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On impulse I asked the lady having her shoes shined how much the boy was charging. Around 50p ($0.75 or €0.75) seemed good—cheap enough to afford while travelling on a tight budget, expensive enough to feel like there were two sides to the deal. The box on which he made me put my foot was roughly made but contained the tools he needed—soap, wax, polish, cloths, and brushes—to give my shoes a shine they’d not had since I first bought them.
About halfway through the shine I realised that I was breaking a UN convention. Forget that I was paying what was locally a good sum of money for the work. Forget that I was going to give him a pen too—big deal: have you ever met a doctor who needs another pen? Forget also that the money from my job would have gone towards the rental, lease, or purchase of his kit, …