Camp Javakhk 2017, Tsalka/Darakyugh Edition
By Tamar Purut
Following my tumultuous journey to John F. Kennedy Airport, layover in Moscow, pit stop in Yerevan, and nerve-wracking five-hour car ride to Tsalka (border control theatrics and all), the time had finally come.
I thought I was prepared, and I could have easily argued so: I attended camp orientation, I had countless email correspondences to reference, and I spoke to the team in the days and weeks prior. Nevertheless, I apprehensively stepped into the Darakyugh school that Monday morning, admiring the cement corridors dressed in tired blue and white paint, which immersed each passerby in the history of generations past.
“I can’t believe I’m actually doing this…” I muttered mentally to myself. My palms were drenched in anxious sweat as I made a fist to confine my doubts. Yet all those worries drifted off at the sight of 100 angelic, eager grins.
Unger Dickran riled up the campers for our very first morning meeting. “Badrast ek, erekhek?!” he had asked them spiritedly. “Ayo!” they exclaimed in turn. At that very next moment, I was moved to silent, contented tears. Something came over me and I could not control it. Not only was I finally here… I felt welcomed home.
The hospitality of each Darakyugh civilian I met was unparalleled; I actually felt like I was reunited with my long-lost Diasporan family—spending time with my little brothers and sisters in the classroom by day, and conversing with my loving grandmother at my host home by night. My campers were enthusiastic to not only learn but also share their knowledge with us about life beyond their humble community.
Following their recitation of Armenian patriotic songs, cheers, and dances, my campers zestfully boasted their English skills between giggles and bursts of belly laughs. I was fortunate enough to also learn of their innocent aspirations for the future. One camper expressed his interest to be a pilot and scout new horizons, while another voiced her desire to become a police officer like her older brother. To say that witnessing their exhilaration regarding the future was refreshing, would be an understatement.
As our short week together reached a close, our campers were reluctant to bid us farewell. They fought for our attention to pose for pictures—moments I will forever cherish in my heart. Those snapshots remain testaments of effortless love and compassion, and hope for a generation of children who deserve the world.
I thank them for teaching me more than I could have ever taught them, for being in the company of children is the best teacher of all.