Conversation started July 6, 2009

Conversation started July 6, 2009

We’d spent a great night with new (and now mutual) friends. On the train home, we talked about how I was studying linguistics at Hunter, how I was Armenian and spoke the language, how he was a quarter Sicilian, a quarter Ukrainian, and “two quarters German.” He was smart. He was kind. He was listening. I got off at my stop telling myself, “Wow, this guy would be awesome for you, but you decided not to date right now. Stay away.” I didn’t answer his message. But mere days later…

Our first photo together, July 14th, 2009. Brighton Beach. Our first Bastille Day. Our first kiss.

Our first adventure, August 1st, 2009. New Paltz, NY.

We were standing together at the bus depot, waiting for our way home from a long day at the Ulster County Fair. We had been seeing each other for two weeks. I was busy trying to keep the sun out of my eyes when Jon looked straight into them and said “Ես սիրում եմ քեզ:” Yes sirum em kez. I love you.

The very first thing I said in response when my boyfriend told me for the first time that he loved me, told me in my language of Armenian, was not “I love you, too” but “That’s actually not how we say it here.” 

I taught him “our way,” the Western Armenian idiom, “կը սիրեմ քեզ:” Guh sirem kez. It took several minutes of me trying to be mature and sensible before I decided to return these words. It had only been two weeks, but the fact that I couldn’t stop smiling throughout those moments of careful deliberation told me all I needed to know. I let the sun in and told him I loved him too. 

Our first trip “home”, April 2015. Yerevan, Armenia. Where they say it the other way.

In the opening part of his project encapsulating our life-changing trip to Armenia, Jon writes:

Victoria’s Armenian is Western Armenian, the dialect of the diaspora. The state of Armenia speaks Eastern Armenian, to some degree mutually intelligible, but different. But to me, I have only heard her speak it in brief, simple exchanges at church or with older family. Here it is a working, living language to direct a taxi or make it through the day. She tells me later that she is struggling with it, but I cannot tell. It sounds perfect to me.

Hearing the person you love speak in an unknown language is like finding the true door to their soul.

I am lovingly leaving that door open for him, and little by little, he’s making his way in. One of the small moments I’ll treasure most from our trip is from our last day in Yerevan when we visited the Matenadaran, the Mesrop Mashtots Institute of Ancient Manuscripts. We stared up at the walls and pored over the enormous ancient world maps together. Jon identified the cities and regions written in Armenian by piecing together his geographic knowledge and his recognition of the letters he’d been learning for days from buildings and menus. I helped him sound out the missing pieces. We will always help each other sound out the missing pieces.

Further Reading/Viewing:

Ա: Armenia & Nagorno-Karabakh, 2015 by Jon Michael Anzalone on Exposure

“Ա, Ayb. The letter A. The start of a journey.” 

You have never seen such beauty. 

Parts 1 (Ամուսին, Amousin. Husband or Spouse.) and 2 (Անմոռուկ, Anmorouk. Forget-me-not.) are now available. Parts 3 (Արցախ, Artsakh. Strong Forest.) and 4 (Ախբեր, Akhber. Brother) will be shared soon.

Ամուսնության առաջարկության Արարատի գագաթին (A Marriage Proposal at the Summit of Mount Ararat)

Being reunited with my childhood friend Perchuhy in Armenia and meeting her then boyfriend, now fiancé Aaron, was one of the most rewarding experiences of our visit. We spent an incredible day sight-seeing and getting to know each other. Jon and I were in awe when they told us about their plans to climb Mount Ararat this summer. In this video, you can watch them get engaged at the summit, 5165 meters off the ground, and hear them tell each other “I love you” in each other’s native languages. Forevermore, when I need a burst of inspiration, I will think of their love.