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February 01, 2005

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Mitch

When I was in london, I saw guys on the corner begging in the snow and I thought you poor bastards, squatting there in the snow, but not giving over any money, I was after all a backpacker and was on a strict budget! surely they could understand that...

About a month later, I was in Prague and after a night of boozing it up, me and the group of friends I was traveling with, went to to get the underground back to our hostel. We walked down the steps, welcoming the respite from the wind and snow, it was even a bit warmer in there. And what I saw at the bottom of the stairs made something die inside of me. It was freezing, and easily 5 below outside, we were covered in snow, not really feeling it due to the 5 or so litres of beer and absinth under our belts.. at the bottom of the stairs we saw some homeless people... these guys were filthy and had literlally little more than rags covering their bodies and no shoes... but it wasn't until the guy closest to us chose to move on the hard tiled floor that I noticed that he was missing a leg from the knee down and part of his arm from just below the elbow.

Our good humors quickly evaporated, one of the girls with us started to weep silently and I felt like doing the same. This guy had literally less than nothing, not even a blanket.

Sometime after that somewhat sombre experience, I met a guy in Avigion, at a Hostel, He was sleeping in the back yard in a tent, he had plenty of clothes, was warm and showered every day, I got into a conversation with him over breakfast (as you do in hostels) and The conversation soon turned to work and careers. It seemed his occupation was.... a professional beggar!! I still to this day can't comprehend why he wanted to do this, but I was given a full rundown of what he did everyday, just sit on the street with his dog and beg for money. Some days he got enough money to pay for his lodgings, somedays he didn't, but he just suplimented that with money.... from his bank account..

Instantly I hated this man.

He even tried to regail me with a story about how he yelled at a woman who was kind enough to offer his dog some food.

I was leaving that morning on the bus so I thought what the hell. I proceeded to tell the man exactly what I though of him, I told him about he beggars in Prague how he was a scumbag etc.

Now I find myself examining beggars wherever i go, the guys back in london had beanies and warm jackets, I try to look at their faces to see if they are clean and if any of them that have pets, They get a look that could kill. But in all the places I've been nothing has ever moved me like the image of the guys in the underground in prague, it's something that will stay with me for the rest of my life.

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