BY HEGHINAR MELKOM MELKOMIAN
The streets are empty; the city is asleep. Sitting in a cab, on my way home from my friend’s place, I look around Tumanian Street and think to myself, “The most beautiful city in the world.” Immediately, my next thought opposes the first one. “The most beautiful? You can’t be serious! Maybe beautiful, but definitely not the most beautiful.” While debating with myself, a light bulb turns on in my head.
I once told my aunt that she was beautiful and she smiled and said, “I’m glad you think I’m beautiful. It means you love me.” At that time I tried to convince her that the love I felt for her had nothing to do with her beautiful features; but in that cab, at that moment, Aunty Caroline’s remark finally made sense. None of the people I love are ugly. They are all beautiful, and that is because we search for, and always find, beauty in the things and people we sincerely love.
My debate is over and it is merely a thought, but a true fact: Yerevan is the most beautiful city in the world and Armenia is the most beautiful country in the world, even if it is only so because of my love for it. Once my debate is over I begin recalling so many stories and so many incidents. My 10 minute drive home stretches out over 19 years. I recall the first time I met Armenia and then Yerevan and then my life in this country.
When we came to Armenia I was only 7, but still, I faced many cultural clashes. On my first day at school my teacher, unger Hayrapetian, sat me down next to a boy. In Iran during my one year at preliminary school and first grade I sat in a girls-only classroom. My teacher’s request shocked me. I resisted in the beginning, but had to give up eventually. For many days I sat at the edge of the chair, in an effort to sit as far away from Gevork as possible.
I remember the first time I attended a birthday party and saw boys and girls dancing tango. I refused every boy who asked me to dance. After many hours of persistence, my friend finally convinced me to give them a chance and I did.
My name was different and my surname too, but being teased about it didn’t last too long. Kids get tired of things easily. I was called a Persian in the beginning, because my classmates had no comprehension of the large Armenian community in Iran or elsewhere. It was either my stories or their relatives’ emigration at that time that made them realize that Armenians could also live abroad.
My first Russian language class was a nightmare. Kids my age were reading, writing and talking in a language I had never heard before. I learned that language and began to love it. I had short hair and wore jeans, which was unseen for girls at that time, but by that time I had already made friends with them and I was simply their weird walking, talking, dressing friend from abroad. They got used to me and I got used to them.
I have experienced so many first times in Armenia. Yes, it was here that I learned that just because you turn on the red faucet, it doesn’t mean hot water will pour out. For many years I only used my right hand to shower; my left hand was my douche, pouring water on me.
I learned how to get in and out of spider-webbed manholes twice my height in order to collect water from the water mains. I learned how to worship a stick of gum, a piece of chocolate, and candy, and that bread could also be blue. I learned that the dead are kept at home for two days with the lid of the coffin open; I also saw one for the first time in my life in Armenia.
There are many other things that I saw, heard, learned and became used to. Together with my family upbringing, all those experiences have turned me into the person I am today. All these experiences have instilled love in me. It is because of all this that today I am proud of being an Armenian, proud of living in Armenia, and thankful to my parents for bringing me here. They knew this day would come. They saw the light at the end of that dark tunnel, and today I am standing in that light. I see the light.
The cab stops and only then do I realize that the light from the street lamp in front of our building is glaring in my eyes. I get out of the taxi, and the after-rain, chilly fresh air hits my face. In that split second of absolute happiness and satisfaction, I thank everything and everybody for contributing to the constantly growing immense love inside me. This makes Yerevan the most beautiful city in the world and Armenia, the most beautiful country in the world.