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Made in Mostar: small beggars at work


“I’m going to have cevapi,” I said. I’d discounted fried brain immediately, and thought that brizle sounded too much like something a bird would disgorge. Cevapi was the safest bet.

“Me too,” Michael answered.

We were sitting outside, in a busy part of the bazaar. The waiter had told me that cevapi was small grilled sausages stuffed inside pita bread. When the food arrived, I saw that they came with a side portion of raw onion, which I ignored in favour of the meat. It was similar to the meal we’d had in Belgrade at the start of the Odyssey, and was tasty and filling, especially with a nice bottle of Sarajevsko to wash it all down with.

A beggar approached our table, an old woman wearing a shroud of dark layers. I waved her away but she stayed near the table, hand outstretched. To get rid of her, Michael handed her a few coins, and she shuffled off. Almost immediately, another beggar appeared, this one a teenage boy in a dark jacket. Like the woman, his skin was a darker shade than most of the locals, suggesting he was Roma.

He’d clearly seen Michael give the old woman some money, and so he thought he’d chance it too. Michael rolled his eyes and handed the boy a coin, which he took without comment. He walked away.

A short distance from us, I could see a girl aged about six. She was stood with her back to a nearby wall, pretending to cry in order to garner sympathy from passing tourists. As I watched, a woman carrying a baby, presumably the girl’s mother, went up to the child. The girl stopped crying straight away. After conferring for a moment, the girl nodded and went off to beg in a more direct manner. She stood in the middle of the cobbles and simply held her hand out. It worked; a tourist couple stopped and handed her some money.

More by this author about his travels through ex-Soviet republics  in his kindle book.

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