February 16, 2006

Leminoch (beggars)

One thing Addis Ababa prepares you for is dealing with beggars. Growing up and throughout my teenage years, being a soft, sensitive boy, I was always greatly affected by beggars. When my family would travel south to Seattle for a holiday and we'd find ourselves down around Westlake Center, I'd be doling out dollar bills into every Tom, Dick, and Harry's styrofoam cup on the sidewalk. No longer.

U.S. beggars are absolutely unnoticable in comparison to Ethiopian beggars. I'm not just talking in terms of volume. It's true that every intersection in Addis has beggars and the numbers alone can begin to jade you. I'm thinking more in terms of aggressiveness and level of destitution.

I remember over the holidays in the U.S., there was a guy standing at an intersection with a cardboard sign that said something like, "Will work for Food". I remember, as I was sitting in the front seat of the car, not even paying attention to the guy and how I saw him quickly cast a glance our way to see if he might have caught our notice. Not even a chance. I mean, he didn't even walk up to the car or tap on the window or plead. Once trained in the streets of Addis, you develop a stealy glaze that none but the most experienced U.S. beggar could penetrate.

Writing about beggars reminds me of one of the saddest sites I've ever seen and how ridiculous life can be sometimes. I was walking to work in Dakar one day a couple of summers ago when I passed a lady on the ground - she had no arms or legs. She was merely a trunk with a head. I started to cry as I walked past. I mean, how can that happen? It's like that lady had been robbed of anything she could possibly use. Maybe in the U.S. or Europe, with sophisticated technology and good education, she might have been able to contribute something. I can imagine it would be much more difficult for the woman in Dakar, though.


Post a Comment

<< Home