“Recycling makes me so happy”

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She leapt into the garbage bin as we watched, and looked up when she heard us walk over. Her eyes were liquid and huge. She was thin and obviously had puppies somewhere. As we moved closer she began to shake as her tail wagged furiously. I reached in and scratched behind her ear. Anna tried to lure her out to give her some of the dog food Anna carries everywhere, but with no success.

As we walked away, a garbage truck whirled around the curve of the road. It stopped at the bin and a man hopped out, fastening a large chain to the bin. Our friend jumped out of the bin and we turned back, walking toward her.

Another dog trotted over and I bent to pet him. When I looked up, I saw the mother dog waiting excitedly as Anna poured food on the ground for her.

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This is one of the garbage trucks. On Monday I went with the Green Workers to see how they collect garbage (for my research project) ~ this is the truck we used to store garbage until we brought it to the segregation center to sort out recyclables.

I’m going to change names, because I feel that perhaps I should. I didn’t ask their permission to blog about them.

I first met Jay around 7:40 am outside of the Clean Upper Dharamshala Programme’s Green Shop, where they sell recycled books and other awesome items. He motioned that I follow him, and I did. We walked from house to house, calling for dry waste and collecting it in large tarp bags. After our bags were full, we stopped and waited on a random staircase until Raj and Tashi showed up. I passed the time munching on crackers I’d brought for breakfast. I offered them to my companions, and Jay offered some to the monkeys lingering on the roof nearby.

After a while, we all stood up and resumed work. I walked with Jay to one older Tibetan woman’s home and when she walked out, she brought a box of pineapple juice. Laughing when she saw me, she went back inside and got another box for both Jay and me to have one.

We all met up again at the main road, next to the garbage truck. Jay motioned for me to get in, and it was at that moment that I realized how much I’d always wanted to ride in the back of a garbage truck full of trash. Actually. As we drove super-fast around hairpin turns and I perched precariously on the side of the truck’s bed, I felt that I’d found the purpose of life.

Anna and I have begun typing our ISPs (independent study projects) in the last few days, so we’ve spent an unnecessary (or oh so necessary) amount of time at cafes. We were sitting at Nick’s Italian Kitchen when one of us saw this scene outside.

An old street dog, sitting comfortably on the pathway. A young Tibetan girl walking up. Sitting down. And they coexist. She petted him and her friends mingled about, and Anna and I witnessed the moment. Street dogs are treated better here in Dharamsala than in most of India and Nepal, but it is still rare to see moments of love between our species. It’s unbelievably touching.

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Mcleod Ganj is quite littered ~ for my research project, I’ve documented a ton of garbage tossed in the crevices of the city. Waste lines where city meets nature. Cows, dogs, water buffalo, cats, and monkeys can be found munching on garbage, and often water is cloudy with pollution.

Yet through my research, I’ve found that this isn’t the fault of anyone. It’s the product of ineffective infrastructure plus bad habits and a lack of education. And it’s changing.

This picture, which I took on an hour-long walk up the mountain from Lower Dharamsala to Mcleod Ganj, represents this in my mind: there is such intense beauty. Pollution is not the end.

More on that later, in my ISP.

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In this photo, one of us has already been incredibly sick, another will be within 24 hours, and the third will be in 48. One will come out totally healthy.

The past week has been a humbling one. I’ve experienced what it’s like to be pretty sick in India, with amazing friends to feed me ORS (oral rehydration salts) and an ISP to research and write. It must’ve been something we ate at Triund because all of us hiked and three of us got sick.

It is an amazing world in which you can meet people and get sick and take pictures and laugh about it in the end. Anna and I met Conor and Matt on the nightbus from Delhi to Dharamsala. Mcleod Ganj is a small town, so we saw them often and soon planned the hike to Triund. The night before they had to leave, they stayed in our apartment ~ 5 people including Izac, all in one room with one bathroom and a lot of evil bacteria. The one who was sick spent much of the evening in the bathroom, and that night our toilet stopped flushing… things that only happen in India.

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And a shoutout to this human who has been my adventure partner for the past few months.

We’ve been walking to Bhagsu a few times a week to try to switch our money out at the bank, and have visited this restaurant nearly every time. It has the BEST (and only) chickpea omelettes. The money thing has been a major issue for a lot of people in India ~ the government made all 500 and 1000 notes illegal (these are worth about $8 and $16 respectively) and the banks haven’t been at all prepared for the amount of people who needed to switch to the new bills.

It’s calmed down a lot though since the beginning hullabaloo.

 

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