Patrick Kochyan - Angers, France
When I was growing up and started studying French, my Grandpa would talk to me about France and his heritage. Born in Istanbul, Turkey, he moved to the south of France at a young age and was raised in Marseille. I was always fascinated with his stories and his memories of the beautiful country. He had intentions to return in the late nineties, but became ill and was unable to ever return. Luckily, with my semester abroad in France, I took a trip that he would've greatly appreciated.
It was mid-August, and my dad made a phone call to our Armenian and French relatives in Marseille. It was one of the strangest calls I've ever been a part of because we tried to get the message across that I was going to France with a mix of my dad's Armenian and my French. After a few e-mails and letters, the relatives were more than eager to welcome me to the city. I knew that I needed to see them and witness a part of my Grandpa's upbringing, so I booked the trip. They were overly ecstatic, and they even told me to bring a friend! My friend Keith and I took a beautiful four day trip to the south of France without knowing what to expect.
After the train ride, I saw older people with a cardboard sign that had my name on it and I knew that was the start of something good. We were greeted like the French national soccer team after winning the World Cup; the reception was overwhelming. This kind of reception and treatment continued for the whole trip. Not only did we get to stay with them in an amazing house outside of the city, but they made sure we had excellent meals and had plenty of time to see Marseille and the surroundings. All of this was incredible, but the material items were nothing compared to the significance this trip had for my family.
The emotional moments started when they took us to the downtown area of the city. One of my relatives took me aside and said that we were going to the place where your Grandpa grew up. As he explained how we were related and told stories of my Grandpa, he pointed out the apartment building that he lived in as a child. This was where my studies of French really had meaning, and there I was, at the place where my Grandpa had been raised as the child; the same man who had shown me his love of France and of these people. Everything had really come full circle at that point. In that moment, I knew that I had made the trip that my Grandpa had dreamt of making, and I had fostered a bond for the newest generation of the Kochyan family that will live into the future.
Sure, I could write about the amazing life in Marseille, the excellent food, and the beautiful views of the sea, but all of that takes a backseat to my personal experience with my relatives that weekend. I didn't just take a vacation; I relit the flame of a family who had wanted to know of their relatives in America, and wanted to meet the next generation of my Grandpa's family. In the near future, I will return and continue to discover more about my relatives in France, and I'll continue to keep the bond alive for our family, and my Grandpa.