As I mentioned previously, I called my friends in Boston to let them know I was heading to Armenia after a wonderful year in America. They told me that if I had not already booked the tickets, I should fly through Boston and spend a couple days before going back. It sounded like a good idea since I did not know if I would ever see them again. During this detour, I met their daughter (I had no idea they even had kids). I had absolutely no idea that she would become my best friend and my wife a few years later but that’s a topic for another day.
A few days later I arrived in Armenia determined to return to the US to attend college. The US authorities required a valid passport with an exit visa before they would consider my application. Getting the permission to leave Armenia was extremely difficult. I am still disgusted when I remember the effort it took to get that stamp. Armenia is 1/10th of what Armenia was couple thousand years ago exactly because of this. I am convinced that “Կգա մի օր, որ կարթնանա, Ժողովուրդն իմ մոլորված,” but now I pray that the culture does not disappear until then. Losing the beautiful Armenian culture would, after all, fulfill the dreams of those who organized the Armenian Genocide.
After receiving permission to leave Armenia, during my US visa interview, I looked straight in the eyes of the US consul and said in English “According to article … of … Act, you are the only person in the world who can authorize a student visa for me. I have read that you are instructed to reject such applications in almost all cases. I hope the dozen recommendation letters from Americans who got to know me during the past year have given you a sense of my character. Right now you are holding a life in your hand, my life, and all I ask is that you let me go and pursue my dreams.” The conversation took no more than two minutes. Half an hour later, an embassy employee asked for my passport for the visa stamp. I will never forget how I was shaking, I had to grab the embassy fence to remain standing for the next fifteen minutes.
Months later I found out that although a number of kids from the original thirty-two had submitted similar applications, mine was the only one accepted. I was humbled yet again.
I write this to express my deepest gratitude to all those who wrote the letters I mentioned. I have saved these letters as a reminder of where I started and I value them above most material possessions one can have.