breaking down walls: armenian refugees.

And so continues the Breaking Down Walls series. I’m really passionate about changing perspectives and making people stop and think. I truly despise the walls that we, as a society, build up around and against each other; stereotypes and prejudice are hurtful and should be eradicated in my humble opinion. A true but sad fact of life is that we’ve learned, from a very early age, to build up such walls. I hope I can penetrate some of these walls by bringing light to such situations. I hope this series will help me to process why these walls exist and open up your mind as you follow my blog posts.

Last month, I met a woman named Greta. She is Russian-Armenian but lives in the Netherlands. Greta is an Armenian refugee, and she lives in a refugee camp.

Greta lives in a bungalow the size of approximately 1000 square feet. Each bungalow houses four families. Their living quarters are shared. The tiny kitchen is shared. The tiny bathroom is shared. The residents — prisoners? — of these camps are not always of the same ethnicity nor nationality, but there are thousands of Armenian refugees living in camps like these throughout the Netherlands. Refugee children have no access to basic education except for Dutch language school. Upon entering the refugee camp, I instantaneously felt a thick sense of foreboding as if there was something outrightly, even humanely wrong. The feeling stayed with me until we exited the camp two hours later. By the end of our visit, I realized what made me feel that way: there is no sense of hope in these camps.

We Americans could only speak a few Armenian words. “Barev. Inches ah-noon-us?” Hello. What is your name? We could extend a simple hello and offer listening ears. It is the latter that gave these wonderful people the platform to speak. Greta and the other refugees spoke hurriedly as if this chance to be heard was fleeting. They spoke of the intense sadness they felt, the injustice they live through each day. We are not meant to live this way.

I asked our Armenian translator, “How do you say, ‘can I hold you hand?’?

I asked Greta if I could hold her hand. She said, “Of course!” with tears in her eyes. With a hug and only a few words, I offered Greta the assurance that I would spread her story to whoever would listen…while she waited.

Waiting. Waiting. Waiting.

We heard the story of a man who had waited eight years. Eight years for residency in a country he could not yet call his own. Eight years for any type of status that would not label him as “illegal alien.” Eight years for a new life with his wife and daughter away from their home country. Eight years for “what could be” instead of “what was back then.”

It took only one day for those eight years of waiting to abruptly come to an end. You see, that man and his family are also Russian-Armenian refugees in the Netherlands. And in the refugee camp where they had been waiting for years and years, there is a strict rule that all refugees must obey. This rule states that refugees must stay within a 30km (18.64mi) radius outside of the camp. One step out of the 30km is immediate cause for deportation.

That man stepped out of the 30km. He broke the rule to see his wife and daughter in a city that was more than 30km away. He went to see his wife and daughter who actually had papers to stay in the Netherlands. Eight years for papers. His wife and daughter were now waiting for him to get his papers.

When you’re a refugee, you make a case against the country you emigrated from. Given that this man and his family are Russian-Armenians, they must have put it on the record that they could no longer live in Russia. For whatever reason, Russia was unfit and unlivable for them anymore; this family felt that the Netherlands could provide a better life for them. When this man got deported, he was therefore not sent back to Russia; legally, the government could not send him back to his home country. So they deported him to Armenia because he’s ethnically Armenian.

This man now has no family, no money, no shelter, no job, and no status in Armenia. He is an illegal immigrant once more and has been stripped of everything he knows.

Greta is the mother of the man who got deported. She and her husband have not heard from their son in two months because refugees are not allowed to receive mail at the camp. The silence is deafening, and waiting for any news makes it far worse.

Yes, rules are rules. And this man broke the rules and thus was deported. But what an unhumanitarian way to treat someone. Is it wrong to go and see your wife and kid? I think not. It should not be so black and white.

This is not the life that these refugees were looking for. These camps, these rules, these living situations: they are meant to break families apart, to force people back to their own countries. There is a clear message: you are not wanted here.

