They had been following along behind me at a respectful distance for about a kilometre. Respectful only in the sense that at that distance they could laugh at me a bit more freely. My jumping over streams rather than walking right through them, my backpack, my walk stick, my loping walk,…
Finally they drew up level with me and said Salaama (hello).
They asked me where I was going – a place about 10km down the road.
They asked me where I came from – I said I lived in China.
Did I speak Chinese? Yes. This cut no ice with them.
Did I speak English? Yes. That met with their approval.
We walked along a few kms together and when our paths diverged I asked if I could take their picture. They said ok and the girl pulled off her head scarf so she would look prettier.
I did not have my camera handy so I took a picture with my phone. The boy asked if I would send them a copy. I asked him to write his address, but neither of us had a pen. So I asked him for his email address (I was thinking he might have one at school).
No , he looked at me glumly, no email. Where he lived I am guessing also had no electricity – I had certainly seen no wires in a while – so email was a luxury twice removed.
Only later did I notice that my picture did not include what stood out the most: their feet.
I was in big boots, suitable for this rough, scarred road, and their feet were bare.
Equally clear, from looking at their feet, they owned no shoes.