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PsilocybeLarvae 16.03.2006 08:20

How Far Will You Go?
How Far Will You Go?

[February 27, 2006]

(c) Eunice Ha

Two cups of rice green tea, another two refills this time with chai green tea, my nose is still stuffed, and my throat hurts badly. I have been trying to sleep for a while, but no luck. Therefore, here am I bundled up with a blanket, two candles burning, and a glass of wine. I refuse to eat a meal since this bad cold wouldn't allow me to taste anything; nevertheless, fortunately I can taste this bitter dryness of red wine. I enjoy this moment of solitary drinking. When all of Armenia is asleep, I am home alone sitting in front of my laptop with a dim lamp barely lighting the back of my body and candles lit more for the meditation, and the glass of wine for soothing my body and mind. This time, I am listening to Nina Simone's soft voice yet intense lyrics.

I have been internally becoming a mute to myself. Before letting things out, I had to absorb things. As I sip wine softly now, I hope to challenge myself again by letting out another world of unaware thoughts that have dwelled in the corner of my mind.

After I'd had that mysterious virus and gotten way too sick, I told myself that I would never take any day ahead of me for granted. As long as I'd be able to see and walk again, I would enjoy myself in the moment. As I have promised myself to thank God for my physical health, I asked God to differentiate the meaning of Sympathy and Empathy. I sincerely felt what it was like to be physically weak. And, to others who were also weak, I wanted to be compassionate.

Unbelievably, I am now put into the practice of my promise. I teach English to my loving hearted Armenian students who are mentally or physically disabled. If I had not had my own experience of having been disabled temporarily, I would still have shared life stories with my students merely on the surface. Yet it's still hard for me to fathom all their difficulties in life. And I do know that I will never be able to comprehend theirs fully.

Every Monday I see my handsome young male student, Karen, who cannot walk. One day I was teaching him the adjective word, convenient.

"Eunice, is a supermarket in America convenient?"


"Eunice, is it convenient for people like me?" Karen points out to his wheelchair.

I could have seen his difficulty only of walking, but now I think about his desire to love someone and to be loved. Why am I saying this, based on what?

Two days ago, I went to his house as usual. He's in a wheelchair, and there is no facility or transportation for him to come out of his house, unless my NGO's van picks him up. I have gone to his house to teach him English since I arrived in Dilijan.

That day we played UNO and drank his grandmother's homemade wine. His brother, who is also disabled, was doing all kinds of tricks, and I was getting too hyper from that strong wine. All of a sudden, my student threw out a question, "Eunice, what do you want in your life?"

My student, my friend, Karen, is a writer and a poet who desires to be a famous poet in the future. He and I have always talked about the meaning of life in his broken English and in my broken Armenian. Eventually, his brother won the game, and quietly departed the room for us. This time, he seemed determined to be serious and perhaps very philosophical. By clinking the wine glasses three times, we looked at each other, exchanging the promise of honesty in silence.

"Eunice, I can love everyone, but I can't love one person specifically."

He was afraid to love someone. He was afraid that he might not be loved back.

And then, he went deeper, which I was afraid to discuss, because I didn't know what to think or what to say.

"For a guy like me who is physically disabled, I doubt that's any girl would like me."

He said it. I thought it was going to be uncomfortable to talk about his struggle as a disabled person. Yes, we always talked about how inconvenient it is for him to live, especially in the developing country, where there are so many other problems that they tend to neglect issues of the minority more, although the issues themselves are not minor.

However, this time, we were talking about love. The concept of love is personal and unique to each individual. I did not know how to discuss "love" especially in Armenian.

Plus, I have been struggling with my own prejudice. I supported every right for people with disabilities. I wanted to cry with them when they faced injustice and unfairness from the community that segregates my students. They are physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially confined, isolated from their community. But, do I really think of them equally? Do I really perceive them as equal to other non-disabled people? And, Karen challenged me. There was no other way to escape from this conversation. Instead of feeling awkward, he helped me be comfortable enough to be honest.

"Eunice, can you love a disabled man?"

