Bittersweet Expectations

Hasmik Piliposyan

BY HASMIK PILIPOSYAN

“Landing in Armenia in five minutes,” the pilot says. My heart almost skips a beat as my face turns the color of a bright red tomato, extremely nervous and excited that I am about to step foot on land last embraced more than ten years ago. Armenia: the land I have virtually held and caressed over and over in my mind. Land ancient and historically rich, fragile and broken, yet alive and changing, slowly. Land so breathtaking despite its horrific past and I finally get to feel and behold its spectacular beauty.

These were my thoughts before landing.

I walk in Zvartnots airport with absolute joy and notice the large “Welcome to Armenia” banner. My smile widens. I wait to be greeted by the airport staff, although I am left hanging for a few minutes, receiving nothing but cold stares that seem to shout, “Why are you here?” I am immediately overwhelmed and discouraged by the gloomy atmosphere and tell myself the only thing that will cure the bad impression and nostalgia is if I see my family. I do not feel welcome from all of the dirty looks and smirks from airport officials. I had brushed off many complaints about disapproving stares from civilians from past tourists because I believed there was a rational reason for their sullen and sunken faces, and there is.

Often, some say the first impression – even though this was my third time visiting after so long ago – is correct. One may think that simply waiting on a greeting when walking into an airport is not enough to bring a mood down or express a country’s well being, but the sorrow and restlessness in their eyes was proof. I knew what they were thinking and feeling and I could not blame them. Still, I was completely terrified. I came in with high expectations and believed when I made contact with a fellow Armenian, I would feel a sense of unity and warmth. I felt neither. I had grown so close to the homeland as a diasporan Armenian with songs, pictures, history,and our culture and traditions – I had never felt so far away. I went to sleep that night with a heavy heart that bled for the future of our nation.

Despite the sudden anxiety, I gained more inspiration. I woke up the very next morning to the most magnificent view of Mount Ararat from Masis village in the Artashat province, a village about four kilometers away from the Armenian-Turkish border where my maternal and paternal family resides. The two snowy peaks spoke to me. They cried out for peace and unity, something that in reality does not exist in Armenia, something our nation needs to keep from falling apart. Not to mention political corruption, it is clear that the Armenian government does not provide- or does not feel the need to provide- its people, especially its youth the encouragement and resources needed to bring about change as future leaders of our nation. Competition and envy is common among a majority of the Armenian people; there simply is no solidarity and we, as a nation must work to obtain it.

While easier said than done and often heard, we can take a different approach, a youthful advance. For instance, youth in Armenia and the diaspora can become more involved in politics and join political parties, work towards national projects that will both greatly benefit Armenia and provide a sense of togetherness, and get our voices heard with fresh new ideas that will bring hope, happiness, and a reason to stay in our homeland. For now, we are merely left with the idea of a unified homeland historically and domestically.

Carefully observing and speaking with some of the youth in villages and cities, I’ve come to understand that many of them yearn for a way out due to poor living conditions, not having enough money to sustain themselves and their families and being unable to continue on with their education. It is heartbreaking seeing ten year old children sell corn on the highways to make a few bucks or the terrible sewage system where people are likely to develop all kinds of diseases or the competition among next door neighbors over who is more capable of surviving for the week with enough food and money or the old and broken buildings almost everywhere- the list is quite long. In the diaspora, we picture a much different Armenia, a paradise we wish to return to, one where we are united with Western Armenia, Artsakh and Javakhk and one where there is true happiness despite little resources and opportunities. But, that is only because we do not live here. Armenians in Armenia show very little patriotism but that is because of injustice and poor living conditions. Many work their tails off but still can’t support themselves and their families making less than $200 a month. They do not live the life of a tourist; they have a reason to be angry.

