Coming to Armenia I had no idea what to expect regarding my current field: Nutrition and Dietetics. Much of the local diet is sugar-heavy, carbohydrate dominant, and lacking in essential vitamins and minerals. The dietary practices in Armenia have encouraged skyrocketing rates of high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, vitamin deficiencies, malnutrition, and so on. While volunteering in Gyumri, I realized how pertinent it was for me to exercise my knowledge about a healthy diet, food safety, and nutrition-related chronic diseases.
I presented nutrition seminars at the Youth Palace in Gyumri to educate the community on the importance behind healthy eating standards and what it means to be conscious of one’s daily nutrition. It was eye-opening to discover that much of what I had previously thought was common knowledge, was not so common to many here. Clinical Nutrition is a field that is very new and unfamiliar to many in Gyumri, and especially in Armenia. There is a growing need for education, counseling, and guidance in this field, and it is my hope that Dieticians and Nutritionists across the globe will come to Armenia and be a part of that growth.
Working in Food Service
I also had the opportunity to volunteer in a selection of foodservice operations across the city of Gyumri. I learned the ins and outs of Lamajoun at the busy restaurant Hatsa Tun, where we would often crank out around 500 orders per day. At Herbs and Honey, one of the few restaurants in the city with a wide selection of vegetarian and vegan options, I assisted the chefs there with food preparation and advised the staff on Food Safety Standards and Hygiene. At Nazuk Bakery, I was able to rediscover my love of baking, learn how to bake cakes, and offer my family recipe of Tahin Hatz (Tahini Bread) to the café.
When I first arrived in Armenia for the first time in June I was overwhelmed, to put it simply. I had never been to this country, let alone this part of the world. When I set foot on the ground, I was welcomed with open arms by my host family. Their hospitality and warmth made me feel at home immediately. They made sure I never went unnoticed and made sure I was well fed constantly! I feel like I have gained a second home away from home in Armenia.
Gyumri and Armenia
I can’t put into words how I feel about my experience here. Gyumri reminds me of my hometown: big enough to be a city, but small enough to be a town. Yerevan’s daily bustle can leave you dizzy after a while. If you don’t like big cities, and especially don’t like the heat in the summer, come to Gyumri. Overall, from Gyumri, Yerevan, and everything in between: there’s no place like Hayastan.
Photo Credits: Diandra Ajemian