My Way Home

18.12.2023
Repat Story
Gregory’s Path to Repatriation and the Challenges Faced in Kalavan
Gregory’s Path to Repatriation and the Challenges Faced in Kalavan
 
Gregory Diehl, a business and personal development author, embarked on a journey that led him to the remote village of Kalavan in Armenia. His story is a testament to the power of heritage, personal development, adjusting to the realities of rural Armenia, and the pursuit of a unique way of life.
 
Gregory's journey to Armenia began with a connection to his Armenian heritage. His grandmother, Mariam Goekjian, had fled to California during the Armenian Genocide in 1915, making him eligible for Armenian citizenship by descent. In 2016, the prolific writer (he’s the author of six books, which have been translated into four languages) visited Armenia for the first time, and the country left a lasting impact on him. 
 

Seeking Change in Kalavan

 
After spending over a decade as a nomad, traveling to more than 50 countries, Gregory sought a more settled life, away from the hustle and bustle of city living. His exploration eventually led him to Armenia, where he hoped to find a semi-retired existence in a rural setting. He envisioned contributing to Armenia's progress by fostering economic and cultural improvements. However, the reality of Kalavan's isolation and the disconnect he experienced challenged his initial expectations. 
 
 
“What convinced me to invest my money and time in Kalavan was the public media narrative being pushed by local politicians that the village was intent on rapid cultural and economic development. That idea aligned closely with the values I’d been honing around the world. Economic education and empowerment become one of my strongest passions, so the idea of living among people who shared that passion enticed me,” Gregory explains. Following his purchase of his house in Kavalan, he says all those progressive ideals fell to the wayside. “It seems likely that the people who invited me to live here and helped me buy the house never actually expected me to actually move in. There’s a lot of fear of change and outside influence here, which I think extends to most of Armenia.”
 
Gregory used his failed experiences trying to spread entrepreneurial empowerment in Kalavan to write Everyone Is an Entrepreneur: Selling Economic Self-Determination in a Post-Soviet World, which explores the differences between Western and post-Soviet attitudes toward freedom and economics. "My book is meant to help young Armenians confidently step away from their parents’ and grandparent’s outdated way of seeing the world. They can take control of their own lives by applying their knowledge, skills, and passions entrepreneurially,” he says. Gregory’s book was soon translated into Armenian and published locally through Edit Print under the title Ամեն Ոք Ձեռներեց Է.
 

Empowering Through Language Education

 
In addition to his dedication to entrepreneurship, Gregory is on a mission to transform the way English is taught as a foreign language in Armenia and around the world. His latest book, Our Global Lingua Franca: An Educator’s Guide to Spreading English Where EFL Doesn’t Work, is a testament to his commitment to fixing the flaws in language education. Drawing from his extensive teaching experience in over a dozen countries across the globe, he has a unique perspective on language acquisition.
 
He recognizes the urgent need for change. "My latest book is about fixing the obvious flaws in how we teach English as a foreign language." Gregory's passion for language education is rooted in his observations, including those from Armenia, where he has seen how the majority of learners struggle to achieve even basic conversational fluency after years of mandatory English classes. 
 
“Armenians might take up to seven years of English class in school and still struggle to use the language in a practical fashion. Our Global Lingua Franca contains the type of innovative and practical teaching techniques I had hoped to implement at the school here in Kalavan back when I first moved in,” Gregory notes. According to him, despite initial claims to the contrary, the administration in Kalavan was not interested in having a native English speaker and teacher help the kids of the village learn the language. “Can you imagine how many opportunities the children of Kalavan might have throughout life if they become conversationally fluent in English now? Or if Armenians in general could communicate in the world’s most prominent language at least as well as they currently do in Russian,” he asks. 
 
Gregory's commitment to improving language education extends beyond the pages of his book and into practical initiatives, such as creating an English fluency group for Armenians, where participants engage in meaningful discussions about important topics while improving their language proficiency. He is now putting together an online teacher training workshop for Armenian English teachers who want to improve their craft and earn more money in their profession with his guidance.
 

Advice for Aspiring Repatriates

 
Gregory's journey of settling in Kalavan offers valuable insights for individuals considering repatriation to Armenia or similar rural areas. He emphasizes the importance of understanding the character of the people you collaborate with and encourages aspiring repatriates to verify promises and expectations thoroughly before committing to a place. "You have to find the few good people you can truly rely on here and do your best to make progress with them, for yourselves and the community around you.”
 
He also highlights the need for patience and persistence. He acknowledges that navigating the challenges of repatriation can be demanding, but he firmly believes in the potential for positive change. He adds, "Armenia still has a long way to go toward embracing a future of progressive change, both culturally and economically. But hope remains. I see it in some of the passionate, open-minded, and exceptional young people here. They are the ones I write my books for.” 
 
 
Gregory Diehl's story is a testament to the complexities of repatriation, personal development, and cultural transformation. His journey to Kalavan, Armenia, reflects the challenges and opportunities that individuals may encounter when seeking a life outside their ordinary experiences. In spite of the hurdles, he remains committed to empowering Armenians and contributing to Armenia's growth and prosperity. 
 
“Despite all my frustrations, I see intelligence and creativity in Armenia, which I know from personal experience can be quite rare in the world. We just need to do what we can to create an environment that nurtures potential and opens minds to what is possible beyond the limited way of seeing the world that Armenia has known until now,” he shares. “I’m still actively looking for places in Armenia that would truly welcome someone like me, where I can be more appreciated and integrated into the community. I’ve got my eyes on Malishka village in Vayots Dzor now, and I’d love to start making connections with anyone active in that area who shares my ideals.”
 
For more of Gregory’s insights and experiences in Kalavan, visit his personal website or read his blog about Armenia at Kalavan.net. Reach out to him at [email protected] or on Facebook to learn more about his mission and how you can be a part of Armenia's transformation.

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