(Dylan Whitman Waller, USA)
I knew before coming that Armenia would be a very special place to visit, but I could not have imagined beforehand how wonderful and multi-layered the experience would be. If one is open to serendipity and a genuine engagement with the culture and people, one will discover more opportunities than are possible to pursue.
I came to work with a group of Armenian traditional musicians – the Gurdjieff Ensemble – and to study and research Komitas’ music, and this basic intent has opened into many unexpected pathways. Also, in the first weeks after arriving, I learned via AVC that there was an opportunity to record an English voiceover for a short Armenian film about the ancient petroglyphs found in the mountains of the Syunik region. I went with another volunteer to offer our services, and became friends with the filmmaker. When we went into his office, I saw a poster for the film, ‘Sunrise Over Lake Van’, which had been a film I had researched and looked for a copy of some months earlier when in Denmark. The filmmaker saw me looking at the poster, and asked, “Do you know this film?” and then humbly added, “It is mine.” This serendipitous friendship has led me to working with historians, screenwriters, visual artists, composers, all of whom share a great depth of human decency in tandem with their aesthetic insights, something which I’ve never experienced anywhere as consistently as I am experiencing here.
AVC is an invaluable resource, a place to orient oneself upon arrival, and which can serve as a fulcrum thereafter for practical information, cultural expeditions, and as a place of familiar warmth, where one can meet and make new friends and connections, and know that one is welcome among caring, competent hands, an apt base and gateway for everything else that comprises an authentic experience of Armenia.