Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tribal Trash

I have put up some pictures of my house on this blog and facebook and I have received several very nice comments. A few have even said that my kitchen looks bigger or nicer than theirs. I am sure that it is just people trying to encourage me, but it does make me wonder what people are seeing that I am not. Or maybe I should take better pictures. Anyway, I do appreciate what I have in my kitchen. After all, my neighbors in the village have a fire pit in the middle of the house for a kitchen, so I praise the Lord for my stove and my LP gas tank (even if it is costing me more than I care to admit).

But today, I feel the need to explain my trash situation to you. And I want to encourage you to thank the Lord daily for your garbage disposal, your private backyard, and especially your garbage man. In fact, after reading this, I hope you make your garbage man some homemade cookies or something for all the work you are NOT doing because of him.

Every week I battle with the trash. The easiest is my leftovers. Any leftover food or slop I feed to my chickens or cats. There is stuff that they don't eat of course, so that has to go to a secret place where my neighbors can't see all that I am throwing away. Actually, it isn't really that simple. I have to be careful of the time and place I feed those chickens and cats, so no one sees that I am actually throwing away food. Often the the best time is at night, but now it is dark and raining (because I live in the rainforest, it rains every night without fail). I usually come back muddy and wet. I also have to make sure I don't throw away anything with meat smells or I will have dogs in my yard eating my chickens. And that is the easiest thing I throw away.

The next most annoying step to taking out my trash is the burnable stuff. Anything that can burn gets taken out a couple times a week to the burn pile. Again this has to be done in a secret time and place. I can't do it at night, however, because I have to stoke the fire a lot and make sure that everything burns up, so dogs or kids do not come and get it and fling it all over the village. I know this sounds easier than it actually is, because for some reason most of the stuff in my burnable pile simply refuses to burn. It tries desperately to live. It does not want to cease to exist and clings to whatever flame retardant properties man has given it. I usually win the battle with lots of newspaper and flammable liquids.

The final and most annoying trash of all is "the hole" trash. When we moved in we had some strong tribal guys dig a hole for us to put our trash in. This is for anything that won't burn like glass bottles and tin cans. We try to give most of our used containers away, but even this is complicated as it also has to be done in secret. Are you sensing a theme here? If I give my friend a glass jar in front of someone else, then that someone will then ask her for it, and she will have to give it or else be called stingy. And in tribal culture stingy is the absolute worst thing you can be called. You can be forgiven for being a murderer or a harlot, but a selfish person is the scum of the earth. But giving in secret is quite the challenge as no one is ever alone. Several families live in one house and no one goes anywhere by themselves. Anyway, so I have some tin cans that are sharp and some glass that just really isn't good for much of anything, so I have to throw it down the hole. But the hole is not that big and
will fill up quickly so I have to smash all the tin cans and break all the glass with a sledge hammer. And for those who do not know me, I am not exactly built for strength. It takes me a long time to get a simple can of tomatoes smashed flat. I also have to make sure that the trail to my trash hole is blocked off so none of my neighbors who do not own shoes walk across it and cut their feet. This also makes it difficult for me to get in and out of the area, so again I am usually sweaty and muddy when I return from this chore too.

So, there it is. I hope you now appreciate all that is at your disposal for disposal. And if you make cookies for your garbage man, make them chocolate chip. You can't go wrong with a classic.


  1. An aspect of tribal missions I never thought about... yuck, doesn't sound like fun!
    When we stayed with Chris and Evie, we may or may not have thrown trash into the river... at night... an advantage of having the Sepik at an arm's throw length.

  2. Thanks for writing this. So interesting. Please write about the "other" waste. Leach pit? Septic? Hole?

  3. Wow! I never thought about all of that. Doesn't sound like fun... Thanks for giving us a glimpse of your every day life.

  4. I know it drives you absolutely nuts, but it kind of made me laugh. Just a little. Sorry. :o)

  5. We live in a very different but also remote part of the world and just last week I was feeling so stressed about this very topic!! I had let some veggies go off and it was difficult to find a time to discreetly dispose of them without an interrogation..."why didn't you eat them or give them away before they went bad? why did you get more than you needed?" I really enjoy reading your blog as you enjoy and endure many of the same things. :)