One thing you can’t help but notice when walking or driving around Tbilisi, is the amount of people begging for money on the streets. Many of these are elderly or disabled people, who just sit quietly with a hand out or little cup nearby for you to drop a few coins in – and from what I’ve learned, many of the older women are widows with no children to support them, and have no other way to earn money.
Then there are the gypsies, of whom you will see the women and children on the streets, and they have a much more confronting approach to begging for money. According to some taxi drivers, some of the gypsies are from Armenia, and they come to Georgia because the Georgians are more generous. (**I don’t know if this is true, just what the taxi drivers say!!!***) For example, our taxi driver – who on a good day may earn 100 – 150 Lari (working from 9am til 10pm or midnight, living 45mins from Tbilisi and having to buy fuel as well) will keep “gypsy money” in his door pocket so that he can easily roll down the window and give a gypsy begging from car to car a few coins. When I was thinking about writing this, I had a quick google about gypsies in Tbilisi, and found a few articles – one here which noted that because many gypsies didn’t have citizenship or any sort of identification papers (including birth certificates), they weren’t able to get any state funding here in Tbilisi, including health care, and the children aren’t able to attend school.
Therefore, they beg on the street. And it can be very confronting if you haven’t seen it before – for example, there is always the same lady in front of the Goodwill supermarket in Vake, sitting down cradling her baby daughter, sometimes pushing the baby in your face, pleading for money. Then there is the small girl (probably around 4 years old) that lies on a blanket in the middle of the sidewalk on Rustaveli- usually asleep at any time of the day- but during the cold snap when it was minus 6 degrees during the day, she lay there with her eyes open, with a blank stare on her face. There are often little kids running after you yelling and begging – one little girl was following me the other day, saying something over and over again to me, then started trying to grab my shopping bag while I had Bubba in the baby carrier – lucky she didn’t understand English although I’m sure she has heard worse swear words in her life.
Today, as usual, I had a few encounters with gypsys. One girl stood waiting as I got some money out of an ATM, then started at it, asking for money – I just said “ara (no)” a few times, and on my way. Walked past the little 4 year old sleeping on the ground, then Bubba and I had a lovely walk up Rustaveli and back (lovely as he was in the pram today…). Bubba was getting a bit wriggly and we still had a good half hour walk home, so as I passed a lady selling popcorn I got a small bag for 10 Tetri (less than 10c!!). And let me tell you… trying to grab popcorn out of the drink-cup section on his pram tray & shoving it in his mouth kept him entertained the whole walk home! Winner!
When we reached Rustaveli Metro station, I noticed a little girl sitting on a blanket, with a bowl next to her for money. She couldn’t have been more than 3 years old. Seriously, she did not look anywhere as old as my little nephew and he’s just turned 3. I also do not know any 2 or 3 year olds that will just sit on a blanket for hours on end and not run off and play somewhere. Her mum needs to come teach that trick to my child. Seriously. What do they put in these kid’s water bottles? In any case, she was so dirty and I felt so sorry for her being put in that situation by her parents or siblings, that I gave her the half a bag of popcorn that I still had.
And let me tell you – the look on her face MADE MY DAY. The popcorn was just for her… and when I looked back a few seconds later, she was scoffing it down, and kicking her legs around like it was the best thing in the world. She couldn’t care less about money, but I knew that popcorn would make her day 🙂
Sorry no photos lately, my camera is dead and I keep forgetting to get the adaptor out of husband’s bag so I can charge it up (also really need it to straighten my hair, it’s so horrible…). City is so beautiful at the moment so I’ll have to take a few pics and post stat!!