It was a sunny day in August of 1993. I was all worried. How does one greet his new family? Would the Armenian hug and kiss be accepted? Who would be meeting me at the airport? As I walked down from the plane, I saw a group ahead of me with a banner held up high welcoming me. My new family welcomed me with open arms and hugs. It was the absolute best welcome anyone could ever expect. Two of the best people I have ever met were appointed by the Almighty to be my host parents. They have been my second set of parents ever since that day always there when I have needed them, always willing to hear me out, always ready with good advice, accepting, loving, and caring. They served as role models during a very difficult and transitional time in my life. I hope I can be as good to my own children as they have been to me. I am writing my story to honor and remember the people who have helped me in my journey and I cannot say enough to honor my second set of parents. We asked them to be our godparents recognizing their role in the spiritual and moral upbringing of our family. They are America.
I don’t remember exactly how long the honeymoon period of textbook culture shock lasted but soon I found myself dealing with the resentment, rejection phase during which I couldn’t believe how terrible American education was, how tasteless American food was, and how wonderful everything back in Armenia was. This is the first time I understood and felt the physical pain from longing (Armenian word “կարոտ”). I’d become close friends with this pain. We would get to know each other well as it would frequent me for a few years.
I attended high school during this year and mainly learned English, American history and the culture. All other subjects were nowhere near what I had already completed in Armenia. If they hadn’t been in a foreign language, I could get excellent grades without listening during class or opening a single textbook. In hindsight, this year was not about academics. Instead, I went through a difficult cultural adjustment, learned the language, and worked on ways to attend college in America. Throughout the year, my American family supported me in so many ways that when I look back as a parent, I wonder how they actually managed to do it. I am sure it was not easy at all for them.
In many ways, I am very fortunate to have experienced a new culture and a new family. We tend to have lens through which we view the world, but in my case, I had been given an extra set to see it in different colors. The result has been a fascinating experience. Transitions from Armenian culture to American culture, from my family to my new family, from being a kid to growing up, from helping out to being helped, from wanting to leave to wanting to stay all took place at roughly the same time. Amazingly, there were many people who supported me in this process. The librarian at the high school was one of the most encouraging and supportive people ever and played a very key role during that year. Many of the friends and family of my new family also were very supporting and wonderful people.
I hope that over the years, I can come back and add to this post all my memories. Normal teenagers go through so much at the age of sixteen. I had chosen to go through it all in a foreign country. Fortunately, my host family was there to help. The hardest times were the holidays. December 31st was a really difficult day away from family and friends. I would have never thought that I’d be writing about it almost exactly fifteen years later. Around the holidays, I had already started working on getting accepted into an American college or university. I had taken the standardized tests and had discovered that my English was far weaker than my math. However, the main hurdle remained the financing as I had no more than a couple hundred dollars saved up. But as I had come to expect, an unexpected, unbelievable event made it all possible.