I took my time about getting ready, did an expert repack of my bag and perfected my previously shoddy henna skills. Not to shabby if I do say so myself!
For the first time in my life I was able to take a leisurely stroll to the station because I was SO EARLY and plonked myself down to wait for the bus.
Within minutes I was bombarded by three street kids, all girls aged around 5, 6 and 11 years old. I'm ashamed to say I acted in the usual fashion, attempting to get rid of them as quickly as possible saying I had no money (which was genuinely true for once) however these three were rather persistent so after a little while I began chatting to them, in broken bits of English, Spanish, Portuguese, German and lots of mime.
They told me how they were sisters and slept around the back of the bus station. They had no parents and had to beg everyday for food. Most people ignored them, which was sad sometimes, but at least they were together. I showed them a picture of my sister and they told me how beautiful she is. I retorted that they haven't seen her as she'd just woken up and laughed in agreement, poking fun at each other. The conversation was not grave but amicable, with lots of smiles, giggles and asking me about my home, whilst trying on various bits of my jewellery.
Feeling touched by their presence, I gave them a present each of a ring and two bracelets of their choosing. Immediately after they ran away from me, fearful that I might retract my gift. Seeing my initial confusion, they cautiously returned before settling down to chat again. It saddened me a little that these beautiful young girls were wary to trust even someone who had been kind to them.
After a while they helped me find my bus and carry my bags (I confess I was a little worried about them running off, but I'd decided trust had got me this far, why not give it a chance?) The driver shunned the youngest as she went to check whether it was the right stop, but she simply shrugged and beckoned that I would have to do it.
Saying goodbye, I didn't really know what to do. We'd known each other only 30 minutes and yet I felt a strange connection to these girls. Leaving with just a 'see ya, have a nice life' seemed rather inadequate. Squeezing their shoulders and telling them how beautiful they are was barely an improvement, but with no parents to remind them I decided they deserved to hear it.
As I went to board the driver stopped me and demanded 2 bosnian-whatever-they're-called for my backpack. Having already paid for my ticket and spent the last of my pennies on paying for the hostel the night before, I was quite literally skint, but on telling the driver so he just shrugged and took my bag off the bus. I stood there, dumbstruck, at a loss of what to do. My new friends looked at me with understanding eyes, just as a kind norwegian gentleman jumped off the bus and paid for my bag as well as his own. I thanked him profusely, beaming at the girls who then proceeded to beg him for money - you can't teach an old dog and all that. I couldn't help but chuckle, climbing on the bus accompanied with a wave of airborne kisses and shouts of 'gruezi!'
Make of it what you will, but it's proved a rather thought provoking morning for me. I'm currently munching on a peach I acquired from that same kind stranger, who claims that England has given him so much during his travels there, he is simply paying a minute part of it back.