By: Mariam Janvelyan
“You remember I told you about that friend whose father’s uncle’s brother’s sister in law’s aunt twice removed is Deaf? Yeah? Well her daughter…”
As a profoundly hearing Armenian, I find that Armenian culture and Deaf culture are pretty similar: Armenians run on Armenian time (i.e. always late), they take forever to say goodbye, and everyone in the community pretty much knows each other. This past weekend, my ASL club (UCLA Hands On) along with ECC hosted a bonfire/potluck/mixer at the beach, and something really stood out to me: you don’t really know the differences between a hearing and Deaf community until they’re staring you in the face.
For starters, we were realistically expecting a minimal amount of people. What started with 5, quickly turned into 50, and then 100, as hordes of people continued to pour in. As more and more people joined us, the differences between the two worlds really struck me. When the sun set and the bonfire was lit, Deaf people, almost unconsciously, gathered around the fire or other sources of light, while hearing individuals chose to struggle to see each other sign in the dark.
There were moments where I’d look around and simply stare at the conversations around me, in awe at the speed and expressiveness of each, catching glimpses of introductions here and there. One of my favorite parts of the night was that I was able to flit from group to group, pop in and introduce myself without feeling awkward or uncomfortable like many tend to with strangers, and then talk to people I’ve just met like I’ve known them my entire life. Within the first five minutes of conversation, we had exchanged our life stories and were joking around as you would with people you’ve known from diaper days. As the night went on, and conversations became deeper and more meaningful, I learned a few things:
- I felt a stronger connection to people whom I had just met than I ever had with others I’ve known my entire life.
- I was challenged and had my perspective altered on topics I wouldn’t even think about in other situations.
- I had. A lot. Of fun.
I realized, this is what I think of, when I think of community. There’s a sense of belonging, of oneness, of genuine care and curiosity of the other, and I feel beyond blessed to be able to get a glimpse of this noisy, beautiful world, that everyone just assumes is silent.