Free Birds And Hobos

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I was on a day tour recently with a young generic family of four from a first world, highly industrialized city. The parents were my age, if not slightly younger. They were on holiday in Thailand and had a few questions for me regarding the Khao San area I was staying in. I told them it was a great area, plenty of little shops, lots of restaurants. I explained that it was a hub for backpackers and really catered to the traveler. “You are in the middle of all the action”, I said. They wanted to visit and maybe have dinner there, but would it be appropriate for the children? (2 girls, 10 & 12, I’m guessing). They approached the evening plans as if attending a dinner theatre. They seemed hesitant and concerned about the noise. The backpacker thing hit a nerve, I think. As we drove by a group of six young guys sitting on the sidewalk talking to each other the mother pointed out ‘the hobos’ to the children. Am I missing something? These people come from a country where it’s still a right of passage to backpack for months at a time. Does the term ‘hobo’ mean something different in Australia than in the US? Something like ‘pissed’ is either angry or drunk depending on where in the world you’re from. Or are backpackers a lower class, something to be wary of?
“Don’t touch the kitten! You don’t know what diseases it has.”(something else that was said along these same lines.). The kitten approached me as I was sitting and waiting for the van to be filled with gasoline. I gave her a scritch on the head and she purred and nuzzled my leg. Inevitably, one of the girls came over to pet the kitten. You can’t keep a 10 year old girl away from a kitten, now, really. And it’s my guess, in a few years Mom won’t be able to keep her away from the hobo, either.

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