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Ani Hovhannisyan

16 Year-Old Lousineh Dreams of Seeing the World on Her Own

53 year-old Gevorg Minasyan works in the Gyumri Market. Seen here, he makes deliveries using the four wheel hand cart that's a fixture in many Armenian markets.

Close to the market, we found refuge from the sweltering sun under some trees. We talked a bit and then took off for Gevorg's house. I followed as Mr. Minasyan slowly pushed the cart in front of him.

Gevorg, a father of 4 girls, works long hours in the market. He usually takes home 1,500-2,000 AMD per day.

The work is tough for Gevorg whose health isn't in the best of shape. But he has no choice in the matter. He must work to support the family.

As we reached the house, two of his daughters were there to welcome us. The other two are married and have moved out.

Lousineh, the youngest daughter at 16, is considered physically handicapped. Her parents say her vision is impaired and there are issues with her head.

The girl told me that she hasn't gone to school after completing the third grade. She says her eyes were always getting tired and painful. Her parents decided to stop sending her to school.

"Now I spend all day at home working with my sister. Then I watch the soap operas and concerts on TV. What else is there to do?" she asks.

The girl confessed that she dreams of becoming a dancer and sometimes practices in front of the mirror when there are concerts on TV.

"But there are many things they won't let me do. They say I will get tired out. I don't complain all that much. In the mornings, when I awake, my head really spins. If I walk a lot, my legs get tired. But it doesn't mean I can't go somewhere by myself," says Lousineh.

The teenager gets mad when her parents tell people, strangers and acquaintances alike, that they have a 'sick' child.

"I told my mother a few times to stop saying such things. My mother responds my saying 'Every one today is sick with one thing or another'. Mom got mad when I berated her for saying such things. She also gets angry when I don't wear my eyeglasses. But I don't want to be seen wearing glasses out in the street. I'll wear them if I go to another town, but not here. Everyone looks at you in a funny way," Lousineh said.

The girl has never been to Yerevan but says that what she's seen on TV makes her believe that it's more beautiful than Gyumri.

"I'll be going to Yerevan next Wednesday with my aunt. We'll go, see the sights, and return. But I'll probably want to stay. The people are nice and the air is clean," Lousineh says, buoyed by the prospect.

Lousineh's biggest dream, one she has never mentioned to her parents, is her desire to leave Gyumri.

"I want to explore new places, to see new cities and countries. But my parents won't even let me visit my sister in Alaverdi on my own. They insist that someone escorts me. I want to travel on my own, to be free."