Greta’s story and her son’s story are only two of many. I did not know that this was going on in the Netherlands in the present day. The Armenian refugees that we met cling onto whatever hope they can muster. In our two hour visit, I hope we chipped away at the sense of hopelessness that pervaded that camp. We fervently hope that the walls in the Netherlands can and will be broken. But look around you: in the States, there are countless refugees that have similar lifestyles. They work our crop fields, and they clean our office buildings — they live lives that we don’t want to live, and they do jobs that we sure as hell would not want to do. The “illegal aliens” in the States may not be in camps, but they fear daily that they will be deported because they feel and are unwanted. They are waiting for a better life.

I want Greta’s voice to be heard. I want people to know about the situation in the Netherlands: there are thousands of Armenian refugees waiting for a better life. I want the world to know that the Armenian refugees are not a forgotten people.

bulletpoints friday.

- Went to The Rescues concert at Hotel Cafe last night. See video above to listen to one of their newest tracks, “Arrow” — I love them, I love them, I love them. I love that my friend D introduced me to them last December at the exact same venue. Back then, I didn’t know their songs but was instantly struck by their lyrics. Yesterday, I sang along as an avid fan. Also, they freaking rock for following me on the Twitters.

- I was supposed to write a very important blog entry this morning at a coffee shop. Instead, I have a deadline for online traffic school today. And it’s timed. Blergh. Blasted. Bah!

- So instead, I’m writing this update on my life while watching little hummingbirds come to my newfangled hummingbird feeder that’s dangling from my porch awning. Thanks so much N for the gift! I love watching these little guys flit, flit around. Okay, I guess traffic school is a teeny bit more bearable right now.

- I’ve been going to yoga classes this week to fulfill this crazy Groupon that expires on October 1st. Went back to bikram for the first time in four months because my class package at my local studio expires in three weeks. Went to my first spin class ever. Spin class is brutal and kind of miserable. My body is aching like crazy, but I know it’s good for me.

- WOOOOOOOOOOO just saw that the traffic school due date is not THIS month, but next! WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

- Elasticity and seasons. I’ve got to remember that I won’t get stuck, and that this is only one part of who I am.

they are blue when skies are gray.

Fun. – The Gambler

Slow down, we’ve got time left to be lazy
All the kids have bloomed from babies into flowers in our eyes.
We’ve got fifty good years left to spend out in the garden
I don’t care to beg your pardon,
We should live until we die.

We were barely 18 when we’d crossed collective hearts.
It was cold, but it got warm when you’d barely crossed my eye.
And then you turned, put out your hand,
And you asked me to dance.
I knew nothing of romance, but it was love at second sight.

I swear when I grow up, I won’t just buy you a rose.
I will buy the flower shop, and you will never be lonely.
Even if the sun stops waking up over the fields
I will not leave, I will not leave ’till it’s our time.
So just take my hand, you know that I will never leave your side.

It was the winter of ’86, and all the fields had frozen over.
So we moved to Arizona to save our only son
And now he’s turning to a man, though he thinks just like his mother,
He believes we’re all just lovers, he sees hope in everyone.

And even though she moved away,
We always get calls from our daughter.
She has eyes just like her father’s
They are blue when skies are grey
And just like him, she never stops,
Never takes the day for granted,
Works for everything that’s handed to her,
Never once complains.

You think that I nearly lost you
When the doctors tried to take you away.
But like the night you took my hand beside the fire
Thirty years ago to this day
You swore you’d be here ’til we decide that it’s our time
Well it’s not time, you’ve never quit in all your life.
So just take my hand, you know that I will never leave your side.
You’re the love of my life, you know that I will never leave your side.

You come home from work and you kiss me on the eye
You curse the dogs, you say that I should never feed them what is ours.
So we move out to the garden and look at everything we’ve grown.
And now the kids are coming home,
So I’ll set the table…
You can make the fire.

I want this.

entitlement.

