Monday, September 13, 2010

An E True Maliwood Story. Trash: The Revolting Route Back to the Dinner Table

   Have you hugged your garbage man this week? If not, I suggest you go out and buy a nice card, maybe one of those that sing a happy little ditty when you open it, and wait by your curb this week to thank the man that keeps the veil over your eyes because we’re about to take a journey that is going to make you very grateful that that man exists.

   It’s a cozy September night in Bamako, rainy season is still going strong and judging by the intensifying breeze coming through my window another storm may be on the way. The sweat soaked nights of dry season are a distant memory and this cool air doesn’t allow me to read for long before I start to doze off. My eyes are getting heavy and just as I drift off a flicker of light catches my eye. Is this soft strobe light a dream? No, the realization and disappointment set in before the stench, this night of sleep is going to be ushered in by the pungent choking bouquet of burning trash outside my window. 

   There are a number of paths that our trash takes here and all of them happen right before our eyes. It was during this most recent attempt to gas me out of my apartment that I realized I was holding back some intense eye/nostril opening experiences.  So sit back and relax as we embark on this photographic trash trail.

Option A:  Trash Potpourri
The photo on the right was taken about 50 yards down the “road” from my apartment. Here you will notice some potpourri dishes similar to the ones sitting just outside my window. I believe the ones in the background have reached capacity. It truly is amazing what we as humans can adjust to. For example, in the beginning when the deadly aroma of burning trash wafted through my window I wasn’t sure if I should worry more about the blood coming out of my nose or the uncontrolable gag reflex that it was summoning, and now I'm in the final stages with Yankee Candle on a new fragrance.  One man's trash is truly another man's chance to capitalize on a lucrative new product.

Possibility Number 2:  Private Entrepreneurs

This is one of the four "trash recepticles" immediately below my window.  The one these two boys are going through inspired the candle scent 'burnt plastic on a hot night' which has recently caused a rather viscious bidding war.  I call these children entrepreneurs because they are just that.  The big ticket item is plastic bottles.  Small roadside shops, or even ladies with a cooler, will pay kids a pittance for these bottles as they will then wash them out and refill them with some incredibly sugary juices that they will sell for 10-20 cents.
So recycling in Mali was en vogue even before Cameron Diaz started Trippin'  (That MTV show in 2005 where she was taking eco-friendly trips with her closest friends.   Apparently there were no pilates instructors and they had to pack their own bags... It's truly amazing the strain these stars will put themselves under to help save mother earth!)

The Third Way:  Donkey Cart Rubbish Removal
This is actually pretty cool.  I'd say the closest thing there is here to a garbage truck that I've seen.  I believe that apartment complexes or individual houses will pay these guys a small amount to come collect their trash every now and then.  These two aren't actually in the garbage business but the elusive donkey garbage cart has proved too be too rare a phenomenon for me to catch on camera.

Which brings us to the dump.  From previous posts you may remember that there is a soccer field right in front of this particular garbage destination.  The difficult part here is determing which aspect of this photo is the most disturbing; all of the plastic that won't be biodegrading for quite some time or that one of my rare sources of protein happens to be dining on the city's refuse.  I'll let you chew on that dillema for a while.

Scenario E:  Rain Rain, Take it Away.
Growing up in the USA, I was never faced with the question, "what if no one came to pick up the trash?"  This photo was taken a block from my apartment and it is just one strip of the spiderweb of open sewers that handle Bamako's water/waste distribution needs. 

My Veggie Lady! 
Maybe a few hundred yards down the road is where we buy most of our vegetables.  The main players in this picture are Diarra, our veggie lady, Meg, notice the reusable cloth bag, and Shaka, the made up name I gave to that baby strapped to his mom's back.  What adds some spice to this scenario is the open sewer a solid 4 feet away from dinner.  This was taken at the height of rainy season so the sewer is normally about half full except during some of the harder rainstorms when most of them overflow and I'll let your imagination finish that sentence.  A number of friends have fallen victim to the extremely unfortunate slip or misguided step landing them knee deep in an excrement cocktail. 

Unfortunately these sewers don't run off into a magical land where trash and waste is turned into gum drops and peanut clusters, respectively.  The trash washes up somewhere and then it turns into another problem for whomever seems to have picked the wrong place to pitch their tent.

Hmmm.  First, I'm a little upset because it looks like he didn't read my first post because that urine is marigold at best meaning he could be a good 2 litres short of his needed water intake for the day.  And B, public water areas are used for many different reasons such as transport, washing clothes, cleaning pots and bathing so taking a wiz two feet from shore is a big slap in the face to everyone in the area.  Not to mention the fish that is caught and served directly at all the local restaurants.

MMMMM, fresh fish!

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