Getting Trashed: ¡Ay, Que Pereza!

New on the scene: A Berlín “Trash Cage”

STARDATE: Tuesday, September 22, 2009 (Last Tuesday): It appears that Berlín just got garbage service! For the developed world, this isn’t that much of a coup, and I don’t want to seem like some imperialist diva bitch trying to impose my native values on my new country. It’s just that all the communities surrounding us have had garbage service for years and years, but the trucks never came up the extra three or four miles. Instead, the people of Berlín were condemned to burn our trash in smoky piles, like post-apocalyptic refugee extras from a Mad Max movie.

We were suspecting that the service may come at some point; in the last week or so two metal containers (not really garbage cans, but rather a sort of “trash jail”) have appeared on the road to San Ramón. And in fact the speculation seems to be true. My sister-in-law Teresa, whose brother-in-law works for the San Ramón municipality, called Angela this morning to tell us the news: the garbage truck will drive by at 5:00 am on Tuesdays. Cool, right?

Not so fast there, Skippy, let’s take a closer look at this. Based on an informal poll conducted by Angela (she called her mom, sisters, and sisters-in-law), this service isn’t wanted in Berlín. Excuse me? Yep, it turns out that with the exception of Angela and Teresa (who apparently managed to miss the trash man this morning, since she was combing her hair to look nice while giving him the garbage), people aren’t interested in garbage collection.

When Angela called her family members, they all said some variation of, “Que pereza,” which has recently become my catch-all for all that is frustrating and mind-boggling in this two-coast land. Basically, it means “what laziness,” but it really translates to, “Sorry, but I’m too lazy to even contemplate, let alone accomplish, what we’re talking about right now.” It’s somewhere along the same sentiment fault line as the British “can’t be bothered” in terms of the bafflement and aggravation it causes me when I hear it. This lousy pereza may turn out to be the bane of my Costa Rican existence (although to be fair and balanced, I have to admit that the positive upshot of this whole phenomenon is that I can happily work my 20-hour part-time job, and everyone seems to consider that to be a quite full and satisfactory workload).

What was I bitching about? Ah yes, the garbage. So, que pereza, right? I guess I could understand that sentiment if you had to pay extra money for this service, or if you had a 5-km-long driveway; but in fact the service is one of the services –and possibly the only one– that is apparently included with our miniscule property taxes. And as for the 5-km driveway, forget it. People in Berlín just apparently don’t want to walk a bag of trash 50 steps out to the road, and would instead prefer to burn it in a hole in the middle of a coffee field. And I could understand that sentiment if it were based on good, old-fashioned pyromania (after all, it is fun to burn trash, even though you smell like shit and burnt plastic afterwards), but the fact that it’s based on laziness and resistance to change, especially positive change, has caused me to end this post before my eyeballs explode.

UPDATE!: STARDATE: Today: Well, we’re officially in week two of Trashgate, and it seems to have gone better this week. Apparently the priest made an announcement about the garbage at mass on Sunday (hmm… that clause can be read in a few ways… the priest evidently explained that the truck would be picking up the garbage on Tuesday mornings). As a result of the announcement, metal trash jails and sawed-off tin trums appeared all around the village, and people seem to be buying into the trash collection idea… slowly but surely.
Twenty years after the original Berlin Wall came down, Berlín’s Wall of Trash is also beginning to tumble.
So, now to the question on everyone’s mind: Who shall be our Hasselhoff?

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