Thursday, January 24, 2008

Surrounded by Gypsy Beggar Kids

Lady, pleeease, some rubles for bread.

I was at the bus station yesterday getting tickets to the Ukraine. I looked down at a little gypsy boy. Big brown eyes and all.

Well, I know his type.

Several years back I was new around here and a gypsy boy on the street wanted rubles for bread. He had a non-stop sing-songy way of begging and his yammering went on at length - he said he was soooo hungry, absolutely imploring. We were nowhere near a shop to buy anything, so finally I decided to just give him ten rubles, around 30 cents then, to get rid of him.

Moments later I saw him buying cigarettes from a street vendor. My language skills were limited in those days but in the end he understood that I was unhappy with his duplicity.

And that was a lesson to me. Rather than giving any money, go and buy the bread together. Most often, the gypsy backs off. Most often they just want the rubles.

So I said to Gypsy Boy, Wait until I’m done and then we’ll go buy some bread together.

His face fell and he gave up. Or so I thought.

Lo and behold, 20 minutes later when I turned away from the ticket window, up came Gypsy Boy. Still starving of course.

We spotted a food kiosk across the lobby and headed there. Pigs-in-the-blanket sounded good to him plus one for his brother. So we got the hot dog pastries, apple juice and bananas. The cashier seemed to know the boy. She managed a smile. The boy smiled. I smiled and was glad to make a kid happy. And off he ran.

Figured that was the end of that. Silly me

I left the building and headed toward the bus stop in the distance. Halfway there, I heard a clamor behind me and sure enough four gypsy girls were running to catch up.

Oh, you heard that I gave that boy some food? And now you’re wanting some food too? One was flashing a small religious icon, part of her sales pitch.

I’ll take four rolls please
, I said to the lady selling fresh rolls nearby.

The gypsy girl sprinters were joined by two stragglers who were already salivating but first they got berated for pushing in on the deal.

Okay make that six rolls, and one for me. I was mildly annoyed but decided, better to err by buying a little something for somebody who didn’t really need it than the other way around.

After pocketing the rubles, the vendor and friend launched into a lecture for the gypsy girl gang in loud voices an octave higher than normal conversation.

You kids are not poor. Your mother sits over there counting all her rubles from begging and here we are, us pensioners, trying to make money honestly and you kids are making way more than we are telling people that you’re poor.

I got the idea.

Next time, I’ll handle those gypsy kids differently.

I’ll let them earn their food. They want something to eat and I want good photos. Those gypsys are quite photogenic after all so I'll let them pose and smile for a while. Or they can sing some gypsy folk songs. I’m easily entertained.

How about you? Tell about your experience with gypsies. Or, feel free to get down and dirty here - share about your own gypsy past. ;)

3 comments:

Jeanette M said...

Love this story! I was hoping for a picture...so yes, make them earn it next time! I recall seeing some very pathetic-looking gypsy moms on the sidewalks outside of Red Square with their infants asleep on tattered blankets. "Don't give them anything," my Russian friend advised. It just encourages them to be beggars. Still...the image lingers.

Eileen said...

Hey Jeanette, Yes as I was writing this I was wracking my brain trying to think of any gypsy photos that I might have and you know what? Ain't got any! I think there's a reason for that: When I'm in places frequented by gypsies, I'm usually concentrating on protecting my stuff. But tomorrow I plan to be back at the bus station, this time with a friend as we head off to Ukraine. (so she can help) Maybe I'll have a chance to get some shots then - of the same kids.

Oh - so you have some gypsy experiences too? They're big on nursing their babies right there in front of everybody and one American professor type who comes often thinks it's just part of the ploy to get attention and slow people down and distract them and get some $. (Hmmmm....think it gets them any attention or not?) ;)

Speaking of gypsies, some are very wealthy. Earlier once I asked a taxi driver who was taking me to the airport, *who on earth lives in those huge houses* that I was spotting along the way. Magnificent brick two-story homes surrounded by high brick walls. He said Gypsies. Trying to figure this out, a friend who would know that said that would be "gypsy czars" - guys high up on the hierarchy. He said that they usually deal in illegal stuff such as arms smuggling, narcotics and - sorry to say - prostitution. Because apparently they don't like to hold actual jobs. Some interesting stuff comes up when Googling (versus Goggling - hahah) gypsies and Russia. Hate to make broad sweeping generalizations about an ethnic group...

Speaking of which As I recall, Hitler had no use for gypsies.

Oh and another time we could talk about the gypsey czars graves out at the cemetary. There's another subject entirely. Well, better quit for now!

Thanks Jeanette for stopping by! E

Jeanette M said...

Oh yeah, the gypsy czars! They build their big brick fortresses outside of Samara too! My friends tell me the same thing...that they are drug lords and extortionists. My friends also were surprised to hear that we don't have gypsies in my city. No...we just have homeless people with signs at the freeway exits...

I absolutely love your site and your posts...you put me right back into Samara every time...as if the two cities were twin sisters. Thank you!