In Hungary numerous people, mostly belong to the ethnic group of the Roma, make their living from reselling garbage. Each year, from district to district, people put out their garbage and others can come to take or buy it. This has made a living for many families, and we set out to explore this concept and to meet these people. We went to the area of Kobanya, also called the 10th district, where our journey began.
When you come to Kobanya the first thing that strikes the eye are the tall, colourful apartments. On the walk to the 10th district you get a strong feeling of both poverty but also you feel a link to the time of communism. It is difficult not to let the preconceptions affect the result or the process, but we tried, and with this in mind we continued our explorations.
We first approached a couple sitting on the sidewalk collecting garbage. We were apprehensive, both afraid to offend them, and wanting to show our respect and that our intention was not to point fingers or judge but simply to learn. We talked to an 71 year old woman, you could tell from her face that she had lived a hard life, but still a friendliness and an openness shone through. She told us that the reason why she does this is because of poverty, and she is not proud of what she does but she looks like a woman who has accepted her conditions and makes the best of what she has. In the background sits her husband, a little more hesitant, with less openness or willingness to talk.
We were all surprised of the enormous piles of garbage that showed up everywhere, and in our curiosity we continued our walk in district 10. On our walk we talked to many people, different backgrounds, different lifestyles but with the one thing in common that garbage is their way to make a living both for themselves and their families. A question I think came up to everyone’s mind is why people can be forced to do this job, how people can be satisfied with this way of living.
Next we talked to a middleaged man who have made this as his living for many years. He told us how the districts are strongly divided . He only have himself and his wife to feed, so I think a burden left his shoulders when his children married and moved away from the house. He is an extremely friendly man, and very open to talk to us about both the rules of territory and why he does this. He had a job that he was fired from and then he found this the only possible way to make an income.
From the place where we talked to the man, we could see five children playing football and when we came closer they were very eager to say hello and we went over to talk to them. They had a very different view on this.. Their opinion about the garbage was very torn. On one hand they liked the fact that you could get rid of your garbage and on another hand they found it disgusting that all the garbage were laying around on the street. They all had big dreams and hopes for their future, one wanted to be a lawyer and another a doctor.
At the end of our walk we met two men, probably in their 40s, who lives in their cars when they work. One of the men proudly told us how he once found 5000 ft. in between a couch he found on the streets. One of the men gave us a book from communism time, full of stamps from good behavior. A good symbol of our journey – at the end we felt so confortable with them and they with us that he would even give us a personal belonging of his.
Our preconceptions were very different but I think for all it was very new and eye opening experience. Before this journey people were told how to behave and for many people there was a nervousness and hesitation that dominated our behavior in the beginning, which we felt affected the people with whom we were talking.
This shows much about human nature. No matter where the person comes from and what background he or she has we are all one and at the end this will be dominating, if you meet people with an open mind and an open heart.
Jasper & Christine