Living here, I’ve become even more attuned to waste, rubbish, trash, landfill, wrappers, cans, bottles, packets, decorations, old clothes, off food, dead pigs, nappies, toilet paper, lanterns, oil bottles, engine parts, not quite round wheels, etc. There’s no council rubbish collection here, no magical landfill in a poorer suburb that you never have to see, and yet there’s a similar amount of packaging and consumption. You have to deal with your own waste, either by burning it in a big smelly pyre, selling recyclables to someone who comes to the house, (if A Nai thinks the price is right, that is!) or ditching it in a convenient spot vaguely out of sight. The drains, ditches, and random holes in the ground are the local tip. Our neighbours put up signs for the new year, and put the old lanterns and signs in the ditch adjoining their property. Adios, last year’s luck. We don’t need you anymore.
It’s quite confronting, and especially so in this stunningly beautiful landscape. However, what else is there to do? We’re living in a world that sells everything individually wrapped but doesn’t provide anywhere to put those wrappers. It’s made me really take note of what I buy and how it’s wrapped. Right now there’s an orange wrapped in it’s own protective layer of plastic sitting on my desk. In the last week I’ve been peckish while sitting right here, yet haven’t opened the packet to open the orange because: What will I do with the plastic? It’s so innocuous and so all pervasive. Also: Why on earth is an orange individually wrapped? It grew it’s own wrapper that’s far superior!
It’s in moments like these that I see the clash of a nation that’s rapidly industrialising it’s cities, while the countryside goes on more or less like it always has. We eat food cooked on a wood stove, and sit around small tables in an open walled kitchen, with the rice cooker quietly plugged into the wall. Our flushing toilet is a western bowl sitting on top of a squat toilet, and it flushes to a pit immediately behind the outhouse. It’s country ingenuity disguised as modern western plumbing. It’s the ideals of city affluence, without the infrastructure to back it up.
This is not a rich place, but they have good farm land, and good animals. The village works hard in the fields and eats well at night. What’s not eaten at dinner is either put away for tomorrow’s lunch, or fed to the ever grateful pigs. Clothes are patched and old rugs repurposed for the horses. The young brothers spent over 2 months making fishing rods from bamboo, the way that grandfather taught them. It’s a place of great resourcefulness and self sufficiency, which makes the piles of burnt rubbish and broken toys even more glaring.
So I’m trying to be more conscious, continuing what I do at home but with less language skills. Bringing my own bags to the market, being really self-sacrificial(!) and buying treats in bulk, and trying to not leave anything of mine behind in the ditch.