One of the most difficult parts of this internship was getting comfortable around a ringing phone. I am typically a friendly person, but it took a lot of practice for me to get comfortable talking to strangers. Growing up, I was very shy. To combat that, I purposely took jobs that forced me to communicate with strangers in fast-paced situations. But I feel an ounce of that unease return each time our office phone rings.
These days, with landlines becoming obsolete, it’s strange to pick up a ringing phone that doesn’t have the caller’s identifying information neatly displayed on a bright and colorful screen—number, name and last name, Facebook photo, maybe even a status update, all accompanied by a personal ringtone.
The only thing that my office phone offers is the current time. And it’s nine minutes ahead. But there is something about this bulky, black object that is extraordinary. Unlike my cell phone, I never have any idea what to expect when I hear the familiar ring. Sometimes, I can make pretty educated guesses. The more I learn about the ANCA’s work and scheduled events, the easier it gets to know what type of calls to expect each week.
We get everything from activists and volunteers, to very confused people looking for information. Some callers speak only Armenian. Some calls will be from people in other countries who may want to see if we can help them. Sometimes, they are looking for help that falls outside of what we do. Even though I should probably tell them that there is nothing we can do and end the conversation, I can’t help but let them describe all of their troubles and hardships.
A call from a mother living with her two children in Germany, away from other Armenians, caught me off guard today. Her situation was upsetting, but we have no way of helping her. I’ve received a call from an older woman living in L.A. saying that she and her son don’t speak any English, but he needs a lawyer and they don’t know where to turn. Sometimes, they are so distressed and alone that they tell me hearing someone speak Armenian is comforting on its own. These are the calls that make me reflect on the state of diasporan Armenians.
It’s strange to me how we’ve ended up all over the world, speaking so many different variations of our language. And it’s amazing that we still can feel so connected to each other. While we can’t fix every problem we encounter, and while I don’t always have the answer the person on the other end of the line is looking for, I’m glad that I can at least provide some kind of peace of mind. Many times, they are just happy to know that there are young people speaking Armenian and working for the Armenian Cause.