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In 1991 Billy and Akaisha Kaderli retired at the age of 38. Now, into their 3rd decade of this financially independent lifestyle, they invite you to take advantage of their wisdom and experience.

Street Beggars, Part of an Expat Lifestyle

Billy and Akaisha Kaderli

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For your new retirement lifestyle, perhaps you decided to move to a different country. Then, all of a sudden, you become aware of the beggars on the street. It’s an uncomfortable moment because in your home country these people are institutionalized and not to be seen. Yet in many foreign countries, street people - or beggars - appear “everywhere."

How do we deal with this new paradigm?

Let me share some stories with you.

Small child at market, Guatemala

Irresistible children can sometimes be used for begging purposes

Not all street beggars are on the up and up

First, let me share that not all beggars are desperate, ill, or incapacitated. To put it bluntly, they are frauds.

We have heard stories and have seen where mothers will drug a baby or small child so that they can "go out and get money for medicine" for the sick baby. We know of other situations where a child has been injured, sometimes severely, to serve this purpose. Sometimes the parents will send their adorable child out to beg - which teaches them  ...  to beg!

Instead of teaching them how to read, how to count, how to sell or make something, they are being brought up into a livelihood that serves no one. Least of all, themselves.

One really must try and see through these dramatic circumstances with clear eyes.

 

 

 

 

Examples

For instance, there is a man in the town of Chapala, Mexico who wears tattered clothes, a ripped hat and sits on a sidewalk stoop with his head down. He shakes a shallow basket with a few coins and holy cards of the Virgin Mary and Jesus. Holding onto his walking stick seemingly for balance, he asks for financial help as people walk by. “Ayudame” (help me) he says slowly with a quivering voice.

I gave coins to this man for years until my Hispanic girlfriend told me to stop. She explained, “He walks faster than you and I do! He’s a fake.”

I found out later that week that this was true! Briskly walking upright on the main street with his stick over his head, he passed me on his way to meet his wife to count his take for the day. Now every time I see him vigorously walking around town, I chuckle to myself. I was taken in, and I had no idea!

There is another man who has a fresh bandage on his leg whom we’ve seen for a year or more, approaching us with his hand out asking for money. And still another who wanders around, mixing with (mostly Gringo) strangers to tell them about his wife who is in the hospital with cancer, leukemia, needs an operation, an organ transplant, or special medicine… all terribly expensive things that he can’t afford.

Or the young man from India who said he arrived in Mexico, but now has no money to get home and would we please give him some money for bus fare (to India?) We’ve seen him every time we go to our favorite beach, Chacala. He has been there for many months, working an unsuspecting crowd.

Going to work

However, there are the real street people, and they have real stories.

Almost 30 years ago, there was one beggar we met in Caracas, Venezuela. Tall, slender and a bit hunched over, he “went to work” every morning where Billy and I had coffee. Keeping his standard rounds, it looked to me as though he was doing what he could to support himself, just like going to work. This was his job.

Though he was disabled he was also blessed with a happy disposition, which made it easy to give to him. I think he was proud that he was supporting himself, albeit, by the Grace and Humanity of others… and it seemed he was integral to the community; He had a place to be, he had friends, and he had something productive to do.

There was no shame for his condition, and his “regular supporters” were happy to help him out.

This gave us both pause for reflection, as in our home towns, we had no experience with disabled people on the street asking for coins. And, if they were in this situation, you can be assured there would be shame involved.

The head of a Buddhist statue in Thailand with Bodi tree roots grown around it. Ayuthaya, Thailand

The head of a Buddhist statue in Thailand with Bodi tree roots grown around it

No touching!

Another beggar I met was a young man in Chiang Mai, Thailand who was in his late teens or early twenty’s. He had AIDS and had joined the Buddhist monastery for the remainder of his very short life.

With his begging bowl, he received alms outside the ordinary “begging times” (from 6am to 10am) and often simply sat in meditation pose. He might have been trying to collect money to pay for his medicine and contribute to the Wat by keeping these longer hours.

One time I was drawn to touch his back simply as a gesture of humanity (women are not allowed to touch Buddhist monks!!) and it was … just bones.

I gasped and said a silent prayer of Light.

GIMME!

I had a “relationship” with another beggar in Chapala, Mexico some years ago.

He had a cantankerous personality, but over time, we developed a sort of friendship.

He would DEMAND that I give him money and throw his hand out dramatically (which of course, put me off…) He would refuse any food I gave him, as he only wanted Pesos. Often, he would loudly scold me as I walked past.

Somehow, I felt embarrassed, ashamed, guilty, responsible, heavy with mental burdens -- all old emotions from my early childhood religious training.

There was a time that it got so bad with him gesticulating and shouting at me, that I found another way to get to the market and back home. I’d cross the street or take a back road so as not to encounter him.

I gave a lot of thought to this situation, and it wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to give to this unfortunate man, … it was everything else.

It was the emotional darkness I felt around him, and I didn’t like that I had given my power away. Because of how I felt about him, I had changed the daily routines of my life.  

This did not feel good to me and I felt there had to be another way to relate together.

Eventually I began to “throw my hand” out to him in the absurdity of the moment, and that is when our “friendship” began. We both laughed about it, and he learned that if he were patient and a bit nicer to me, I’d give him the Pesos he craved.

