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.