Last year, during one of my visits to Ethiopia, my driver stopped at a roadside vegetable stand to buy onions and chickens. It was the day before the end of their Easter fasting (no meat for 40 days) and he was getting ready for a family feast of fresh goat.
As a vegetarian, and since I was leaving that night, I was not to partake in the festivities. There was nothing at that roadside stand for me to buy. It wasn’t a tourist stop. The veggies were there for locals. Regardless, I got out of the car and started taking shots of the veggies.
For the prior two weeks, I had seen all these wonderfully vibrant vegetable stands and hadn’t gotten an opportunity to take pictures so I took it then. But, of course, the kids came out. Because it was towards the end of my trip, I didn’t have any coin left to give them. I halfheartedly shooed them away. My host did the same, but that did not deter this small boy or his sister.
My hands went into my pockets and I drew them out empty, palms facing out, hoping to convey that they weren’t going to get anything out of me. After continued pestering, and because the mom was showing signs that she might join them (I was, after all, taking pictures of her veggies), I got back in the truck.
And that’s when I remembered I did have some Ethiopian money, but it was bills. Big bills. With the exchange rate, it wouldn’t amount much in U.S. Dollars, but for these kids, it would be a windfall.
While the boy had abandoned trying to get anything out of me, his sister hadn’t. She had followed me to our truck and even though I had closed the door on her and turned away to rummage in my pack, she stood there silently, hoping I would give her something. I did – and then her brother stole it from her.
So, you see that mischievous grin on his face? He’s mocking me and his sister.
That’ll teach me to be nice.
(Don’t worry, I managed to find some more for his sister.)