The double windows were closed tightly to encapsulate us and reinforce our close separateness from the humming city just on the other side. Something in the aging walls whispers in accented English, “You are a visitor here”. Just when I felt my body beginning to fuse with the chair upon which I had planted myself, it was time to give the presentation that had plagued my dreams, aggravated my sweat glands, and nearly broken my resolve. The time is now. I arose with a heightened self-awareness as I clocked in for my shift to hold the world on my shoulders and bid Atlas a good night’s rest. Anoush joined me at the front of the classroom and we promptly began our short seminar with a frenzied crash-course in interpretation. At some points it seemed as though the language barrier forced me into a mechanically measured tone, however, it also allowed for flexible interpretation and helped me to trust my interpreter to provide the cultural mortar to the the bricks of knowledge I was offering. Our language difference is both our weakness and our strength. We concluded and I drew in the air that proceeds the sweet and rewarding sigh of a completed task.
Later in the evening, decompressing from the sheer force of performance pressure, some classmates gathered around tables drawn together by joint effort into a beautiful representation of how we have come together in this last week – as if it had always been that way. We feasted upon light-hearted conversation and “family-style” Indian food. We have become a family with a history and a future. I couldn’t help but crack a smile thinking about the ironic beauty of a group of Americans eating Indian food in an Armenian basement. I also couldn’t help but smile as I scanned the group and thought about how proud I am to belong to such a group of truly unique and talented individuals. I was honored to dine with them.
Following our physical refueling, we ventured to The Cascades. As I gazed upon the beauty of this grand staircase, my mind was drawn to another great staircase constructed in biblical times when languages were confounded and peoples divided. I felt the frustration of a confounded tongue. The Cascades are Armenia – a magnificent and rich heritage, lacking the final steps that will complete the masterpiece. The materials and tools lay atop, abandoned and weather-worn. They plead for completion so that they may draw all Hyastan above its sorrow and nostalgic burden to a future full of absolution and promise.
Our return trip would see a comical ending as all 6 feet 5 inches of Blake was jammed into the front seat of an aging taxi that nearly matched its driver in personality and mileage. The taxi driver struck up a conversation with Blake, who clearly had no idea what he was saying, but shook his head in agreement and continued to say “yeah” after all of the older man’s statements as if speaking to a child who was uttering jibberish. At some point the main ascertained Blake’s lack of comprehension and investigated if he spoke Russian, French, Turkish, or Greek only to find that Blake claimed none. The main proclaimed his “Greesy” or Greek heritage. Blake concluded the interchange with, “I don’t get out much,” and a characteristic charming and innocent chuckle that only Blake can manage. Those of us packed in the back seat nearly died of laughter muffled by the bags ridding on our laps