Armenian Volunteer Corps

Welcome to the Armenian Volunteer Corps (AVC) blog. Here our volunteers and alumni reflect on their experiences living and volunteering in Armenia. For more information about our programs, visit our website, follow us on Facebook or drop us an email: .

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Another Day in Gyumri, Armenia

Shant Mardirossian

This morning I wake up to a traditional Armenian breakfast which usually contains: eggs with beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, green peppers, yogurt, and lavash bread. I get changed and wait for one of the most interesting rides on the famous marshutkha. This van manages to squeeze up to 20+ passengers who bend their limbs in unimaginable ways to fit on this very inexpensive ride of 100 drams. It’s fun and exciting, yet stinky, crammed, and quite dangerous. Best part is that you can get it to stop wherever you please.

I get off the marshutkha a little early and walk to Gyumri Healthy Center where I carry out my volunteering duties. The Gyumri Healthy Center is a developing NGO organization that has a future mission and vision to establish a Healthy Center that encompasses a wide category of health including: physical therapy, rehabilitation, resistance training, Yoga, Pilates, and sex education. Here I work with my 3 colleagues – Naira, Nune, and Satig. They are a charismatic and optimistic group who have faith towards the future of their developing center. I work hard here to teach these therapists’ the many practical techniques and exercises that I have acquired while earning my B.Sc degree in Kinesiology. We spend long hours practicing on one another so that these skills become sharpened enough to carry out on patients. Also, one of my ongoing goals is to teach Armenians the benefits of regular exercise and diet. For that reason, Naira, Nune, Satig, and I keep active by going for runs together, doing some resistance training, yoga, and stretching.

I leave work awaiting a home cooked meal from my lovely host mother Anahid. This lady can make anything and everything. She makes dolma, harisseh, dried fruits, jams, marubas, pastries, and a whole variety of other tasty meals. I enjoy dining to these flavoursome foods, while listening to Anahid and her husband’s Jora’s unthinkable genocide and earthquake stories. As our time spent together grows, the more I appreciate how genuine Armenian people are. Its fascinating how some people have nothing to give, yet give you everything they have. The local Armenians truly do illustrate the meaning of loving their neighbour as they love themselves. I only wish a fraction of this sort of unity would carry on into western society.

After dinner on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I go to Armenian language class. The other volunteers and I gather with our teacher Anahid, and her three helpers: Lucineh, Rosa, and Armen. Together we strive to learn proper Eastern Armenian language, which for many volunteers is very different. Many Armenians today including myself are Diaspora Armenians. Growing up all around the globe, Diaspora Armenians have accumulated many unique dialects of Armenian language. For that reason, it is quite difficult to fully understand, speak, and decipher true eastern Armenian. Therefore, attending these classes has become very helpful for us Armenian speakers and non-speakers, as we learn to understand, speak, read and write the traditional Armenian way.

After class I walk home to kids playing football, men playing backgammon or chess, and woman chatting with their neighbourhood friends, all while hearing authentic Armenian music being played within the vicinity. I go home to another yummy meal then get changed to gather with all the volunteers down at Azatutian square, downtown Gyumri. Here we sit together like one big family while enjoying the scenery, music and warm presence of the local Armenian community. Some of us choose to drink coffee with Armenian sweets like “gata,” while others “do as the Armenians do” and chirp on raw sunflower seeds all night. As time passes in the midst of Armenian company, I realize that, regardless of where I come from, what traditions I grew up in, or how different I am, I go sleep at night knowing that I have finally found my way back home.

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