Saturday, January 15, 2011

Being the Bridge Connecting Armenia to the Diaspora & Vice-Versa

Probably the hardest thing I find about living in Armenia is being The Bridge. The Bridge between Armenians living in Armenia and those in the Diaspora (interestingly, this feeling of being a bridge doesn’t arise in quite the same way with non-Armenians).

Having just returned from a few weeks visiting family in Toronto, I feel like I have to make time to visit various family members in my first week back. Honestly, I haven’t had a day off from family (and family drama). The expectation of news from abroad and most likely gifts and — ideally — money. I am an unofficial Fed Ex employee, Western Union agent, and carrier pigeon all rolled into one. None of these are roles I particularly enjoy or wished for myself. But, alas, it comes with being Armenian and visiting the homeland (more so if you have family in Armenia).

I have spent the better part of my week back meeting with family and sharing details of family in Toronto. How can I explain to someone who’s never lived or even been abroad how life is not only difficult in Yerevan, but elsewhere too? How it’s colder in Toronto, takes 1–2 hours to get around (especially in traffic) and the sheer volume and variety of products in stores is enough to make your head spin (not in a good way). How it’s not what you imagine it to be, though I understand how life in Yerevan is not perfect either.

Being in Toronto makes me miss Yerevan and being in Yerevan makes me long for the smooth sidewalks and roadways of Toronto, government agencies that function and the availability of eggs (and other items) in stores year round.

But who to tell about the wonderful Yerevan weather (more sun and always much, much warmer than Toronto), the 10 minutes it takes to get around town (and, if you choose to, you can even walk or bike it), and the people who call you ջան (jan) only a minute after meeting you and who make you feel like you’re family.

The important thing I’ve realized is to appreciate the beauty and make the most of wherever you happen to be. The other important thing I’ve realized is though I understand and empathize with my family in Toronto and my family in Yerevan, I find it difficult to explain the experiences and viewpoint of the other to them. Too often I take on the burden of explaining, but no avail. In the end, the only thing I achieve is burn out.

Have you experienced this feeling of being a bridge between two cultures or two communities? If so, how do you deal with the issue? Do you manage or do you feel burned out (like I do)?


  1. Dear Adrineh,

    I left Armenia 5 years ago, marrying to my Dutch husband and moving to the Netherlands.. Reading your post is like reading one of the pages from my Diary... I knowhow it is being a bridge, but I also came to conclusion that among all theplaces and the cities you gave visted abd lived, the one where you saw the day light first is the best... ANd I miss, miss and miss my Yerevan, my Armenia...

  2. Thanks, Maria, for your comment! I understand your longing for Yerevan: even though I didn't grow up here, I know that if/when I leave, I will miss it too. However, I also miss Toronto sometimes and Paris and Amsterdam — all places I have spent some time. There are people I love and miss in many cities and I have come to the realization that one just has to live with this feeling of "missing." Most important is to be content where you are: to see all that is good around you, but not ignoring the bad. Just taking it all in and knowing you always have a choice. You should be able to come to Yerevan, non? If only for a visit — then you will get your fill of longing and either stay or return to live in the Netherlands (something those with Republic of Armenia passports cannot do as easily). Anyway, some food for thought... ;)))