Thursday, February 12, 2009

The Garbage District

Here's the wiki article on the Legend of St Simon the Cobbler.

This district is named Zabaleen (Garbage collectors in Arabic), so literally, this is "Trash City". There are over forty thousand people living there.It's dusty and has narrow dirt lanes. Here families sort and recycle the garbage produced by Cairo's burgeoning population of around 25 million (which goes up 1 million every 6 months!). There is an odor about the village, but because it was mild, it wasn't too bad.

Thinking about our visit, i can't help but think of the criticism of the movie "Slum Dog Millionare" (sent to me by Mr. Chris Eden). The Slate article What, Exactly, Is Slumdog Millionaire? mentions that:
A columnist at the London Times called it "poverty porn," bringing up the question of exploitation that has largely been elided in stateside discussions.

i think it sums up our visit exactly! just like the film, it gave us overtones of a real life situation and context but it never gets into the reality and deeper issues of the context. i'm happy to have gone but realize i must do more work in trying to figure out the reality that i brushed up against.

i think this says alot about ppl's personalities as well. some will go to the movie, see it, be entertained, and then not really think about it. same with the trip. others will go to the movie or on a trip, and then chew on it, get books on the subject, really chase it down.

isn't that what we see in seminary as well? ppl going to class and either not listen, have the info go in one ear and out the other, or actively pursue the info and challenge it and be transformed by it.

some of my fellow classmates had no questions about this part of the trip.. i on the other hand, couldn't let this issue rest. I asked our tour guide, Romani, a million questions about this area, the people, the culture of the neighborhood, whether they had steady electricity (they do), and if they could move out or not (they can!). i'm not saying i'm better, just different in the reaction.

the point of this post is that the last thing we should say is "awww, they live in unhygenic conditions, let's have a pity-party." in fact, i think we should be setting up similar communities in landfills across the US! i marveled at the brilliance and ingenuity of those living in the district. it challenged my assumptions and made me want to dive deeper.

i hope it's done the same for you!


Tit for Tat said...


Id like to thank you for your childlike quality of questioning. I enjoy your enthusiasm and zest for learning. It has helped reawaken that spirit in me. Keep on trucking bud.

Anonymous said...

I would love to see that church in person. Awesome place. Very reminiscent of the Mesa Verde Indian cliff dwellings out in Colorado and New Mexico. While not a church, it still feels like a holy place, and we are privileged to be able to share those places with other cultures and even other faiths. Thanks for reminding me.

Sally said...

Absolutely FABulous! What an interesting story...the church and the town!
Hope we get a chance to really have a conversation about this soon!