Tuesday, October 05, 2010


There's a playground we like to go to that's not too far from where we live; maybe a 15-minute walk through the city. It's located in a somewhat posh sector, on a wide avenue lined with old trees and traffic cops. For being in such a nice location the playground itself s a bit run-down - there are only two swings, even though there are three swing sets - the other two have empty rings along the top horizontal bar. The missing swings were probably broken by kids too big for them.

The second time I took Valerie to this park it was mid-morning, and I hoped that all the big kids would be in school and we'd only have to contend with the toddler set. I hoped she'd feel more comfortable and have fun instead of being scared the whole time, like when we went with Terry on a late afternoon over the weekend and there were just throngs of people there.

Just as we arrived I saw a big girl about 13 or 14 years old go barreling down the twisty slide yelling at the top of her lungs, knocking a small child of 3 or 4 onto the ground. Another big girl, I'm guessing her age around 12, came running over yelling at her and picked up the little one. As I watched and looked around I realized they were all together, a group of 7 kids in all, three big girls on the cusp of young womanhood, three younger boys (in the 7-9 age range) and the littlest child of indeterminate gender. I can't be sure, of course, but I think they were probably Roma.

There were also several Albanian grandmothers there with little ones; a couple times they exchanged glances of resigned resentment with me as if to say "can you believe these kids?" whenever one of the big kids did something particularly rambunctious.

I suppose I got a taste for why people tend to have negative stereotypes of the Roma, although at the same time I felt bad for them - obviously they weren't in school. One girl asked me for money (I pretended not to understand, then said I didn't have any, and then she pointed at the one pocket in my pants that had coins in it); another girl tried to sit on Valerie's stroller until I told her to get off. On the one hand I resented them for infringing on a playground designed for little children; on the other hand, what else are they supposed to do with themselves if they're not in school? And while I didn't like them taking away from Valerie's enjoyment of the place, I also felt kind of guilty for all the signs of privilege and wealth that surround my little girl - from her specially designed snack cup to her new, clean clothes and shoes. I felt bad for refusing to give the girl money, and then turning right around and using that same money later on to buy Valerie a snack she didn't really need (on the other hand, if I had given the girl money, what about the other 6 kids?) Anyway, we left when the little boys in the group started throwing gravel at each other because I wasn't too confident about their aim.

They weren't there today. I wonder where they are.


Living with no Regrets said...

Hey Elizabeth, this pondering and experience with the Roma was something I had first had in Romania. I also volunteered with some orgs who worked specifically with the Roma. Such a challenging group. I had read a documentary on them before Romania and felt like the Roma must be the descendants of Cain. Historically they are always considered of lower value than animals and slaves. they are always the lowest of low and terribly mistreated. They are aggressive, abusive and also loyal to their group. Sociologically and anthropologically they are fascinating. In real life and in person they are challenging in the physical sense, the emotional and psychological sense.

E. Phantzi said...

Rosanne - I do remember now you blogging about the same issues, also with reference to Valerie as well. Thanks for the insights.