Tebi Hayasdan

After all has been said and done, all the planning and preparation completed, the signpost has an arrow pointing the way.

Destination: Armenia.

I shall leave behind my family and friends, my church and organizations, my daily routine and obligations. The chores will simply have to wait. In their place will be three weeks in a country I shall be visiting for only the second time.

I shall also bid farewell to my beloved Boston Celtics as they make another championship run. And the Red Sox and Bruins. I’ll miss them, but not the daily rigmarole, the tumbling stock market, the doom and gloom I read about daily in the news.

My first venture there occurred in 2006 with my wife and a group from my church community. It was love at first sight.

This time around, my traveling companion will be Joe Dagdigian, a guy I grew up with in the AYF and admire for his passionate ways with the country folks, especially those scientists associated with the Cosmic Ray Division (CRD) on Mount Aragats.

Joe is a human GPS system when it comes to the lay of the land. He and his wife Lisa bought a place in Yerevan about six years ago and Joe’s become a fixture there ever since, like a lot of other people I know.

Honestly, it’s a great place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there permanently. The ideal situation is to have dual citizenship and enjoy the best of both worlds.

The trip has turned into a scavenger hunt of sorts. Once word spread that I was off to Armenia, I became a target for over-indulgence. People came forward with their requests, one after another.

Take Nevart, an 80-year-old church-goer who would give you the last dollar she owned. She had a favor to ask.

“You’re going to Armenia, right? Could you do something for me? I have some Armenian books I’d like to send across. Could you take them with you and donate them to a library?”

A book or two, I wouldn’t mind, but this woman had a library of her own. Like 75 pounds worth. With two suitcases and a couple travel bags, I should have been an octopus.

Vartouhi was wondering if I could take along a bundle of clothes for the orphans. Hagop was hoping I would visit the brandy factory in Armenia and bring back a couple bottles. The last guy that did that faced disaster. He had the bags in his suitcase and when he went to retrieve them at the airport, all he got was one huge mess.

The bottles broke in transit and all his contents were ruined.

Another request came from Azadouhi. She wanted some dirt from Armenia. Into my bag went some zip-lock bags.

For my wife, she put in a request for a shiny-red pomegranate necklace, like the kind her friend Angele brought back last year.

As for Sossy, she collects Armenian dolls and asked for as many as money could buy. How big? Two to three feet if I could manage. My suitcase could never accommodate that order but we aim to please.

Aghavni handed me an envelope with cash. She, too, was looking for a favor.

“It’s for any orphanage you visit,” she said. “They need the money. It makes me more secure knowing you’ll deliver it by hand.”

If there’s an Armenian Santa around, I may ask him for some assistance in this matter. I detest shopping and leave that to my better half. This trip is turning me into a shop-a-holic.

I cannot shop for one without the other. There’s the three children to consider and their spouses, not to mention the four grandchildren, all of whom would cherish a token from Armenia.

Come to think of it, my mother could use another Armenian cross after the one she was wearing suddenly got lost. Every genocide survivor should have such a cross.

I will leave behind my genocide commemorations in favor of the biggest one yet. I’m told 100,000 gather in Republic Square and march the five miles to the Martyrs’ Monument at Tsitsernagabert. Truly a sight to behold.

The spring hike I was planning to Mount Washington has been replaced by one more picturesque by Khor Vrap with Ararat in the background. I’ve already been warned not to attempt an Ararat climb, not after a stent operation three years ago.

As a photographer and writer, I am geared for this trip, looking for the pictures and stories that will bring me boundless joy. The beauty of such a venture is sharing it with others who cannot be there with you.

Stay tuned!


Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.

Latest posts by Tom Vartabedian (see all)

1 Comment

  1. God Bless You, Tom.  For almost 50 years you have been entertaining and informative reading for all readers of the Weekly.   Eventhough my branch of the Frank Hekimian family lives in Los Angeles, we still eagerly anticipate and read every issue of the Weekly to see how and what our friends and families are doing in eastern Mass.  Most of us second and third-generation Armenians can feel what you feel about Armenian issues but only you can write about them and bring light and focus to the warmth and significance of being an Armenian.  Have and safe jouney and come back and tell us all about it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.