October 3, 2012 

Our flea is getting married 
He has no money and will borrow  
While the mosquito plays the saz 
The bedbug will do a dance. 

This is a nursery rhyme used by Aintabtsi Armenians.  I had heard this 24 years ago but it was only possible to publish it today. 

I have been in Aintab for a few days.  My aim was to do a documentary study with Murad Uçaner.  We planned it and we succeeded.  Thanks to Gokhan Dagdeviren for helping us, not only in filming but providing technical assistance. 

In 1987, Armen Aroyan was an Aintabtsi Armenian for only a few minutes. His maternal grandmother and grandfather and his paternal grandmother were Aintabtsis. His paternal grandfather was from the nearby village of Jibin. 

His grandmother, Gülenya Guzelimyan, was born and raised in a house located in a blind alley on the north side of St.Mary’s Church, which we presently call Kurtulus Cami.  
Gülenya was a graduate of the Girls’ Seminary, which was located on the campus of the American Hospital, not far from her home.  

It has been 25 years since I met Aintabtsi Armen and many things have happened since then. He was an electrical engineer with two Master’s degrees and was working for a large company.  However, the company was sold and he became jobless.  When he lost his job, he was not sorry, because he loved to guide people and introduce them to different cultures. 

He enjoyed talking to them and exchanging ideas.  He started bringing to Turkey, Armenians living in America, who were curious about the country and their ancestral roots.   Armen is a peaceful and knowledgeable person who is full of love.  He took pictures and videos and showed them to Armenians in America, which made them trust Armen and agree to go to Turkey with him.   

So far, Armen has taken over 1000 people to Turkey.  Among these people were journalist Steve Kurkjian of the Boston Globe, prominent professors, doctors, lawyers, and other specialists.  They all enjoyed our country and left Turkey with good impressions.  Armen has gathered his memoires and his travelers’ positive impressions into a book.  A draft copy of this book is huge, heavy, and is difficult to carry.  It is still unpublished.  In other words, it is not quite finished and is not ready to go to the printer.  Armen has a treasury of knowledge and he is trying to include everything into this book.  I wonder when it is going to be published.  

He comes to our country at least 3 times a year and therefore, he knows a lot of people.  While he is touring in Turkey, his cell phone never stops ringing and he hears, “Welcome, when are we going to see you?”  And he cannot nor is able to answer all of these questions.  While touring historical sites, he has met students of archeology and architecture, and has provided assistance in their studies towards their graduate degrees.  

There was some information that I hadn’t heard before and I was curious about the sources of this information.  I realized that there were books written in Armenian about Turkey.  “Oh my God, I can’t read that!”  I made a gentleman’s agreement with Armen and he was kind enough to simultaneously translate them into English.  I recorded every sentence, researched them and assembled the information into 3 books.    One is about Marash, the other Tomarza, and the third about Aintab.  I will publish them in the same order.  The books cover the social life, occupations and level of education, trades, and daily life during the latter part of the 1800s, and the early part of the 20th century.  

Let’s get back to the documentary that I made with Armen.  Armen told us many interesting things that he had heard from his Aintabtsi grandmother, about which I have written in the very beginning. He covered daily life and life style of his grandmother’s Aintab.  Let’s give Armen a chance to speak. 

“My grandmother graduated from the Girls’ Seminary in 1904, and after that the Guzelimyans moved to Cairo.  There were two sisters younger than my grandmother who was sent from Cairo to the Girls’ Seminary.  The boarding facilities at the Girls’ Seminary of Aintab gave an opportunity to the students who were not from Aintab, or whose families were not living in Aintab, to attend the school.  Like my grandmother, there were other Girls’ Seminary graduates in Cairo.  While I was going to school in Cairo, sometimes I observed that my grandmother’s generation was able to assist us with our homework assignments, having more knowledge than my mother’s generation.  I was very surprised at the level of education in Aintab during the late 1800s.” 

I did not give any information to Armen about the level of education of today’s Aintabtsis. 
The Turks, Jews, Armenians, Assyrians (Asori), Greeks, and even Yezidi were living in Aintab peacefully.  Each of them has a diverse culture.  Naturally, they were affecting each other by their differences, which, in turn, enriched the cultural life.  Armen heard the nursery rhyme I wrote at the beginning from his grandmother.  Let’s think about this rhyme.  There is very poor young many who wants to get married.  He just started a business probably with his father, if the father is alive.  He doesn’t have money to get married so he has to borrow money.  He doesn’t have money to pay for the musicians at the wedding. Therefore, the mosquito will play the saz and the bedbug will dance.  When I was a child there were bedbugs in wooden beds. 

I researched this nursery rhyme for a long time and couldn’t find it anywhere.  Later, I understood Aintab Armenians only used these verses because there is a rich culture in our country.  These lines revealed to me the richness of the cultural treasury.  I am going to continue to write about Armen Aroyan’s Aintab.

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