Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Dealing with Garbage

I am originally from Colombia; it is a beautiful country in South America. Unfortunately, it has very poor places where it is very easy to deal with garbage. Can you think of an experience you've had in dealing with garbage at a public venue? When I read this question, the first thing that passed through my mind was a memory of my mom asking me on a Saturday morning to go with her to “los tugurios”( we use this term when we want to refer to a very poor neighborhood near the big city garbage dumps). Why did my mom want me to go there? This is not only the question you are asking right now, but it was mine too. My mother used to go to “los tugurios” one Saturday per month to give food and money to the people that lived there; she also gave basic classes like reading, writing, sex education, religion and so on. At that time I was only 13 years old and I wasn’t sure if I was psychologically prepared to spend one day in a “garbage dump.” Getting there was a very long trip; we had to go by car then we had to park it and took a bus because it was very dangerous to drive into that neighborhood. Finally we had to take a taxi because buses don’t go into “los tugurios.” From the instance we took the bus I started to see and feel the ambient difference; I started to see garbage in the streets, and the smell wasn’t good. I also saw homeless people, garbage and more garbage… the farther we went, the more garbage I saw and the more penetrated the smell was. It was a traumatic experience because I couldn’t believe that people could live there. When we finally got to “los tugurios,” I was shocked when I saw the houses where the people lived. They were entirely made of garbage. Everything they used to build their small houses was taken from the big municipal garbage dump that was a few miles away. I had the opportunity to talk with a lady who showed me her house. The house walls were made entirely of cardboard. It was almost like a work of art. The ceiling was made of cardboard and plastic bags; her bed was an old mattress that she found in the municipal garbage dump… she had a collection of key chains that she had been collecting since she was 10 years old. All the people in “los tugurrios” knew that if they found a key chain in the municipal garbage dump, they needed to clean and return it to her. She had an entire “wall” full of key chains. She had key chains of cartons, movies, with all colors and shapes; some of them were from Aruba, New York, Japan, Cancun… from everywhere, it was amazing. She didn’t know how to read so she didn’t know that those key chains came from very far away; I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. I was very sad seeing how people literarily live of our garbage. They have no money, the only thing they have is the municipal garbage dump. It was a very nice experience to go there and share a few hours with the people from “los tugurios.” It made me very thankful for what I have.


Anonymous said...

Wow, that is an amazing story! THanks for sharing! The sad thing is that you will find people living off of trash all over the world, not just in Columbia. It does makes you really grateful for what you have. It also reminds me of that old saying that one's man garbage is another man's treasure. It also reminds me of how wasteful we really are because we often throw away things that other people would find useful.

Joyce G. said...

Think of Tijuana Mexico,San Diego border.I did learn about this small world from my international relations class. When I read of your story, my mind flashed right there to this poor people. I did understand that this place harbors all the dump from San Diego city yet no one ever wants to think of it as in U.S it is Mexico. Should anyone care then? I also understand Tijuana River is a black flowing mass of leaking trash. Thanks for your story it helps us learn a lot more about the world outside us.