Contributor - Lillian Avedian
I have been searching for Armenia my entire life.
I searched for Armenia in the Armenian school I attended for ten years in the San Fernando Valley of Los Angeles, where I learned Armenian history, poetry, and language.
I searched for Armenia in the stories my parents and grandparents tell of struggling to hold tightly on to their Armenian heritage as immigrants and diasporans.
I have finally discovered Armenia: in the village of Shvanidzor on the southern border near Iran where my parents grew up.
I discover my homeland in playing with the energetic schoolchildren, in stargazing under the beautiful night sky while listening to Komitas, in visiting the houses of the villagers and seeing their gardens and collections of homemade pomegranate wine.
This is my first time visiting an Armenian village, and while it is entirely foreign it feels unexpectedly familiar. I am rediscovering something I have never known, and the sense that my roots are embedded in the soil here is tangible.
I am constantly aware of my privilege in that I may travel here for two weeks and enjoy the loveliest the village has to offer without living the realities of the difficulties of village life. I delight in the breathtaking scenery, the joy of the children, the taste of the apricots and figs picked from the trees, and the hospitality of the villagers, and then I may freely return to the comforts of my home in the States.
Yet this experience has given me the gift, however selfish, of connecting me to my homeland and of allowing me to reflect upon my identity on the soil where my ancestors lived and worked. I love this land, and cannot help but feel that I belong to it.
To my fellow Armenians in the diaspora: come to Armenia. Visit the villages. Play with the children. Dine with the villagers. For it is here that you will discover the homeland.