Friday, October 1, 2010

How travel can change a life.

Slapped in the face by his father, the kid, all of 10 or maybe 11,stood shocked and embarrassed in the hostile circle of villagers and children.Such a change from a few minutes ago,proudly showing his family his 'find',a camera he had taken home, just before the posse of village children tracked him down.We'd enlisted their help to recover a camera one of our tour group had lost, probably taken from her pocket, while being mobbed by excited children.One of the older kids was now suspiciously absent.They'd find him...those kids knew everything that went on in their village.Half an hour later and the kid was dragged along to face the gathered villagers.His father, confused faced the village headman.No doubt wanting to defend his son, but having to face up to the fact his son had brought dishonour upon everyone.So he turned on his son.

Village justice in Ethiopia can be tough and uncompromising.Honour is at stake.Tourists are guests here, and hospitality is extended and no harm should come to their  guests.But one kid had now brought shame and disgrace upon the village, he'd embarrassed his father and family in the eyes of the rest of the village, and now he  stood before them.
Concerned, I asked our guide what would happen to the kid.
"Oh he may go to jail!"
What?! A kid that age. A kid tempted by a shiny gizmo we tourists flout in their faces! A mere toy for us, but an unattainable sign of wealth....and that camera strap was hanging out of her pocket......just a quick gentle tug.....
We'd seen the jail gangs, walking along the road,many hand in hand,a normal male friendship expression,some singing,others carrying work tools, probably heading back to jail, escorted by AK47 carrying guards.Some of those prisoners looked very young.
We boarded our bus, glad to finally be on our way,late and with a long drive ahead of us.But my thoughts kept returning to that kid, and his future. Jail? Ostracism? Branded a thief by the village? I felt sick about the mess.
And we'd changed him forever. We had intruded into his life. We'd caused the circumstances that placed temptation in his way. We insist on flaunting our wealth in front of kids with no shoes, and ripped and patched clothing! Kids hungry not just for food, but a share however little, of modern gizmos and our Western lifestyle.

What chance did he now have of just being a kid, or of growing up and leading a normal life?
Yeah, travel can sure change lives.


Red Nomad OZ said...

That's a sobering story - the other side of the impact of tourism that isn't often explored. If we think about the impact at all, it's usually in terms of how our tourist $$ will have a positive effect. But the other side is there, even in local travel. Very thought provoking.

Happy travels!

Jim said...

Hiya Red, good to see your comment.And yes, it was a blog designed to provoke thought.An issue to be explored.
We hear so much about 'Sustainable' travel and how we travellers should just take photos and leave footprints behind, but are there other impacts?
I wonder about what will happen to that kid?
I'm guessing, but there will be severe punishment.Honour may demand he be bundled off to a relatives care in a distant village, possibly unable to visit home again.

Neneng Tarigan said...

What a real story you bring here up about underdeveloped country Jim! Yes, traveling has changed our vision to become more human in understanding how painful life is being the poor!

Anonymous said...

It's hard to see and realize the impact our short visits and minor incursions reflect on indigenous people