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Sunday, 4 May 2008

Third World Children 1, Obnoxious Backpackers 0

Speaking of class warfare, I saw a great example of the worst that backpacking culture has to offer when I was in Nepal back in 1994. I had just come back from trekking the Annapurna circuit and base camp, this being back when you slept in village homes and there weren't any internet cafes along the route.

I came back to Pokhara, a small city that acts as a launching off point for many of the best Himalayan treks. I'd rented some gear and needed to return it. When I got to the store, I found the owner was out and his nine year-old daughter was running the shop, and deep in an argument with three burly Israeli guys.

Israeli backpackers have a bad name overseas, and it's because many of them have just gotten out of the army and are a bit high-strung. Perfectly understandable after spending a couple of years dodging terrorist snipers and car bombers, but can't they go through post traumatic stress disorder in their own country?

Anyway, these three heroes were shouting at this kid because they didn't want to pay for their last day of equipment rental. They said that since they hadn't kept the stuff for an entire day they shouldn't have to pay, but it was evening, closing time, and any sane person could see they were in the wrong. The little girl was obviously sane. She held her ground, demanding the ten rupees they owed her (a grand total of 30 cents) while they towered over her in an aggressive semicircle, shouting at her and moving closer and closer, fists clenched.

It was beginning to look like they were going to hit her and I would have to come to the "rescue". I started calculating just how thoroughly they would kick my ass before the whole market piled into the store and lynched these guys.

But the little girl saved me from having to save her.

She stomped her foot on the dirt floor, shot out a little hand towards the biggest of the three and shouted "No! You give me ten rupee!"

They backed down, tossing a ten-rupee note on the ground and stomped off, muttering things in Hebrew that were probably not fit for adults to hear, let alone nine year-old girls.

I paid my bill without even checking it.

Lesson learned: nine years in a Third World country makes you tougher than two years in a First World army.

2 comments:

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