The (ANCA LSI) Summer of ’17

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By Shant Eulmessekian
ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship (LSI) Participant, 2017
Glendale Community College

I apologize in advance if what you are about to read is too sentimental or dramatic, but as I sit in the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Aramian House on the final day of my internship, with my plane leaving a few hours, I cannot help but feel emotional as I reflect over the past eight weeks.

The passionate and playful ANCA Leo Sarkisian Internship and Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program team of 2017 during one of their many trips to Capitol Hill: (L to R) Hasmik Krikorian, Taleen Simonian, Sevana Dombalagian, Mari Tikoyan, Marie Papazian, Shant Eulmessekian, Hagop Housbian, Stephen Boursalian, Gregor Bayburtian, Harout Manougian, Shushan Gabrielyan, Monique Bolsajian and Leonardo Torosian. Missing from the photo: Garen Kosoyan, Anna Avannesyan, and Noor Varjabedian.

Since I hope to be a good writer, I must commit to my emotions and transcribe them; and since you have begun reading, I hope you are a good reader and so commit as well.

I have noticed a personal truth: When I am called to reflect and remember joyous times in my life, I do so with utmost difficulty. There can be many explanations for this. I say that I am so enveloped in experiencing and enjoying the moment that remembering the moment itself becomes a low priority. Others argue that my brain resembles that of a goldfish. You choose the explanation you prefer, but I will try my best to collect and condense my memories into 650-1,000 words.

When you lean back in your seat, or whatever contraption or appendage is keeping you from falling, whether your legs or a pleasant yellow kayak floating on the Potomac, I hope you forgive me for my “excessive” language and you come to understand what a wondrous journey this has been.

It began as I landed in Baltimore, Maryland, and stepped out of the baggage terminal into the hot and humid air. The sensation of being wrapped in a warm, wet blanket is not a pleasant one, a feeling apparently shared by water-dripping radiators and air-conditioning units of the various taxis and cars that made up the pickup strip I was waiting on. Promptly, Ms. Elizabeth Chouldjian (I was later told she preferred either “Yeghisapet” or “Yeghso”; I chose the latter) picked me up from the unwanted coziness of my warm and wet blanket, and we proceeded on our two-hour drive to the office, where I was introduced to my fellow interns as well as the rest of the staff. And so my story had begun.

You get an interesting variety of outcomes when you force together a collection of determined, intelligent, and headstrong Armenians, especially if they all come from different backgrounds. A possible, and most probable occurrence, is hell breaking loose, unfettered words flying in and out of ears, and division. A less likely, and infinitely more meaningful experience, is what happened during the summer of 2017 with the ANCA Leo Sarkisian interns.

The family began forming with polite and timid people, with hushed hellos and where-are-you-froms and what-is-your-majors. Those common phrases possess, somehow simultaneously, absolutely no meaning and absolute necessary importance. It was from those words that we grew together.

We began eating together, discussing and comparing food. We bought gym memberships and tried to exercise consistently—“tried” being a key word, as our $90 was wasted on napping and untouched protein dust. It is generally called “protein powder,” but when it sits on a fridge for a week straight, it does not deserve the dignity of that name.

We toured the beautiful city of Washington D.C., visiting the Smithsonian museums and the White House; but I have difficulty describing it, as my vocabulary is lacking, so please read Leonardo Torossian’s article to get a thorough review. We spent Fourth of July in front of the Capitol, patriotically listening to the Star Wars theme song and watching the fireworks color the black sky. We spent nights lying in our beds with our eyes closed but our minds open, pondering with our fellow roommates about life’s various mysteries. We spent mornings waking up late and dressing as quickly as possible, wondering whether it was perhaps better to continue our thoughtful discussion on the “automation of our society” in our dreams. We spent the days speaking to Members of Congress or Representatives of Artsakh and Armenia, while working on personal projects to further Hai Tahd, to assist people in the Homeland, and to reduce the injustice in our world. We spent evenings curled up on the couch together watching films, or under dimmed lights playing Durak (a fantastic game by the way, I recommend you learn it). We spent dinners passing ribs, and macaroni and cheese, back and forth, and toasting to our future and our new family. We spent our energy rowing yellow, double kayaks through the unnaturally green Potomac river, screaming “Shant! Please sit down!”

It really has been a story, and, as with any great story, there were moments of laughter and tears, joy and sorrow, stress and accomplishment, and there was, of course, the occasional romance. To remain dignified, I will speak for myself when I say that these emotions came together and shook me to the very core of my being. I am relatively young, and this has been quite an interesting life for me so far. I have reached a point where I am confused and lost, happily of course, and trying to find myself in this great big mess of a world. But without hesitation I say this has been a moment of clarity, the greatest summer of my life.

I hope that you, dear reader, are leaning back in your seat, or whatever contraption that is keeping you from falling, and you’re reflecting on your “greatest summer.” I hope it is filled with determined, intelligent, and headstrong Armenians. I hope it is filled with laughter and tears, expired gym memberships, and a pleasant yellow double kayak.

If it is not, the ANCA Leo Sarkisian intern family would welcome you with open arms.

Source: Armenian Weekly
Link: The (ANCA LSI) Summer of ’17