From Buenos Aires to DC: Bridging the North-South Divide

Reflections from Washington DC

ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship 2008

The trip started on June 29th. There I was sitting in Buenos Aires’ Ezeiza airport waiting to board the 747 to Washington DC. It was me and my luggage, surrounded by strangers ‘s all with different plans and reasons for coming to the States. But my aim was very clear — to learn how to more effectively advance the Armenian Cause by participating in the Leo Sarkisian Internship at the ANCA National Headquarters. And to get my first glimpse of North America.

My luggage was full, as they say in Spanish–full of expectations and various feelings: fear, happiness, uncertainty, and excitement among others. Everything was happening at the same time ‘s nonstop. When I was boarding the plane, my heart was racing like a Formula 1 vehicle.

Twelve hours of travelling went by as if it were 12 minutes and before I realized, I hopped off the plane, and took a taxi straight to the ANCA offices, where I was greeted by 5 of my fellow interns sitting around the ANCA’s conference table. I introduced myself, “Hi, I’m Razmig Nalpatian from Argentina” and everyone’s answer was “Oh! How long did you travel? That is very far;” Having finished my explanation, I joined their media project that they were working on since some days before. This was how the Internship began: a 5 minute introduction and straight to work.

And that’s how it was every day after that. Lectures, projects, meetings–one after the other, all interesting in their own way. I can go into the specifics of each, but I’ll focus on some of the highlights (or stranger encounters).

We had lunch at the World Bank. You read about it in political science books-‘sthe good and, let’s face it, the not so good. And here I was, sitting in the cafeteria of one of the most important international financial institutions in the world ‘s thinking that working here may be an option for me some day. Or not.

We listened to Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian, as he spoke at the Carnegie Endowment ‘s his first trip as Foreign Minister to the United States. His remarks came just days after Armenian President Serge Sargsyan extended a call for dialogue to the Turkish Government ‘s the great Soccer Gambit of 2008. In this context, Nalbandian’s analysis of Armenia-Turkey relations carried even greater meaning. It was interesting watching how his speech was received by the U.S. government and think tank representatives.

That same week, we went to the Congressional Baseball Game. This was definitely a new experience for me. For the record, in Argentina, baseball is not a very popular sport. Of the top ten sports in the country, baseball is number eleven. We are used to the high-energy atmosphere of soccer matches. So watching Members of Congress in baseball uniforms participating in the U.S. national pastime–let’s just say, we don’t see a lot of Argentinean lawmakers on the soccer field very often. But, I got to soak up the baseball culture–complete with hot dogs, peanuts and libations. By the way, for the record, the Republicans beat the Democrats–apparently extending their overwhelming winning streak.

Back to politics. We met with Dean Shahinian, Senior Counsel for the Senate Banking Committee, who gave an insightful lecture about the Senate and its work on issues dealing with the America’s banking sector ‘s an important issue given the banking woes facing the U.S. at the moment.

As I walked around Capitol Hill, I transformed from Razmig the Intern to Razmig the Tourist–taking photos of the Capitol, the Library of Congress and the incredible buildings in the area.

And throughout the whole process, I have had the opportunity get to know our intern team and the ANCA team better. Realizing that the political systems may be different, I see our shared culture as a great connector–no matter where you are from. We have all shared stories (some I can share, others I won’t) and established lifetime friendships.

This ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship has been a unique opportunity for me to better understand how the Armenian community is organized and the Armenian Cause is advanced in the United States, with its activism and advocacy, efforts in Washington D.C. and around the country. I am confident that I will be able to put in practice everything that I have learned when I return to my community in South America and to move our Cause to the next level.

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