As we pulled up to our house something was amiss. Garbage was strewn all over the ground in front of our house. Our garbage. It was trash pickup day and the assumption was that street dogs had torn open the garbage bags in search of food. This is normal practice in a country where dogs are not treated as people. Most are put out onto the street after they aren’t cute puppies any more. They become scavengers looking for their next meal.
But then came the realization that the garbage can was not knocked over, the lid was attached, and their was shredded trash still inside the can. This led to the second assumption that the garbage man was having a bad day or was carrying some vendetta against us. Of course this was possible, but not plausible. He was paid on time, we rarely interacted, and he had much to lose with our business.
Then it happened again. Not the next trash day, but the one following. We again returned home for lunch to find the same scenario. Trash strewn everywhere. No dogs in sight. Lid on the can. Shredded trash inside the can. Weird. My anger at the trash man began to grow as did the confusion in my mind. It just didn’t make sense, especially when I realized the neighbors’ trash had not been touched.
So just like the first time, we cleaned up the trash, re-bagged it, and pulled the can back inside. An hour later the trash man rang our doorbell. We gave him our trash and explained what had happened. He then told us that this was happening around town as well and from then on to just leave our trash can inside and he would ring our bell when he came by. The problem was solved. But not the mystery.
It just so happened that later that day we were walking near our house. As we were walking, a little boy approached us carrying a small bag. He immediately asked us if we had any trash. Apparently he was the culprit who had dismantled our trash bags. As it turns out he was twelve years old. He looked to be no more than eight. He confessed to looking through our trash for credit cards, bank cards, and other things he could sell for money. And us being
“gringos”, he just knew we had extra money to throw around and throw away.
This always angers us. But we understand. It’s true that we do have more than most, but it isn’t true that we are reckless with it. We give a lot of our money away. We steward it with care. So instead of shun the little guy or scold him for what he did, we started the process of checking his story. He said he lived with his sick grandmother and his siblings. They had no food or medicine. And just like the scavenger dogs, he was looking for ways to eat. In his mind it was ok to tear open the trash of the “rich”, in order to find sustenance for his family.
We still don’t know if his story is accurate. He wouldn’t let us follow him home to investigate. His excuse being that Grandmother was too sick. It’s quite possible. Keeping in mind that used toilet paper is not flushed in this country (but instead is bagged), he was willing to sort through it for hidden treasure. The end of this story is incomplete. But one thing we’ve learned since moving here is, desperate people in desperate situations do desperate things.