Driving into Javakhk, it seemed as if we had not left Armenia at all, save for the hours-long delay at the border and the admonitions not to mention that we were travelling to the former Armenian state. That did not stop us from getting into arguments at the border though, no matter how hard we tried to remain quietly peaceful. I do believe I had a hand in one particular heated discussion while we were within sight of the border guards.
The terrain seemed only to be an extension of what we had left behind the invisible line that divides Georgia and Armenia. I’m not sure what I had expected, but the peace that settled on me once I realized that I didn’t feel like a total stranger was a welcome feeling. Unsure about what to expect, we finally arrived at the community center that doubled as a headquarters for our integral organizations and ARS programs. The fact that we were still speaking Armenian was definitely cause for awe. Javakhk resembles the villages and open lands of Armenia, where the people are simple, the traditions are deep-rooted and hard work keeps food on the table.
Trekking through Queen Tamar’s fortress was a delightful touristic distraction, followed by a feast and relaxing swim in warm natural waters. The trip was both relaxing and distressing, especially when we were presented with the hardships that our people face on a daily basis and their theories about the government’s plans to repopulate the region with Turks and Azeris. The discrimination Armenians face in Georgia is possibly worse than that in Turkey, actually.
One of the funnest memories hinges on the age-old Armenian tradition of drenching everyone with water in celebration of Vartevar. We had to scramble about and think twice about visiting the store to grab some ice cream, preferring to spend our second and final day in the state cowering indoors. I don’t think any of us would have admitted to being cowards though, of course 😛
Leaving the region was hard, as we had gotten used to spending at least a few days wherever we traveled. Hopefully our suggestions would mean an extra week of camp run in Akhalkalak or one of the surrounding cities in the coming years. Standing on the cliff overlooking the Parvana Lake, it was easy to feel like we were home, instead of a foreign country.