The “AYF Summer 2017” section of the Armenian Weekly’s Youth page will highlight the 2017 summer programs of the Armenian Youth Federation—Youth Organization of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (AYF-YOARF) Eastern United States.
AYF Summer 2017: Armen and Simon
By Shiraz Tarakjian
2017 AYF-YOARF Summer Intern
Coming to Hayastan for the first time in my life, I had almost no idea what to expect regarding the locals, the food, or the atmosphere itself.
As an Armenian born in the United States, I’ve always felt a calling to visit the motherland. However, in the back of my head there was always some resistance because I knew I would feel lost. But I am so grateful that I had the opportunity to be a part of the Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) Internship Program, because the AYF is one of the most knowledgeable organizations I have ever come across.
Our director, ungerouhi Kenar, planned for us to go on a number of excursions during our two-month stay in Yerevan so we would be able to see the many historical sites in Armenia. I knew that if I ever had a question or was unsure of anything, I could count on not only her but also Armen Aslanyan, the founder of Your Way Tour. That was the company ungerouhi Kenar had gotten in contact with to take our group of interns around the country for the duration of the summer.
Accompanying Armen on all of our excursions was our driver Simon. They were the first two locals I met as soon as I stepped foot off of the plane, and I couldn’t be happier that I met them. They have made such a huge impact on my experience here. No matter where we went, the two of them made sure we were comfortable, safe, and informed.
During our two-and-a-half-hour drive to Lastiver, Armen and Simon stopped on the way and generously picked up a bunch of ingredients to make our group’s first homemade khorovadz dinner. I was beyond impressed with how much time and effort Simon devoted after such a long day. Not only did he have to drive a group of people he had just met, but he also joined us on a hike to the campsite under the scorching sun. And while we were getting situated with our living arrangements and the new environment, he spent hours preparing the meat and potatoes for us to enjoy our first night comfortably.
I was under the impression that the locals view American-Armenians through a certain stereotype. Armen and Simon proved me wrong. Anywhere we went, Armen would go out of his way to not only explain each monument and church’s background in the utmost detail but also made sure that even the non-Armenian speakers in our group had a proper translation.
At any point in time—whether it was a hike, dinner accommodations, or even just a long day—when either one of them saw someone look a little unhappy, they would rush over to make sure that person had what he or she needed to make it through the day. The immense amount of generosity that they showed to a bunch of strangers will never be forgotten. I am beyond glad to say that I will be going home having found two more brothers.