Trade for a Smile
"Please," said Francisco, "Do not give money to anyone, especially the children."
We had just parked our vehicle and were getting ready to enter the crowded market with our guide.
"It is a big problem with you Europeans (actually, we're from North American but do have European roots). You think you are doing something good, but your handouts are contributing to a culture of begging and dependency," added Francisco, "There are agencies in our country working for improvements."
The following afternoon, we were invited to visit Francisco's extended family who are Uros Indians. They live in a self sustaining small community on a “floating reed island" in Lake Titicaca. Their island is private and not open to daily visits from the tourism boats out of Puno. This would prove to be a special afternoon for us.
"So, do we pay an admission price or give them money," we questioned.
"No, of course not," chided Francisco," you have been 'invited' to visit their home - would you charge someone to 'visit' your home if you invited them?"
"What about a gift," we responded, "we sometimes take 'gifts' when we are invited to the homes of others back in the US."
"Sure, we can buy some fresh fruits from the market just outside the marina," said
Francisco "Fruit is a real treat, especially for the children."
And so it was......four large bags of assorted fresh fruits were loaded on our boat and the adventure began.
We still try to abide by the 'no hand out' rule.....at least with money (OK, sometimes we break the rule).
Will we 'trade' a small toy or a cap for a smile or two with a child in a less fortunate situation.....you bet!