The Teenager in Higuey
When we visited Higuey in Dominican Republic last February, here’s this teenager sitting outside an old Church which is celebrating its 500 years this year. He is a shoe shine boy. I reckon that he’s been there sitting for a long time waiting for customers who are nowhere in sight. My colleagues went inside the Church ahead of me because I was busy taking pictures of the Church in many different angles.
When I passed by him, he smiled and greeted me, “Hola!” And I replied back by saying the same. When we went out at the side door of the Church, he was there standing but specifically looking at me, who, of course, came out last. He smiled at me again and to my surprise extended his right hand for an alm. Because he was right next to me, it was hard to pretend that he’s not there. He was badgering me by doing sign language that he could clean my shoes–which is ridiculous because I was wearing sneakers–in exchange for money.
My colleagues and I left the church premises and on went to the main road. He was not following me, but walked beside me. No more begging plea. We just walked in silence like we were two muted friends. My friends were already teasing me if I would bring him back to Canada because he just won’t let go. One even suggested that I should be careful of my camera bag and my wallet because he might just snatch them away.
When we reached our bus stop, I dug out my wallet and gave him a 25-peso coin. He was so glad and I saw pure joy across his face. He hastily said “Gracias” three times and left right away as if he grabbed someone’s purse in a crowded place.
Our bus came and I sat on the window side. Then I saw the teenager, sitting on a sidewalk and eating some kind of street food like there’s no tomorrow. It pained me to think that it took me a while to hand him that money. But, I was also glad that he spent it for something good for him.
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