Archives for the month of: January, 2014

I feel safe in Armenia.

I don’t mean this in a metaphorical way that a descendent of genocide would feel safe in their own country (though that argument certainly has its merits).  No, I mean safe in a completely literal way.  This may seem like a superfluous statement, let alone not something that needs to be expanded upon, but allow me to provide some context.

I am what some people (bullies) would categorize (unfairly) as a “scaredy cat.”  I’m always anxious, afraid of something and indoors by nightfall, more-or-less.  I have been raised in the five o’clock news culture that led me to believe that every dark corner awaits a person of morally insidious character. If I hear a noise in the middle of the night, I immediately think monster, serial killer, rapist.  In that order.

This is where the importance of my initial statement comes in.  The degree of safety here is an entirely underrated and undervalued quality of Armenia.  For a person to walk home alone, in the middle of the night, and feel generally safe from the threat of vigilantes and ruffians is a pretty big deal, something usually only afforded those living in more affluent neighborhoods.  Now, before people begin labeling me as too idealistic, let me also explain that this declaration of safety should in no way be interpreted as an excuse for reckless behavior.  I urge everyone to always be aware of their surroundings wherever they are.  Regardless of general societal behavior, bad things still do take place in Armenia, I have witnessed it myself.  (Unfortunately, we have not yet figured out how to completely eradicate crime or idiocy from the country, yet.)

What I am saying however, is that there is a certain level of assurance and security you feel among the people here that you don’t get in most major cities and I believe we have a tendency to discount this or take it for granted or just brush it off too matter-of-factly, if we even acknowledge it at all.  What a shame.  Although I believe there are certain reasons for this sense of security, primarily due to the character of the Armenian, I will not attempt to formulate an explanation, as I really am not qualified to do so.

But I do know that I chuckle when my mom still tells me to let her know when I get home here, I clearly haven’t explained this one-of-many perks of living here well enough, and that my biggest concern is just the occasional rogue dog.  And for those of us who enjoy jumping at the chance to talk about how unlivable this country is, this topic may very well seem an inconsequential detail in the face of insurmountable negatives, but for those of you open to some positivity, this is just one of the many wonderfully underappreciated qualities of this woefully underappreciated country.

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Repeat after me.  “Moving to Armenia is not a bad thing.  I will not pity the person who moves to Armenia.”  Do not try to explain to them all they will be giving up, sacrificing, or compromising in what you feel may be their eventual martyrdom.  Chances are if a person is moving to Armenia, they’ve given the decision some thought.

When I first told people about my decision, I was met with a range of emotions and reactions.  But the reaction that most resonated with me and has, despite my best efforts, continued to vex me, was that of disappointment.  This was not the understandable sadness felt by my closest loved ones brought on by my departure.  This was a disappointment exhibited mostly by people I actually rarely even saw.  To them, it was a frivolous decision and they felt compelled to alert me of, what they surely considered original, regurgitations of experiences their cousin’s husband’s brother’s son had twelve years ago.  (Somehow it always ended up with someone getting cheated or mistreated or maybe some combination or variation therein.)  It seems that many, not all-not even most, but many, weren’t interested in understanding the very real reasons why so many people are moving to Armenia.  That is unsettling.

I may be naïve in asking this question, this is entirely possible, but if we as a people exert so much valuable energy promoting the worthwhile sentiment of hyerenasirutiun, why is there is such a misunderstanding directed towards those acting on these very publicly exalted sentiments and the nation itself?  Its time to step away from the unfair dichotomy of Armenia being only either the idealized land of Tigran the Great, to be gazed at longingly from afar, or the dark, shadowy underbelly of a world ruled by ruthless, cutthroat criminals.

In 1881(!), Raffi wrote, “we didn’t even know what Armenia really was, and we did nothing to find out.  Our only familiarity with it was based on a few traditional stories.”  Today, we have this piece of land, it is ours, but we are still basing our perceptions off of outdated stories.  Somewhere in between the two aforementioned extreme perceptions is the place people decide to live their lives, somewhere in between is reality.

Repeat after me. “Moving to Armenia is not a bad thing.  I will not pity the person who moves to Armenia.”  Ask them questions.  Listen.  Armenia is a constantly changing nation and we are fortunate enough to have the opportunity to take part in its most exciting and formative stages.  This is not a call to arms nor am I naïve enough to suggest everyone must move to Armenia.  I simply ask you not shape your judgment on this beautiful, frustrating, exciting, confusing, and wonderful place based on what you’ve heard second, or third or fourth-hand.  I promise, this is not your grandma’s Armenia.