BY PRENY ALAVERDIAN
We woke up to the sound of Ungerouhi Tereza’s alarm at 8 o’clock in the morning. Today was the day we would officially start our work as volunteers and we couldn’t be more ecstatic about it. We piled boxes and boxes of supplies into our van as well as in the trunk of a second car following us; if you glanced into our van, you would see more boxes than people. But we didn’t mind; we were going to Gyumri. During the period of our two hour trip, our exhaustion conjured dreams of a place we would soon call home for the next three weeks. Not even the bumps in the winding road could shake off those pleasant visions.
Arriving at our destination felt absolutely surreal. Gyumri was everything we imagined it to be, and so much more. It was rural yet civilized, and light radiated from every corner. Dirt roads and greenery graced each street, and buildings made of grey stone never looked so elegant. Light flowed out of blackened churches like it had descended from a twinkle in the eye of God himself. When we arrived at the new AYF Gyumri agoump, we were immediately greeted by eager and enthusiastic children. They helped us unload the vans and quickly insisted on learning our names. It was obvious that they had been anxiously awaiting jampar for a very long time, and frankly, so had we.
After conversing for a while, the badanees invited us to the courtyard to dance shoorjpar with them. We quickly learned that the campers were unquestioningly proficient at dancing and nervously joined them in the traditional dance. With every step we took, we could feel the burning passion these campers had for their culture. They gripped our hands tightly and danced with every ounce of their energy. We felt an immediate connection with people we had just met, in a city we had just been introduced to. A certain power was evident here, and we all felt it course through our veins. I write this now, as I lay in my bed at Digin Liliks house while everyone else is sound asleep. The wind is howling menacingly outside but the generosity of our host, the power of our campers, and the beauty of this land has kept me warm. I can already feel myself falling in love with Gyumri, and we’ve only just begun.