CLOVIS/FRESNO—Students and families of the Charlie Keyan Armenian Community School have been making the trek to the Republic of Armenia since the early 2000s when the school began offering its students their first chance to see the many familiar historical sites that had been known only from books and photos hung from the walls of their classroom. Lead by CKACS Principal Zar Der Mugrdechian, this year’s trip was a bit different, as many of the families were traveling back to their native country to catch-up with relatives and old friends, yet the journey left a lasting impression on all of the 29 members of the group.
The itinerary covered the must-see sites in and around Yerevan—including the Madenataran manuscript repository, the monument at Sartarabad, the National Museum, the Genocide Memorial and Museum at Dzidzernagapert, the veteran’s cemetery Yeraplur, the Sassoontzi Tavit Statue, and the Urartian fortress Erepuni—but also Etchmiadzin, Khor Virap, Keghart, and the many other monasteries located in the countryside around Armenia’s capitol. As in years past, one of the favorite stops was the Noravank monastery, surrounded by the steep, iron-red cliffs of the Amaghu River gorge. Along with the Soorp Garabed church and Soorp Krikor chapel, the monastery contains the Soorp Asdvadzadzin church, with its distinctive stone-staircase set above the sanctuary’s entrance.
The group additionally ventured farther south to the republic’s Syunik Province where they rode the world-famous Wings of Tatev. This 3.5 mile aerial tramway climbs over 1000 feet, from the village of Halidzor to the mountain-perched monastery of Tatev, offering spectacular views of the surrounding cliffs and valley below.
Like previous trips, the 14-day long visit made a point to get to know Armenia’s people and land, making stops at the Armenia Tree Project’s nursery in Karin as well as Yerevan’s School No. 40 in the city’s Arabkir district and the Dzovinar village school where the CKACS exchanged greetings with local staff and students. As the tour bus drove through the nation’s agricultural areas and along its numerous vineyards, many were reminded of the farmland of the San Joaquin Valley. With longtime school supporter Gary Agajanian of Agajanian Vineyards accompanying the group, parents and staff even got a chance to sample local vintages from Armenia’s wineries.
Upon returning to school, the students and staff who participated in the trip shared photos depicting their favorite places in Armenia at an assembly. The CKACS looks forward to 2017 when the school will make its next voyage to the homeland.