There are very few countries in the world, at the least the ones that could be deemed “civilized” that are as protective of children as the United States. Even so, any overworked, overwrought Social Worker in this country will tell you that sadly, many fall through the cracks. But our intentions are good; our jurisdictive hearts are in the right place.
And as a result, we have federal laws established to protect children from overtly organized labor practices. We have laws that make education mandatory; laws that govern when a child legally reaches majority. We have laws that protect children from predators and things that are seemingly bad for them. Drinking alcohol comes to mind.
But in other parts of the world, things are different. Kids work 50-60 hours a week; they don’t go to school and if they’re poor enough, they learn at a very early age how to survive on the street. Sex, violence…those things are part of their daily routine. There are dangerous elements around them constantly. This though for them, is life.
Sonam is a four-year old boy who for the most part lives, if you can call it that, on the streets of the poorest section of Zhangmu, Tibet. He was discovered by volunteers with “Ameri-Can International”, a non-profit children’s advocacy group based in Chicago. Sonam has been called a smart, enterprising young man, obviously older in many ways than his four years.
In part of this mountainous country, not everything is so Zen and tranquil. There are mean streets and where there are cities like this, there are children who say goodbye to their innocence very early on.
Workers with Ameri-Can International were amazed to find this tot on a street corner, chain-smoking filterless Camels while trying to sell his paltry wares.
Anthony Kebbitz is one of the volunteers with Ameri-Can. He says young Sonam is is very smart and while he woefully regrets and hates the child’s predicament, he understands it, all things considered.
“As best we can tell, his father deserted the family two years ago. At four, Sonam doesn’t remember him, but claims he’s been working to help support impoverished mother and 12 siblings. His smokingg habit would be considered incredibly dangerous for an adult, but for a child? We tried to get him to quit smoking, but it seems as though it’s the one true pleasure he has. Life here is so different. This is another world, really.”
What surprised Kebbitz even more is Sonam’s incredible grasp of the English language. He’s never had one minute of formal education, yet is like a sponge for learning and has an incredible acumen for languages. The corner where he sits isn’t far from a British electronics consortium in Zhangmu. His ability to pick up relevant English words and phrases merely from listening to passers-by is in Kebbitz’s words, “amazing”.
Here’s a brief transcript of an interview Kebbitz conducted with Sonam a few weeks ago. The Chicago native says this is proof of the four-year old’s unbelievable intellect, language skills and maturity which he says, is well beyond his years.
AK: Hello Sonam
SONAM: Hey Kebbitz. What the hell kind of name is that? You Lithuanian or what?
AK: No, my family is of Ukrainian descent.
SONAM: Ah, so you’re a Jew, eh? And that last name of yours—Kebbitz? Like one of them crazy Israeli dirt farms or some shit?
AK: That’s really not relevant, Sonam and how in the world can a four-year old boy know about such things? I would think a four-year old boy would be more concerned with playing games and enjoying milk and cookies.
SONAM: Milk and cookies? Are you high? Kebbitz, I’m one of 12 kids living in an old Amana refrigerator box, OK? My mom is a lush and rummages through trash so she can slam back what’s left of old Aqua Velva bottles to catch a buzz. And not only that, I have to help support three kids who are younger than me, and those light weights are only working part-time jobs. Lazy bums….BUMS, I tell ya!!!!
AK: Sonam tell me, why do you smoke?
SONAM: Dude, look around you.! This place ain’t exactly paradise. Not much shakin’. You gotta get your joy where you can and well, I uh…I’ve found that in smokin’, OK?
AK: How long have you been smoking?
SONAM: Oh, I guess for a while now. I know I smoke what…about two packs a day, maybe? It’s just my thing, you know. I start jonesin’ for a fag the minute I wake up. It’s just how we do things here. How we roll. I also gamble. Love the ponies, too. You wanna lay odds on Tiger Woods’ come back? I say he’ll flake out before the Masters. You want “tibet’??? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!! That’s some funny shit, man! It always works with those gullible Sherpas. They fall for that every time.
AK: Please, SONAM, this is serious. I’d like to know if you remember when you took your first puff?
SONAM: Yeah, of course I remember. How could I not? it was right after the first time I had sex. Ooohhh…that broad had one incredibly fine ass. It was right after my very first time, when Sonam scored BIG TIME!!
AK: And when exactly was that?
SONAM: How the fuck would I know, I was drunk at the time.