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This week we honor people, without whom, Princeton University would not be able to function. Introducing the people who take out our trash, clean our floors, and stock our bathrooms: the leading custodians of Wilson College, Mohamed Flites and Cecilio Orantes.

Mohamed Flites

The Daily Princetonian: Where is your hometown?

MF: My hometown is in North Africa, about 60 miles south of Algiers. We live in the mountains, about 4,500 feet above sea level. Currently I live in Hillsborough, New Jersey which is around 15 miles from Princeton.

DP: What are your favorite memories growing up?

MF: I was kind of like a nerd. I used to stay away from people and spend time tinkering with things, and anything that broke at home, I fixed it. I was also very much into reading, and I spent most of my youth reading books. My friends and I were into books big time, and movies and camping.

DP: What are your hobbies?

MF: I actually have two and a half hobbies right now. Reading is still my main passion, but I do photography too. I had two photo exhibits here in Butler and Wilson in 2011 and we’re having another one in Butler College next semester. When I go home I do photography because a lot of my friends are busy with their families, and I really enjoy tree photography. The third one, which I’m just getting into, is writing. I started keeping a journal and that’s what I’ve been doing for the past couple of years, just taking notes, working on how to craft better sentences, how to write stories, just gibberish for now. Sometimes you have things that as you get older, you can’t really talk about with your friends or family, so you have to let them percolate like coffee in your head.

DP: What are your thoughts about your time working at Princeton?

MF: I’ve been here 14 years. I love the campus, it’s not so much the work, which doesn’t really bother me, I’ve worked all my life. I enjoy most talking to people from any culture in the world, I get to meet them here, and from all levels of education and interests. I’m friends with Eduardo Cadava, all the people from the college, and I’m friends with people from all walks of life. I’ve developed some really good friends here, and I also taught one of our grad students here in 2013 for a semester. I taught him Algerian jokes and humor. He was writing his thesis, his Ph.D., and he wanted to learn more about Algerian humor and jokes. He received a grant to meet twice a week, and he would record everything we talked about, and I would write jokes from Algeria. We’d just talk about them and laugh about them. I had some friends go, “This is the craziest thing ever. You tell jokes and you get paid?” That was pretty interesting.

Cecilio Orantes

DP: Where are you from?

CO: I was born in Guatemala, close to Guatemala City, and I have lived in the US for 35 years, close to Princeton in Lawrenceville which is around 15 minutes from the University. I came to America when I was 23 years old.

DP: What are your favorite memories growing up?

CO: Enjoying time with all of the animals on our family farm, especially the horses. My favorite was jumping and racing horses. We played a lot with the animals, because we were ten to fifteen kids with no schools or teachers around. The big town near us had no school either. The one school was a distance like from here to Trenton, and no one could go because it was too far. I remember I was 14 years old when they opened one school and had two teachers come. And I was 14 years old when I went to the first grade.

DP: Is the rest of your family in Guatemala?

CO: My siblings and mother are there. My sister’s taking care of the farm, and I go back every year to visit. Now, we have half an acre of land for a school with two teachers close to my house and farm. We donated the land for the school, and the people around helped to do the rest. Now I have the opportunity to help these people — I didn’t have the opportunity before.

I have two sons. One is 34 years old and a computer engineer; he works in New York in IBM. He worked with Toshiba too, and the two companies fought over him. My other son is a photographer and designer, and he works in Princeton.

DP: What are your hobbies?

CO: I don’t have many, but I have one which is a little practice in reading and learning to use my iPad. Computers I don’t really know how to use, but recently I went to a class, and I’m learning more computer skills. And I want to buy a laptop and practice some, little by little, because I’ve never practiced, and maybe it can help me improve my writing in English too. I learn more, word by word, everyday. I learn from everyone on campus little by little.

DP: What is the funniest experience you have had on campus?

CO: I have a funny and crazy story. One morning I was cleaning when a girl screamed, like “Ahh!” She said, “Cecilio! Come here please! In the sink, I was trying to brush my teeth but there’s a little fish in there!” I said, “No, it’s not a fish.”

You know the big centipedes? It was a big one, and she thought it was a fish. I said, “No, it’s a centipede!” and I used a small paper to take it outside. She said she didn’t want to touch it, she was so scared of it.

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