My Way Home
11.01.2016Armenian by Birth
| From Marrakech, Morocco | Moved in 2015
Anna is a 33-year old native Armenian who has lived and worked abroad for several years. She has also traveled a lot. Her adventures began when she left for Poland with an EVS program in 2007. Anna retuned to Armenia after almost four years of living and working abroad and started to work for various organizations. Few months ago this year Anna got involved in an organization dealing with the Syrian Armenia refugees. This became her permanent job in Armenia which she is very happy with.
After living in Poland for a year and half, Anna became homesick and came back to Armenia. However, she soon was filled with wanderlust and decided to travel to Ethiopia. “I have always desired to visit Africa, as no other continent has attracted me as much as Africa. No specific reason comes to my mind, it was just about my interest in Africa, and, in particular, Ethiopia. I guess it has something to do with their philosophy on life, the assumption that everything derives from Africa: the civilization, the human race, etc. Regarding my fondness for Ethiopia, I have done much research on the country, I also have many friends there and overall was very interested in that specific country, because I consider Ethiopia to be very similar to Armenia. It is famous for accepting 40 Armenian orphans during the genocide, and there is a little Armenian community there. Besides, the Ethiopian alphabet and religion are very similar to ours in Armenia and the anthem of Ethiopia is written by an Armenian composer. I had already made connections with the Armenian community there and had planned to go there.
Then Anna suddenly remembered about her previous desire to go to Morocco. She applied for a job at the American school of Marrakech – ASM in Morocco, got accepted and was invited to work there. “Before going there, I didn’t do my homework to learn about the country and pictured it as a desert separated from the civilized world. I only heard of a theory that the Berbers – the indigenous people of North Africa came from the Armenian Highlands and this was enough to fascinate me. To my big surprise, Morocco turned out to be at the crossroads of civilization: it is a mixture of both old and new. The larger cities of Morocco are not much different from European cities at all: You can visit the European district of a city and feel no difference. Or you may be in an ancient part of a city and witness the medieval lifestyle. Besides, Morocco is a center of diverse cultures and people. There are lots of Jews, European and native people there: a half of the country is Francophone and the other part is Hispanic. It is a very unique and fascinating place for me. I was the only Armenian there and nobody knew anything about Armenia. I was someone with no identity there.
In Morocco Anna married a local and after a year came back to live In Armenia with her husband. Anna primarily returned to Armenia because she missed her country and it was impossible to feel Armenian culture & identity in Morocco.
“It is very hard to live somewhere nobody knows where you come from, and everybody perceives you as a European or someone else. People ascribe stereotypes to you that have nothing to do with you. There was nothing I could refer to promote my identity. Besides, there were lots of issues I could not put up with: human rights, inequality, etc.”
However, after 8 months Anna and her husband decided to go back to Morocco.
“My husband missed Morocco and we went back. When we arrived in Morocco, we started to live in a tiny Berber village in the High Atlas mountains. The living conditions there were quite difficult, and even a Russian TV channel made a documentary about my life there. After half a year I found a job and we moved to Tangier. I worked there for a year and then moved back to Marrakech to work as a travel adviser there. Until recently that was my full time occupation and I was quite successful. I know the country like the back of my hand and have good connections with all the providers: guides, hotels, etc so I could easily earn my living with my job.”
After a year and half Anna decided to return to Armenia for permanent residence. This decision was driven by her concerns over losing Armenian identity.
“Even though I taught my daughter to speak Armenian, I could not speak Armenian with her in the presence of other people. I was determined to come back to Armenia but had some doubts about my future here. However, a lot changed since last summer. I came to Armenia to work as a country coordinator for a project and I suddenly realized that there was much to do in Armenia. “Edgeryders” is an online platform of about 3000 hackers, activists, radical thinkers and doers, and just normal people that want to make a difference. The company started in 2013 as a spinoff of a Council of Europe project. It both serves the community and uses its collective smarts to power its own activities. while coordinating “Futuremakers” project in Armenia I became more confident and discovered many interesting grassroots projects and people behind them and I became convinced I need to stay here to contribute to the social good of my country. I believe I have exhausted all of my potential and resources in Morocco and now I want to contribute to the wellbeing of my community. Besides, I had already become tired of the notion of living in Morocco, it was no longer an exotic faraway land for me and I was dreaming about moving back to Armenia. This was a great opportunity to do so.”
With regards to the challenges Anna faced while adopting to Armenia after several years of living abroad, Anna emphasizes the lack of responsibility of some Armenians and the absence of good manners. She always makes comparison between Armenians and Moroccans and says that both nations have similar traits of character, but Moroccan people are more straightforward.
“Armenians may say “yes” which means “no” and that is driving me crazy. For instance, if I make an appointment I start planning my time in advance. However, at the last minute people here may change their minds and spoil all my plans. It may be cultural or simply due to lack of responsibility. In Morocco when one is not sure they simply say Inshallah – God willing, which is basically a maybe and you do not have to stress out about it. I wish we used that kind of a word in Armenia too”
“At the same time, there are lots of new positive changes happening in Armenia. There is good service and a variety of food provided by the Syrian Armenians- I am a vegetarian and it is very important for me. In contrast, the local service is very odd- it seems that people do not respect you and when you enter a café or a shop they might behave as if you came to ask for a favor.”
Now Anna works for a project aimed at supporting the Syrian Armenian refugees.
“It is very different from what I used to do in Morocco: although I liked working in tourism industry, I worked there to earn my living. But when I came to Armenia I decided to work only for myself and engage in activities that would enable me to contribute to the social good of my country. Fortunately, I started to work with Syrian refugees and dedicated all of my time and effort to the issue. As one of my friends put it: “at least you found something to soothe your social rebel spirit.
There is a big issue regarding the Syrian refugees in Armenia. We are accepting refugees but do not have any social system enabling the people to integrate into our society. There is no organization which truly deals with all of the challenges Syrian Armenians are facing here. As a result, most of them get disappointed and do not stay in Armenia. Due to the current system, Armenia will miss the opportunity to gain a huge human capital increase. So, I work for an organization that intends to employ strategies aimed at significantly improving the lives and well-being of the thousands of Syrian-Armenians impacted by the ravaging war in Syria. I must be here to change something. If every Armenian leaves his/her country and wants only to visit it only as a tourist, nothing will change for the better.”
Prepared by Gayane Baghdasaryan
Edited by David Tashjian
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