Originally uploaded by carlos avalos.

Trekking through the hills of Sapa, I encountered two local girls selling their handmade anklets and bracelets. I really didn’t want to buy anything. By this time I was getting accustomed to walking through large crowds of locals who tried in vain to get my attention. It just works best not to strike too much of a conversation because I know I don’t really need 20 post cards for the equivalence of a dollar, or one dozen bananas, blankets, baskets, custom fitted shoes, motorbikes, deep fried sweets, horn blowers, travel tours, guides; have I mentioned 20 postcards yet?
I know that some travelers feel guilty of walking through other people’s lands without contributing, but it depends on how you define charity. I choose to give to those who really are in need. They are often the ones who go out of their way to render me a service sincerely without asking anything in return.
In this particular case, I was trying a tactic I devised back at the Singapore Airport. Walking out of the customs booth, which served as the dividing line between us and the gangs of cab drivers, I was taken aback at the site of all the tropical greenery displayed behind them. My body which was reconditioned to breathing recycled air for over 36hours of planes and boarding lounges was craving to let the humidity trigger my sweat glands to perspire, and shower me thoughroughly, allowing me to feel the wind in it’s pure form one more time.
The tactic came as a mere coincidence that coincided with the timing in which I withdrew the camera from the bag and elevated it to my eye level. Pointing the camera in the direction of the gardens outside the airport caused all the cab drivers to turn away. It was as if I had brought out a secret weapon moments before we were devoured by the mob. I continued marching ahead, watching each driver spinning off to my right and to my left clearing the way for us to make a clean and safe exit out into the street.
At that point I thought, Hey just point the camera in their direction and just like that, they’re gone!
So that’s exactly what I tried with this young girl in the picture. The only thing is that she had a tactic all her own. She was diligently trained in the art of aggressive sentimental selling. “Plese sur bye me this.” “Plese sur u take dis frum me” over and over and over until you’re almost happy to give them the money just to get them to let you pass. But not this time, Carlos had it all figured out! With my secret weapon already out of its holster and ready to strike, I immediately pointed my camera at the little girl. Her reaction was to demand one dollar for the picture I had taken. I smiled and clicked away. Once she realized I wasn’t about to stop photographing her she began to contort her face and stick out her toungue yelling and screaming so that I would not have the pleasure of getting away with a proper post card shot out of her.
The thing was that I probably got one of my favorite images of the trip thus far.
Oh and for those with the guilty charity complex, you’d be happy to know that I upheld the honorable charity code.

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