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Begging, selling and singing
Trying to earn a living on the streets

It is very common in Indonesia to see people of all ages, from the youngest of toddlers to the eldest, to keep themselves busy along the side of the road to find a way to survive. They are to be found on busy roads where traffic is dense, on the more crowded intersections and other places where many people converge.

The children will often be busy with looking sad, telling an unclear story and might produce something that resembles music as well in the hope that passers-by will be willing to slide a 1,000 Rupiah bank note through the barely opened window. The elderly often aren't able to move anymore and are waiting for alms near a traffic light or so.

A big part of the Indonesians see it as common practice to give away some money regularly. This is fairly normal in many religions and since Indonesians are very religious they hand out a lot of money to beggars and musicians on a regular day. It is a religious obligation, not a general one so you don't have to give anything if you don't want to.

People are free to give or not. However you should realize that it is very well possible that the children are forced to do this kind of work by a so-called preman ('hoodlum'). In this way they are forced to hand over the biggest part of their income to that kind of thieves. Baby's are rented out to young girls and older woman to look more pathetic in order to get more alms from people.

Since you as the 'donating party' can not see what is for real and what is fake, you should not look at that when you fold a 1,000 Rupiah banknote and hand it to a little child that has to spend it's days in between exhaust fumes of vehicles entire days to gather enough money for a portion of rice.

Outside the group of beggars and semi-beggars (musicians and window cleaners for example) there is an even bigger group of people that is trying to sell you products. Everything between the latest newspaper and plastic toys from China are sold against prices that are hard to believe, so cheap they are. For a newspaper you only pay a litle extra on top of the official price and late in the afternoon you will get a big discount because the news is already old.

Products sold are normally almost rubbish, many unsafe toys for children with loose parts and other colorful objects are repeatedly offered to a string of people that all walk down the line of waiting cars in the hope to sell at least something today again. You can also buy useful products however, like bottled water and snacks.

Fort those that don't like to give away money just like that it might be a good solution to buy your daily newspaper or that bottle of water at the intersection instead of the local supermarket.

Last revised on October 30, 2009
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