Apigian: Kara’s Back from Hayastan, Enthusiastic as Ever

The package arrived bearing Kara Marston’s return address and the souvenir she promised from her trip to Armenia was a perfect choice—a lovely wall hanging of a golden Armenian cross on a field of burgundy and a book mark. They will serve as constant reminders of the thoughtful daughter-like young lady I met through a friend and would be proud to claim as my own child. Although she considers me a mentor, I already know she will far surpass me in her endeavors for the Armenians and the Armenian Cause. I am a shameless Kara Marston (Setian) booster.

Mimi  Mehranian and Kara Marston
Mimi Mehranian and Kara Marston

Youth is not wasted on the young. If there is such a word as Armenophile, Kara is it.

Kara Anoush Marston, 21, of Potomac, Md., is an honors business school graduate of the University of Maryland. Currently employed by the National Geographic, she is a beauty infused with great intelligence. But it is her sincere love of Armenia that makes her stand out. Always encouraged by her parents John and Jude Marston to seek out her Armenian roots, Kara is teaching herself to read, write, and speak Armenian. According to her proud maternal grandfather Zad Setian, “Kara is a self-starter.”

The following words speak for themselves. They are printed with the permission of Kara Anoush Marston about her May 2009 trip to Armenia:

“As you know, the first time I went to Hayastan was in May 2007 when I volunteered at Bars Media for three months, although I didn’t know a single soul in Yerevan and couldn’t speak the language. I had an immediate connection to the Motherland, which made me feel so absolutely at home. Hayastan quickly filled a void that had been in my life since that first journey to the homeland two years ago; the thought of returning to Hayastan has crossed my mind every single day.

“I was so fortunate to return to Hayastan with one of closest friends, Mimi Mehranian (whom I met in Hayastan the summer of 2007 and discovered she lives two miles from me here in Maryland). The second I stepped off the plane in Zvartnots Airport, I felt that pang of belongingness and was immediately struck both by how little and how much has changed since my time away.

Hayastan has fully progressed in a number of respects—new roads and Northern Avenue have been built, new stores opened, and tourism increased. I am always amazed by the modernisms of Yerevan, from grocery delivery and full-laundry service to high-speed internet and upscale cafes. I spent most of my three-week visit in Yerevan, enjoying the city life and catching up with old friends. While in Yerevan, I also had the opportunity to visit both Orran and the SOS Children’s Village. I was thoroughly impressed by both children’s centers—the classes and activities were truly remarkable. The children at Orran and SOS are given the opportunity to learn how to sew, woodwork, take computer and English classes, and more.

“I again interacted with the children of Hayastan when I visited Berd in the Tavush Marz. Mimi and I stayed with a family and volunteered at an after-school program for children. Berd was completely different from Yerevan—less populated and modernized and truly beautiful (it reminded me of Ireland, greenery and flowers were everywhere!) Venturing outside of the capital always feels like the “true” Hayastan experience to me. Although the language barrier was difficult at times, the family we stayed with was incredibly warm and hospitable, and the children of Bard hold a very special place in my heart. It is my hope that other Armenian towns/kyugh can prosper the way that Yerevan has grown and thrived.

“Finally, towards the end of my trip, I went to Karabagh (Artsakh) with a group of friends. Words and pictures cannot describe the beauty of Artsakh—the gorgeous mountains, monasteries, and kind people mesmerized me. During our four-day stay in Artsakh, we saw Shushi, Stepanakert, Ganzasar, Sarsang reservoir, Tigranakert, and more. While i fell in love with the land and people of Artsakh, it was eerie driving through a war-torn region and has left me wondering what the fate will be of our lands there. Slowly my focus has shifted from all that we have lost to what we have left and how we can improve what remains of Mer Hairenik.

“I had hoped that my trip back to Hayastan would quiet the call I keep hearing to return to the Motherland. But instead, I am yearning to go back more than ever and am currently looking for job opportunities in Yerevan. I will keep you updated on my progress!

“I’ve attached two pictures of Mimi and I at Khor Virap.

“Shad sirov, Kara.”

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Betty Apigian-Kessel

Betty (Serpouhie) Apigian Kessel was born in Pontiac, Mich. Together with her husband, Robert Kessel, she was the proprietor of Woodward Market in Pontiac and has two sons, Bradley and Brant Kessel. She belonged to the St. Sarkis Ladies Guild for 12 years, serving as secretary for many of those years. During the aftermath of the earthquake in Armenia in 1988, the Detroit community selected her to be the English-language secretary and she happily dedicated her efforts to help the earthquake victims. She has a column in the Armenian Weekly entitled “Michigan High Beat.”

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