Birthright Armenia, Musings

[Blog] Week Seven, A Few Highlights


This past week has been one of those funny stretches of time when you’re keeping busy enough, but when you look back and try to remember exactly what you did you find that you can’t quite remember. I blame it on my time being full of a million little things instead of one or two big ones.

Part of that was the fact that Yerevan celebrated its 2799th birthday this weekend, which meant that there was all sorts of celebration, including a half marathon on Sunday. Before you ask, no, I did not run in it or any of the shorter runs happening at the same time, but I did help register the hardy souls that did. That was an adventure in and of itself, since while my Armenian is getting better every day, I’m still not quick with it. My two fellow volunteers were native Armenian speakers, though, and more than happy to bail me out more times than I can count. It was slightly trickier when we met a few people who only spoke Russian, but even then we were able to send them down to the next table.

As hard as it is at times, I think the huge bounty of languages here is one of my favorite things. There’s Armenian, of course, and I’m getting to the point where I can recognize the differences between Western and Eastern even when it’s being spoken quickly, though my understanding of what is being said is still a spotty at best. There’s a lot of Russian as well, and spending time at the Birthright office means that I hear at least bits and pieces of Spanish, German, Arabic, French… And English is common in my day to day, which I’m simultaneously grateful for while still knowing that I’d be learning Armenian faster if I couldn’t fall back on my native language.

That being said, I’m far less able to do that while at the hospital. While there are a number of people there who do speak English, most do not and I get all kinds of practice for speaking Armenian. It’s exhausting, but my progress is undeniable if still a bit slower than I’d like.

Speaking of the hospital! This week I got the chance to spend a little time in the actual Emergency Department, or at least the section of it devoted to cardiac emergencies. I saw what a STEMI looks like on an echocardiogram, and was able to watch on a monitor as they treated it with a stent.

The rest of the week has been pretty low-key, just keeping busy with the aforementioned million little things. Part of that has been preparation for an excursion to the Republic of Artsakh. Artsakh, also known as Nagorno-Karabakh, is a territory just east of the Republic of Armenia with a mostly Armenian population. It declared and fought for its independence from Azerbaijan in the early 90’s, and while most nations do not recognize its sovereignty, it has been a “de facto independent entity” since the fall of the Soviet Union.

I’ll have a lot more to say about it next week after we return, as well as pictures, as I understand that it’s a particularly beautiful area.

Until then!


[Blog] Packing


Last night, over the course of several hours, I started the process of packing up in preparation of moving out of my apartment. More specifically, I started packing my books (the most important things come first, of course). As I did so, two thoughts struck me. The first was that my bookshelves (and tables and various other flat surfaces) held a lot more books than I thought they did, and I’m slightly concerned about fitting them all into the boxes I have on hand. The second was the deep, half ecstatic, half frantic realization that I really, truly am about to spend the next four months in another country.

Pictured: five boxes full of books. Not pictured: three additional boxes, just as full.

There’s something about packing that is remarkably final. It is, if you’ll allow me to wax melodramatic for a moment, a physical embodiment of imminent change. I’ve lived in my current apartment for more than five years, but in less than three weeks I’ll leave it for the last time, and it will no longer be “home” to me– a strange thought.

Upon further consideration, I also realized that it’s the packing of my books specifically that has me feeling this way. I can pack clothes and computer without anything seeming quite so empty. But take away my books and leave my shelves all bare? That’s when you know that something is really going down.

Lest I sound like I’m slipping into melancholy, though, let me say that I’m almost giddily excited. It feels a little like it did when I was getting ready to leave for college, or like it did a few years later when I spent a semester abroad. Everything is new. Anything is possible. I have only the faintest idea of what to expect, and, despite what the over-cautious voice in the back of my head is trying to tell me, it’s going to be a wonderful, fantastic adventure.

I think I feel a little bit like Bilbo Baggins.