Merry Christmas, Armenia
Published: Tuesday December 08, 2009
Haverhill, Mass. - Consider this a Christmas card to Armenia – a land of wondrous dreams and poignant realities. May you enjoy a year of prosperity and goodwill, despite the trying times and debate over the protocols.
Instead, count your blessings toward a country you can call your own and a government that's doing its best to create a more conducive environment for all.
In a trip there this past spring, I saw a silver lining in every cloud and hope where despair once prevailed. I noticed a world where little meant more in the long run and people were more attuned to a houseful of love rather than a castle filled with opulence. A Merry Christmas to all and may the peaks of Ararat guide you all on this Armenian Christmas.
My blessings to the children of Zatig Orphanage. To Rima, Varsik and Melanie, the girls with their dolls and huggables. Savor the moment for what it's worth and be thankful you have a roof over your heads. My best to housekeeper Ashod Mnazakanian. Your job managing 80 girls and a staff is an ongoing labor of love. May God give you the continued strength to persevere.
A joyous Christmas to Razmig Manoogyan. Remember me? Our paths crossed at Ptghni where the ruins of a church became your eternal sanctuary. You offered me a seat on a rock that day. No one else disturbed us, not even the cow grazing on the grass surrounding the rubble. Your inspiration is not pillage, you told me that day. It's God.
To 7-year-old David Garakhanyan, may Gaghant Baba bring you a special toy this Christmas. That evening at dinner, you showed me a book and told me how much you enjoyed reading. May you grow into a scholar, land the job of your dreams, and give your country added sustenance. By the way, you criticized my Armenian. I hope to have mastered your dialect should we meet again.
My thoughts rest with that destitute family I encountered in a park along Baghramian. You asked for some remnants of stale bread I was about to discard. May this Christmas find you inside a bakery, better still a grocery store to quell your hunger.
Here's to 11-year-old Artek Dahoulian, a budding musician. You played the dumbag for me one afternoon at Gond (Kond), using an old trash bucket on the street. Didn't sound bad. Imagine the sound if you had a real instrument. May Santa bring you the genuine gift of music.
A hearty Christmas to Ashot Chilingirian, executive director of the Yerevan Physics Institute and Cosmic Ray Division. One visit with you was all it took to realize the magnanimity of your work and the impact it is making around the world. Resources are one thing. Strength is another. May you enjoy both gifts this Christmas.
To Jan and Liza Davidyan. Your home became my haven during these three weeks in Armenia. The hospitality and food were second to none. May Santa fill your stocking with added cheer this Christmas. You proved to me that a simple lifestyle was better than anything gaudy or opulent.
My best to Garo Adanalian and his lovely bride Anoush. May the best stories be ahead of you Garo. Or shall I use your penname Christian Garbis. To both of you, here's wishing a quick entry into parenthood after that first setback this past fall. Never lose faith.
Here's to Canadian repatriate Araz Artinian and her bid to rejuvenate the music and art schools of Yerevan. May you achieve your goal while giving history a new approach with your centennial commemorations. I remember the day you were born and our most recent encounter in Yerevan as a grown woman. How you managed to raise $250,000 for this project is still beyond me. Santa must be with you year round.
To the students at the Yerevan Boxing School, may you someday achieve your goal of earning a gold medal for Armenia in the Olympic Games and bring your country added respect in the athletic world. Here's hoping Santa brings the necessary equipment to keep your program stable.
A Merry Christmas to Saro and Ani Khachikian. May your honeymoon continue to last forever as you forge ahead in marriage. How many like you find true love on opposite sides of the world? You from America and she from Armenia. This Christmas, keep the embers glowing.
Best wishes to Larissa, that foster mom to 16 children in Yerevan. May your cupboard be always full and your heart never empty. Your greatest gift isn't wrapped with a pretty bow but rather the shelter you provide from the storm. May charity gain an extra measure this holiday.
To the music students I encountered at the Dikranian School in Gyumri. The gift of music is a gift indeed, especially for its principal Gayane Manookyan who's turning out nothing but the best in her protégés. May the lyrics have added harmony this Christmas.
For those in the literary world like Dr. Verjine Svazlian and her daughter Knarig, may the next book be another treasure like all the others you both authored. And to those working faithful at Artbridge Café, your place is a mecca for all, especially those looking for good food, drink and a contagious smile.
To the gang at the Armenia Tree Project. May the next tree you plant turn into a forest. With Santa's help, ecology and horticulture will bolster the landscape and keep the country green with fertility.
Lastly, a very cheerful Christmas to my Armenia sidekick, Joe Dagdigian, without whose patience and knowledge of the countryside this trip would have taken a perpetual detour. If Santa needs directions, he wouldn't have to look any further than this inveterate traveler.
Santa would be remiss should he ever bypass the Armenian Botanical Gardens. In its decadent stage, much help is needed to turn this into the tourist attraction that once prevailed.
Paree Dznoont to one and all.