Thursday, May 6, 2010

The Back Street Boys

I've mentioned a few of the boys before that beg for money or try to sell their bracelets and such on the streets between the bases.  As summer is here, and the weather is improving, more people have been walking around, and the boys have been out in force.

Many of us are parents, and it hurts our hearts a little to see these kids hanging out all day long, begging for money and generally putting themselves at risk by running out into the streets or hanging around the vehicles.

We're trying to teach them to stay out of the street, to be polite instead of aggressive.  One of my buddies told them that he wouldn't pay them to beg, but he'd pay them to carry his bag between the bases... So he'll give a kid a buck or so to walk along with him for the half mile between bases.

Today I had a reason to come off of the base to offload some equipment from a truck that was too big to come in through the gate.  Of course, the boys were all around, darting in and out of the vehicles and traffic.  So I again "drew them off" about ten feet to the side so that they'd be safely out of the way of the vehicles while the offloading was completed.

I asked them their names, and where they got their hats.  Of course, they were asking me for money, and I told them I'd come back later with something for them.  One young fellow, on the right in the picture asked me for twenty dollars, which he promised that he'd share with his friends.

I found out that a round piece of bread, like a small pizza crust costs about 10 Afghanis, so with the official exchange rate of about 46 Afghanis to the dollar, you'd think that you could buy four or five pieces of bread, but the boys have a worse exchange rate.  They say they only get 30 Afghanis to the dollar!

I promised I'd come back later... So I did.  I collected a few toys that had been donated, the last four boxes of Girl Scout Cookies, and a few quarters, figuring that they could probably buy a chunk of bread with that if they wanted...  I asked a coworker to accompany me, and off we went, back outside the base.

Of course, when the boys saw me, they immediately started to run out to cross the street, but I told them to stay over there and I'd be with them in a minute.  We crossed over with my plastic bag full of goodies and started to talk to the boys.  I told them I wanted to take their picture, and they lined right up.  It seems that most of these children, and the adults, enjoy having their picture taken.

They started crowding me and jostling about and I told them to stop being "grabby!"  The boy in the back of the picture said something, and amazingly, all of the kids sat down in a semi-circle around me!  I told them that if they were polite and patient they'd get more gifts, because people wouldn't be unhappy with them...

I distributed some plastic "slinky" type toys, and some super bounce balls, along with the cookies and two quarters each... They didn't want quarters, they wanted bills!  In any case, I was amazed that they were able to sit still and pay attention, even if only for a minute.

Then, when it was clear that I was out of goodies, the shout went up and they ran off.  A crowd of "new customers" was walking down the street, and they rushed off to greet them.

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