Friday, April 13, 2012

Armenian/American love

So as I said in my previous post, yesterday I travelled to the tiny little village of Arteni, to go to a wedding. This was no ordinary wedding; this was the wedding of a Peace Corps volunteer to a Host Country National, or HCN as we say. Not just any HCN either, this was the wedding of my friend Scott to his counterpart Mary!! That is right; he married the person chose at random to be his lifeline in Armenia, kind of makes us question how much is really ever random!! No Peace Corps volunteer ever comes to country thinking that they will find the person that will find their true love. Most of us don’t even think we will find anyone to date while we are in an isolated part of the world. During training the doctors explain to us that no one ever thinks they will fall in love here and most take a vow of celibacy but that statistics show that in fact most of us will actually find some sort of love and that many of us will marry the person that we find. I can remember hearing this and laughing with my friends as we all said yeah right, and I believe my friend Scott was one of those people.
So that Scott fell in love with his counterpart is an unexpected course of events, unless you were around on the day that all the TEFL volunteers met their counterparts that is… On that day, Scott fell in love at first sight, and since that day there has never been anything else on his mind other than making Mary his wife. In November of 2010 we had a counterpart conference with all the English teachers and their colleagues. We were sitting around having some beers when Scott announced that he wanted to marry his Mary! At the time I thought he was absolutely out of his mind, at that time I had still not adjusted to the culture and couldn’t see how any American could have a serious relationship with a HCN… let’s just say my views have changed since then…
So as you can see the love story of Scott and Mary is one that is described with one word: DESTINY!! Really, I haven’t been this excited to witness a marriage in a long time and I was so glad to be able to take part in such a beautiful mixture of American and Armenian culture.
When I first arrived to Arteni with my boyfriend, neither of us really knew what to expect, as this wedding was neither Armenian nor American but instead a hybrid of the two. When we arrived we were greeted by a large number of Peace Corps volunteers who all came to support Scott, but what was most exciting was seeing his parents standing around anxiously not really knowing what to expect. I tried to imagine what they must be feeling, this being their first time in Armenia, not speaking the language and never having witnessed an Armenian wedding. I thought back to the first Armenian wedding that I attended almost two years ago, and remembered how confused I was but also how interesting it all was to me. I guess what made is so amazing to me, is that they were brought to Arteni of all places, a place that even my Armenian boyfriend commented about the poverty there. I can’t imagine what they thought seeing for the first time where their son has lived for the past two years and where their new daughter grew up. I also thought how amazingly lucky Scott is to have two parents that were willing to make such a long journey to share this day with their son. What’s more, they actively participated in every step of the way, from dancing with the Armenians (more of just clapping their hands), to placing the levash over the bride and grooms shoulders after the vows were said, to taking toasts with a group of Armenian men, when they really had no idea what was being said.
I have to say that I loved every moment of the wedding but my favorite part was when all the Peace Corps young women were invited in to watch the bride get dressed. An Armenian woman belted out a beautiful song about the brides dress and her wedding day as loud as she could, as this is usually the job of the groom’s family, but being that only Scott’s mother was there, and she doesn’t speak Armenian, and the rest of us girls don’t know the song, she went at it alone as the bride was tied into her dress and pearls were put around her neck and on her ears. Scott’s mom explained to us that the earrings had come from her mother in law, which made it so much more special, and a fantastic sweet blending of cultures. The Armenian woman, red in the face and no longer able to carry the weight of being the sole singer asked us to sing. We all looked around for a moment and then out of nowhere someone began singing Going to the chapel… I can’t tell you how beautiful and sweet it was… possibly all the more beautiful because we really have some girls who can sing. The Armenians sat around us staring and smiling and the end gave us a huge round of applause…
Really it was such a magical day, and because there was a huge amount of Americans who had no idea how to Armenian dance, I even had a great time dancing with my boyfriend, though mostly he laughed at us all. And for the first time, I tried, and learned to dance the traditional Armenian folk dance that I have seen at every single wedding but have always been afraid to take part. So congrats Scott and Mary, really I think that the two of you were destined to be together and wish you all the happiness in the world!!


  1. Alyssa, Thank you so much for this blog my whole family has enjoyed reading it. Since we were not able watch their relationship develop this gave a glimpse into the evolution. Congratulation on your engagement, enjoy your last few months in Armenia, and good luck in future back in the States. Jan Gaynor

  2. Hi, Alyssa. Conrats on your accomplishment! I have checked out your blog from time to time and have enjoyed it. Loved the wedding pictures. Contact me when you return so that we can get together. Catherine Keith