CANCELED…that’s all I’ve been seeing projected in big red letters on every event flier possible, from AYF meetings, to Homenetmen bake sales, to dance performances, to Artsakh trips. The list goes on and on. It seems like the world has turned into a ghost town from the streets of Watertown to the steps of Cascade. Although I am not currently home but rather in Armenia, which is also my home, I have been staying up to date with everything happening, or not happening, in Boston. It is difficult for me to imagine the doors of the ACEC are locked, knowing that Baron Zaven is not standing on the crosswalk stopping traffic as a grandfather holding his granddaughter’s hand is rushing her to school, or my mom telling me that her weekly “sheerket” has been canceled.
Armenia has been no different. As I was walking home the other day, I felt disheartened. There was not a single dhol player. Not one person came up to me to try and sell me a rose or a panda balloon. The vendors of Vernissage have disappeared. The once lively streets of Yerevan are now empty.
These eerie observations make me wonder about the near future as we are less than one month away from our annual Armenian Genocide commemorations. How long is this going to last?
You might wonder what I am doing in Armenia, or more importantly why I’m still here. I came here as a Birthright Armenia participant and have been volunteering at two locations for over a month now. What I thought was going to be an absolutely life-changing experience where I was ready to give my undivided attention to Birthright and all the opportunities that came with it, turned out a little differently than I expected. It started from putting on hand sanitizer at work after I touched every little thing, to being asked to work from home, to getting an email that this week’s “havak” (gathering) and forum are canceled, to being forbidden to step outside my house. The list goes on. My expectations have been turned upside down, but I believe that I can do my part to help clear out this virus from here.
I’ve been trying to entertain myself these past couple of days in every way possible from picking up a book and attempting to read, to forcing myself to work out at home, to discovering my inner culinary skills, to doing some yoga and even stepping outside to get a breath of fresh air so I don’t completely lose my mind. I have gone from having absolutely no time on my hands to having an infinite amount. There is a void in my heart; something is missing from my daily life without these Armenian events.
As Armenians we all have busy schedules. We have countless meetings to attend, agendas to prepare, events to plan and dance rehearsals to master. But it’s important to make time to visit family and friends. It might be overwhelming at times, but it is amazing how interconnected Armenians are. We are in each other’s lives almost every day whether we choose to be or not, so this is beyond unusual and challenging for us, as I am sure it is for most.
What is getting me through these times is knowing that my neighbor, my friend, a stranger living across the world is spending their time in prison with me. We have quickly turned our new world around. Schools have shifted online so that their students don’t miss a second of learning. Seeing pictures and videos of the students at St. Stephen’s Armenian Elementary School in Watertown having Armenian class online and having music class through a TV screen has been interesting, but eye opening at the same time. I have mixed feelings knowing that we can easily do everything through a computer screen at home. Social distancing has forced us to move our close knit Armenian community events and gatherings online, from groups of friends having FaceTime karaoke sessions, to having dinner with grandparents through an iPhone screen or having AYF meetings online.
I miss my life, my routines, my friends, and hugs from my grandma. But through all this negativity we have to look at the positives. I am so grateful that these organizations and communities are so strong that even a deadly virus can’t stop us. This virus has locked us in our houses, so we have answered by continuing our jam sessions online, by unveiling our hidden talents (I have surprised myself with my cooking skills), by thinking outside the box and being innovative. It reminds me of h-pem’s recent post—«Հայե՜ր միացէ՛ք» (“Hayer miatsek” | “Armenians, unite!”…but keep your distance!). During these uneasy times, unity among Armenians is stronger than ever. Although it may be difficult for Armenians, we must always remember to keep six feet apart!
Stay safe, stay healthy, and stay home!