In all our years of travel we’ve learned that no matter where we are on the globe, we can rarely predict what’s going to come out of a child’s mouth … especially if we’re holding a camera. And there’s the joy.
THE BROTHER OF THE BUDDHIST BRIDE
Shyness was not a problem for this precocious kiddo. He didn’t have a shy bone in his body. We encountered him at a Buddhist wedding in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He was the brother of the beautiful bride … and very proud of it. The minute he locked eyes on us, he hurried over – all smiles – with his new digital camera.
“Where do you come from?” he queried.
When we answered, he declared,
“America is a good place! Will you take my picture? Then I will take yours.”
So we exchanged photographic poses, but every time we tried to snap him, his smile disappeared and he looked away. After the click, he beamed a radiant smile and raced over to see the results. When we asked why he wouldn’t smile for the camera he said,
“It would not be proper!”
So we asked if it was okay for us to smile in our photos, and he replied,
“Yes, of course. You are Americans!”
THE LLAMA GIRL
“How much you pay for me?” she whispered.
Whoa! Back the train up!
“Did that little girl with the llama just ask how much we’d pay for her?” James said incredulously as we walked down the streets of Cusco, Peru a few years ago.
“I think she wants to know what we would pay to take a photo of the two of them,” I answered.
“Oh … okay.”
And that’s how we snapped this beautiful photo. Worth every shiny centimo we placed in her hand.
But the Llama Girl is the exception. Most kids around the world just want you to talk to them and take their pictures – no strings attached.
THE KHARTOUM KIDS
Kids love instant results. When we lived in Khartoum, Sudan (before the days of digital photography), we always carried a Polaroid to take snapshots to give to children. After the click, the anticipation would build and we would all wait for the camera to spit out the photo. The kids were totally gobsmacked when the images popped out! Then the questions would start:
“How did I get inside the box?”
“Is this a magic trick?”
“Hey, that kid’s wearing my shirt!”
We learned that the best way to answer all these questions was to let them take photos of us, then they felt empowered!
THE BRICKMAKER’S GRANDDAUGHTER
On the banks of the Blue Nile we encountered an ancient man who was supervising the production of bricks. He was also babysitting his son’s youngest child. She was incredibly shy, usually hiding in the folds of her Grandfather’s flowing white robes. But when we brought out the Polaroid camera, she became curious. We asked if we could take her photo. The man gave his permission, but the little girl was none too sure. She was afraid of the camera.
“Are you going to shoot me? Will I die?” she said as her grandfather translated from Arabic.
“No, no, of course not.” So I took a picture of James to show her how it worked. She relented, backed up against grandpa, and waited. Click! Then she came running to see the results. Although she wouldn’t smile for the camera, when her picture zipped out she shared a megawatt grin. It was the first time she’d ever seen a photo of herself!
THE LAOTIAN LOVELY
Everyday this little girl accompanied her mother to her small grocery shop in Luang Prabang, Laos. All day long she entertained herself, climbing the mountains of bottled water and socializing with the customers. When she saw our camera, she immediately sat on her stool and struck a pose. No words were necessary.
THE LOW-BLOW LAD
Sometimes kids say something so preposterous that you’re totally floored. Even though you know you shouldn’t laugh, you can’t help yourself. That was the case when we encountered this little tyke on a train ride from Colombo to Ella, Sri Lanka.
The train had stopped at a tiny village and we stepped off the train to stretch our legs. This boy was hanging out the window, trying to sell trinkets to anyone who passed. When we came within his radar, he offered to sell James a keychain. But when James politely declined, the little cherub loudly proclaimed,
“You have bacteria on your brain!”
Totally stunned, we looked at each other and burst into gales of laughter. Wonder where he learned that one? It’s our favorite kid-delivered insult so far, and we use it regularly when we need a laugh.
THE BOYS AND GIRLS OF PETRA
Sometimes I wonder how kids get to be so darned charismatic! They could charm you out of your socks. And this describes the Bedouin children of Petra. From an early age they learn how to live in the desert, handle animals, speak several languages, and charm the tourists. They definitely know how to embrace the camera with a practiced face.
But if you can say something surprising … or catch them in an unguarded moment … their “true smiles” are worth it.
This boy was amazing! When we walked toward him he was wrangling three surly donkeys, hoisting awkward tourists into the saddles, and keeping up a constant sales banter with anyone who passed.
“Need a donkey? It’s air conditioned!”
“She’s beautiful, but no thanks!” I answered in Arabic.
His head whipped around. “You speak Arabic?” He turned to James and exclaimed.
“You’re a lucky man!”
I love this kid!
And this gorgeous girl was supposed to be selling jewelry to the tourists, but she and a friend found a sunny spot hidden in a cleft of rock and were engrossed in a game of jacks. When she saw me, she halfheartedly asked me if I wanted to buy a necklace.
I said, “No thanks, you’re on your break.”
“That’s OK. I’ll see you tomorrow and we’ll try again. May God be with you.” she replied.
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Ahhh … wisdom from kids … so true.
Peace and Happy New Year,
Terri & James