own judgments, to feeling a part of a culture and nation, accepting and falling into the arms of Armenian hospitality.
The hospitality and inclusion, with a strain of a painful past, is what I now see on the streets of this country. And my initial impression no longer bothers me... I no longer choose to see that or to judge it.
I ♡ Armenia... a country I will most definitely be back to in the near future... hopefully with the rest of the family!
A reflective poem of my time there:
Armenia you blew me away, from the hustle and bustle of Yerevan so grand ... your churches sat atop mountains, damn I sure became one heck of a fan.
The capital city sleeping until 10am, where life truly comes alive only in the evening ... while sitting in cafes along the main streets, watching the fountain show at Republic Square, you would have thought we were at Disney.
The food so tasty, from homemade lavash bread to matzoon, Armenian yogurt ... every type of kebab under the sun, barbecued to perfection and baklava for dessert.
Your roads were bumpy, pot holed and winding ... leading to incredible views I realize were so worth finding.
Every place invoking an emotion, with its colorful landscape and deep history ... I felt connected to something greater, allowing myself to just be ... amongst a world so scared, divisive and literally dying ... being in a country who’s survived so much brutality including a genocide, it gave me hope to keep trying.
More than the beautiful landscape and vast history, what struck me most was the Armenian people ... a community who wrapped me in kindness, allowing my heart to feel so full.
I was given permission to embrace with pride my Armenian heritage ... with no judgment of how little I knew and for not speaking the language.
I felt a warmth from strangers I’ve never before experienced, feeling so safe to proclaim my last name and narrative ... without worry of fraud or being stalked, to walk with my shoulders relaxed, being able to just live.
All in all, I still have so much more to learn, but thank you Armenia for the gift of feeling so connected to earth through my ancestry.
Favorite Travel Quote: “Travel far enough, you meet yourself.” – David Mitchell
Comments will be approved before showing up.