Wednesday, October 19, 2011

One person's trash, is another person's ground cover...

One cultural difference:

I am facing increasing pressure from my landlady/neighbor to “clean up” my yard. Everyone who sees my yard from the taxi driver to the refrigerator deliveryman, mentions how dirty my yard is. Now I going to set aside the fact that it is socially acceptable here for someone who hardly knows you to tell you that your looks like a disaster, and am going to talk about what is viewed as “trash.”

I am told that my house (usually meaning yard-the overlap between ‘house’ and ‘yard’ is enough for a whole other entry) is full of trash. When I look around, I see wonderful shady yard with some grass and lots of weeds. I do not see old tin roofing, glass bottles or broken toys (like I see in most other peoples yards). That’s because, culturally, I view inorganic litter as trash, and organic litter as… well, weeds no mas. However, in Paraguay trash (basura) can be both organic and inorganic. If you tell a group of Paraguayan children to go collect a bunch of basura, you are likely going to end up with a pile of leaves, sticks and weeds. When I clean up my yard, I pick up the candy wrappers and caña bottles that people have tossed. I don’t pick the groundcover (weeds). Trash is relative; its what you have learned to view as ugly.

For nearly a year now I have “cleaned” my yard as little as possible. When I look around, I just don’t see the trash like other people. To me personally, a yard covered by ground cover/weeds, is more lindo that an area picked clean and dusty with the red dirt of Paraguay. However, several people have informed me that I will “clean” my yard before my parents come to visit, and because I try to be culturally appropriate when possible, I am going to try to do just that.

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