This question had been lingering in my mind for a long time, ever since I started to work with my Armenian students with disabilities. Hearing the same question from another person, especially from a disabled person, I felt numb. This question is uneasy.

"I don't know. Maybe I can't."

He gave me a nonjudgmental look.

"Maybe I can, but it will be really difficult for me to do it though."

I could not say, "What is the difference?"

I could not say, "Of course."

Instead, I admitted the hypocritical side of me.

"Are you hurt to hear my answer?"

My generous student, Karen, said then, "No. You are being honest. I am sure everyone thinks that way. I was thinking, what if I were non-disabled, would I be able to like a disabled girl? I don't know. I am not in that position, so I can't say what I would do."

I don't know whether he said this to make me feel a bit easier. Nonetheless, I appreciate his blunt question to awaken me to further critical thinking. And then I was being blunt as well.

"Are you angry at the fact that you are disabled?"

"No, I am not angry at myself. I've accepted this fact. But, I am angry at the consequence of being disabled. I am angry that I can't work and I can't go to school."

"Eunice, working doesn't mean money to me. I want to work, because the act of working

itself has meaning."

For the last sip of the homemade wine, we clinked our glasses three times again.

Again through silence, we exchanged the smile of genuine friendship.

The deep-rooted prejudice against disabled people in Armenia has resulted in the absolute isolation of disabled people from the communal society. In Dilijan, there is no regular school that accepts students with disability, and plus, the facility is inadequate for students with physical disabilities. Some of my students have completed high school and college education. Yet, they cannot find jobs because of societal views on their disabilities and their lack of social skills due to the marginalization they have experienced throughout their lives. In addition, the lack of involvement in community activities has disadvantaged the disabled people in terms of education. In Dilijan, there are 854 adults over the age of 18 who have disabilities, mentally or physically. And most of them sit at home not doing much, since they do not have any opportunity to work.

While the community is ignorant about and unaware of disabled people, the disabled people and their family members are often uninformed about their rights as human beings as well. The lack of exposure of disabled people to the community has made people with disabilities more alienated socially. The parents of disabled children stay on alert to protect their children, and often they also find themselves unwelcome in the community, and uneducated. The community and the disabled people and their families are segregated from each other. Due to the unavailability of educational opportunity and social isolation, people with disabilities and their families face severe poverty.

One of these under-privileged people with disabilities is my student, Karen. He told me that he would not live long. The muscles in his legs have gradually become stiffer. He had been able to walk until the age of 18, even though it was still painful to walk. Now, he is 21 years old. And he does not know how long he will live, but much less than healthy 21-year old boys.

When I was heading toward the door after our heated conversation, he stopped me and said, "Eunice, write about this."

Here I am writing about the day. I would usually try to embellish the writing with more flowery words. But, this time I am having such a hard time adding anything.

The dialogue itself is meaningful enough.

That day, my disabled student taught me that he also has a right to love and to be loved.

Of course, society has to be fair so that he can go to school without difficulty. Of course, the government has to provide enough support for him so that he can integrate into the community without facing discrimination. It is possible to foresee a better environment for my student to live in. Yet, he and I were talking more than that.

It was the right of love. While I got mad at the whole world for the prejudice against disabled people, I hid my own prejudice.

Now, instead of merely supporting my student's right just because he is another human being, I support his right in depth. I begin to suffer his pain together. I begin to suffer the pain of my own prejudice against him. I believe in human rights. And he has given me a chance to understand the authentic meaning of human rights. The basis of human rights is that an individual has a right to love and to be loved.

Human Rights, I think of my disabled students, whose hearts abound in love yet the world pays them back with a cold shrug. Endless doubts about reality for my students with disabilities had gone through my mind, but instead of trying to answer them, I had wanted to avoid them. Although my heart pounded my mind to wake up and see the different side of reality, my head pushed my heart down with annoyance. This impurity in me really bothered me.

And the conversation with my student was a beginning, to cleanse the wall of my avoidance of my own prejudice. Now, I face it, shake and tumble through it, get uncomfortable and disappointed, and gradually re-born with new vision.

