The night we traveled to Curitiba we were loitering at the bus station idly waiting for our bus to come when a 14 year-old boy came by with his shoe shine equipment and sat down in front of us. This is what transpired (to the best of my memory…).
Boy: Shine, Uncle?
Boy: Ah, com’on, Uncle.
Pat: I don’t want a shine.
Boy reaches out and smears a streak of polish on one of Pat’s shoes.
Pat, jumping back: Hey, kid, I said no.
This was followed by more talking and bartering when suddenly boy reaches out and streaks polish on one of my boots. (I feel my space is violated!)
The boy then offers to polish both of our shoes for $2.65. Pat takes him up on the offer and he begins earnestly, head bent over Pat’s shoes. Efficiently and quickly he polishes, buffs and shines and we discover that he does go to school, but polishes shoes at night.
Pat: What do you want to do with your life?
Boy, a little surprised at the question: May it be whatever God wants.
(This is a very common answer— and one that I hate—fatalism is in the warp & woof of this culture).
Another shoe shiner comes by and parks his paraphernalia on the floor. We soon discover that the two boys are brothers, the newcomer younger. He remarks, “I give my earnings to my brother to keep me from spending it on foolish things.”
The older boy is now buffing my boots and they look like new. I am pleased with the results. Pat pays the boy and he goes on his way, but the younger one hangs around.
Younger Boy: Oh, Uncle, give me some change.
Younger Boy: Please, Uncle, just some change…(whiney voice now).
He walks away. Our bus arrives and we ride off into the night.