Sunday, July 18, 2010

When I Grow Up, I Want to Be a Garbage Man

Update on the situation locked in my room: We fully dismantled the lock, and then Robert kicked in the door. I got out.

When I was little, I wanted to be a garbage man when I grew up. I don't know why exactly, but I was fascinated with the whole garbage pick-up process. I have an extremely vivid memory from when I was six or seven of setting up little garbage cans next to all the rooms in my house in Ohio and going from door to door collecting the trash. Wow, I must sound like a freak. Anyways, I've recently had the chance to put my latent childhood desires into action out here in the Badia. The trash situation out here is pretty terrible- littering is commonplace and "trash collection" consists of putting everything in a trashed dumpster and setting fire to it. So, scenes like this are not uncommon:

Unfortunately, I had succumbed to the prevailing cultural norms of the Badia; Robert, on the other hand, was made of sterner stuff and decided to organize a day to clean up the area in front of our building (i.e., see picture above). Last Saturday (the 10th), we got about 40 sacks and tempted the children from the apartment complex with a soccer game and lots of American suckers and set about cleaning the area. The kids were rowdy but enthusiastic and we got the bags filled in about 40 minutes or so.

The whole process up through then had gone smoothly, but our Western-styled organization quickly broke off in the face of two of man's most primordial desires: fire and candy. As I mentioned above, real trash collection doesn't exist, so we had no choice but to haul our little pile of trash to the dumpster (not the one above) and burn it. The next morning, we found the dumpster tipped over and the trash in a half-burned, smoldering heap. The candy situation was worse- the best way to describe it is to say that I felt like a UN aid worker trying to hand out flour to a mob of starving, unruly Somalians. People came out of the woodwork to pick up the suckers and the kids claimed exorbitant amounts for their little brothers at home. Worst of all, they disposed of the wrappers in the only way they were familiar with- throwing them on the ground.

So, maybe it wasn't the most successful trash pick up, but we were able to get 25 Jordanian kids together for an hour to work on something and make them feel useful. That's a pretty big accomplishment in and of itself.

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