From Camp Gyumri to Mount Aragats

BY MARAE SARKUNI

Working as a counselor at this camp is perhaps the most exhausting thing I have done in my life.  These kids are extremely energetic. Sitting still is not something they do often, and it really takes a lot to keep up with them.  However, quieting them down has become the least of worries.

Out of all the counselors, I definitely take the competition aspect of the red, blue, orange teams the most seriously. Phrases like “KUTZEEEEE” and “GYANKEET HAMAR VAZEE” have become a part of my everyday vocabulary.  I physically lift the smaller campers who eliminate an opponent from Steal the Bacon and give the bigger ones very powerful high fives. Unfortunately, my enthusiasm has not really reflected on the athletic skills of our team, for we keep consecutively getting second place!

Despite my competitive nature, all this loss has not changed my absolute love and fascination with the Camp Gyumri children. I think my favorite part about them is their eagerness to learn. Whether it’s how to start a lanyard or the translations to some of the most complicated Armenian words, they are all so anxious to absorbing new knowledge.

On Friday, we finished our first week at camp and what better way to end the most tiring 5 days of our lives then to attempt to climb Mount Arakadz, the highest mountain in Armenia. This was probably one of the most physically demanding things I have done in my life.  After a while, we completely forgot about the altitude because we were too focused on trying to hold on to the very heavy rocks keeping the mountain together.  It was much colder than expected, but the scenery was incredible. There was snow, grass, and rocks all in one view. Throughout our struggle to get to the top, many members were keeping themselves motivated thinking about the “khash” we were going to eat once we reached the base of the mountain.

Going to high school in Little Armenia, I have heard quite a lot about “khash,” but have never managed to see /smell it first hand. There have been mixed reviews, some people love it, and some say it the most disgusting thing in the world. Only four member of our group were courageous enough to try it (I was definitely not one of the brave ones). I knew this thing was a big deal when some of the non “khash” eaters demanded to sit on the opposite side of the table from the “khash” eaters.  “Khash” definitely lives up to its reputation; it is intense. It is basically a stew with every body part of a cow it it, edible and non-edible. I managed to take a look at it and saw the hoof and vertebrae (along with some cartilage).

Overall, it was a very good day at Arakadz, I think everyone felt very accomplished.

All in all, I am really loving my experiences in Armenia. I have gotten very good at speaking eastern Armenian and plan to have completely mastered it by my next blog!

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