On this small island in the middle of the Pacific, you’re bound to eventually run into someone you know or run out of land if you just keep going. You’re bound to speak pidgin and start saying ‘howzit’ and ‘bra’ and see the cast and crew of “Hawaii Five-O” in action. Or you may be forced to stare right into the dark eyes of the Armenian Genocide.
We call them cancer, and for several weeks now, not a day has gone by that I haven’t had to write about cancer at work, interview cancer patients, hang out with friends when talk turns to cancer, or see a movie about cancer.
A massive jetliner approaches Honolulu International. It is the size of a feathered crane from six miles away, wings spread, neck sticking out as it passes above a miniature Coast Guard Cutter that’s gliding across the sun-drenched, orange and blue harbor
This afternoon I pulled off the two-lane Kamehameha Highway on the North Shore of Oahu to watch the mighty Pacific and the brave surfers riding her waves. When I reached for the ignition to kill the engine, I became mindful that blasting on my stereo was Karnig singing “Leran Lanchin.”
You press the record button on your camera, and through the viewfinder you see the relic, an ancient spear bathing in golden light. You zoom in, pushing past its glass casing, and you realize you are inches away from the object that Christ felt tearing open his body.
Last week, while undergoing a routine check up at a doctor’s office, it hit home that one of the routine questions that doctors’ offices ask is: family history. For many years, I had not paid attention to the family history section. However, this time around, when the doctor asked the questions, I realized that I had a very limited knowledge about my family medical history. I told my doctor, that my family’s past medical history stops with my maternal grandparents.
Some days the Sun seems closer to the Earth. Rays push down like a hundred pound weight. Temperatures soar past 99 degrees. Circulation, respiration, neurons, and cells work overtime, in concert, to keep us functional. We thirst for water, for ice. We crave for shade, for air-conditioning. We want to slow down, to sleep.
“Please sit down,” ordered the Russian stewardess to the passengers on the Aeroflot flight bound to Yerevan, Armenia. Most of the passengers were Diaspora Armenians on their way to Armenia, to visit relatives or visit the country. The order was followed by a head count of the passengers. My husband, Garo and I looked at each other with apprehension. Why the count? After all, the Cold War was still on! When the flight took off from Paris’ Charles De Gaul Airport, the rattling noise of the bottles in the kitchen of the plane had unsettled our nerves. The navy blue uniform clad flight crew offered hot tea to the passengers, based on the head count. The steaming tea was poured from kettles, directly into the passengers’ cups. Any disturbance at a high altitude would have resulted in lawsuits, had it been an American airline. One bathroom, at the back of the airline served the needs of the passengers. Lack of paper towels was made up by a single cotton towel, which was for communal use. Hand sanitizers did not exist at that time.
It’s a picture perfect Sunday morning in Tatev, a serene and remote corner of Southern Armenia. The beauty of this place is so stunning that you have to remind that you are not looking at a computer-generated Hollywood backdrop or an image on an HD screen. This is the real deal. This is the Armenia many will soon discover and want to experience. Sitting in the morning sun, on a green hill across the gorge from the majestic Tatev Monastery Complex is 16-year-old Seryoja. Next to him on the ground is a pick axe, and he’s carrying a burlap sack.
You’re belted into seat 38C on Air New Zealand flight 2 from LAX to London Heathrow, and this 10-hour flight is only the second leg of a four-legged journey from Central California to the ancient monastery of Tatev in Southern Armenia.
Hundreds of others are on the same Atlantic-crossing path as you, but three people you will meet on this journey will explain that your people’s experience is one part of a looping cycle.