I wanted to show him respect, and I also wanted some respect – human to human – back from him. For me it was important to have it be a two-way street.

He was very ill… and probably in much pain. At some point, he quit showing up at “his spot” and I assumed he had passed on.

I had known him for years.

Petrona and Billy, Panajachel, Guatemala

Petrona had wrapped a headscarf around Billy's head

Of another world

Billy and I spent nearly 7 years in Guatemala, where older Maya women, called ancianas, would both beg and sell handmade woven or beaded items.

One anciana named Petrona spoke in her native Cakchiquel – or some sort of mumbling that was a mixture of her language, a shaky voice and an approximation of communication. Often, we would purchase something from her just to give her money, or we’d buy her a hot chocolate, a coveted treat.

She was mild mannered, polite, always smiling, and her face was that of an older angel. She had to have been the most photographed Maya woman in Panajachel at Lake Atitlan. Somehow, she exuded love and a kind of innocence.

One day Billy and I had mostly finished a very large lunch in town and had the leftovers boxed to take home. Petrona came into the restaurant with her smiling mumbles and I asked her in Spanish: “Are you hungry? Would you like our lunch?”

Her eyes grew wide and of course, she nodded yes.

She took our box of meat, rice, vegetables and tortillas and sat at another table. Before she ate a single bite (she had to have been hungry!) she made the sign of the cross, looked down at her hands folded in her lap, then looked up to the sky. Her hands began pantomiming in communication as she spoke to her Spirits, to Jesus, or to Whomever she was contacting. She had a full conversation of Gratitude for this Gift of Food that simply appeared on her path.

Thankfulness was written over her entire being, and when she was finished letting the Gods know of her appreciation, she signed the cross again, and began to eat.

The experience was very touching.  

Lake Chapala at sunset

Lake Chapala at sunset

The Man in black

Currently, I am developing a relationship with another beggar on the main street in Chapala, Mexico, near to where where we live. He is very quiet overall and speaks almost in a whisper. Maybe 5 feet 6 inches, he’s dressed in black from his cap to his dark shoes and utilizes a walking stick but I’m not sure why. He carries a small rucksack with his possessions inside.

He is easy to overlook because he sort of blends in invisibly, which I think he likes. He watches everyone and everything, and some days he rips up tortillas to feed the street dogs and the birds.

I have given him food before, and he accepts it, thanking me each time. Lately, I have been making sure I nod in recognition to him as I walk by, saying good morning or afternoon, and he accepts that too. He prefers to sit on the ground, in the sunny spots when it’s cooler, and in the shade when it’s warm.

One day, I took a chance, and asked him if he’d like a hot sandwich. After he said yes, I told him I’d be right back – I think he was surprised, curious and a bit confused. I told him I had already ordered it and now I was going to pick it up. As I returned, he saw me coming, and stood up to thank me. A gracious and respectful man!

 

 

 

 

I don’t know his story and I don’t need to, but I do wonder how this man comes to living on the street. Where does he go to sleep when it’s cold or wet? This dark bearded man with deep black eyes is rather mysterious.

It seems that we both are meeting in the middle somewhere - a place where I am able to give something, and he’s willing to accept. Every once in a while, I see him smile. There might have been a slight twinkle in his eyes, but maybe I’m just hoping.

Sometimes when I go shopping at the market, I throw an extra banana or piece of fruit into my basket to give to him later. Or I purchase some of the delicious meats the vendors sell where he sits to watch the world go by.

Billy has seen him in front of one of his favorite cantinas where the man in black sits in the shade, causing no trouble. On the way into the bar one afternoon, Billy asked him if he’d like a beer, and he nodded. The beer was delivered, and Billy kept an eye on him to be sure the bottle was returned as is the policy of cantinas in Mexico.

When our dark, mysterious friend finished his brew, he brought the bottle back inside, and thanked the bartender and Billy again. There had been no need to worry, and it seems this man on the street is quite a gentleman.

For now, this almost wordless relationship works for the both of us. I am grateful that he easily receives whatever I might have at the moment. In this way we both win. He never demands, which makes me want to give to him even more.

It has taken me almost two years to get to this comfortable place with him, and I’m curious as to what this next year will bring.

We are Retire Lifestyle Mentors. Our goal is to help you achieve your retirement dreams.

Humanity in all its forms

I’m not sure what “the answer is” for all of these people we meet on the street in our travels. How much can any one person take on? What is mine to solve? Is something actually broken and needs to be fixed?

And how does one spot a fraud?

All the emotions churned up by these experiences are fodder for self-reflection. I try to speak or engage with any street person who crosses my path in a respectful, considerate manner, and I feel that it’s appreciated. Respecting their humanity is a gift I can give.

What do you think? What would be your approach?

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About the Authors

 
Billy and Akaisha Kaderli are recognized retirement experts and internationally published authors on topics of finance, medical tourism and world travel. With the wealth of information they share on their award winning website RetireEarlyLifestyle.com, they have been helping people achieve their own retirement dreams since 1991. They wrote the popular books, The Adventurer’s Guide to Early Retirement and Your Retirement Dream IS Possible available on their website bookstore or on Amazon.com.

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