12 year-old Vanouhie helps her grandfather sell locally grown produce at the stone pillars along the highway marking the entrance to Syunik Marz in Armenia.
Last year, a group of Swiss tourists stopped at the roadside stand and one of them took her picture. It’s now won a photo contest and the photographer has returned to obtain the consent of the girl’s parents to include it in a photo album to be published.
The girl’s parents didn’t know that Vanouhie’s picture had garnered such acclaim back in Switzerland.
She’s a shy girl, but, as her grandfather relates, Vanouhie can take care of the family business in her absence. “The girl always makes the correct change and takes care of the customers. My granddaughter is one of the best pupils in the school,” beams Grandpa Rafik.
When we pulled the car over to stretch our legs, we approached the young vendor. To be honest, if it wasn’t for the earrings it would have been hard to say whether the smiling kid was a boy or a girl. Her short cropped thick hair was hidden under her cap.
Grandpa Rafik was doing most of the talking while a somewhat embarrassed Vanouhie stood alongside, her eyes gazed downwards. The most she’d do was mutter a shy yes or no.
The family used to live in Hrazdan but relocated to the villageof Saravanin Vayots Dzor.
Vanouhie’s father raises livestock and her mother collects wild mushrooms and other herbs from the fields to sell. Her brother catches fish from the local waters for sale as well.
The young girl has been selling the family’s produce for the past two years and has become a savvy retailer.
“Apricots are the best selling item and the Iranians are the best customers,” says Vanouhie.
Coming into contact with international tourists, the young girl has picked up a smattering of foreign words and phrases.
She told us that on occasion Iranian tourists have left without paying but that Armenians cheat her in this manner more often.
“A car full of Armenians stopped and wanted some cherries. They took the fruit and ran back to their car and sped off,” Vanouhie related.
The girl said the perpetrators were grown men who took advantage of her.
But Vanouhie says it’s water under the bridge and smiles when she tells the story to us.