Akhpradzor, Armenia--Nanor Balabanian
I didn’t know we could get so used to the village life in just 3 days. I’m already accustomed to their daily routine. I know when the animals wake up and when they return. I know the cow’s daily schedule. I know where to go for a nice walk. I am so used to their bathroom that I don’t even remember what our toilets in the city used to be like. I have already been given a shower in a “dashd” (big metal bin). I love the food so much that it will be hard to eat anywhere else, and the people, I love the people so much that I can’t imagine living without them.
Three little girls, with golden hair and bright blue eyes, took me on a walk yesterday to go help them bring the sheep and cows home. Every morning, a certain shepherd gathers the sheep from a certain neighborhood and takes them to the սարերը (the mountains). These shepherds remind me so much of Psalm 23 – everything has a new meaning in Akhpradzor.
What is SO interesting, is how the shepherd knows every single sheep individually, even though they all look exactly the same. Even more, the children of the village can distinguish which animal is their own.
Around 7:30 every evening, the children go to a certain location by the mountain and wait for the shepherd to bring their sheep.
Yesterday, I went with Lilit, Tamarig, and Nelly – 3 absolutely gorgeous girls – to bring home their sheep. Lilit, who is only 12, knows exactly where her sheep are. She yells “ho ho, ho ho” and her sheep come her way. She then holds her stick and directs them towards their home. She is very protective of her sheep!
We take the sheep to Lilit’s barn, and she tells me to come inside. She says “Nanor, Արի…Come, արի տէս մեր Սուրբը Come see our Saint”
I was surprised to hear this, and did not understand at first. But then I went in the barn and saw their little statue next to the khachkar, located in the barn. I did not ask how and when it got there. But its presence in the house was very important for the children. Lilit told me this was God’s saint that protected their family.
Then Lilit said “Nanor Kooyrig (Sister nanor), ba inchooyes gnaloo mezme (why are you leaving us?)".
Looking into her beautiful blue eyes and her gorgeous smile, I melted away, and did not know what to say.
How did we ever get here? How are we going to leave? Every villager, every house, every animal welcomes us like we’re royalty. Every house we visit there is a story to hear.
Every villager is a hidden hero no one has heard about.
If you could only see how hard they all work you would understand.
If you could only see how happy they keep themselves despite their circumstances, you would understand.