Once again, I think about my Peace Corps life in Armenia. The logo asks, "How far will you go?" I don't know how far the rest of my service will lead me in this precious learning experience of life. So far, everyday has been a challenge transforming myself into maturity with humility. I joined the Peace Corps hoping to make a small difference in the world. As I live each day with that desire, my students have already made a huge difference in my life.

Okay, the candles are still burning, Nina Simone is still encouraging me to live life, but my wine is finished. Curbing the thought of going into the second glass, I am going to try to sleep again.

Eunice Ha


Moonlight 16.03.2006 11:32

Re: How Far Will You Go?
i would go till the end. when love comes, disabilities do not matter

lightontheshore 16.03.2006 16:52

Re: How Far Will You Go?
a story that made me think a lot...

Red Stone 31.05.2006 22:53

Re: How Far Will You Go?
Thanks Psi!:bow:

It makes us think, but in my humble opinion feelings like love or friendship never marry reasonning.

I love or I like someone because I do. Period.:inlove:

PsilocybeLarvae 01.06.2006 11:16

Re: How Far Will You Go?
Red Stone, I have to agree with you.

nucleusfermi 03.09.2007 06:56

We'll have to eradicate the root of trouble, first of all sorry to break up your intense & heartly discussion, this world is full of sorrow, Budhha says desires tend you of being sad, but why we should not desire for something? Why Karen should shed pondering over for causes of his disadvantages and means to claim a better future? We the humans have been fighting for long; we've done much with the prowess of science & technology; I know "PsilocybeLarvae" your mental clash is even more complex than your "DisplayName" here (I pray you're not into or willing to have hallucinogens) & I try to both sympathise and empathize you by this ray of hope, as the human mind is the ultimate resource we've got, though I know I'm more than a year late, may you see this link and the ray of hope always smile on your face; you're doing good, keep going and resolve your psycological conflicts by your own wit and will, I'm so sure you're capable of that, and a very accurate suggestion by RedStone 'd certailly depict you the right direction. Here is the link, replace "hxxp to http":-

nucleusfermi 03.09.2007 07:01

I don't know RedStone would you ever track this thread, I wanted to ask if you can tell, whom you were thinking in that "Period"??

Red Stone 04.09.2007 00:27


Originally Posted by nucleusfermi (Post 604675)
I don't know RedStone would you ever track this thread, I wanted to ask if you can tell, whom you were thinking in that "Period"??

Thinking about all human (and not human, like pets for example) beings I love.

For giving you an example since I were a kid I used to dislike (even hate) cats. And at a certain stage, while still disliking cats in general, I fell in love for Garfield and two she-cats I had at home. By the way the black one, my Cookie, stopped suffering fom a cancer in a breast on 07.08.25 at 15:20 GMT+1. You can take a look of a couple of pictures of them somewhere in this section. If I find them first I'll edit the post and will put the link(s).


OK found the link:


Sevana 04.09.2007 17:17

OK people it all sounds noble and romantic to love and live with a disabled person, really how many of you even have come in close contact with one , or taken care of .
In my line of work I see it all and I also see how much the families suffer , it is a very difficult task , this is not to say we should not care , on the contrary they are part of sosciety and should be integrated , it could happen to any of us .
All I am saying judge your feelings when you face such a person .

nucleusfermi 05.09.2007 20:42

Both the cats are very beautiful and their innocense and ambellished eyes are justifying your intense affection to them RedStone. What did you think RedStone with that project concealed behind the link I pasted in my first reply? Are similar projects being practised in Portugal?

really how many of you even have come in close contact with one , or taken care of .
I'd one friend junior in my school who was bearing the injustice; I always tried to be friendly with him and he became a very good friend of mine too, right now he's having his study in computer applications, you're correct when you refer to all aspects of hardships faced by these people and their families.

judge your feelings when you face such a person
I confess I've always been confused how to deal with such people, means I'm not talking about helping them, that one must do but normally when you interact with them; because if you even try to behave normally sometimes they tend to think you're being sympathetic to them, and that moment becomes tougher for you to sustain, I hope you've got me. May we be able to resolve all these issues by advancement in medical engineering and science as soon as possible, congratulations "Sevana" for thinking about these people.

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