Spring of 1994 was as full of hope as the spring of 1993. I had applied to a few colleges in the US but the question of financial support still remained unresolved.
At school I had a friend whose parents had emigrated from Poland. He used to be in my physics class. During one of the labs he offered to drive if I’d be interested to go check out the international fair in St. Petersburg. A few days later, my friend and I were walking around in the giant arena where people with ancestry from almost every country had setup booths showcasing whatever they considered representative of their culture. Having met no Armenians in Florida, I thought the probability of seeing an Armenian booth would infinitely approach zero. I hadn’t even finished my thought when I came across a huge area representing Armenia. After months of culture shock, being homesick and not seeing anything Armenian, I was stunned. I must have been standing there for some time to provoke a nice lady and her husband to approach and start a conversation.
It was wonderful to find the Armenian community in Florida. We went to church together, I shared with them my experiences, they told me their stories. I got close to two elderly couples who always called and invited me to all kinds of gatherings helping me become a part of the community. This, in hindsight, was something I really needed at the time. Their friendship helped me balance the cultural transfusion I was undergoing. Little did I know that they would help me tremendously in the next few years as if it had all been perfectly planned for me.
One day, they invited me to a small gathering. Suspecting nothing whatsoever, I arrived at a house full of the members of the community gathered to celebrate my birthday. Later I found out that my Armenian friends had arranged this party to help fund my return to America. My birthday present purchased the return ticket to America later that summer.
These two couples have helped me tremendously during my initial years. I will not mention names to respect their privacy. Their support will always be remembered and they will always be honored and loved in my home and in my heart for everything that they did. They have not only helped me financially but also provided much needed moral support. Moreover, they told me many stories from their lives and shared lessons they had learned which have helped me deal with my own situations. These are gifts that for me are worth far more than anything sold anywhere.
One of the papers that they signed to become my sponsors had a field for relationship. “What should I write here?” I asked. “Cousin” was the instantaneous reply. I remember I was so proud of that word probably because cousins are considered brothers and sisters in Armenian culture (much closer relationships than the word represents in the American culture). But I also knew that what he did was something very few cousins would ever do for each other. I have saved those papers and look at them periodically to remember and honor their support and friendship.
Years later when I asked them why they helped a stranger who could have turned out to be anything? They reminded me that people had also helped them in their early days and that I would probably do the same.
My year was coming to an end, I had been accepted to a few colleges but had decided that I would attend a community college if I was able to return because that would place the least burden on the people who had offered to help me. My research showed that only the US consul in Armenia could approve my return; therefore, I had to have all my paperwork in absolute order before I could even begin to hope for yet another dream to become reality. I knew that if I did not return to the US, I would miss my new family very much. They had made the year as perfect as I could have ever dreamed. I had learned a lot from them and had become very attached to them.
As a final step, I called my friends in Boston to let them know that I was returning to Armenia and wish them all the best and hope that I would see them again some day. The rest of the story leaves me humbled by God’s amazing powers.