Kick, Push, Coast – U. Armen Nercesian
As I took my morning commute today through Republic Square, I realized in the span of about 3 minutes what every optimistic ‘Hayastantsi’ means when they say “the future is bright.”
Upon entering Republic Square, I passed a trashcan spewing thick black smoke, most likely a result of someone prematurely pitching a cigarette before it was finished. At this point in my trip, a situation like this becomes almost laughable, being that cigarette smoking is about as common of an act as laughing in Armenia. I picked up my pace a little bit to escape the cloud of God-knows-what burning in the trash can but was immediately ran into by a young kid on his skateboard. He couldn’t have been more than 13 or 14 years old, ear buds blasting, donning shorts, a tee shirt, and worn-to-the-sole Adidas soccer shoes. We both stumbled a bit, him unfortunately more than I due to the size difference, and while my face expressed a sense of surprise and annoyance, he threw me a grin, replaced his fallen ear bud, picked up his clearly used and abused skateboard and continued on. I stopped for a minute to collect myself and was immediately taken away by the talent of this young skateboarder. In a world of kids who spend their days playing soccer in alleyways, smoking cigarettes and hanging out at cafes, this kid was landing kickflip after kickflip, grinding on the landmark fountain of Republic Square and simply not having a care in the world – just as a skateboarder should. A smile twice as big as his post-collision grin graced my face as I grew up loving to play the Tony Hawk Pro Skater video game and remember so desperately trying to land my first ollie with my neighborhood friends when I was younger.
As I resumed my commute, my eyes refocused beyond the young skateboarder to bring the weekly Thursday protests in front of the Government House into my vision. This harsh contrast of ideologies – people who demand change on a weekly basis by holding up picket signs and pictures of their lost soldiers and a young kid who would rather drown out the world and skateboard to his heart’s content – brought my image for the future of Armenia into prospective for the first time.
Working for the Repat Armenia Foundation, part of my job is to interview people who have repatriated Armenia to learn their story and write an article for our website about them so that others can relate and gain confidence in their decision to move to Armenia. Most of the people I interview will say that the TUMO Center, a school of technology for the youth, will provide us with the minds of tomorrow and is one of the brightest spots in a young, independent Armenia. Today my fellow interns and I will be visiting TUMO and I am certain that I will be as blown away by the Google headquarters-esque environment that everyone raves about. However, I think that the mantra of “the children are our future” needs to be recognized beyond the doors of TUMO.
Reaching my office, almost ready to turn the music on my phone off, the shuffle feature on my music player appropriately played the song “Kick, Push” by Lupe Fiasco, a song that just about everyone in my generation knows (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gl83mI69nX4, an inspiring song for all ages, definitely worth a listen if you’ve never heard it). The song describes the mindset of a “rebel to the world with no place to go” who picks up skateboarding and never gives up his love for skating despite constant cultural barriers. While the next generation of IT professionals, pioneers of the technology field and employees of the 1500 vacant IT jobs in Yerevan may be busy at work in the halls of TUMO, every generation also has its counter culture – the skateboarders doing kickflips and avoiding pedestrians – to round out its personality. Armenia has long been a country of one track minded people, growing up with Soviet scarred parents, preaching aspirations of driving a 100k car and wearing Gucci sunglasses that they didn’t have to buy from the Vernisage flea market. Armenia has long been a country of parents who idolize their sons and teach their daughters to be subservient from their first step to their last. But this new generation is different. They can dress themselves, they can make their own decisions, they can surf the internet and realize that they live in a world that allows for you to follow your dreams; but most importantly, they can decide whether they want to learn to code or just kick, push, kick, push, kick, push, kick, push, coast.