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Fortællinger fra Kreta | 28

Tales from Crete | 28

Anyone who has been to Crete or anywhere in Greece has probably also seen some of the gypsies who make a living by begging on the streets. Often in a very ongoing and unpleasant way. You don't really know what to line up and at the same time are a little nervous about being robbed of both cash, payment cards and other valuables if you get too close to them. We've probably all heard both one and another story about how quickly it can go, to be robbed of the money you now have on you by gypsies, and this of course puts them in a very bad light.

I shall not in any way hold my hand over the gypsies, or others for that matter, who carry on illegal street trade and beg in the streets and alleys. But gypsies, despite their bad reputation, are also human beings of flesh and blood like the rest of us. I say this even though I myself have repeatedly seen gypsies with crutches, in wheelchairs and with crying, hungry infants, after a "working day" meets with his family, typically his husband, brother or cousin in a secluded place, no longer needing the crutches and with the wheelchair folded, well packed into the trunk of a large limousine-version Mercedes, to drive stately from there.

An old expression says that one should not look at dogs by the hair, and this is precisely what many of them make use of, by exhibiting themselves as the most miserable of wretched persons and thus appealing to the mercy of passers-by. A mercy that many tourists like to show, but which most Greeks have a slightly more nuanced view of. They know many of the gypsies who make a living that way and live with them on a daily basis.

But now and then you meet a gypsy who does this in a completely different way and does not present himself as either disabled or puny at all and who does not use the hungry looks of his child or children to catch people's attention.

Last year when I was on one of my small trips to Crete to plan some of Elena's Group Travels trips there, I saw a mother aged 30-35, gypsy in appearance, nicely and neatly dressed and with her child aged 3-4 who quietly sat and played on the Meletiou Piga at the Hotel Marily. I had seen her many times before and she always smiled kindly at me when I passed and like all other Greeks, I greeted politely back. One day when I had been inside my good friend Georgia's Mikio Taverna and left full, lugging a lot of bags, she was sitting there again. Right in front of me walked 4 young Scandinavian loud men in their early 20s. As they passed her she smiled kindly at them, but two of the young fellows saw fit to both spit at her and, for one, pretend to kick her. She ducked her head in fear and took her child to her. But immediately after they had passed her with insults and shouts, she raised her head again and smiled at me and said nicely kalí nýchta (good night). Kalí nýchta I replied nicely and smiled at her while trying to keep an eye on what the young guys might be up to. But I just couldn't bring myself to just walk past her. So in the middle of the throng of people, I put all my bags down and fished a 5 Euro note out of my pocket and gave it to her. I have never seen someone get so happy for a 5 Euro note or about DKK 35 as it is approximately.

When I later learned that every time she gets some coins or maybe a note from some passers-by, she goes to a nearby kiosk and buys some bread and fruit for her child and herself. But she is too proud to want to sit and beg like everyone else, and she does not want to use her child for the purpose at all. She would rather let the child play and then be alone by sending people a smile as they pass by, hoping that someone will give her some so she can get food for her child and herself. Yes, I know that she sits and begs like many others, but instead of appealing to people's mercy and presenting herself as a scumbag, she chooses to use her otherwise pretty smile and simply greet the passers-by nicely.

The next time I see her, and she probably greets me nicely again, she will get a much bigger bill and then I will remember that you should never look at the dog's hair.

Good weekend.     

Tales from Crete | Elena's - The taste of Greece

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