The Runt of Mekelle

A couple of years ago, a couple of kids robbed me of my phone on Bole Road in Addis Ababa. Cell phone theft is as common as breathing so the expected response here would be, “so what?” Shut up and read on.

What the kids did was shove a magazine in my face to confuse me. I quickly noticed that the magazine they were trying to sell to me was old and tattered and because I’m not one hundred percent moron, I figured out I was getting robbed. Pretending to be protective, one of the boys grabbed my shoulders holding me in place as if to reassure me and the other one slid out my phone from my pocket. They split in opposite directions so that in my agitation, I wouldn’t know which one of them had my phone.

I had a serious emotional attachment to that cellphone and it was the very first and only one ever stolen from me so I mourned my departed friend for three days and swore I’d go all ninja on any street kid to approach me thereafter.

Then I met Ashu who salvaged all Street kids from my wrath. I even wrote a little about him on my Facebook page last year.

To many it might have seemed like self-promotion but I was genuinely moved by the kid I thought I might share how I felt. I still see him around.

Last week, he spotted me at my regular spot at the café through a window and came to say hello and sell me gum. I was writing something and I saw that he liked the pen I was using so I told him he could have it. He was hesitant at first but then he took it and then he asked me if I had another one for his friend. This kid is really something.

I got to realize that he isn’t the only one in the area selling gum and stickers to make ends meet for his family. There is a whole runt of kids selling small things to support their families in their spare time. They are so trusting and kind that they would leave their stuff with you to go get you change from somewhere. They are so smart their marketing techniques would amaze you. They are so brave and strong they won’t let prejudice against their dirty hands and feet and sticks and stones of guards and bullies keep them away from their business.

I’m a lonely creature so I sometimes talk to them. They are quite the company. I won’t lie; I also like the shocked faces of other café goers. I ask them what they want to be when they grow up and they tell me doctor or pilot and sometimes both doctor and pilot. I know street kids don’t have a very good reputation. Trust me I know. I would have beaten the lot of them just last year.

Any one of us could have been raised like these kids. I know I could have been as unfortunate but somehow I am not. Anyone of us could still fall into the position they are in. It’s important they learn work ethics than theft mechanisms. Theft is easier and mistreating these young boys could easily sway them that way. They are too young now and I fear that later on, they might figure out that stealing is more profitable too.

Well, I’m not sure what to do with this. But watching them, these kids are the future of this city. They will maybe grow up to be clean enough to sit at the café too. Looking at them, I guess the future of this city isn’t entirely fucked.

Note: Don’t underestimate theft in Mekelle because of this. Several kids would knock you out with a cobblestone for just 50 birr.


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