Oh, Susanna, Don't You Cry For Me...
...for I come from Alabama, with my banjo on my knee!
Well, I don't have a banjo, but I definitely do come from Alabama, where I have been for the better part of this millennium. Crazy, no? Here all of you are, in France or California or somewhere else equally exciting and cultured, and here I am, in Alabama of all places, where the only history you can find is the battleground in someone's backyard where Andrew Jackson once fought Native Americans and where "Armenia" is as often confused with “Romania” as it is thought to be a Slavic third-world country whose citizens live in grass huts and ride donkeys to the marketplace.
Raffi was kind enough to let me contribute here, and I’d like to say thanks one more time. I have been reading pretty much everything you guys post and finally got the courage to ask if I can add something. Unfortunately, Alabama is very dilute as far as Armenians go. The Armenians that do live here are mostly centered around three major cities—Huntsville, Montgomery, and Mobile—but where I live, my family is pretty much it. There is diversity—it’s a university town, so there are students and professors from all corners of the earth. Just not from Armenia. There is no community, and the nearest Apostolic church is in Atlanta—almost two hours and a whole state border away. Overall, however, it’s a pretty nice town. Fitting for students of all sorts, and a good place to relax. "The prettiest village on the plains" is what it has been called for a few centuries now. (The same can’t be said of the same of the entire state, though.) The university itself is actually commended in many areas. Most of the local culture revolves around football, of which I’m afraid I will never be a fan.
Since the presence of the Armenian Diaspora is so weak, I personally grab onto the chance to connect with others (especially right at this moment, when I realize that the amount of academic work I have for the summer will keep me from going to Yerevan—every time I turn on the Armenia channel on satellite and see pictures or footage of the city, I feel like weeping my eyes out). I will be leaving Alabama—and probably the South—for college in a year, but I still try to bring some cultural awareness until then. As of now, I pride myself on having broadened the knowledge of some minds about Armenia beyond the scope of Keeping Up With the Kardashians.
Over the past few years, however, there have been a few brushes with our culture that seem worthy of mention, from the Egyptian marketing professor at the university here who sang (or rather bellowed) “Oh Siroun, Siroun” to my mother upon finding out that she is Armenian to the half-Turkish half-Armenian student here who has become a good friend of my family to the fact that Spivakov and the Russian Philharmonic gave a concert here one year ago and played an Aram Khachaturian composition as an encore. I'll go into detail about these semi-bizarre events only after earning approval from you guys (and finding out that I have not, in fact, bored you to tears by now). Being thus mostly devoid of anything to remind me of our culture (besides my relatives, who are the typical Armenian tyrants that replace your storybooks with Shirvanzade and Teryan and Sahyan when you are ten and constantly lecture you on the unforgivable sin of forgetting your language), I look to this website and all the blogs a haven of sorts. Being a part of it now is pretty nice.
And as a random note: How many of you have seen Yerevan Blues? You know the scene where Mikael Pogosyan comes to life in the tomb, covered in spiderwebs and sporting biker clothes? Well, listen to the dialogue carefully. When he looks around, his line is “Ara, es Alabamayi kayfere indz ur en berel?” It took me the longest time to stop laughing at this random oddity.