Spring in Armenia is beautiful because it brings with it hope and the mild fragrance of the fruit trees in blossom everywhere. The spring of 1993 was more special as it brought a new type of hope. Now that I had made the first step, I had to do everything possible to be accepted into the program. I was given the impossible task of completing the application. Not only was such an application very unusual at the time in Armenia, but it required signed papers from my school principal, at least a couple teachers, medical doctors. It also had a few other requirements such as a school transcript, new concept at the time, had to be completed in English and had to be submitted quickly in a bureaucratic society where it could take weeks to get a piece of paper from anyone. I also had to write a few more essays and letters as well. Even the requirement to attach a couple pictures required getting our picture taken, waiting for a few days and then going back to get the photos.
Let me make a small detour. My school principal was normally unapproachable, strict, always serious and very busy man. I would probably not even dare to ask him for the school transcript but he knew me. I had helped him get his first computer working and had even typed up something for the school in Armenian on that computer. During that experience I had convinced him to consider setting up a computer room for teachers and students to learn typing and basic computer skills. A few months later the school received shiny new IBM PC computers for the new computer room that I helped set up. He also knew me because once he found me in a classroom fight and took me to the teacher’s room and asked the teachers there if they could give him any reason why I should not have been thrown out of the school. I was so ashamed especially after my math teacher and my Armenian language teacher said good words about my character. These and all my other teachers will be remembered for their principles, their character, their honesty, their depth for as long as I live. In these materialistic times, I often remember their ideals.
My physics and English teachers completed the recommendation forms and my principal created a school transcript with my grades for the application. I wrote and re-wrote the essays, then wrote them as perfectly as I could on the application form and again wrote over the writing to make sure the cheap ink got applied in two layers. I got immunized and got the doctor’s form and of course the photos. My application was perfect, or as perfect as I could make it. I went over it at least a dozen times to make sure there was nothing that I could make any better. I submitted it and soon found out that some of us had been called for one-on-one interviews with American program coordinators. A few days after my interview, I heard that some of us had been requested to return and participate in team activities. I was not asked to return. Some people around me said that was it, the game was over with no more lives left. I was not ready to accept defeat yet. It seemed like an eternity but a week or two later we were asked to get photos for an international passport. Later I found out that I had been accepted without needing to go through the final stage in the process.
It was then that the first stage of my life was over and the second stage had started. This stage would be very difficult, emotionally grueling, very educational, full of fun, surprises, new experiences, and a happy ending. The human sifter of fate had managed to hold thirty two of us out of the initial fifteen hundred for a trip of a lifetime, one that would invariably transform not only our own lives but also the lives of our families.