If you’ve spent any time in Kathmandu, you probably have seen boys carrying around a pole, with bags of florescent pink cotton candy hanging off of them, approaching both locals and foreigners trying to sell their product.
A couple of weeks ago, I was sitting by a pond at sunset with my boyfriend, and saw one of these young men nearby.
As expected, he walked over asking us to buy just one piece. I shook my head no and looked down.
I could tell that he was from the Terai, the southern region of Nepal, and he was young.
My boyfriend started talking with him in Nepali. Asking if he was in school (yes, but there was a 2 month break so he was here), what class he was in (grade 6), how much he made (4000Npr/month – the equivalent of $50CAD), where his family was (back home in his village).
They talked for several minutes, encouraging this young boy to go to school, expressing how important it is for him to get a good job one day. He gestured at me saying “If you ever want to talk to someone who looks like her, you need to learn English, you’ve got to go to school.”
And a few minutes later he turned to me “Do you want one?”
“I think I have to”
Less than a dollar. I don’t even really like cotton candy. But I had to.
This boy. Barely a teenager was spending his days walking around the city trying to sell candy. I didn’t believe him when he said he was still in school, I was watching him and it didn’t seem like he was being totally honest with us.
But I’ll never know.
I have had countless reality checks since coming to Nepal. Moments where I see or hear about things that were always a ‘far away’ problem. Something I knew about, horrible things, but didn’t affect anyone I knew.
And suddenly these things were real. Domestic violence, child labour, extreme poverty. Suddenly there was a 12 year old boy in front of me, trying to sell candy at 7pm instead of being at home with his family, doing homework or playing with his friends.
It’s a reality check and realization that came from something as simple as a bag of pink cotton candy.