Planet Hiker
2004-12-08 Chicken bones, Huaraz, Peru

Often I head to the market areas where the business is bustling till late at night. People sell there everything from freshly baked bread, to shoe polish, to turtles. As a rule, there are also kiosks accompaning the market scene, where cheap meals are prepared. Generally, there are no more than one or two tables with plastic chairs, while the food is the same - grilled chicken or beef, rice or fries, and a touch of salad. Few tourists risk to dine in the kiosks, preferring to eat in places with menus. But I have learned long ago that the best tasting food is here, not to mention that it's of quarter of the restaurant prices.

Tonight, when I was passing by one such a kiosk, the aroma of barbequed chicken lured me in and I offered no resistance. For about a dollar, I was treated with a large plate of fries, salad and quarter of a grilled chicken. As I was eating, a few people stopped by, offering to sell me something. By now, I have gotten used to this type of harassment and consider it an insignificant nuisance, rather than anything else. So when a small boy, not much taller than the table, stared his eyes at me and mumbled something, I hardly even noticed him. When I finally did, vague thoughts about morality, giving money to homeless, helping the needy and such, ran through my head. In another moment, I was back to finishing up my fries. The boy was still mumbling something, but every once in a while, he would step back from the table, making it seem to the owner of the kiosk that he is leaving.

Since the boy was not threatening and the vague thoughts about giving to the poor have long disappeared, I took my time and examined him. Black hair was draped over his face, nearly covering up his round eyes, that were complimented by huge chicks, bright red from being weathered. It was obvious that he wasn't washed in a while and neither was his wool, hand made sweater. I could not tell what else he was wearing, as the edge of the table blocked everything from the neck down.

The boy kept mumbling something, maintaining intense eye contact, while I began to get the feeling that he isn't selling anything, since by now any reasonable salesman would have moved on to another prospect. But it's not like he was asking for money either - there should have been the universal begging sign of the extended hand. I listened more closely to his mumbling, but could only decipher "hmmm buhhmmm hmmm". I finally asked "What do you want, seņor?" and he pointed at the chicken bones which I was done with and placed on the side of the plate long ago.

I moved the plate closer to the boy and he eagerly reached for the chicken bones, accidentally knocking one of the fries off the plate. Reflexively, he picked up the fry and quickly swallowed it. In the following moment an expression of guilt flashed on his face, but since the situation was irrevocable, he could only thank me and hastily vanish.

The fact that someone was interested in the chicken bones that I already ate through, was difficult for me to grasp. But that's the reality that surrounds me. I have the privilege of traveling around the world, enjoying all sorts of forms of entertainment, while others are happy that there are tourists who are willing to give up their leftovers.