I have been in Armenia for three days now. I am the last member of the Youth Corps group to arrive due to my sister’s wedding which was last Saturday. My plane landed at 3 o’clock in the morning and Berj’s father was nice enough to pick me up from the airport in the middle of the night and drive me to Gyumri.
We got to Gyumri around 7 AM and I was happy to see some familiar faces and some new ones. The Youth Corps group is awesome and I am glad we all get along so well. Within minutes of settling in, I felt as if I was a part of the family and that the two weeks that I missed had no affect on the chemistry of the group.
After eating breakfast with my YC mates, our group leader approached me with a difficult situation. Did I want to stay home for the day and rest up after nearly 24 hours of traveling or did I want to rough it out and go to work? It was a difficult decision, but I decided that there would be plenty of opportunities for rest later and it was time to experience Armenia. It is important to mention that this is my first time in Armenia, and at this point I have literally been in the country for about 4 hours.
But I digress. Let’s get back to the story. So, a hefty serving of Armenian Coffee and a ten minute walk later, I was looking at nearly 80 extremely excited and hyper children from Gyumri that were ready to have a good time. Scratch that. Extremely excited and hyper is a huge understatement. I have been a counselor at AYF Camp in California for a few years now and I thought the kids in America were rowdy, but this was a completely different ball game.
The kids in Gyumri are like AYF Camp kids, but on steroids. They are constantly moving at 100 miles per hour and they have no brakes or any intention of slowing down. However, they are the most humble and sweetest kids I have ever worked with. They joke with us, they pick us flowers (only for the girls though, us guy counselors are extremely bitter), and they never complain.
Gyumri is the second largest city in Armenia. However, the effects of the massive earthquake that hit this city in 1988 are still very visible around the city. Furthermore, the facilities we use in our day to day activities with the children are in dismal shape. For example, the soccer field we used yesterday had absolutely no grass, was filled with rocks and potholes, and I am pretty sure was once used as a Soviet military barracks. However, the kids don’t mind. They play and laugh harder than anyone.
Being a spurkahye from America, I can’t help but to compare things in Armenia with what I am used to at home. So when I think about the equipment and camp ground we use in the states, like state-of-the-art rock climbing equipment, swimming pools, canoes, etc, and then compare it to what the kids play with here in Armenia, the willpower and positive attitude of the kids of Gyumri is absolutely remarkable. Everyday we spend in Gyumri working with the kids is a different and unique adventure. I am looking forward to continuing our work here and sharing my experience with you all.
– Alex Der Alexanian