Hopping in a tro-tro, you’ll be surrounded by new faces. Sometimes everyone just sits in silence, contemplating their day or where they’re off to next. Other times people will make attempts to strike up a conversation. Especially if you’re stuck in traffic and attempting to take your mind off of the fact that you haven’t moved inches in six minutes and the driver turned the engine off.
I did this last night, as I started to relate wondering how much longer we’d be in traffic to watching a pot of water boil. You know the saying.
A crippled man was walking between the lines of traffic, asking for money. The woman next to me turned her head, having seen this sort of thing in different forms. Having had a similar encounter with a little boy before boarding the tro-tro, I told her about it and soon she asked where I was headed. My final stop was on her way home and she offered to drive together, once we got to her car. BOOM, a friend (yes, a reference from ‘The Office’) .
Please Let Go
The experience with the little boy went something like this: I was tired and walking down the sidewalk toward the tro-tro station and saw a young boy coming toward me. This had happened once before, but I remembered too late. His hands enveloped my left wrist and he looked up at me with pleading, big brown eyes.
He didn’t say anything, but he didn’t have to. His ragged clothes and dirt-smudged face told me what he wanted. My heart went out to him, but I’ve been told that once you give money you become an easy target.
So I told him I didn’t have anything, feeling guilty because I was obviously lying. I had a bag of leftover lunch in one hand and a recent purchase in the other.
We’ve all encountered this in various forms. A homeless man in Cleveland shaking a cup, a person handing you a card proclaiming they are deaf and asking for donations, a man standing near the highway exit in Athens with a sign telling you he’s been unemployed and served for our country. We become immune, casting them off as beggars. But what if your dime helped sustain them for the day? What if their stories are true? I’m still feeling conflicted, if you can’t tell.
A few minutes of unsuccessful pleading later, two men walked up and told him to let go, giving him 50 pesewas. I walked away, flustered and wondering why I hadn’t just given him some loose change.
Back to making friends. The simple ability to relate to someone established a fast friendship. We chatted throughout the car ride about my experiences here and compared cultures.
Unlike some of the people here who proclaim to be friends with me and then ask when they can come visit me in the U.S. (mostly taxi drivers), we just exchanged info and left it at that. Another person whose life I’ve gotten to know a little more about. I’m still wondering about that little boy’s…