“The Globe and Mail”: Story about an inviting trip to Armenia

NEWS.am presents Douglas McArthur’s article entitled “The Globe and Mail” with some reductions.

“We traveled to Armenia as volunteers with the hope of being able to help in some way mitigate the housing deficit in that country. We were also tourists, but only for a couple of days. We hoped that this combination of work and relaxation would give us the opportunity to deeply understand this complicated country that is just beginning to appear on the map of global tourism.

I was one of the ten Canadians ranging from the ages of 27 to 83 who was in Armenia for 17 days as part of the Habitat for Humanity Canada global rural project. We  devoted most of our efforts in Tavush province and completed the construction of two half-built homes. This province has a high rate of unemployment, primitive agriculture and marvelous landscapes.

Our tour was mainly concentred in Yerevan and the nearby areas. With its opera theater, streets and grand government buildings, Yerevan could be compared to any place in Europe.

We arrived on May 28 when the country was celebrating the short-lived independence that Armenia gained after WWI. The second Independence Day is celebrated on September 21, marking Armenia’s declaration of independence from the Soviet Union. Along with Mount Ararat, the two Independence Day celebrations keep memories of the ancient Armenian kingdom, which was incomparably larger than the modern-day Armenia.

Loss has played a central role in the history of this nation after 1.5 million Armenians were killed in the Ottoman Empire. The documents preserved at the Museum of the Armenian Genocide are evidence of the massacres and deportations of 1915. Our guide reminded us that Canada was one of the countries that has officially recognized the Armenian Genocide.

The other important part of the Armenians’ national identity is religion. Armenia can take pride in the fact that it was the first state that adopted Christianity as a state religion. On a Sunday morning, my group and I visited the Mother Temple in Etchmiadzin.

The centuries-old churches and monasteries, which are not large and are made from stone, remind one of the country’s history in terms of religion. The Zvartnots Temple still touches you, even if there are only columns left after it was destroyed several centuries ago.

Our workplace was near Ijevan, which is the center of Tavush province and is facing hardships. The central park, which is the pride of citizens of Ijevan with its fountains and beautiful greenery, currently reminds one of a deserted place with rusty tubes.

It was in Tavush where we had a chance to establish close contacts with the people of Armenia. The majority of homes that we visited had satellite TV, Internet connection and a bathroom located outside of the home. Our group spent a long time discussing all this (If I were to raise my kids today, I would also prefer Facebook and Google over a bathroom inside of the house).
Here we witnesses family disputes over the economy, and our group had come to help. We did more than just settle the disputes in the first home since the parents had spent their entire money for treating their sick child.

When we finished our job at the second home, the landlord, Kamo expressed his gratitude and invited us inside. He treated us all to Armenian brandy and kissed our cheeks.

This was a moment that we would never experience, if we had visited Armenia as tourists.”

Scroll Up