The point here is not to get into too many details but understand that our homeland needs assistance individually and collectively. And the only way to assist our nation is through full-on youth involvement in academia, politics, innovative advancement, and social interaction. Youthful thinking and engagement will work to reshape our nation. In reference to Garegin Njdeh, “If you wish to determine the future of a nation, take a look at its youth”. The bright ideas, strong will and hard work of the Armenian youth, both diasporan and native, is the best way for long-term success for our people and nation.

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8 Comments

  1. armen said:

    Good article. I encourage everyone with the means to support business ventures in Armenia by making microloans. Kiva.org is a great place to start.

  2. Catherine said:

    Good point. Maybe we should reinvent ourselves by just smiling at the airport.

  3. arziv said:

    The first time in my life when I landed in Yerevan, I found the customs officials gracious and very courteous. Inmediately I sensed an intimate warmth and emotion at stepping on mother’s soil and been suffused with the cozy and homely atmosphere . I had to get my visa at the airport, some ladies custom officials officials were trying to work out some details on my passport which was delaying proceedings. Another custom official , seeing the delay , approached the ladies and told them, ” hurry up ,I know this Aghpar, he is a regular visitor”. He turned to me and exclaimed ” welcome back, glad to see you again ; are there many armenians where you come from ? ?” . Obviously it was a case of mistaken identity. I nodded approvingly , since I did not wish to dissapoint him. The second time I landed in Yerevan, the experience was even more edifying. The officer looked at my first name in the passport ( my first name on the passport is not an Armenian name, but its translation in Spanish) and then screwed his eyes on my surname and exclaimed with a wide friendly smile ” Ah , you are Armenian, welcome to the motherland, I wish you a pleasant stay and come back again, hadjogutiun”. Folks , It can not get any better than this. I shall return to the motherland next October and don’t expect anything less upon passing through customs . In contrast I have found cold stares and ghoulish looks when at arriving at Heathrow airport; Kenya , Lagos, and other.

    • AnaG. said:

      The point of the article is not importance of the customer serivse at the airport…………..but really good points about the life in Armenia and how difficult it is for people who live there, they feel trupped. Corrupted goverment, no dicent jobs, no affordable way to education, etc.

      and it is a fact that we, Armenians, are not as smily as Americans: just go to Glendale stores and you will remember the customer servise Armenian style, but so what???? that is not the most important issue that we should worry about. The question is how to help? and suggestion to start businesses there is good, but not doable, bec many end up being ripped off……….thank you for a great article

  4. bigmoustache said:

    on my third visit to Armenia, I got a bad experience at the airport. the guy behind the counter was asking me some questions and my western Armenian was still adjusting to eastern Armenian. a couple times I said “excuse me, sorry I didn’t understand” in my western Armenian. his response was something along the lines of “what are you from kindergarden (mangabardez). I knew better than letting an a-hole ruin my perceptions of my homeland but that was a terrible first impression. I thought if this is the first impression theyre giving other Armenians then we are truly fked.

  5. Mary said:

    Beautifully written…. you are very correct in your thought.

    The people have forgotten that they have the power within themselves to help change the way the government treats them. Armenia is working on democracy (that is a very important point), they do need our help to see what is in front of them.

    Hope is always there. Sometimes we do get jadded and think the grass is greener beyond the fence.

    Yes the youth can help the people… but remember that it’s harder to help a broken man then a new growing generation. Instill the seed of hope within them, so they can bring up the conversation with their families to help to heal the broken hearts.

    • AnaG. said:

      Great point! i think first thing needs to be done is to stop the corruption. Just last weekend was watching program about Georgia on BBC and how succesful they were in fighting the corruption!!! Unbelivable success of Sacatashvili (not usre his name spelling)
      Why cannot we do the same?

  6. Gazzo said:

    There is no corruption in Armenia in any greater degre than the corruption and graft found in America or Europe, the Bbc report is groundless, and it is a propaganda clip in favor of their pet puppet in Georgia. Corruption is an endemic condition rampant in every country, what varies is the level of corruption and its visibility. Also we Armenians make much more noise about this than other people, and it is also more visible and in evidence in a small country than in a larger one.

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