The other night, my sister and I went to The Grove, a popular shopping establishment in Los Angeles. We had little luck in finding shoes for my sis, but I still needed to get parking validation from one of the shops. Parking at The Grove is expensive unless you get your ticket validated. We stopped into the 3-story Barnes & Noble, I waited in line, and I asked the cashier if B&N validated.

“We validate only if you’ve bought something and show a receipt.”
“I left it outside with a friend.” (though I hadn’t bought anything)
“Did you shop here?”
“Yes.” (no)
“Then I need to see a receipt.”
“Are you serious…” 

And then I walked away. I was upset that this dude couldn’t take 2 seconds to just validate my ticket. His attitude was what bothered me the most, I think. And then I wondered if Barnes & Noble had to pay a certain fee for every ticket validated. Why did it matter to him that B&N lost money, though? I liked Borders more as a bookstore anyway before they went bankrupt….

It hit me like a ton of bricks right then. Why was I acting so entitled? The cashier was right: I didn’t buy anything at B&N. But I expected him to validate my ticket. When I walked into Anthropologie, they immediately validated my parking ticket, no questions asked. In America, the customer is always right, but does that philosophy apply to non-paying patrons as well? 

Where did this sense of entitlement come from? I see it daily in strangers. I see it in acquaintances. I see it in friends and family. I’ve come to recognize it more and more in myself.

We are hard-working, yes, but does that mean we are deserving? Does that mean we are allowed to treat others as less just because we’ve accomplished x, y, and z? Just because we were raised with certain values or because we have a certain medical condition…does that mean others are required to bend over backwards…for YOU?

Does that mean that when we suffer, we deserve everything? 

We deserve nothing, and yet we have been given so, so, SO much. And instead of feeling entitled, we should be feeling thankful.

mama c: loving puppy c.

And so continues my papa c and mama c series. Papa c is my crazy dad, and mama c is my crazy mom. My parental units are first generation immigrants. They are annoying but wonderfully cute and endearing. They are hard working but quirky. I love them with all my heart.

This is going to be a weekly, ongoing series on my blog about the random and lovable and personal anecdotes from the lives of my parental units. This is not to make fun of them but to actually record my fond memories of them. Hope you grow to love them, too.

I know I talk about puppy c a lot on this blog. But you know who talks more about puppy c? My parents.

When I first got Mr. Bates, my mom yelled the crap out of me. She said I was irresponsible and didn’t think my decisions through. She was so crazy irrational that I told her to get out of my house…to which she said, “you think you can do whatever you want now?” Why yes, mom, yes I can.

One of the real reasons I wanted to get Mr. Bates was to give my parents a pseudo-grandchild and something to get them off my back. Little did I know that my parents would come over to see Mr. Bates every. single. day. Even when I returned from Europe, my dad said “hiiiiiiiiiiiii!!!!” not to me…but to Mr. Bates. Oh hey dad, I was away from home for two weeks. Nice to see you, too.

Mama c has really had a huge heart change towards puppy c though. The other day, she told my sister and I that she can’t imagine puppy c in the animal shelter…and when she thinks about that sad situation, she gives puppy c an extra treat. Isn’t that the cutest?! Mama c is the cutest. I knew that getting him was a good idea. He’s a permanent part of our family now. I am so happy because of it.

dublin highlight: georgian doors.

Because I’m traveling so much this year, I wanted to start a sporadic travel series on my blog. This series will have 3 categories: bites, sights, and highlights. Enjoy!

I didn’t expect Dublin, Ireland to be so fun. The Irish are a great bunch o’ folks, and they definitely know how to party. The Irish are hyperbolic storytellers but there is kindness in their eyes despite their long and sad history. Besides loving Irish people, I really fell in love with Irish doors. Strange, but true. I was drawn to the amazing array of colorful Georgian doors throughout the city of Dublin. Well, apparently so had others because there were “Dublin Door” calendars and postcards for sale at every touristy souvenir shop in the city. I photographed my own little collection (displayed above). I just absolutely loved this design aesthetic — adds a pop of fun in your daily routine.