Nineteen young seminar participants gathered together with the task of creating the Planet Paprika. This planet is the ideal society, the kind of world in which we hope to live. We followed the example of the lomizos, and searched for the ingredients of our planet in piles of paper, armchairs, and appliances lining the streets of Budapests’ 10th district.

A lomizo is a collector, one who searches through piles of recently discarded objects (aka garbage). When the people of Budapest throw out their unused possessions, the streets turn into a kind of flea market with the lomizos searching for something of interest or value among the paper, armchairs, and appliances. We also joined their numbers and took to the streets in search of useful items for the construction of a group art project. We expected to find poor people searching for anything they could sell. We learned and discovered a different picture.

One woman from the local neighborhood shared freely with us. She talked with pride about her three children: a daughter living in the US, her son being musician and finally her second daughter who lives with her. She comes occasionally to search for vases or other beautiful objects to inhabit her home.

Another boy had come with his family from a village to make a good bargain. But unfortunately they didn’t have luck so he was a bit disappointed. His initial nervousness gave way to curiosity about our group and what we were doing there.

In the end we tried to engage a man who was standing guard over his newly claimed objects. He was reluctant to talk and regarded us with suspicion.

Our conversations showed us that lomizos come from different places and for different reasons. For some it is a significant source of their income, for others it is a hobby. Our presence caused various reactions from shame and suspicion to friendliness and openness. Our feelings also transformed. Our insecure questions from the beginning developed to pleasant conversations with the lomizos. But we also learnt that we have to be open and honest to be able to start a conversation. While we first saw only garbage, by the end of the afternoon our eyes instinctively searched out colorful and interesting artifacts within the piles. As we walked away a woman passing by sized up the items filling our plastic bags. We were among the lomizos. 

The items we collected may not have been valuable, but now empty containers, umbrellas, baskets, tinsel, and plastic flowers are part of houses or rooftop gardens of our Planet Paprika. 

Rachel, Kristi and Marina