At 2:30 a.m., after a 15 hour travel day, we arrive in Zvartnots International Airport in Armenia. After what seems like an eternity, we have all 12 pieces of luggage and can finally head to the hotel to crash.
Most airports at this hour are empty. In striking contrast, Zvartnots is packed. There are crowds of people patiently waiting at the gate for their friend or family member. There are tears, shrieks of joy, flowers, hugs and kisses. Every time one of us passes through the doors, you hear the sigh of frustration because we are not who they are waiting for.
Gosh! I had completely forgotten about this feeling! Growing up, when we would go to Lebanon to visit our family, we also had the same welcome reception. My dad’s side would be there, and my mom’s side would be there – all of them clamoring to see who is going to spot us first and whose house we would go to. I always made eye contact with my mom’s brother first. He was tall and burly and hard to miss. “Our big teddy bear,” my sister and I used to refer to him fondly. What I would give for any one of them to have greeted us in Armenia!
The reality is that we barely have any family left in Lebanon or Armenia but Hayastan is our motherland – Mayr Hayrenik (Mother Armenia). And I am here with my husband, my boys, my parents, my sister, my nieces, my brother-in law, my brother, my sisters-in-law and my in-laws. Yes, there are 15 of us!
Some of us have been before (it’s my third trip) but it’s the first time for my sister, my brother-in-law, my brother, my sister-in-law, my boys and my nieces. I am most excited to see it all through the eyes of my boys, Samuel and Christian. They attend an Armenian private school so they have been learning about Armenia since pre-school. In fact, both took a pretend trip to Armenia when they were 5 years old. And the culmination of their elementary school education includes a trip to Armenia with their 5th grade class.
As parents, it is extremely important for Al and me to make sure that our children learn to read, write and speak Armenian. It is a value that has been handed down from our parents and something that is deeply ingrained in Armenians. My brother-in-law, Sebastian, commented during this trip that he has never met a group of people who are more proud of their nationality. As Armenians, we share a deep-seated love and gratitude for our country, our heritage and our culture.
And we got to share in all of it together as a family! Our trip was full of sight-seeing, pool days, lots of delicious food, visits with friends and family, outdoor concerts, and, most importantly, quality family time.
A highlight of the trip was Vartavar, meaning to pour water over someone. It’s an Armenian water festival where you get to splash water on each other. And by splash, I mean throw buckets of water on each other. No one is safe on the streets of Armenia on this day – young and old will be SPLASHED! There are water guns spraying out of cars and buckets of water being poured from balconies on innocent bystanders walking by. It is so much fun and a much-needed break from the 95-degree heat.
This was truly a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and I am grateful to have created such special memories with my family. I will share more pictures and stories on the SMB Financial Strategies Facebook and LinkedIn pages, so make to like and follow!