First Impressions: Part V

This is a continuation of a six-part series about Ruth’s travels to Armenia in 2019.

“Why don’t I wake up every morning in Yerevan feeling depressed or discouraged like I do when I am at home? Why, why, why?”

Strange but raw entry, to say the least. I notice changes in and around me. As I pondered this burning question, I boarded a bus with 50 others to head to Echmiadzin to meet with the Catholicos of all Armenians. When given the opportunity to ask questions, in my broken Armenian, I asked him how we could pray for him. That question landed me on local television to do a brief interview about my visit. What an honor!

My dad used to play football (soccer, as we call it in the US) in Beirut so I had an opportunity to attend a game. I had to do it in his honor. It was quite the cultural experience replete with a lot of yelling, chaos and a police presence to escort the man who was mooing out of the stadium. The cheers were interesting. I decided it was fun.

Amidst appearances of destruction and abandonment, rubble and wreckage, even ruin, these words come to mind:











And amidst all these words that come to mind, I see the beauty of the flowers. Florists abound on just about every corner and at every event, day or night. I am struck by this contrast and people once again.

My tour at the Yerevan Brandy Company was fascinating and tasty. I was desperately seeking a shirt like the ones the employees have. Apparently, they don’t have them for sale. Only employees have them. So I teased the housekeeper by saying I would either trade my shirt for hers or clean a few toilets if she would exchange shirts for me. This got a laugh out of the staff and was a perfect ending to my tour.

I have named life in Armenia life that runs on AST: Armenian Standard Time. For a person like me who likes to be early to an appointment, I am not accustomed to events starting 15 to 45 minutes late. This requires quite an adjustment in my mind and heart! As I recalibrate, I feel I learn to slow down more and to enjoy the journey rather than just get to the goal. Life lesson, to be sure.

And speaking of lessons, I learned that I could take any lesson I would like as long as it was three per week. So I snuck in a lesson with duduk artist Emmanuel. It was a dream come true. I love this instrument and had such joy learning to play it. I would do it again if I could. 

I would also spend a full day (at the very least) at the Genocide Museum. I felt as if I was really on sacred ground as I read description after description, and felt a quickening in my spirit because it seemed pieces to the puzzle of my family’s story were coming together. In one moment, I was marveling. In another I felt like vomiting. In another, I am overwhelmed with the compassion demonstrated during the hardest times in our Armenian history. And I am proud and humbled that I remember that I am a bearer of the fruit of those devastating times.

I think part of the answer to my question lies in the idea of being told where to go. When I am in the US, I have responsibilities. I am in a number of leadership positions. I take these posts seriously. It is one thing to lead. But it is quite another to follow.

Trusting the AGBU hosts, I show up when I am told to show up (as long as I can figure out how to get there!). I just show up. And I engage. And enjoy. And in that, there is a certain peace that is afforded me.  And for this, I am so grateful. Someone else is planning, coordinating, communicating. And I am showing up. Genius. I find many parallels in this as a Christian and as I live out my faith in God. It’s all spiritual.

“I miss a lot of things from home- conveniences, foods, my comforts. But I don’t miss the struggles and worries that seemed to consume much of my life. What can I carry with me when I leave here?”

My final entry will conclude with an answer to my questions and queries.

Ruth Hartunian-Alumbaugh
Ruth Hartunian-Alumbaugh is a Board Certified, Registered Music Therapist who calls faith, food and family her holy trinity. She lives in Connecticut and writes a food blog (Ravings and Cravings) for her local newspaper, The Chronicle.
Ruth Hartunian-Alumbaugh

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