Thursday, February 17, 2011

Start 'Em Young

A young boy attempts to sell postcards to a disinterested tourist.

We were accosted by sellers everywhere we went during our visit to Egypt. They always had just the thing we needed to make our lives complete.
There was a certain amount of regulation in place.  Near the souk in Cairo a young fellow, similar in age to the one in the above photo, tried to sell us scarab carvings.  In a few minutes the police had him in a headlock. Our guide told us the boy was selling without a licence.
For the most part the hawkers went about their business on everyone they could find. We were advised to not make eye contact. If asked a name we should make one up. Do not follow a seller in a market into a store.
I broke all of those rules at one time or another, but I have pretty good sales resistance and I enjoy saying no.
One evening a woman near tears with a babe in arms pleaded with me as I tried to get on the bus.  While I didn't understand her words, I am sure she was pulling the "My baby is sick and needs medicine" or "I need money to feed my baby" scam.  I saw it many times in Cuba.
Our guide seemed surprised that this happened, but he agreed it probably was one of these scams.
I couldn't help but feel a bit sorry for these hawkers, especially the young ones. Education is free in Egypt. If you get really high marks your post-secondary is paid for as well.
But not everyone can get high marks. Maybe this is all they thought life could offer them.
I like to think that with ouster of Mubarak things will have changed for the better on every level. The dependence on tourists will be for legitimate sales, not desperation.


Dawn said...

I get caught with this. The last trip we were on a young girl near the age of 6! was selling jewelry. It's hard when you think that may be the life they are going to live.....may be all they ever know.
I hate saying I put my eyes down and walk. I think I missed many a good sights to be seen in doing this.:)

Leah J. Utas said...

Dawn, that's the other side of it. What they sell in a day may be all the money they have.

messymimi said...

Saying no is becoming easier for me. It's a skill, hardening your heart at the right time, but not enough to keep it closed to legitimate need.

Leah J. Utas said...

That's right, Messymimi. And it's a skill worth learning.

David Cranmer said...

I use to have a hard time saying no but eventually I realized I would be working the street with them if I kept handing out money. It is very tough though, especially with children.

Bossy Betty said...

I try to be strong in these situations, but agree it is hard.

Chris said...

I expected to see more of this in Panama, but really didn't. We were in several different markets, and encountered a few vendors who exerted a moderate amount of pressure, but not intolerably so.

Unlike Mexico, where it was more as you've described. One guy came up trying to sell us his stuff, told us he could get us anything we want, and Julia said, "How about machine guns? We want machine guns!" The guy said, "Oh, I can get you those too!" and we had a laugh. Who knows, maybe he could have.

Leah J. Utas said...

David, that's so true. We can't give all our money away just because we have more of it than they do.

Bossy Betty, it helps if you don't have a conscience.

Chris, interesting about Panama. Good to learn it. Got a kick out of Julia's question. Does make me wonder, though.

Reb said...

It is a hard thing to say no. I hope their education continues to be free. If they get a democratic government though, it may not stay that way.

Hilary said...

I haven't traveled in decades. I guess not encountering this sort of thing is an upside to that. I like the perspective and focus in the photo, Leah.

the Bag Lady said...

I'm with Hilary! As much as I would love to travel, the upside to staying home is not having to harden my heart to the plight of these people. And it would be very difficult for me to say no.

Anonymous said...

I'm much better at saying no, but regret having to do so. I hope things do get better in Egypt - I've always wanted to go there.

Frank Baron said...

"...and I enjoy saying no."

What woman doesn't? ;)

I hope your hopes for the Egyptians come true.

Leah J. Utas said...

Reb, it's hard to say what will happen. I do hope they keep their free education.

Thanks so much, Hilary.

Hello Barbara, I hope you get there someday. Some calm day. Best get good at saying no before you.

Frank, Frank, Frank.

Barbara Martin said...

This reminds me a bit of when my uncle saw police action with the Canadian Armed Forces in Cairo in 1955/56. He felt sorry for the young children begging for food, and despite being told not to provide anything to them he did so with tragic circumstances to the young girl he gave his sandwich to. She was killed in front of him by other beggars for her food.

Though a better reminder of his trip was a purse he brought back: made from a young baby crocodile which I still have, little wicked teeth and all.