As I waved goodbye to my family and friends watching in silence, I slowly approached the passport control booth to get my exit visa. Fifteen minutes later and I was on a plane heading for the United States. I tried to contain the mixed emotions that spread inside me like wildfire. As the plane took off, I looked out the window: Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant and its gray smog reminded me of an old man smoking his pipe. Another 15 minutes and I couldn’t see anything but the overwhelming blueness of the sky. Armenia was under the clouds now.
It’s now five years later. Still, I find myself sitting in my cozy, two-bedroom apartment in Minnesota and thinking about my homeland. I do that sometimes: depart from my present and dwell on the past. During my half a decade in the States, I’ve absorbed and assimilated to the culture here with relative ease, making friends and staying on top of my studies. But no matter how well I’ve adapted to my new life in America, the nostalgia that takes over when reminiscing about life in Armenia is unparalleled.
There are many things I miss about Armenia, and Yerevan, in particular. But the first that comes to my mind is the seeming availability of its people. With a single phone call, I would be able to gather all of my friends in one location: usually Cascade, a giant stairway in Yerevan, on a summer night. We would begin our journey at Martiros Saryan Park and end the evening at an al fresco cafe beneath the massive stairs. An hour after that and Cascade was essentially empty.
“Let’s call it a night,” suggested one of my friends, who was already starting to fall asleep on a bench outside the cafe.
“I say, let’s go to Lake Sevan,” said another, without a single afterthought.
And there we were: eight teenagers packed in one car on our way to Lake Sevan at two o’clock in the morning. After swimming in the lake for some time, we returned to our beloved city and ended up at a friend’s art studio where, in an intellectually stimulating atmosphere, we continued our conversations. We listened to Miles Davis and joked around until we couldn’t keep our eyes open any longer. It was finally time to go home and get some sleep.
What defines life better than the ability to make spontaneous decisions and realize them fully? Though spontaneity, of course, exists in America, too, it’s more often overlooked with busy schedules and back-to-back meetings. In Armenia, plans for the day aren’t as jam-packed, making more room for impromptu behavior, like long summer nights with a group of your closest friends.
Many times, these long, lingering nights weren’t complete without an extensive walk around town. Despite its large size, Yerevan is a fairly dense and compact city and, if you ask me, perfectly designed for pedestrians. Rather than taking a taxi, I oftentimes opted for going on long walks across town instead. Once, I even walked from Yerevan’s Opera Theater to Tumanyan Park, usually about a three-mile jaunt, but with my leisurely stride and elongating detours, it grew much longer.
During these lengthy walks, I would often run into people I knew from different places. With the aforementioned spontaneous spirit within us, we would pick the closest cafe and catch up over a cup of coffee. After talking for hours, we’d call more friends to join us and soon, the half-empty cafe would transform into a crowded room full of familiar faces. It was no problem that my long walk had taken a detour. In fact, it had just transformed into an even longer evening with friends.
These are the things I miss most about Armenia: long walks and even longer nights. I hope to return to my country soon and relive my favorite memories. I look forward to the day I take a particularly long walk around my city and get lost in its charming nights. For now, I’m still in Minnesota, but my heart has been transported to the highlands. Though of this I am sure: We will meet again, Armenia, and we will make even more unforgettable memories together.