BY LORI BASHIAN
As our time here in Gyumri comes to a close, I have begun to reflect on the days we first arrived. I was so nervous for what lied ahead. I was living in an unfamiliar house and was about to meet sixty children who would become my campers. Was my Armenian strong enough? Was I knowledgeable enough about Armenian history? What could I offer that someone else had not already brought to the program? On the first day of camp, most of my fears were realized. I was unsure of my actions at times and was struggling to find the right words in the Eastern-Armenian dialect.
As time went on, my self-confidence began to grow–and so did the confidence the children had in me. I was no longer searching for the right words and the campers became more responsive. The bonds between the Youth Corps Counselors grew stronger as we learned each other’s strengths and weaknesses. My name was no longer Lori, but ընկէր (unger) Lori. Interacting with the campers everyday has given me a new perspective on life; one in which I appreciate the luxury and opportunities that come from living in America–especially the sacrifices made by my loved ones. As much as I am teaching the kids, whether it is English class or song practice, I am learning from them much more. The friendships formed and the lessons learned will be engraved in my memories forever.
As I prepare to leave, I feel a mix of emotions, similar to when you graduate high school–happy about what you have accomplished, but sad about what you are leaving behind. The connections made with the children is unlike anything I have experienced before and will miss seeing their smiling faces running towards me with their arms open, ready for a hug every morning. In the two weeks spent here, an unfamiliar house became my home, a group of children I had never met became my family, and the streets of Gyumri became my own. No other city has given me this warm, welcoming feeling and no other city will ever compare to Gyumri. This being said, I feel extremely excited and ready to move on to camp Artik to create new yet similar connections, and to continue to make a difference one camp at a time.