The Beach Girls

India, Lost Girls RTW Adventure, Volunteering & Giving Back — By on January 7, 2007 at 8:19 am

Until now, we’d spent weeks struggling to keep pace with frenetic, chaotic, religion-centric, sanitarily challenged, confusing, stimulating and draining India. But here in Goa, we finally had a chance to dig our heels in the copper-colored sand, lean back in a plastic chair and finally relax.

Sure, the local salespeople were still aggressive as hell (“Hello-where-are-you-coming-from-where-do-you-go? Look at my skirts/jewelery/antiques/paintings/saris! Ees free to look!”), but once we got past the hard sell, we found that most folks were just happy to have a conversation for no extra charge.

After waving off the first 170 young women and children loaded down with wares-for-sale on the beach, we couldn’t help but fall into conversation with a gorgeous 15-year-old girl named Rebecca. Even after we swore that we hadn’t brought enough cash to pay for a new beaded necklace or tunic top, she stuck around and chatted us up like guests on a Barbara Walters special.

She told us all about the ins-and-outs of selling stuff on the beach-she did it to support her younger brother and sister, pay for them to go to school and to put food on the table. Since her parents had passed away, she’d stepped up to the challenge of becoming the head of the household-a notion that boggled our minds, but didn’t seem to be too out of the ordinary for Rebecca.

“Do you ever get harassed by the men you sell to on the beach,” Sarah asked. “Are you ever afraid to go walking back to your house after dark?

Rebecca contemplated the questions. “Naw. The other ladies selling on the beach, we team up and make the walk back to our houses together. One time this man tried to touch me, and I just stood right up and told him to bugger off!”

I was completely impressed by this little lady who, despite never having attended school herself, seemed sharper and more motivated than most of the young women I’d once interviewed for internship positions back in New York. While I’m normally the first one of the three of us to discourage giving money to kids on the street (or beach in this case), I knew that I had to do something to help Rebecca.

We offered to buy her a meal (she declined) but she gratefully accepted the pens and school supplies that I dug out from the bottom of my daypack.

“For my little brother and sister,” she said, solemnly, turning to head for home before the sun sunk too low behind the clouds.

As I watched her walk away, I felt a weird mixture of pride and aching for someone so young who’d already experienced such a tough grown-up life.

The next day, we switched to a guesthouse a couple of breaks away from Rebecca’s spot on the beach. I kept an eye out, hoping she’d wander my way again. We never ended up running into her, but I replenished my supply of pens and pencils-just in case.

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  • Dellie says:

    Touching…When Peter Jenkins wrote WALK ACROSS AMERICA about his “on foot” trek with his dog,Cooper, he said that the best part of his trip was meeting so many interesting people along the way. The stories he told about his adventures with these people made this book a best-seller. Each person you meet has their own life-story to tell. Thanks for sharing…

  • Anonymous says:

    Another impressive immersion story. I love that this girl Rebecca could have been from any city in any country in the world, and we’d still relate to her story and be impressed by her courage, dedication, and optimism.

    Great story (again) — thanks for sharing.

  • Amanda, thanks for the inspirational story to share, really all of must learn that how to deal with the problems of life, this story tells us about poor girl on the beaches selling stuff for the living, so that she can look after her brother and can give him the best support…

    Thanks again for the sharing such a good story with the world.

  • Lost Girls says:

    @FlighttoMaldives Thanks for the comment! I was touched by Rebecca–I actually included part of a chapter to her in the book. She’s stayed with me over the years…I hope she’s okay.