Gypsies have a pretty nasty reputation, at least here where I am. I have not heard anyone speak kindly of them before. My sole ‘interaction’ with a gypsy thus far is with a teenage girl who cleaned my windscreen during a traffic light stop despite my protest. I naturally see them too as eccentric beggars who need not exist. Until I met a group of gypsy kids who showed me a different side of them.
Two weeks ago, we visited relatives in a small town in Potsdam. The presence of children within the family necessitated a visit to the playground. When we got there, we found ourselves surrounded by a group of over ten kids, from toddlers to teenagers. Somehow, the way they played and were dressed gave away hints that they are not German children. Our relative then offered us the missing information – they were gypsy kids from France. The playground was situated next to a camping site, occupied mainly by caravans with French registration plates.
Acting on my pre-conceived perceptions of them, I instantly became wary and was reluctant to let my little one near them. It didn’t take long, however, for them to reveal who they really are.
The main attraction of the playground was a huge structure with long conveyor belt like rubber pieces to jump on. A person jumping on one end creates a wave that travels to the other end. The kids were having fun trying to create the biggest wave and putting someone off the belt onto the ground. Of course, Leanne, the bona fide toddler, wanted to do the same. As she attempted to climb onto the belt, one of the kids shouted at the rest to stop jumping, put out her hands to stop anyone approaching Leanne and gave out constant warnings that a baby is in the vicinity. This behavior caught me by surprise – one, she’s a gypsy kid! Aren’t they all rude and weird?; two, such a kind action has never happened before at a playground here. The children are mostly concerned with making the most use of the time they have outdoors. Nobody stops playing to care for others. Everyone should anyway wait for their turn politely.
Not just one, but all of the children took turns conscientiously throughout the rest of the time to play big sister or brother to Leanne. It touches me that something so humane comes so naturally from a population who has traditionally been despised by the rest of the world. No need for more thoughts. A young one needs to be protected; I do my part to ensure that happens. My heart being sufficiently warmed, I started to offer them appreciative smiles.
My attention was then diverted to a whiff of something sour in the air. I couldn’t quite put my nose to the exact substance and was thereby even more curious about it. A quick look around made me spot the culprit in the form of a Maggie seasoning sauce bottle which a girl of about eight or do was holding. She grimaced each time she took a sip from it and the look on her face was literally sour. It definitely wasn’t the Maggie seasoning sauce I like. A quick question to the husband bought the issue to light. The girl is sipping balsamic vinegar! Apparently, it is a common practice among Latin Americans to take vinegar so that they don’t feel hungry. Latin ladies do that to keep trim. This girl did it, however, to avoid hunger. It’s probably something they learnt or were taught to do when there isn’t enough food to go around. Most of them also boast of the typical malnourished frame – skinny limbs with a huge bloated tummy. The realization that these children have to go hungry tugged at the strings of my motherly heart.
The incidents that occurred at the playground made me see a side of the gypsies that we have lost sight of – they are humans too. They have humanly needs like the rest of us and are capable of exhibiting social behavior that are even considered virtuous. I truly feel sorry for the young ones, wondering about where they sleep, if they go to school, whether they will ever have a fair chance at life.