General rule of thumb; try do what the locals do.
Things that I’ve heard, but I’m still not sure about yet.
- To kids
- People who come up to one at the lampu merah (traffic lights)
- People who look extremely well fed
One time on Jalan Malioboro (tourist shopping street), Annika, Claire and I were shopping. A really small raggedy boy came up to us, holding out his cupped hands. I told Annika not to give him any money, but she wanted to give him something, so she dug into her bag and brought out this cool green pen attached to a zipper chain she had bought. Annika’s like “Yeah! A cool green pen!” His face completely changed when he saw that pen, completely lit up with this beautiful shy smile. The kind of smile that makes one want to give a kid a hug, then take him home. We all felt rather pleasant after seeing his expression.
Only 10 minutes later or so, strolling further down the street, I noticed the same green pen in the hands of an old becak driver.
It’s hard to weigh up the situation, since there were things that happened that I wouldn’t know about. It could be, as we’ve all heard stories about it, that there is organised crime, adults recruiting children to go out and beg on the streets, collect the goods at the end of the day. It could be this man was the kid’s uncle, grandfather whatever. It could be this random mean man, who bullied the kid into giving that pen to him just because he can. Who knows. It bugs me, but who knows.
There is no welfare system in Indonesia. Old people and disabled people have it quite hard. Yogya is considered one of the better (maybe the best) when it comes to the socio-economic divide. It’s not at all as extreme as what I saw in Jakarta. People work hard, but still find it difficult to scrabble enough money to eat and keep a roof over their heads.
But on the other hand, in my Peace Studies class, the lecturer once told us about how there have been cases where beggars have refused to take government passouts because they said they were better fed by the community than by government passouts. And she’s a pretty cool lady, doesn’t seem like the sort to make things up. (Her name’s DK or Diah Kusumaningrum by the way. She’s very very good with the whole interactive learning and discussion thing… Pengantar Studi Perdamaian, Fisipol.)
It’s all very hard to figure out what is the right thing to do. And I still don’t know. I tend to give to old ladies, people who are disabled and people who busk out a really good song. I used to give money to kids too, but the idea that I might be perpetuating poverty bothers me. I think later I’ll give money to an Indonesian organisation that works within the community, and think that money will be better spent than otherwise. It doesn’t stop me cringing but, when I raise my hand to say no to the immediate situation.
Tav pointed out one night these little plastic cups attached to the front of some houses, and told me that people put coins in them, so if anyone was really hard up and need some money, they could. I like that a lot. I had never even noticed those cups before he mentioned it.
One of the things I like about being here, is the fact that in general, most people manage to smile, be friendly and sweet, in relative poverty. Their sense of humour is grandly different from the cynical matured sense of humour back at home. This might be because my Indonesian isn’t good enough to understand any cynical matured senses of humour here, but the majority of the time I still manage to have a laugh with anyone really.
From what I’ve seen, I like how kids are really and truly kids. Despite having all the luxuries we have at home (or maybe because of all the luxuries back home) kids don’t seem to act like kids anymore. Three 6-9 year old boys with a shoddy skateboard, mucking around on it in their concrete front-yard, having a grand time.
Having said that, at university level, it can be tiring to be around a bunch of 15 year old boys in class making stupid comments. For example, while taking attendance, and replying “I’m not here!” when they clearly are. Bargh. Enough to drive anyone insane.
Anyway, I'm just wondering what everyone else's opinion is about this? What do you think is the right thing to do?