A little while ago, just after 10:30 pm, I was walking home down Tumanyan Street from the supermarket. Just before I approached the Hanrabedutyan/Tumanyan intersection I ran across a young boy, who must have been 10 or 11 years old, asking me for money to get home. The first thing I asked him was why he wasn't home, and where he lived. He said that he was from "Sari Tagh" which is not so close to Yerevan's city center (kentron). When I asked him what he was doing downtown, he shrugged his shoulders. I gave him whatever coins I had in my pocked, around 700 dram, he said thanks and went off. One hundred dram will buy him a ride home. I am guessing he may have gotten himself something to eat with the rest of the change.
I didn't know what to make of the situation. It seems strange that any normal family would let their boy walk around Yerevan late at night. At the far end of Tumanyan Street where we met there's not much traffic at night, and only a few pedestrians walking about. Many of those who are out are taxis without fares or spoiled punks racing their Bentley coupes or Porche Cayennes down the street. Although the area is relatively safe, it's still not a place for a boy to be at that time of night.
The question is, why was he out? Was he begging for money? Was he lost coming from a friend's house, or was he abandoned by someone for some reason?
Eight years ago when I first made a move to Armenia I would never have seen a kid walking around downtown Yerevan alone at night. But now I'm seeing it more and more. For the last several years I keep bumping into kids his same age selling strange, paint-by-numbers watercolor paintings around the vicinity of the Opera House, who are saving up for a bicycle. After all this time they still have yet to manage to buy one. I hope I never see the guy putting those kids up to it.
So back to the boy. I didn't press him too hard to find out about his situation. He was barely audible when he asked me for change as I walked by, which meant he felt some sense of shame, and he seemed to have a lost expression on his face. It's troubling, I don't know what to think. I don't know what can be done to prevent kids from walking around late at night looking for handouts, or being pimped by some asshole who can't think of more creative ways of entrepreneurship.
What's the solution, how can we stop these innocents from being used or discarded? Who exactly is at fault, and how do we rectify the problem? I sit here on the couch typing away and can't think of one answer.
Labels: Personal Experiences, Social and Cultural, Thoughts and Musings