ORANGE COUNTY- Orange County community’s “OC Camp Weekend,” organized by a committee of A.Y.F. Orange County “Ashod Yergat” and A.R.F. Orange County “Armen Karo” Chapter members, held its annual camp weekend, revamping community relations. The weekend took place at AYF Camp from November 2-4, with members of the Orange County A.Y.F., A.R.F., and “Aghpiur Serop” A.Y.F. Juniors Chapter present at the getaway. Gregory Mikhanjian, an “Ashod Yergat” member, reflects on his experience.
The Transference of Tradition
BY GREGORY MIKHANJIAN
As I packed my bag on Friday night, I felt a wave of nostalgia and excitement. I had not been up to camp in three years. Even the experience of meeting up at the agoump with all my ungers to load the bus made me giddy. The bus ride up made me think everyone was going to be very tired, but the arrival at camp changed everyone’s mood immediately. We all piled out of the bus and hurriedly grabbed our bags, eager to start the weekend.
We spent that Friday night just hanging about with one another in the lodge. I saw A.R.F. members that I had not seen in years, and we greeted each other with smiles and open arms. Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a few of the juniors had found a volleyball. Within a few minutes a circle of juniors, seniors, and gomideh were passing a volleyball to one another trying to see how long we could keep the ball off of the ground. Looking back at this, it is endearing to think at how this event was not planned; it happened spontaneously because of our interest in one another. We played another game, and then retired to our cabins to sleep. Of course sleep at AYF Camp does not mean much, as the juniors in my cabin quickly found out!
The next morning we all gathered at the flagpole for the beloved morning exercises and the raising of the flags. It had been mentioned the night before that the theme of the weekend would be “identity”. So, our educationals would be centered around that idea. Our first educational, moderated by Ungerouhi Alique Cherchian, was designed to be in an open-discussion type setting where a question would be read and all members would have to choose a one of two sides. Once there, members would explain the reasoning for their point of view, and see if they could convince people from the opposing or undecided side to join them. I loved this educational because it provided an outlet for everyone to express their views on important matters like religion and repatriation. Everyone had a voice, and I thought it was a great opportunity for the juniors to participate in this level of discussion. Our discussion taught us that everything is not black and white, and that most issues do not have a clear or easy solution.
Good thought-provoking conversation requires refueling. After lunch, we participated in a wonderful game of Steal the Bacon. Much to the displeasure of my fellow seniors, our A.R.F. members proved to us that wisdom and experience trumps youth.
Unger Garo Madenlian gave the second educational of the day. He asked us to break down the identity of Armenians and the A.Y.F., and then discuss what each of these aspects mean to the validity of that identity. I was happy to see all ages participating and sharing what being Armenian, or being an A.Y.F. member, meant to them. To say the least, it was refreshing to hear new perspectives mixed in with old ones. However, all age groups valued the unity in which we Armenians share with one another, and that makes me smile ear to ear with pride.
After the educational we all enjoyed a bowl of Unger Aram Madenlian’s mouth-watering chili, a staple of the OC Camp weekend. We had a lot of time to spare, and decided to go on a night hike. It was at the end of our hike when we gathered under the starry sky and three generations of Armenians sang our revolutionary songs. Somber, proud, steady, and evocative songs echoed from where we were sitting. I felt such a strong sense of unity among all of my fellow ungers, and it did not matter if they were juniors, or seniors, or gomideh. Our history and our struggles have been amalgamated into emotions that are best shared through song, and I think that has a profound effect on the youth.
The only thing left to do after returning from the hike was to have our khrakhjank. I danced, conversed, ate, and sang with all of my ungers. There happened to be an interesting moment when I was discussing politics with one of my A.R.F. ungers, and I noticed some of the juniors listening intently to our conversation. It just reminded me of when I was in their shoes doing the same a few years ago, and it gave me hope for the upcoming generation of A.Y.F. members. Eventually, we gathered enough of ourselves on Sunday morning to take down the flag and take some group pictures.
It was on our way down the mountain, when everyone was taking their post-camp naps, I realized what was special about this weekend. It is a tangible experience for every member to hold in their hearts. When someone spends time at camp, they get a taste of the essence of being an A.Y.F. member. I remember my past camp weekends, and I look at my younger ungers and I see the same joy and determination in their faces. Traditions have to be worked at for years to be passed down, but time tends to pass quickly when you are having fun.